Europe, Day Five: Sorrento

by Jenn (eating bender) on April 30, 2013

Previous recaps, in case you’re interested:

After our most delicious meal in Europe so far, we slept comfortably and were excited to wake up to clear skies. The forecast for our time in Sorrento had predicted nonstop rain and clouds, but we lucked out with several hours of sunshine and (finally!) a full view of Mount Vesuvius.

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It’s not nearly as ominous looking when you remove the clouds and fog.

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We began our day with free breakfast from Hotel Prestige. It wasn’t a huge buffet, but there were plenty of tasty options. From the savory – olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, salami and cheese – to the sweet – almond cake, yogurt and chocolate – we really enjoyed our selection.

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I also tried my first Italian cappuccino. Oh to be able to make coffee like this every day. Yum.

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Once we finished eating, we hopped aboard one of the hotel’s complimentary shuttles and made our way down to the heart of the city. It takes roughly 15 minutes to go down the mountain, with a variety of perilous twists and turns along the way.

The bus drops people off roughly two blocks from the main square, Piazza Tasso. As we walked, we looked over a railing and found The Valley of Mills, ruins beneath our feet that I later discovered have a pretty interesting story behind them:

The name “Valley of the Mills” derives from the existence of a mill – functioning since the beginning of the 900s – used for grinding wheat. Attached to the mill was a sawmill that furnished chaff to the Sorrentine cabinet makers. Everything is completed by a public wash house used by the women of the community. The creation of Piazza Tasso in 1866 isolated the mill area from the sea, provoking a sharp rise in the percentage of humidity and making the area unbearable, which determined its progressive abandonment. The new microclimate favored the development of a thriving and spontaneous vegetation in which the dominant element is the Phillitis Vulgaris, a splendid and rare model belonging to the fern family.

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Soon we had reached Piazza Tasso, which is packed with locals at any given time of day.

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The square spans a gorge that divided the town of Sorrento until the 19th century.

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A statue of St. Anthony, who is the town’s patron, faces north to greet people from Naples.

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The architecture was beautiful and the colors of the buildings were bright and cheery.

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We decided to head east toward the lemon grove first. The Giardini di Cataldo is a walk-through garden that has been around for several generations. Benches line the paths so that visitors can relax among the trees. It’s very peaceful inside.

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It was also beautiful! The grove owners grow orange trees, too, which you can see behind us.

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At the end of the walk is a store that sells freshly made liqueurs, including limoncello and licorice. They offered us a taste of the former and we knew we had to buy a small bottle for later.

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The woman running the store also encouraged us to check out their freshly-squeezed orange juice, which was sold at a café across the street. Bobby and I both agreed that it was incredible.

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From there we headed back to Piazza Tasso to go on a self-guided walk with our Rick Steves book. Much of what we saw was on or near Corso Italia, the main street in Sorrento that is so full of pedestrians that car traffic is kept to a minimum.

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Our first stop was Via Santa Maria della Pietà, a street that has been around for centuries and was once home to a palace, which is now an elementary school. As you can see, it was extremely narrow!

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At the end of the lane, we reached the Cathedral, which is the seat of the local bishop.IMG_0354

The tour then turned us back onto Corso Italia, where we could get a glimpse of the bell tower with its ancient Roman columns at the base. I was also a fan of the colorful blue clock near the top.

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We followed the old Greek street plan, which laid out the roads from east-west for the most sunlight, and north-south for the cool breeze. Along the way, we passed by several tourist shops on Via San Cesareo and picked up a couple of trinkets to take home.

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We also saw lemons that were literally the size of our heads! I hope that one day the lemon tree growing in our backyard here in Arizona will be able to make fruit this size.

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Finally we reached the Basilica di St. Antonino. The facade is not necessarily impressive…

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…but the interior is gorgeous! The altar had an abundance of fresh yellow flowers.

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We headed back outside and continued walking until we reached the cliffside square, Villa Comunale, which overlooks the harbor and Bay of Naples. The small boats near shore may not have been ideal for someone prone to seasickness, but they certainly looked cute.

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We found a nice man to take our picture. He then proceeded to pretend to run away with my camera. We all got a good laugh out of it…that is, after we realized he was joking. ;)

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From the cliffside square you can walk down a set of zigzagging steps toward the Marina Grande, Sorrento’s main harbor. Along the way, we passed an ancient Greek gate, which serves as a reminder that the Marina Grande is a separate town from Sorrento. These residents historically lived outside the main walls of the city and were therefore more susceptible to pillage and plunder.

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All I have to say is that they sure know how to create a gorgeous marina.

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It reminded me of pictures I had seen of Cinque Terre, which we didn’t have time to visit on this trip. The colors of the buildings, the turquoise water, the winding dirt paths – so cool.

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All that walking worked up quite an appetite! We headed back up the hill from the marina and decided to visit Inn Bufalito for a late lunch/early dinner. I had heard nothing but great things about this place, especially with regard to their buffalo mozzarella cheese.

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Bobby and I were both craving beer, so we asked for two of the alla spina, or draft option.

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Of course we had to see what all the fuss was about, so we ordered the buffalo mozzarella right away. The waiter recommended pairing it with their focaccia bread, and he was right. I’ve had my fair share of mozzarella cheese, but this was a different experience entirely. It legitimately melted in our mouths and was the creamiest, silkiest texture you can imagine. Throw in some tomatoes, spinach, olive oil and balsamic vinegar over focaccia bread, and I think I could eat this combination every day for the rest of my life. No exaggeration!

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We also decided to order entrées. Bobby went with the house lasagna, which tasted fantastically rich with a thick tomato sauce and plenty of meat and cheese among the layers of pasta.

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I went with the special, a buffalo stew that was warm and hearty. The meat was tender, the potatoes were perfectly cooked and there was just the right amount of sauce.

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We didn’t think our experience at Il Panorama would be matched so quickly, but Inn Bufalito was definitely up to the challenge. We decided to forgo dessert in favor of doing a bit more walking. After all, we needed to work up another appetite for our first Italian gelato experience!

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There were a lot of great options at Gelateria David. Bobby told me to surprise him, so I got us a vanilla, nutella and tiramisu cup to share. Ultimately I think the vanilla was his favorite.

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We had great intentions of catching the shuttle back to our hotel in time for the sunset, but unfortunately didn’t realize just how much traffic there would be leaving Sorrento on Easter Monday, which most Italians have off. The shuttle driver apologized for the delay – I think he was getting antsy with the bumper-to-bumper cars – but there wasn’t anything he could have done differently. The rain that had been promised in the forecast settled in anyway, so we were perfectly happy to have a relaxing night in the room once we finally made it back.

And even happier when we shared our bottle of limoncello for a nightcap.

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We turned in early to prepare for the morning’s road trip. Next stop: Roma!

Abrazos,

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Erica April 30, 2013 at 2:25 pm

gah! I just finished eating and I’m hungry now! I want the limoncello and the moz. Beautiful views. You must have freaked when you thought that guy was stealing your camera!!
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2 Jenn (eating bender) May 7, 2013 at 12:51 pm

We definitely had a 2-3 second “moment of panic,” haha!

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3 Karla April 30, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Haha, what a scary “joke” with your camera! So glad he was only kidding. :) Especially so you could keep your camera to snag such amazing snapshots of your time in Sorrento! There’s so much history in this area it’s unreal. Everything has such character–which I think you were absolutely able to capture in this lovely recap, Jenn! The sights, the bites…I wish I could just jump in to my computer screen and experience it all!
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4 Jenn (eating bender) May 7, 2013 at 12:55 pm

You and me both! It would have been very sad, especially because it was my iPhone camera…yeesh. Thanks for the lovely comment, Karla! I wish we could both jump through the screen and arrive in Sorrento right now!

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5 Cara (Twinthusiast) April 30, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Haha, a camera thief in Italy is the plot of one of our Madeline books — you’ll have to read it when you’re here. The lemon grove is gorgeous.
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6 Chelsea @ Designs on Dinner April 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I am in love with Archer Farms gelato (the Target brand imported from Italy), so I can only imagine how delicious the real deal is!
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7 Jenn (eating bender) May 7, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Ooh, now that you say that I will definitely have to check out Archer Farms!

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8 BroccoliHut April 30, 2013 at 7:37 pm

This post is making me crave some limoncello…and maybe a visit to a lemon grove too!
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9 blueberryhil April 30, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Gorgeous photos. I can practically smell the citrus and seawater through my computer screen. The photograph of the valley of the mills is striking and beautiful–thanks for sharing the story behind it.
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10 Jenn (eating bender) May 7, 2013 at 1:02 pm

So glad you enjoyed the photos and the history, Hil!

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11 Betty May 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Jennifer, these pictures are beautiful!!

Now I’m craving Gelato. :)

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12 Jenn (eating bender) May 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Thanks, Betty!! I could go for some gelato right about now, too… :)

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13 Matt G May 3, 2013 at 2:40 am

Looks like your having fun! Great pics of the food and especially the scenary. Thanks for taking the time out to share!

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14 Jenn (eating bender) May 7, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Thanks, Matt!

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15 Susan May 3, 2013 at 9:32 pm

We’re loving your trip recaps! Thanks for all the great pictures and stories. It’s cool to see places with so much character, and I’m pretty sure I’d be happy living on bread and cheese like that mozzarella and focaccia combo… :)

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16 Jenn (eating bender) May 7, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Thanks! It has been so much fun to write them. And I am with you on the bread and cheese. :) Great to catch up yesterday!

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17 Barcelona Pilates May 4, 2013 at 12:33 am

Amazing article, I love these type of article which are having stuff like this. All the places which you mention in your article are amazing & they refresh the mind.
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