Flavours from the Amalfi coast

Holidays are always a great excuse to give into some of our, often food related, vices. And what better place to do so than in Italy’s Campania region. Home to some Italic culinary classics and Limoncello, this region doesn’t shy away from its tradition. And why would you when it involves a healthy helping of spaghetti with fresh clams, in a restaurant surrounded by lemon trees, looking at a picture perfect scene of mighty Vesuvius towering over the gulf of Naples.

 

Vesuvius

 

I’ve just spent the most spectacular week in and around the Amalfi coast, stopping in Capri, Sorrento and Positano. A stunningly dramatic coastline complemented by perfect weather, glowing turquoise seas and the sound of lapping waves. These made for an ideal backdrop to some lazy lunches, late dinners, a good watering of local Falanghina and what became a routine 6pm Aperol spritz or Negroni.

 
Aperitivo
 
 
Let me share with you our rough itinerary along with some of my, mainly culinary, highlights:
 
 
Day 1 – Arrived in Naples and hopped on a boat to Capri. With stomachs rumbling we darted for a hearty, hangover-curing, lunch at a newly opened restaurant, Panorama, with stunning views over the bay of Naples and Vesuvius. I had the Neapolitan classic, a good old plate of Spaghetti alle vongole. We meandered the Capri cobbles through the afternoon, seeking out a vantage point to spot the Faraglioni. We had dinner at Pulalli, a restaurant/wine bar at the top of the tower in the main square where we devoured a football sized buffalo mozzarella, and I had a costata di manzo the size of my head.
 
Spaghetti alle vongole
Capri oranges and lemons
 
 
Day 2 – Hired a boat and sailed around Capri – a must – discovering hidden caves, turquoise lagoons and first chance to swim in the Mar Tirreno, albeit a bit early in the season. I even managed to convince mrs fp to jump in. After a trek to the top of Monte Solaro, and some pizza (served rolled up like a wrap, Naples style) from a street stall in Anacapri, we settled in for dinner at Buca di Bacco, a ‘mam & pap’ restaurant back in Capri town. I had a beautiful plate of polpo e patate – octopus and potato salad – followed by homemade ravioli Capresi with caciotta and thyme.
 
I Faraglioni off the island of Capri
Blue lagoons around Capri
Looking down from Monte Solaro
Ravioli Capresi
 
 
 
Day 3 – Although it was sad to leave, we were looking forward to the prospect of burning through our holiday fund at a slightly less alarming rate. Unless you eat in a bar, you’ll struggle to get a cheap meal in Capri. We caught the boat from Capri to Sorrento, and after a quick lunch at the pool bar, a sunbathe and swim, we headed for Marina Grande to catch a glimpse of the sunset. For dinner we were recommended O’Parrochiano, the grandfather of Sorrentinian restaurants where they actually invented Cannelloni. We ate out the back in the garden surrounded by lemon trees. I had some simple fiori ripieni followed by chunky Scialatelli ai frutti di mare. If you’re in the area, don’t miss the chance to eat here. The food is great, the garden experience is unique, and you’ll be sampling dishes that have been perfected for over a century since the restaurant opened.
 
Marina Grande Sorrento
 
 
Day 4 – After chomping on a massive croissant, we caught the circumvesuviana train and headed for Pompeii. This had been on my to do list for some time – 14 years  as a kid living in Italy and I managed to somehow miss all the school trips! Once inside the walls, you’re walking through a Roman city, which is incredible. It does also mean, however, that there is an entire city to visit, which can take up the entire day if you want it to. So after 4 hours walking the 2000+ year old streets under baking hot sun, we made our way back to Sorrento for a mandatory Negroni aperitivo. For dinner we walked back to Marina Grande and traced our steps to somewhere we’d spotted the night before – Soul&Fish. A modern Italian restaurant on the marina, run by two cousins in their early 30s. We shared a steaming pepata di cozze – bowl of mussels in a simple white wine and black pepper sauce. Mrs fp had some amazing seared tuna, and I had my first ever filled Sorrentinian gnocchi. They were stuffed with swordfish and provolone cheese, in a simple tomato sauce. Ya beauty.
 
Pompeii
Circumvesuviana
Fish counter at Soul&Fish
Gnocchi alla Sorrentina
 
 
Day 5, 6 and 7 – The last 3 days of our holiday were spent in a resort near Positano, where, I must admit, we did struggle to leave as it was close to being paradise. Days were spent mainly lounging on the sun beds with an odd swim to cool down. We ate at the beach restaurant, Il Carlino, a couple of times, where I had some cracking paccheri with atlantic bonito (large mackerel-type fish) and cherry tomatoes. For dinner one night we ended up in a quaint little place – Il Ritrovo – in the hills. A shuttle service collects you and takes you up the winding roads above Positano, where you dine on a romantically lit terrace overlooking the coastline. Something we didn’t know was that the resident chef provides cookery lessons during the day. On our last night the waiter helpfully held back until after our aperitivo before introducing us to the Positano spritz (Limoncello instead of Aperol), so can’t say I’ve tried it yet – one to recreate at home I think. For dinner we treated ourself to a meal at Zass, our hotel restaurant. Quite pricey, but the service and views are spectacular. Also, everything is grown onsite on the terraced hills. After lots of seafood and our standard Falanghina, we reflected over our week whilst chomping on a few scorzette di limone – candied lemon peel. You can’t say they don’t put lemons to good use – no waste in Italian cooking, no sir.
 
 
PositanoTerraced gardens at il San Pietro
Fava beans
Paccheri
Pizza oven
Pizza
 
 
Ok so we may have come back carrying a little more weight and a dent in our bank account. In return though we plunged into southern Italian beauty in all it’s forms, and had the chance to wake up to views like this:
 
View of Vesuvius from Capri
 
 
All in all, a bargain.
 
Thanks for reading!
 
fp
 
Mr and Mrs fp in Positano
Sunset
 
 
 
I’ll definitely be recreating most of what we ate as mrs fp and I reminisce over our week’s holiday. Which one would you like to see?

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