Nothing quite surpasses the grandeur of the Eternal City this time of year and it is difficult to recall a single person who has had a greater influence on the look and life of a city than Baroque genius Gian Lorenzo Bernini has had on Rome.
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.