No doubt you're wondering how the tourist in the photo can have such white arms and red legs at the same time, but if you divert your attention from that, the Roman wall and arch are well worth a look. Very few people leave the busy Corso Italia to explore Sorrento's quite street - but it is worth it when you find hidden things like this.
Worth three Michelin stars
Don Alfonso 1890 lost its third Michelin star a short while ago. The reason cannot be either its food or its service, both of which are outstanding. Presumably it's because the Michelin people dislike its new decor -- modern and severe and very brightly lit.
The Sunday, 22 October 2006 New York Times published an article by R W Apple, the paper's late food editor, titled 'Meals Worth the Price of a Plane Ticket.' Don Alfonso was the second of ten restaurants on the list. (Mr Apple died on 4 October, four days before my wife and I dined -- and stayed -- at DA.)
Aside from gourmet food, DA offers a vast wine selection. Its vintages are stored in a cellar first excavated from a tufa deposit in Etruscan times.
Our meals were, of course, not cheap. Together they came to €250 (about US$320), a tab kindly reduced -- not at our request -- because we were unable to finish all eight courses.
Opposite the restaurant is a gift shop that offers bottles of the Sorrento area's superb olive oils as well as its famous lemoncello liqueur and many other items. We each had one of DA's tasting menus. Mine was "La Degustazione." After a free glass of sparkling wine and chef's compliments, it consisted of:
1. Little tunny scented with peppers; broad beans, purée and red onion sauce
2. Purée of 'cannelline' beans with octopus salad, clams, and wild fennel seeds
3. Tasty morsels of ricotta cheese and nettles with a gurnard fish consommé
4. Linguine with clams and zucchini
5. Pezzogna -- a fish in the bream family -- flavoured with bay leaves, couscous, and lemon confit
6. Lucano kid with Mediterranean herbs
7. Selection of cheeses
8. Dessert and miniature pastries
In many trips to Italy, the only meal I've had that rivals DA's was at Enoteca Pinchiorri in Firenze (Florence). A meal at DA is, as Mr Apple suggested, "worth the price of a plane ticket."
The Ancient City of Pompeii
We visited the ancient city of Pompeii on a day trip from Sorrento. Located about 30km from the Sorrento train station, this place is not to be missed, as it is the best-preserved city of Ancient Rome. Pompeii features an entire Roman city with buildings containing frescos, mosaics and plumbing still in tact! Also found here are plaster casts of the citizens of Pompeii just as they were found in the excavations.
Comfortable walking shoes are essential since the roads and paths are not very even.
For more information visit my "Pompei, Campania" page.
Day trip by land: Pompeii
Sorrento's proximity to this amazing piece of history is reason alone to add it to your itinerary. It's a very easy, inexpensive 30-40 minute trip by Circumvesuviana train to the ruins and if you purchase a good guide book at the entrance, you really don't need to book a tour. It'll be crowded, hot in the summer, and require a solid pair of walking shoes but a must do if spending a few days in the city. See my Pompeii pages for hours, entry fees, highlights and other tips.
"Sorrento Sea Docks"
The Sorrento Sea docks as seen from near the Hotel Excelsior just west of town square. The views were literally breath-taking, the mediterranean appeared to be glowing teal-blue, it made the hustle and bustle and sounds of Sorrento seem so insignificant in comparison to the ocean which continued steadily along as far as the eye could see. If I'd have had a wide angle lens and a higher mega pixel camera, Mt. Vesuvius would have appeared off to the far left way in the distance.
"Sorrento Bell Tower"
This is the bell tower in Sorrento. Everyday it rings in the early afternoon around 12-1, and all the shops in Sorrento close (like a siesta) until early evening around 4-5pm. This is a good time to rent a vespa and cruise around town like the locals.
"Scooters on the Mediterranean"
The optimum form of transportation in Sorrento is a scooter. They can zip through the ancient narrow alleyways and windy roads of Sorrento with ease, going places non-accessible by car. Be careful on the busy roads though, the locals here are used to crowded streets and comfortably weave through traffic with speed and agility leaving only 2-3 inches of space between them (a heart attack by American standards).