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Sorrento: A land of joyful yeses for the the spirit and the palate

Mario Masciullo, eTN Italy  May 22, 2009

"Do you know a land where the lemons are considered flowers? In the green leaves golden oranges shine, a quiet wind blows from the blue sky, quiet is the myrtle, serene the laurel. Do you know it well? There, there, I would like with you, my love to go!"

This is a generous piece of poetry dedicated to Sorrento by J.W. von Goethe, Germany’s greatest man of letters and poet who travelled extensively Italy in 1786/87.

Had the Hilton Sorrento Palace been in existence in those days when the great German poet wrote his masterpiece, he would certainly have included it to signify the service and special attention enjoyed at this magnificent destination. In one simple explanation: Hilton Sorrento Palace hospitality is topnotch.

A piece of poetry that if written today would maintain its basic concept and include high praise for the local cuisine.

The Sorrentine Peninsula, a Mediterranean jewel
Around fifty kilometres along the coast south of Naples the Peninsula Sorrentina appears in its full beauty: a little strip of land outstretched towards the sea with the faraway view of the Island of Capri. The impact with the colours of the nature and the beauty of the landscape is dramatic as well as the local archaeology and classical culture. An astonishing simple and lively lifestyle enjoyed by the international jet-set connoisseur of the way of life, of the particular value of the Mediterranean cuisine and of the natural certified products, valuable gifts of the local agriculture and the sea.

The picturesque village of Meta is the entrance to the kingdom of the Sorrento lemon groves which colours the entire local landscape, together with the green of the olive trees, a pride of Sorrentine Peninsula extra vergine olive oil awarded with the prestigious D. P. O. (denomination of protected origin) is exclusively extracted from the best olives, variety minucciola, of the Sorrento Peninsula and it is certified by the Southern Institute of Certification.

Its colour is green by the straw-coloured tints, and its taste and perfume reminds the typical Sorrento plants, such as the pennyroyal, the rosemary and the lemon extra
Sorrento, a favourite destination for personalities of the past such as Byron, Keats, Scott, Dickens, Wagner, lbsen, Nitzsche, just few amongst the most famous, and for our days tourists from all over the world, is a centre of gastronomic delicacies. The Sorrentine cuisine summarize all dishes of the Campania region simple and tasty dishes created with the basic ingredients of the Mediterranean , generally locally produced.

The Mediterranean diet is acknowledged everywhere as the most wholesome, natural and complete diet. It varies from the typical fish menus of the coast areas to the robust cooking of the extensive inland districts.

Olive oil, tomatoes, mozzarella, vegetables and spices are the basic ingredients of rich dishes like "cannelloni","gnocchi", pasta and beans, stuffed large size peppers or of delicate dishes, such as "caprese" salad (tomatoes and mozzarella), pasta and courgettes, pickled anchovies, "parmigiana" of aubergines. And much more!

One of the main dishes is handmade pasta of all kind, pizza, different kind of fresh or ripe cheese, sausages, vegetables cooked in different ways as side dish with all kind of meat and fish.

Amongst the delicacies the “Creel shrimps”. The sea of the Sorrentine Peninsula is still inhabited by the “parapandalo”, a delicious pink shrimp that gathers in shoals at the entrance of sea caves. The local fishermen catch it using a trapping system involving “nasse” handmade myrtle and rush baskets that are not harmful to the natural environment.

To accompany the tasteful cuisine the genuine D.O.C. (the acronym that qualify the origin ) wines for all tastes, which well suit to good eating, such as the Falerno label of old origin, the famous Taurasi, Greco di Tufo, Lacryma Christi; the more recent Asprinio, Falanghina and Coda di Volpe, to mention just a few.

No stroll down the main road (the Corso) is complete without a limoncello sorbet , a gelato caldo (the local soft ice cream ) or a “delizia al limone” (lemon delight).

As for restaurants, the choice is vast and between the Sorrentine Peninsula and Capri you can find 9 of the Italy’s best restaurants awarded with the world’s most prestigious Michelin stars.

Today Sorrento is a modern city it is the home of a prestigious and rich Museum (Correale of Terranova), that contains important testimonies of both the history of the city and of the purest craft tradition of inlaid wood. Sorrento hosts important events in the fields of culture (International Prize Award "City of Sorrento" for science), music (Sorrentine Summer Musical Festival), cinema (International Film Festival), as well as the ideal starting point for visiting the renowned tourist sights of the area (Capri, Ischia, Naples, Herculaneum, Pompeii, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello) and more.

Corso Italia is the main street running through Sorrento town. Its shops and the very local athmosphere invite to pleasant strolls at any time of the day and night.

The Piazza Tasso is the threshold to the old town of Sorrento. Beautiful buildings, many in the Italian variant of Art Nouveau known as Liberty are well preserved.. The square is a buzz of activity, with constant traffic and people, street artists and carriages drawn by plumed horses. In the centre of it all stands the marble statue of Torquato Tasso, a national poet born in Sorrento, after whom the square is named, .

At the north eastern side of the square is the Chiesa di Maria del Carmine, with a wonderful Rococo facade. This square is also the starting point of the little bound to the Marina Grande and other sights.

In this colourful shopping district the local products abound and include beauty products such as soap and lotions scented with lemon or lavender.

Finally, it is worth spending some words on confectionery, that originated in the convents’ kitchens in the last centuries and nowadays is a greedy attraction in the pastry-shop windows. A vast choice of specialities: "sfogliatelle", almond cakes, genuine ice-creams, lemon cakes, "profiteroles", pies and, for a triumphal end, many digestive liqueurs locally made: the famous "limoncello" (a brew of lemon peel), ", liquorice liqueur, sweet fennel liqueur, the nut liqueur "nocillo and more.

Nocino is an after-dinner liqueur extracted from fresh unripe walnuts , appreciated both for its appealing flavour and aroma, and for its properties as a tonic antioxidant activity and digestive aid. There is a large number of recipes for the production of Nocino and the industrial production coexists with preparations at home. The product, home made or industrial can reach an ageing of up to 25 years. Walnut is the shell fruit most of the time eaten as such in Italy; alone, with dry figs, with cheese or like an ingredient in bread, sauces and cakes. In the famous recipes book written by Pellegrino Artusi “La Scienza in cucina e l’Arte di mangiar bene” walnut is an ingredient in several recipes : “Nocino”, the famous liquor included.

Walnuts are a high source of essential unsaturated fatty acids such as the alfa-linoleic acid. Their content in proteins and vitamins is good, especially in vitamins of the B group and E, and in minerals, K and Mg are worth mentioning. These and other important compound are involved in many functions: homeostatic regulation, thermoregulation, nervous conduction, protection against oxidative stress, etc.

Besides the local gourmet specialities proposed to its guests, the Hilton Sorrento Palace is famed for its patisserie produced daily by the in house dedicated chef and his staff who bake such gourmandise during the night to be available on the breakfast buffet, at meals time and afternoon teas.

In his book “Italian Journey” , Johan Wolfang von Goethe wrote “I do not need to look for anything else then what I have already found in this world”

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Sorrento: A land of joyful yeses for the the spirit and the palate

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