Unlike most of the towns we have visited during the Euro2008 Tour, we are not in the historical center of Sorrento. In fact, we are in the suburbs, and consequently, first impressions of Sorrento are not positive. Grace wants to return to Taormina; I can certainly see a case for that idea. We are in a nest of newer apartment blocks and tourist hotels, located just off the Corso Italia. Cars, buses, and motor scooters blast continuously along the road in a frenetic roar.
I take an early walk around the neighborhood. A grove of ancient olive trees stands a block west of us, packed incongruously among the high-rise apartments. Wooden scaffolding ranges around the base of the gnarled trees, designed to support green mesh nets. The nets automatically collect the olives as they plop off the trees, which is certainly a different system than what we saw in Turkey.
Around noon, the team makes its first official foray into town. We locate a restaurant for lunch, just off the Piazzo Tasso. The food is of poor quality, expensive, and the street corner is noisy. While we are eating, three Americans—two men and a woman—enter the restaurant, take a seat at one of the tables, and begin eating food that they purchased out on the street. They are extremely offended when the waitress asks them to move on. “Okay, okay, we're going, we're going,” sputters one of the men. Strange customs here in Italy: American restaurants always let you bring your own food for a picnic at their tables.
We find the older quarter of Sorrento, south of the Piazzo Tasso, more congenial. Here are the narrow, pedestrianized alleys, quiet churches, and tourist kitsch we have come to love. The girls are back in souvenir heaven, poking their heads into every open shop, while I occupy myself with my camera.
Back to the flat, via some of the local grocery stores. For dinner, I have decided to try an authentic Sicilian pasta recipe I had memorized out of a cook book I had thumbed in Taormina. Simple enough: courgettes fried in olive oil, then dumped over a bed of golden penne, dressed with a touch more olio and Parmesan cheese. It proves delicious—the girls consume their share without complaint.
Mary and I round off our meal with a small bottle (shaped like a cello) of limoncello, the lemon-flavored liqueur that is one of Sorrento's specialties. Sorrento is at the heart of Italian lemon country, and one of the leading producers of limoncello. The drink is made from lemon peels, sugar, water, and alcohol. It has a powerful lemon flavor that will knock you off your feet, and enough alcohol to make certain you stay on the floor. A small glass, chilled on a hot summer's day, is just the thing.
Nor is it so bad on a cool October evening either.