Flavors and aromas of the Sorrento Coast

I finally arrived to the Sorrento Coast and my first stop is at the cliffs of Vico Equense, of Etruscan origins this little town has a lot to offer from the dramatic panoramas to pizza by the meter or Michelin Guide Starred Restaurants.  The Sorrento Peninsula is definitely an unforgettable culinary experience.

A view from the Saracen Tower (Torre del Saracino) dated from the VII century.  Here is located one of the best Restaurants of Italy "Torre del Saraceno" by Chef Gennaro Sposito
A view from the Saracen Tower (Torre del Saracino) dated from the VII century. Here is located one of the best Restaurants of Italy “Torre del Saraceno” by Chef Gennaro Sposito

But who where the Saracens and why they came to this part of Italy? Around the 455 AD the coast was invaded by Arab tribes, many watchtowers can still be seen on the cliffs to prepare the inhabitants for further attacks.  Saracen was a term for Muslims widely used in Europe during the Medieval Era.

Now a brief tour of the tasting menu at The Saracen Tower, enjoy!

And I can only describe as "sublime" each of the well deserved Michelin stars of the creative Chef Sposito, pictured here one of the starters from his sampling Menu, all made with organic ingredients grown on his own sustainable garden.
And I can only describe as “sublime” each of the well deserved Michelin stars of the creative Chef Sposito, pictured here one of the starters from his sampling Menu, all made with organic ingredients grown on his own sustainable garden. The fusion of truffles and spices gives this soufflé an interesting approach to the fusion of 2 worlds.
The pistachio and herb aromatic bed for the prawns, crusted nuts and beet sauce on the side
The pistachio and herb aromatic bed for the prawns, crusted nuts and beet sauce on the side
Local caught treasures of the sea naturally steamed on a base of hot stones well paired with Scala Fenicia wine of Capri
Local caught treasures of the sea naturally steamed on a base of hot stones well paired with Scala Fenicia wine of Capri
Raw squid on its own ink
Raw squid on its own ink
The maître offering a selection of the finest Italian, Belgium and Swiss blocks of chocolates with choice of aged rum, Armagnac, cognacs and other selected digestives.
The maître offering a selection of the finest Italian, Belgium and Swiss blocks of chocolates with choice of aged rum, Armagnac, cognacs and digestives.
Exploring the cellar located in the basement of the  Tower of Saracino.  As a sommelier this was such an amazing experience.
Exploring the cellar located at the lower part of the Tower of Saracino. As a sommelier this is always such an amazing experience, I am going over the vintages, the wide selection of local growers as well as the main growing Regions of Italy: Piedmont, Tuscany, Alto Adige and Veneto.
The Master Sommelier guiding me around the cellar of the Saracen Tower.
The Master Sommelier guiding me around the cellar of the Saracen Tower.
The turquoise waters of the Gulf of Sorrento with the majestic Vesuvius.
The turquoise waters of the Gulf of Sorrento with the majestic Vesuvius.
Fiat 500, when it comes to traveling around the Sorrento Peninsula I choose the Cinquecento, easy to park and get around the coastline.
Fiat 500, when it comes to traveling the Sorrento Peninsula I choose the Cinquecento, easy to park and get around the coastline.
Sea Bass on a bed of spice pumpkin sauce topped with a grilled prawn at Signum Cubo Restaurant in Vico Equense.
Sea Bass on a bed of spiced pumpkin sauce topped with a grilled prawn at Signum Cubo Restaurant in Vico Equense. A casual restaurant inside a boutique hotel in Vico.
At Cubo Signum a selection of crudos from salmon to grouper and tuna
At Cubo Signum a selection of crudos from salmon to grouper and tuna
Grilled salmon with avocado sauce, the fusion of Asian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Grilled salmon with avocado sauce, the fusion of Asian and Mediterranean cuisine.
The Mimosa it's a traditional sponge cake of the Sorrento coast filled with a delicious lemon cream
The Mimosa it’s a traditional sponge cake of the Sorrento coast filled with a delicious lemon cream
The Bar at Signum Cubo
The Bar at Signum Cubo
The warm setting of Cubo Boutique Hotel in Vico Equense
The warm setting of Cubo Boutique Hotel in Vico Equense
Skating on ice in Vico Equense
Skating on ice in Vico Equense, it’s one of the family activities during the Holidays
The Procession during the Three Kings festivities at the Piazetta of Vico
The colorful procession during the Three Kings festivities at the Piazetta of Vico. The three King’s day is celebrated with a Holy procession in many small Italian towns. I was able to watch it from my Hotel balcony.
The procession during the Festivities of the Three Kings at Vico Equense
The parade during the Festivities of the Three Kings at Vico Equense just like in many Italian towns this is an ancient tradition goes back to the late 6th century.
The famous Pizza a metro, a favorite with locals, this restaurant has been serving since the 1930's
The famous Pizza a metro, a favorite with locals, this restaurant has been serving since the 1930’s
The colorful harbour of Vico Equense just at walking distance from the Saracen Tower.
The colorful harbour of Vico Equense just at walking distance from the Saracen Tower.
So I stopped by the charming restaurant of Le Ancore Hotel in Vico Equense and tasted this delicious peppered mixed seafood "impepata di frutti misti di mare" a local tradition
So I stopped by the charming restaurant of Le Ancore Hotel in Vico Equense and tasted this delicious peppered mixed seafood “impepata di frutti misti di mare” a local tradition
Another reach plate of fresh seafood including marinated anchovies, fresh Gulf shrimp, octopus,  stuffed squids, grilled fish and langostinos
Another reach plate of fresh seafood including marinated anchovies, fresh Gulf shrimp, octopus, stuffed squids, grilled fish and langostinos
The famous Sorrento lemons, freshly squeezed to make "granitas" (frozen lemonade) in the summer or the dessert liquor limoncello
The famous Sorrento lemons, freshly squeezed to make “granitas” (frozen lemonade) in the summer or the dessert liquor limoncello
Remember that traditional Neapolitan song "Torna a Surriento" this is a town that will definitely make you come back.
Remember that traditional Neapolitan song “Torna a Surriento” this is a town that will definitely make you come back.
The lemons here are enormous, don't forget to try the "Delizia al Limone" a tarty dessert that has the characteristic flavor of Sorrento's traditional citric.
The lemons here are enormous, don’t forget to try the “Delizia al Limone” a tarty dessert that has the characteristic flavor of Sorrento’s traditional citric.
Organic grown oranges from Sorrento are used to make this excellent jam produced by Casa Barone approved by The Slow Food Commission
Organic grown oranges from Sorrento are used to make this excellent jam produced by Casa Barone approved by The Slow Food Commission

 

Juicy and red tomatoes, creamy white mozzarella di Bufala, ricotta and fior di latte, fragrant green basil, topped with a swirl of olive oil.  The mix of intense flavors and vivid colors, is characteristic of a cuisine that reflect the region’s Mediterranean climate.  Dishes rely on their success because of the freshness of the local ingredients.  Getting the fish fresh from the harbor is still part of the local life; sword fish, anchovies, mackerel and sardines; clams, mussels, octopus, squid and cuttlefish are served in dozens of ways including pasta.

But when in Sorrento, don’t forget to try the “Gnocchi alla Sorrentina”, the “Delizia al limone” and a sip of “limoncello”; you are on your way to a longer and healthy life.  Salute!

Capri : A rock in the middle of the sea (Uno scoglio in mezzo al mare)

The Faraglioni, the island distinguished rock formations.
The Faraglioni, the island distinguished rock formations.

The myth about Capri goes back to Homer’s epic tale “The Odyssey” when Ulysses and his troop were going back to Troy, they couldn’t resist the temptation to hear the seductive songs of the Sirens around today’s Capri, they filled out their ears with wax so they won’t listen to the Sirens and kept navigating but they crashed in to the stones and vanished.

Of course you won’t vanish like Ulysses’ troops in Capri but you will be so tempted by the natural beauty.  One of the trips you can do is on a boat to the Grotta Azzurra (The Blue Grotto) where Romans used to worship the waters.

A view from The Punta Tragara Hotel
A view from The Punta Tragara Hotel

Capri is the world’s first resort, dating back Emperor Augustus (29 B.C.) at that time Capri was under Naples rule, Augustus gave to Naples the Island of Ischia and turned Capri in to his very own private Resort. Today you can enjoy the magnificence of the oldest resort in the world just like Jacky O, Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth and many more celebrities and film stars did in the 1950’s when international tourism arrived to Capri.

La Piazzetta
Capri is so charming, an island so fashionable with unique style. Just stop by the Piazzetta where you can watch the locals wearing their impeccable white pants sipping limoncellos at sunset.
Arriving to Marina Grande.  Capri is about 4 square miles, easy to explore.  Being there gives you a sensation of being apart from the world, because cars are prohibited in such a small island, you need to walk everywhere.
Arriving to Marina Grande. Capri is about 4 square miles, easy to explore. Being there gives you a sensation of being apart from the world, because cars are prohibited in such a small island, you need to walk everywhere.

When coming to Capri, don’t expect to rush anything (piano, piano) slowly slowly, this is the land of the “Dolce far niente” (sweet idleness).  Act like a local, walking the streets Jacky walked, a good excuse to get your hand made sandals to your measure by the local handcrafters, wear oversized sunglasses, a silk foulard in your head and capri pants.

"The charm of Capri then and even now, is that little by little you become part and parcel of life on the island, and as small as it is, there are always new discoveries" (Cyril Dwek)
“The charm of Capri then and even now, is that little by little you become part and parcel of life on the island, and as small as it is, there are always new discoveries” (Cyril Dwek)
The first evidence of humans, tools, weapons and pottery were found in Anacapri, the village above Capri, early Greek colonists called Teleboians who arrived in the 8th century B.C,  (Pictured here a view from Villa San Michelle)
The first evidence of humans, tools, weapons and pottery were found in Anacapri, the village above Capri, early Greek colonists called Teleboians who arrived in the 8th century B.C, (Pictured here a view from Anacapri’s Villa San Michelle)
The Etruscan sphinx at Villa San Michelle
The Etruscan sphinx at Villa San Michelle

There are many theories about the name Capri, a popular one says that it comes from the Greek “kapros” (wild boar) but the most widely theory is that it derives from the Latin “capreae” (goats) which makes sense been a referred as the Goat Island.

After Augustus died (poisoned or not by his wife Livia) his successor Tiberius took possession of Augustus villas converting them in a place for banquets and orgies, this lifestyle which is part of Capri's historical facts can be seen on Gore Vidal's film "Caligula"
After Augustus died, his successor Tiberius took possession of Augustus villas converting them in a place for banquets and good times, this lifestyle can be remembered on Gore Vidal’s film “Caligula”
The gardens at Villa San Michelle in Anacapri
The gardens at Villa San Michelle in Anacapri
When you walk around Capri one famous sightseeing is Villa Jovis, the residence of Tiberius, he named that way in honor to Jove (Jupiter) the God of conviviality
When you walk around Capri one famous sightseeing is Villa Jovis, the residence of Tiberius, he named that way in honor to Jove (Jupiter) the God of conviviality
One of the many villas you will see while walking around Capri
One of the many villas you will see while walking around Capri
The courtyard at La Scalinatella Hotel
The courtyard at La Scalinatella Hotel was home of the couturier Valentino, now owned by the Morano family, is where Churchill and Maria Callas used to party.
La Caponata Caprese, one of my favorite restaurants in Capri is Edode where you can taste their version of "caponata caprese" made with buffalo mozzarella, anchovies, kalamata olives, basil, zucchini, tomatoes and fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil under a bed of whole wheat bread dipped in water and olive oil.
La Caponata Caprese, one of my favorite restaurants in Capri is Edode where you can taste their version of “caponata caprese” made with buffalo mozzarella, anchovies, kalamata olives, basil, zucchini, tomatoes and fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil under a bed of whole wheat bread dipped in water and olive oil.
The Caprese cuisine is fresh, simple and less complicated,  the fish brought technically from the sea to the table with a few hours of being caught.  The sword fish pictured here was seasoned with just fresh aromatic herbs, lemon and olive oil.
The Caprese cuisine is fresh, simple and less complicated, the fish brought technically from the sea to the table with a few hours of being caught. The sword fish pictured here was seasoned with just fresh aromatic herbs, lemon and olive oil.
On this tiny island everything seems to taste better, pictured here the infamous Tiramisu
On this tiny island everything seems to taste better, pictured here the infamous Tiramisu
In the winter of 1952 Pablo Neruda stayed and composed during his exile at the home of prominent Caprese Edwin Cerio
In the winter of 1952 Pablo Neruda stayed and composed during his exile at the home of prominent Caprese Edwin Cerio

The iconic Caprese boutique “La Parisienne” is perhaps known for the famous Capri trousers, here is where Jacky Kennedy Onassis used to have hers tailor made. Michael Kors was for years a guest at The Grand Hotel Quisisana and he described the view from the terrace facing Via Camerelle as the front row of a fashion show. Fashion designer Oscar de La Renta went to Capri to receive the award “Tiberio d’oro” at Mare Moda, the island notorious fashion show. Valentino, Givenchy, Gianfranco Ferre, Missoni, they all came personally to show at Mare Moda.

When Emilio Pucci opened his first boutique in 1950 it was in Capri, his vivid prints  were so characteristic with Capri's vivid spirit, his boutique in Via Camerelle still stands.
When Emilio Pucci opened his first boutique in 1950 it was in Capri, his vivid prints
were so characteristic with Capri’s vivid spirit, his boutique in Via Camerelle still stands.
The Missoni boutique right next to the historic Hotel La Palma
The Missoni boutique right next to the historic Hotel La Palma
A more recent addition to Capri's fashion: The Capri watch, has the emblematic clock of the Piazzetta.
A more recent addition to Capri’s fashion: The Capri watch, has the emblematic clock of the Piazzetta.
Montserrat Franco Sphinx Capri Sandal
The tradition of sandal making in Capri is known worldwide. My sandal collection is originally made in Capri with 100% Italian leather and Swarovski crystals.
Capri style
Wearing the Capri style

Capri is more than a rock in the middle of the sea, Capri is a lifestyle, the concept of chic and casual was immortalized here and will be here to stay. If we are not the privileged ones that can make Capri our home we can
still live… the Capri way, salute!!!

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco. All pictures taken by me.  Additional Photo credits: Benny Galasso-Bely Franco.

For more info on Montserrat Franco sandals made in Capri, visit the store at:

http://www.store.montserratfranco.com

Great trips around Italy on a Vespa: The Amalfi Coast

 

One of the greatest trips with breathtaking views are around the Amalfi Coast, most of these trips can be done  a weekend, again the Vespa is one of the best transportations when it comes to getting around those narrowed roads
One of the greatest trips with breathtaking views are around the Amalfi Coast, the Vespa is one of the preferred transportations when it comes to getting around those narrowed roads

Going to the Amalfi Coast is certainly memorable and a unique experience, the story of Amalfi is linked to the nymph Melphe, the apple of Hercule’s eye and the legend says that he built a city so high on the cliffs to buried her when she died but there is another theory; when Romans lived here in the IV century named it Melfi.

In recent years Unesco has included the Amalfi Coast in its world Heritage sites
In recent years Unesco has included the Amalfi Coast in its world Heritage sites

Suspended between the sea, sky ad earth the state road 163 twists and turns in an almost never ending path around the Coast, it has stunning views from every corner.  In the 19th century access to the Amalfi coast was very difficult and possible only by the mountains in mules.  By the 1900’s the isolation of this part of Italy attracted many travelers. In Edwardian times the coast became a destination of choice by British aristocrats, later actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo and Sophia Loren  brought fame to the area.

You can find some of the best well kept secret restaurants of Italy (Michellin stars and local eateries) with amazing menus that are well worth the narrowed roadside trip and the headache.

A view from the Amalfi coastline
A view from the Amalfi coastline

Arriving to Nerano

nerano
The first stop in the Amalfi coast is the quiet fishermen village of Nerano, part of Massa Lubrense. Below is the town of Marina del Cantone popular for its small seafront and restaurants, here is the Star Michelin Restaurant “La Taverna del Capitano”

 

Fior di zucca ripiena (stuffed zucchini flower) How beautiful is to eat a flower stuffed with fresh ricotta cheese on a bed of summer tomato sauce
Fior di zucca ripiena (stuffed zucchini flower) How beautiful is to eat a flower stuffed with fresh ricotta cheese on a bed of summer tomato sauce.

 

capitano 2
Taverna del Capitano; a family tradition from grandfather Alfonso to son Salvatore Caputo who is one of the youngest recognized star Chefs of Southern Italy. Pictured here marinated spigola (European sea bass) covered with grilled aubergine, with zucchinis in julienne, cherry tomatoes and a bed of aromatic herb sauce. I paired this dish with Marisa Cuomo’s Amalfi Coast Fior D’Uva wine.

la taverna del capitano
Spaghetti alla Nerano, since you are in Nerano you must try this fresh hand made pasta which definitely tastes better with the fantastic view. It is characteristic with the bold flavors of the Provolone del Monaco cheese and slices of zucchini.

 

On my way to Positano I stopped to admire the view
On my way to Positano I stopped to admire the view

 

View from La Sirenuse Hotel in Positano, great place for an aperitif at sunset
View from Le Sirenuse Hotel in Positano, great place for an aperitif at sunset
Positano.  In 1953 John Steinbeck wrote that "Positano bites deep, it is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone"
Positano. In 1953 John Steinbeck wrote that “Positano bites deep, it is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone”
The view from Le Sirenuse Hotel opened in 1951 when the Marchesi Sersale turned their summer house in to a charming Hotel.
The view from Le Sirenuse Hotel opened in 1951 when the Marchesi Sersale turned their summer house in to a charming Hotel.
Mozzarella di Bufala.  I stopped at Next Café in Positano to savor this fresh traditional soft cheese eaten only within a day or so of being made, solely from the milk of water buffalo.  In the Amalfi coast the Buffalo mozzarella is produced in Tramonti.
Mozzarella di Bufala. I stopped at Next Café in Positano to savor this fresh traditional soft cheese eaten only within a day or so of being made, solely from the milk of water buffalo. In the Amalfi coast the Buffalo mozzarella is produced in Tramonti.

 

On my way to Praiano, Marina di Praia

 

Furore, before arriving to Amalfi I had to make a stop and contemplate the Fiordo of Furore, fishermen houses clinging on the rocky mountains.  Be aware of the many steps you will need to climb from the road to the beach and careful with that 2 way road that fits only one car at a time.
Before arriving to Amalfi I had to make a stop and contemplate the Fiordo of Furore, fishermen houses clinging on the rocky mountains. Be aware of the many steps you will need to climb from the road to the beach and careful with that 2 way road that fits only one car at a time.

Amalfi

Amalfi  has the glamour of the once glorious maritime Republic, the Duomo di St Andrea was founded in the 9th century and rebuilt in Romanesque style in the 11th century.  The campanile is is decorated with Arabic like interlaced arches, typical of the Southern Italian
Amalfi has the glamour of the once glorious maritime Republic, the Duomo di St Andrea was founded in the 9th century and rebuilt in Romanesque style in the 11th century. The campanile is is decorated with Arabic like interlaced arches, typical of the Southern Italian Romanesque.
I stop for some readings at the Piazza Duomo before heading to one of my favorite restaurants "Da Gemma"
A pause at Piazza Duomo before heading to one of my favorite restaurants “Da Gemma”
Fresh fish is important part of the Amalfi cuisine, the flavor and freshness of the fish should shine and not be masked with many flavors
Fresh fish is important part of the Amalfi cuisine, the flavor and freshness of the fish should shine and not be masked with many flavors
The food from the Amalfi coast features more fish, lemons and herbs.  Pictured here one of the dishes served at Da Gemma
The food from the Amalfi coast features fish seasoned with lemons and herbs. Pictured here sea bass served at Da Gemma paired with the local white wine Marisa Cuomo’s Costa d’Amalfi Furore is a superb blend of 60% Falanghina grapes and 40% Biancolella
"Melanzane di Cioccolato" is a hybrid of a lasagna like made for dessert with eggplant covered in hot chocolate sauce and chips of caramelized fruit, sugar covered almonds and nuts served with vanilla ice cream and a syrup snowflake for garnish
“Parmigiana di Melanzane al Cioccolato” (Baked Aubergine with chocolate) is a hybrid made for dessert with eggplant covered in hot chocolate sauce and chips of caramelized fruit, sugar covered almonds and nuts served with vanilla ice cream and a syrup snowflake for garnish
Sweet ending with macchiato (as I can't take my espresso is too strong) and a variety of home made cookies and flavored pop corn
Sweet ending once more with macchiato (as I can’t take my espresso is too strong) and a variety of home made cookies and flavored popcorn

 

 

 

Ravello was part of the Duchy of Amalfi in the 9th century.  Villa Rufolo is one of Ravello's landmarks by excellance, with Arabic elements and a mixture of 13th and 14th centuries architectural styles
Ravello was part of the Duchy of Amalfi in the 9th century. Villa Rufolo is one of Ravello’s landmarks with Arabic elements and a mixture of 13th and 14th centuries architectural styles

 

A view from Villa Rufolo's amphitheater, the Ravello's annual Music Festival takes place here in July.  Here is where Richard Wagner got his inspiration to write his Opera "Parsifal"
A view from Villa Rufolo’s amphitheater, the Ravello’s annual Music Festival takes place here in July. Also in this place is where Richard Wagner got his inspiration to write his Opera “Parsifal”

Maiori, Minori and Cetara

the next towns along the coastline are Maiori, Minori and Cetara where the ancient Maritime Republic arsenals were situated, dates back to Roman times.
Stopping at Sal Di Riso's bakery is a must while in Minori, Salvatore di Riso was the first Pastry Chef from Southern Italy to be admitted in to the prestigious Italian Master Pastry Chef Academy.  His renowned cakes and desserts are world famous, Pope John Paul II approved.
Stopping at Sal Di Riso’s bakery is a must while in Minori, Salvatore di Riso was the first Pastry Chef from Southern Italy to be admitted in to the prestigious Italian Master Pastry Chef Academy. His renowned cakes and desserts are world famous, Pope John Paul II approved.

 

Vietri sul Mare

Arriving to Vietri sul Mare will lead you to some traditional shops where you can get the best deals on majolica ceramic that made so popular this part of the Coast, these hand painted utensils have been made here since the 1400
Arriving to Vietri sul Mare will lead you to some traditional shops where you can get the best deals on majolica ceramic that made so popular this part of the Coast, these hand painted utensils have been made here since the 1400
I love to go to the Amalfi Coast in winter as well
After my last stop at Vietri sul Mare I am ready to head back to Naples. I love to go to the Amalfi Coast in winter as well.
I made my way back by the woods instead of using the coast line road.  The first traces of snow were there and it was extremely cold but as a sunny Floridian I had to touch the snow, I just had to
I made my way back by the woods instead of using the coastline road. The first traces of snow were there in November and it was extremely cold but as a sunny Floridian I had to touch the snow, I just had to