The deep knowledge of places, its traditions and culture also pass through the discovery of it’s local products.
The presence of the walnut trees in Campania dates back to ancient times: findings in Pompeii and Herculaneum show people knew this plant since the first century A.C.
Thanks to the particular climate and geological factors, the production of walnuts in Campania has flourished and become well known: among the most prestigious variety we find the Cultivar Sorrento, typical of the Sorrentine Peninsula.
Sorrento Walnuts come in two different shapes: one is oblong and slightly pointed, the other round and small. The two types are different only in the shape but they are similar in their organic structure. The kernel is a delicious fruit in both types and it is in a cream colour normally slightly oily and easy to take out.
Cultivations of the walnut trees in Campania, in the last few years, have been moved to the Nolano-Palmese-Sarnese, Flegrea and in the Nola and Vesuvius areas.
The fruit is picked in summer, from June to September. The walnuts, not yet ripe, are picked and used to make the famous Nocino, a digestive liqueur of the Sorrentine Peninsula.
The Sorrento Peninsula, and Sorrento in particolar ,is noted for its citrus production. The cultivation of oranges and lemons has ancient traditions and represents centuries of principal economic resources for the territory. The famed citrus from the peninsula are in fact exported to the major Italian markets and to the rest of Europe.
The Sorrento orange, like the famous lemon, are cultivated according to the traditional way of protecting the plants from the wind and the cold using a wooden scaffolding system – usually chestnut wood is used – with a height of 7 metres and a pergola-cover of straw.
Growing the fruit under these pergola’s gives the product a particolar uniqueness, a particolar maturation, that allows the fruit to be sold throughout the different seasons and therefore has earned a wide respect in comparison to other Italian citrus products.
The production along the Sorrento Peninsula see’s principally two ecotypes of tree: The Sorrento Yellow and the Equense Yellow.
Both types of plant have a vigorous growth and reach a height of 7 metres. The fruit they produce have an intense yellow-orange colour with a peel of medium thickness. The Sorrento oranges reveal numerous sections rich with seeds which give a generous amount of sweet juice.
The harvesting period for the Sorrento orange is done in the period from May to August. Like the lemon, the orange is also used as a base for a delicious liqueur and is noted as one of the typical local products.
Among the dates which are most deeply felt by Sorrento people, the Holy Week in Sorrento and in the whole Coast is rich in ancient rites and thousand-year usageswhich are re-proposed and much enhanced still today. On Palm Sunday in Sorrento, besides its traditional olive-tree twigs, there is the habit to bless also characteristic palms, made by hand with coloured sugared almonds, linked to a suggestive legend.
It is told, in fact, that during an attack to the coast of Sorrento by the Saracens, the inhabitants of Sorrento took shelter in the Cathedral. They prayed long for the town to be saved by the pirates’ attack: the ships were wrecked and the pirates died in the waters close to Sorrento. The only survivor was a young lady, a slave, who swam to Sorrento and, after reaching the Cathedral too, was welcomed and taken care of. The young lady, in order to thank the population, gave them the only thing she had: some coloured sugared almonds. According to the myth, this happened during Palm Sunday and since then, every year in Sorrento, palms have been made with coloured sugared almonds to be blessed together with olive-tree twigs.
The making of sugared-almond palms has become, in the course of centuries, a real art typical of Sorrento Coast. The craftsmanlike processing is meticulous and includes the making of flowers whose multi-coloured petals are made with sugared almonds which are threaded into metal sticks covered with tissue paper and decorated with any kind of lace and braid.
Besides being a beautiful natural and historic place, the Sorrentine Peninsula is famous for its gastronomy and delicious typical products. Among these products there is one of the most tasty and appreciated cheese all over the world: the Provolone del Monaco. It is produced on the Lattari Mountains, an area with a wholesome air, pasture lands and plenty of water.
In ancient times the product was brought to Naples to be sold because it was too expensive for the rural inhabitants. During the sea journey from the beach of Seiano to the port of Naples, shepherds used to wear a long mantle to shelter themselves from the cold so that they seemed real monks.That’s why the cheese is called ‘Provolone del Monaco’ (Monk’s Cheese).
Technically speaking, the Provolone del Monaco is the result of a raw milk processing. The milk comes from Agerolese cows and is rich in organoleptic properties. The cheese has a characteristic ‘pear’ shape, but it can also have a cylindrical one. After it has reached the desired shape, the pickle, drying and maturing phases follow. They are made in cellars for a period of time that goes from 4 to 18 months.
Besides lemons, walnuts and olives among its delicious typical products, Sorrento can also boast Tomatoes.
Big, of irregular shape and somewhat round, Sorrento Tomatoes have a very delicate flavour and are to be eaten raw to be able to taste their sweetness and compactness. Coming from the tomato called “Cuore di Bue”, the Sorrento Tomato owes its success to the “Caprese”, the salad in which it is the main ingredient, together with mozzarella fiordilatte cheese, with basil and extra-virgin olive oil.
According to tradition, the cultivation of the Sorrento tomato takes place in the hilly area of Sorrento, in the stretch of territory between Piano di Sorrento and Sant’ Agnello.
According to other sources, instead, the cultivation of the Sorrento Tomato dates back to the twentieth century, when its seed was imported by some ship-owners from Sorrento.
Typical of Amalfi Coast, the old craftsmanlike production of ceramics comes to life again also in Sorrento Coast.
Any kind of drawing and bright colours make Sorrento pieces of pottery precious objects to admire and, why not, to buy.
In the last few decades there has been, in fact, a remarkable flourishing of craftsmanship specialized in the production of decorated pieces of pottery.
The artistic processing of pottery is the fruit of an activity dating back to the 5th century B.C. The “Golden Age” of Sorrento ceramics, in the 19th century, coincides with the flourishing of the neighbouring Vietri ceramics: the works of naïf inspiration of this period are made with bright and sunny colours and particular and unique motives.
The works can be admired, commissioned and bought in the numerous shops of the old town centre of Sorrento.
It is possible to choose one’s own pieces of pottery among the so many shapes and the different colours of bottles, vases, pieces of furniture, kitchen tools and so much more.
Famous for its delicious gastronomy, the Sorrentine Peninsula, and Campania in general, is also distinguished for its typical Christmas fare, in particular the desserts.
If you have arranged a Christmas or New Year’s holiday in Sorrento, you have to at least try the bounty of desserts that Tasso’s city has to offer its visitors.
Try the traditional Struffoli, delicious balls of deep-fried batter coated with honey and hundreds and thousands, or Zeppole, batter flavored with aniseed and coated with honey and sugar.
Also famous, and with a very distinct taste, is Rococò, a ring-shaped cake made with batter flavoured with ground nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper and enriched with almonds, hazelnuts and citrus-zest.
One will also find almond paste in many colours and forms, sprinkled with sugar, almond flour and spices.
Also worthy of note are Mostaccioli, biscuits in the shape of a fish and covered in chocolate, Susamielli, in the shape of the letter S, delicate biscuits with liquid honey mixed into them.
These are just some of the Sorrentine desserts that you can taste during the Christmas period, a time when the town of Sorrento truly comes alive with lights, colours and perfumes which surround you in an atmosphere of pure magic!
A Roman villa which gave hospitality to Emperor Augustus in exile. These are the ancient origins of the villa which today houses one of the most exclusive hotels in Sorrento. The building of the villa was commissioned in 1750 by the earls Mastrobuono who chose this enchanting spot on the Gulf of Sorrento to spend their Summer stays. Its transformation into hotel occurred in 1820: 30 cosy rooms to enjoy unforgettable and relaxing stays. It was chosen as a residence by important personages as Louis II of Bayern, Eugenia Empress of France to whom a wonderful fresco, still admirable today in one of the Suites, was dedicated, the Spanish minister Emilio Castelar , the woman writer Mrs Harriet Beecher Stowe and Ivan Turgenev. Or also the French poet De Lamartine, the King of Greece Victor Emmanuel III, the married dukes of Aosta, the Russian poet Jorge , Marguerite Yourcenar who, while being a guest of the hotel, wrote “ The finishing stroke”.
Between 1905 and 1907 the Villa Pompeiana, an almost perfect copy of the house of the Vettis in Pompeii, was built. Its construction was commissioned by William Waldorf Astor, with the intention of recreating an atmosphere to live through the splendours of the Ancient Rome.
The hotel has been recently fully renovated by the well-known architect De Luca. Under the numerical point of view, it has undergone an inversion: its 70 rooms have become 50. And the philosophy of hospitality has changed: the hotel has become a cosy residence, a place where to recover domestic warmth, while immersed in the beauty of a place rich in history and art and which has a breathtaking sight. The Bellevue has been in fact conceived as a sort of cosy revival of the house, not only a place where to recover from long walks and excursions across Sorrento, but also a residence to be lived and discovered.
The villa houses, in fact, common places, finely furnished, where, besides having a drink, listening to good music or reading a good book, it is possible to admire works of art on show by local artists. Guests can admire paintings, period pieces of furniture, sculptures and pieces of pottery, thus coming into contact not only with natural and landscape beauties, monuments, churches, but also with art, an expression of the culture of the place, symbol of the society which lives in a certain territory.
A guest who, therefore, besides visiting a place, will be able to know and discover its soul.
The Bellevue Syrene hotel, strong in its philosophy, offers not only welcome, but also proposes itself as a source of knowledge of the Sorrento culture and that of Campania in general. A museum house, where to be able to admire, without charge or any disturb, works such as the surreal paintings of the Neapolitan Gennaro Sardellla, sculptures of the designer Roberto Dalisi or the splendid works of the artist from Avellino Paolo Sandulli.
The artist on permanent show at the Bellevue Syrene Hotel of Sorrento.
One of the sentences Gennaro Sardella loves repeating is that “We are made of many colours”. Of all those colours he masterly uses in his works.
Artist, master and great connoisseur of the human soul, of the contemporary man, immersed, or even, overwhelmed by the contradictions and in the conditionings of everyday life. A visionary and surrealistic poet, who depicts figures with long necks, sharpened tongues in an apparently confused, fairy-like, fanciful world.
A free painter, as he loves to define himself, who has chosen to entrust his art with an important message, a philosophy of life, a constant accusation of a conventional, standard, stereotyped world.
Works to be interpreted, able to talk, to communicate suffering, perplexity, worry about the individual’s present conditions of life, but that never forget that particular message of hope, of wish, of happiness often entrusted to the colour or to grotesque and comic images.
Gennaro Sardella, of Neapolitan origins, as a very young man, begins depicting that fanciful, fairy-like and surreal world which will characterize the atmosphere of almost all of his pictorial production. Since his adolescence he has been visiting the main Italian towns: a wondering suggested by an unsatisfiable thirst of knowledge and an unceasing curiosity for the world. In the Neapolitan period, exactly until 1975, he takes his artistic tie again with the painter Roberto Carignani, he improves painting techniques and meets important artists such as Giorgio De Chirico and Pietro Annigoni. His personal experiences, his Neapolitan being, rich in images with a strong symbolic value, the particularity and uniqueness of his paintings have outlined a route, not always in decline, which has brought the artist to be acknowledged as an important point of reference in the Neapolitan and national artistic panoramas. Over eighty exhibitions in Italy, successes of Italian and foreign public for one of the most interesting artists not only in the artistic panorama of Campania, but also in the national and international ones.
Among the most picturesque churches of Sorrento, the Basilica of St Antonino stands in an old oratory which used to host the Saint’s remains who, according to legend, was a refugee in Sorrento during the Longobard invasions and lived there till his death. Built in the IX century, the basilica of Saint Antonino has a Latin-cross plan in three naves and 12 different columns coming from different buildings in Greek Roman architecture of the same area.
Inside the church hosts important paintings, among these, the works by Giovan Battista Lama and two canvas by Giacomo del Po depicting the siege of Sorrento in 1648 and the plague of 1656.
The main altar in convex marbles, comes from the former monastery of the SS. Trinità.
The sacristy of the Basilica contains important works: a silver statue of St. Antonino dating back to1564, the remains of a picturesque and ancient majolica floor and one of the most beautiful Neapolitan nativity scenes of the 7th century. The nativity, in permanent display, has been called the “small San Martino” for an analogy with the most famous nativity scenes in Naples.
Very interesting are also the votive offerings present in the church, most of them donated by sailors survived of shipwrecks. To St Antonino, patron saint of the town of Sorrento, is also attributed the famous miracle which tells how the saint rescued, in Marina Grande, a young boy that had been swallowed by a cetacean. In memory of this miracle people from Sorrento put in the hall outside the church two ribs of the cetacean. The crypt of the church, located below the main altar, contains the remains of St. Antonino, and an ancient wooden cross and a fifteenth-century fresco portraying Madonna delle Grazie.