“You may have the universe if I may have Italy” – Giuseppe Verdi
No place on the planet can rival Italy’s sensory abundance, cultural richness and passionate people. There is just something about the “Boot” that entices us, seduces us, romances us and engages every aspect of our being . . . the body, the mind, the heart and the soul. Perhaps this is why, when you step off the plane, your step lightens and your spirits lift . . . and, regardless of one’s ethnicity, your “Inner Italian” blossoms forth. The “Inner Italian” is that delicious part of all of us that falls in love most easily and is the most expansive, expressive, spontaneous and joyful.
And in the words of Anna Akhmatova (one of Russia finest poets) “Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life”. We all need to travel to Italy, whether by boat or plane, or simply in our hearts and imagination. Buon Viaggio and again, Buona Festa della Mamma!
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.
Buona Festa del Ringraziamento! It may be “Turkey Day” here in the States . . . but what better time to be grateful for the abbondanza that is Italian cuisine!
A special mille grazia to each of you for your enthusiastic support of Postcards from the Boot and my Italian cultural programs.
May your day, and the year ahead, be filled with abundance and joy.