Our vacation actually started last night, the minute we stepped foot onto the overnight Italian train from Nice to Rome. Despite what we often hear from lots of different people, we really love traveling by train. Unlike the French SNCF first-class couchettes, the Trenitalia first-class sleepers are private two-person cabins with bunk beds and a sink, and the bathroom down the aisle. This one departed Nice Ville at 9:07pm last night, and arrived into Rome this morning at 9:42am. The first thing we normally do when the train departs and we are settled in for the night, is open a bottle of wine and set out something to eat. Today we had a late lunch, so tonight we were happy with a half-bottle of Côte du Rhone wine, with bread, saucisson, cheese, & olives. Once we locked the door to the cabin and made ourselves comfortable in our beds, the motion of the train lulled us to sleep, and before we knew it, we were being served breakfast in our cabin, which included a cup of cappuccino & a vending machine-style croissant, just before our on-time arrival into Roma Termini. We had an hour layover to make our sleek, comfortable, and very fast (1 ½ hrs nonstop), EuroStar connection to Napoli Centrale. For this leg of the trip, I was able to get e-tickets that I could print out myself from the Trenitalia website. Then from Napoli Centrale we took the regional Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento, with a kazillion stops on the way, and finally arrived about 1 ½ hours later. Next time, we’ll skip the regional train to Sorrento, and we’ll take the ferry from Napoli, which is much faster (about 40 minutes), much more comfortable, and much more fun.
It was a short walk from the train station to our hotel, the Villa di Sorrento, which we were very happy with. It wasn’t on the cliffs overlooking the sea, but it was very comfortable, very close to everything, and it had a lovely terrace with a glimpse of the water. We were in room 42, but room 41 right next door might have been a bit better just because theirs was the last terrace on the floor. From our terrace we had to look over theirs to check out the view.
Hotel Villa di Sorrento
Our first afternoon on the Sorrento Peninsula was beautiful as we explored the city of approximately 18,000 inhabitants. We meandered along the small streets and alleys in the old town, checked out the old walls & the ravine, the colorful piazzas, and the cliffs overlooking the marina, and the beautiful view of Il Vesuvio across the Bay of Napoli.
Limoncello di Sorrento in the Old Town
We were amazed by all the lemon and orange trees all around Sorrento, until we remembered that Sorrento claims to be the birthplace of the very popular digestif, Limoncello. Of course, both Capri and Amalfi make the same claim. In any case, each area produces their own unique Limoncello with their own distinctive home-grown lemons.
Ristorante Il Buco
Dinner tonight was wonderful at Ristorante Il Buco (Il Rampe Marina Piccola 5, tel: 08.18.78.23.54), where we were promptly served a chilled glass of Prosecco the minute we sat down. Dinner included stuffed squash blossoms as an amuse-bouche (I’m not sure what the Italians call an amuse-bouche), salumi with vegetable fritters with a béchamel sauce, cod with arugula, a creamy risotto with prawns, rack of lamb, tiramisu with balsamic and strawberries, ending with a small plate of sweets. The wine was a great discovery. It was a 2001 Cenito by Luigi Maffini from Paestum, made from a local grape called “aglianico”. It was a full-bodied, red wine that had an undertone of chocolate-dipped raspberries, but not too fruity. The sommelier went through a very strange ritual while serving the wine - one that we had never seen before. He poured a little bit of wine into one large glass, swirled it around gently, coating the whole bowl of the glass, sniffed the wine without tasting it, then poured the wine out of that glass into another glass, repeating the same process, and then poured the wine out of the second glass into a third glass, where he repeated the same process, and then poured the wine from the third glass back into the first glass and set it aside. Then he poured a little bit of wine from the decanter into the second glass for tasting, and when he received the approval, he poured some wine from the decanter into both of our glasses for drinking. It was quite a unique approach, both interesting and entertaining, and it was definitely worth the wait. But, I'd like to know what he did with the first glass of wine that he set aside. hmmm...
Camera View into the Ristorante Il Buco Kitchen
As we prepared to leave the restaurant, we noticed a flat-screen monitor hanging on the wall with a real-time glimpse into the kitchen of the restaurant.
The Kitchen of Ristorante Il Buco
The proprietor noticed us taking a look at the screen, and insisted that we go down into the kitchen to get a close-up and personal view of the kitchen. I wonder what the chefs thought of our visit.
Terrace Bar in Piazza Tasso
On the way back to our hotel, we stopped in at a small place in Piazza Tasso for an end-of-the-evening Limoncello to cap off our first night in Sorrento. This time I had a Crema di Limoncello, while Dave had a traditional Limoncello. Both were served icy cold in small iced glasses, and mine tasted almost like a lemon-flavored Baileys – very good and very rich.