It’s a secret. It’s just south of the tourist-packed jet-setting Amalfi peninsula. From Naples, it’s about a 1.5 hour drive– past Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii and Sorrento, heading to the small city of Salerno. Then you hit the “buffalo highway” where you’ll notice signs advertising mozzarella di bufalo, the very best in all of Italy. The landscape flattens a bit as farms appear on either side of the road. Tomatoes, artichokes, kiwis, figs . . . this is one of Italy’s most lush agricultural zones and a gastronomic paradise.
Welcome to Cilento, the undiscovered land south of the Amalfi Coast in southern Campania. Cilento has a rugged mountain interior and a pristine coastline dotted with fine beaches. It’s home to the temples at Paestum, the best mozzarella producers in Italy, the birthplace of the Mediterranean Diet, and a unique variety of fig called Dotatto Bianco. Also home to many of Italy’s oldest residents, the key to life here is the phrase “slowly, slowly” which may be the true secret to longevity.
~ Tenuta Vannulo, Italy’s best producer of buffalo mozzarella. The buffalos live stress-free lives where they receive massages and listen to Mozart in their pens.
~ The temples at Paestum, built in the 6th century BCE when this was a Greek colony dedicated to Poseidon.
~ Castellabate, one of Italy’s most beautiful, well-preserved villages.
~ Certosa di San Lorenzo in Padula, the largest monastery in Italy and an oasis of tranquility.
~ Santomiele, a confectionery devoted to Cilento figs located in the Cilento National Park; it feels like a Cartier showroom with figs and chocolates presented as though they were fine jewels.
~ Borgo La Pietraia, an agriturismo with a view framing both the Amalfi and Cilento Coasts. It’s also home to the Feast On History Food & Wine School (opening fall 2021)
Grazie mille to Danielle Oteri and Feast on History for the content of this post as well as many of its photos. Post-pandemic, those of you in the NYC area might should consider taking one of Danielle’s fabulous Arthur Avenue Food Tours.
Tis the season of angels, heavenly music, and nativity scenes!
Christian or not, we all know the Christmas Story, its characters and incidents … but many of us don’t realize that it is, in fact, an amalgamation of only two of the four Gospels which have been cobbled together.
Matthew tells of a nativity full of pageantry and procession with the arrival of the Three Magi — scholars, wise men from far, far away, with their finest gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to pay homage to a newborn King; while Luke shares a story of humble simplicity — of a babe born in a rustic manger surrounded by animals, and of local shepherds who come to adore him. Both gospels prominently feature angels in important roles as messengers who announce the arrival of the baby Jesus.
All of this has resulted in the creation of many a Renaissance masterpiece. Please enjoy this holiday slideshow featuring some of my favorite paintings, by Italian Renaissance masters … naturally. Photos features were either taken by me or sourced from Wiki-Commons and are in the public domain.
Wishing you all Buon Natale and Buon Capodanno as we all look forward to a brighter and more joyous 2021.
As the holidays approach, let’s celebrate Italian ceramic artisans who continue to joyfully create functional objects of beauty that are “fatti a mano” — made by hand — amid the challenges of the pandemic. Feast your eyes on some of the marvelous works and varied styles of the leading ceramic artisans in Italy today . . . from the cities of Faenza, to Montelupo, to Siena, to Castelli to Palermo. The works of these artisans are available in the United States exclusively through Biordi Art Imports located in San Francisco’s historic North Beach.