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.
“For one ravishing moment Italy appeared.”
– E. M. Forster, Room With a View
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 soar . . . and, regardless of one’s ethnicity, your “Inner Italian” blossoms forth. The “Inner Italian” is that irrepressible part of all of us that falls in love most easily and is the most expansive, expressive, spontaneous and joyful.
La Bella Italia inspires us, as it has inspired artists, dreamers and travelers alike for centuries, with its iconic cities, rolling vineyard-covered hillsides, dramatic coastline, charming medieval hill towns, sun-soaked and history-drenched islands of Sicily, Sardinia, Capri, Elba and Ischia – not to mention being a the ultimate “paradise found” for passionate foodies, lovers of art, architecture, history, opera, shopping, and so much more!
Let Italy’s special “alchemy” – its magical lightness of being – fill you with joy and wonder and take you away . . . even if it’s just in your imagination and heart for now. We all long to travel to Italy; let’s hope soon we can all return.
A special mille grazie to my friends who have contributed photos this year: Frank Yantorno and Ciclismo Classico, Biordi Art Imports, Allison Scolo of Experience Sicily, Karen La Rosa of LaRosaWorks and Danielle Oteri of Arthur Avenue Food Tours.