Naples, Positano, Sorrento, and a Lot of Limoncello

July 27th, 2011

limoncelloduo

Our last stop in Italy, and probably my favorite, was Naples. We didn’t actually spend any time in Naples, mainly because there were so many places just outside the city we wanted to see – the ancient city of Pompeii, Sorrento, and of course as much of the Amalfi Coast as we could fit in. Sorry Naples pizza, we’ll have to come back for you next time!

pompeiicentral

We spent the morning at the ruins of Pompeii, hoping to see the place before it got too hot or overrun with tourists. From the photo, you can see we were mildly successful.

pompeiiruins

It’s a fascinating place, though. Fascinating and eerie, walking through the vestiges of a lost town.

pompeiijars

Ancient jars collected and on display. There were quite a lot of articles of daily living recovered from the site.

pompeiioven

An ancient oven – where bread was baked in the old days.

pompeiiroad

I didn’t expect the town to be so sprawling – street after street of homes, shops, public areas. It was easy to imagine what a bustling place this was when it was alive.

amalficoast

Pompeii was great, but as much as we wanted to explore more, we had to leave so we would have time for one of our most anticipated spots on our trip…a drive down the Amalfi Coast. Miles and miles of curvy road spun out over rugged, steep cliffs, overlooking the blue, blue waters of the Mediterranean.

In a way it reminded me of Big Sur, albeit a warmer and lusher version. And we certainly don’t have those fantastical towns clinging to the cliffs like sunlit seafoam.

positano

Entering Positano. That was the furthest we went down the coast – there were many more towns beyond, but we didn’t have the time. I guess that’s for the next trip.

mepositano

At a scenic overlook with the most amazing view of Positano. Oh wait, you’re probably waiting to see the actual view…

positanotown

The town of Positano…

positanolandscape

…and the entire view. Isn’t it just dreamy?

fruitstand

A particularly colorful (and delicious-looking) fruit stand by the side of the road. See the giant lemons hanging from the top?

lemons

The “Sorrento lemons”, as they are known, look more like grapefruit than lemons. Here’s a particularly cool specimen. These lemons have thick rinds to go with their large size, are wildly, deliriously fragrant, and are sweet enough that locals often eat them straight. No wonder the Italians invented limoncello, with the abundance of these guys around. This apertif, made by soaking lemons in alcohol, is the perfect capper to a long afternoon spent driving down one of the world’s loveliest coastlines.

limoncello

On our way back to Naples, we stopped at Sorrento. Once you get there, there is no mistaking the symbol of this town: bottle of this sunshine-colored liqueur are everywhere and the streets lined with limoncello stores, storekeepers urging you to step in and try their version. It would have been easy to overindulge but we behaved ourselves.

limoncellomachinery

One store had their limoncello-making machinery on display in the back.

lemonsoaps

Pretty much any type of lemon-themed gift item can also be found as you wander the town, like these lemon-shaped soaps.

cherries

Such gorgeous cherries!

meringues

Some meringues bigger than my hand, in a gelato shop.

sfogliate

Sfogliatelle, an Italian pastry made of a sweet dough rolled many times and cut (you can see the numerous layers in the dough), and filled with almond paste or ricotta. There were so many things to try but not enough time!

sandals

A rainbow of sandals.

limoncellosherbet

So I can think of nothing more appropriate to commemorate our visit to the Amalfi Coast than a frosty cup of limoncello sherbet. I wanted something a little more substantial than sorbet but not as rich as ice cream, and this seemed to fit the bill. Little more than milk, sugar, lemon, and a dash of limoncello, it’s like the adult version of frozen lemonade. We also learned in Italy that limoncello is often drizzled over gelato for an extra kick – if you’d like to double your pleasure, no one is stopping you from double-dipping with this recipe!

amaretti

The crumbles on top of the ice cream are bits of amaretti that I added for crunch and contrast. Amaretti can be considered Italy’s version of the macaron – it’s made with ground almonds and egg whites as well, but the method is entirely different. The resulting cookie is crisp on the outside, and chewy, almost marzipan-like on the inside. Amaro means “bitter” in Italian, so amaretti means “little bitter ones”, although these cookies are anything but bitter. They are wonderful on their own, but are great as part of a dessert.

With Naples behind us we have to say ciao to Italy, with the Mediterranean, and Greece, ahead of us!

Limoncello Sherbet with Amaretti Cookies

makes 1 quart ice cream, 3 dozen cookies
  • Limoncello sherbet adapted from David Leibovitz's The Perfect Scoop.

Limoncello Sherbet

  • 3 cups (25 1/2 fl oz) whole milk
  • 1 cup (7 oz) sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons limoncello

Amaretti

  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teasppon salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract

For the sherbet:

  • Combine 1 cup of the milk with the sugar in a medium saucepan.
  • Add in the zest and limoncello. Heat mixture on medium until sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently.
  • Remove from heat and add in remaining milk. Pour into a container and refrigerate overnight.
  • Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. It will probably stay soft because of the alcohol. You can place the ice cream in the freezer for another couple of hours for it to firm up more.

For the amaretti:

  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  • Combine almonds, sugar, flour, and salt in a food processor. Process until mixture is a fine meal.
  • Turn out mixture into a large bowl. Add the egg white and salt. Fold in with a spatula until mixture is fully combined.
  • Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, rotating sheets about halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks for about 5 minutes before removing with a metal spatula. Finish cooling directly on wire racks.

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17 Comments so far ↓

  • Phuoc'n Delicious #1

    I loved my time on the Amalfi Coast, we had a great lunch there prepared by a family on their farm and also learnt how to make mozzarella cheese. What a lovely travelogue. Makes me wish to go back soon!

  • The Hungry Traveler #2

    Just went to Italy for the first time with my boyfriend this spring (Florence, Rome, Cinque Terre on the Amalfi Coast and Pisa for an afternoon). I actually did a series of posts about it on my site too! I love reading your descriptions, it brings me right back to a couple months ago. I wanna go back!

  • Maureen #3

    I loved the area around Naples and down to the Amalfie coast but I found Naples a bit tatty and industrial.
    :)
    I love visiting Italy!

  • Melena Yeong #4

    What a lovely beautiful account of your sojurn. Reading me makes me want to visit Italy again once more….. it really is so rustic and romantic…

  • Vijitha #5

    Wow, lucky you. Enjoy your travel and I love Europe. Have lived in England for couple of years and I am still missing those days. Europe to me is heritage, castles and history.

    I am having a summer drink giveaway in my blog. Do check it out when you get a chance.

  • Evan @ swEEts #6

    What I wouldn’t give to take a vacation like that! Italy is a lovely place to visit :) So happy for the sorbet and cookie recipe too!

  • jess☆ @ Multicultural Melbourne #7

    Positano really is stunning, lemons and limoncello on literally every corner!! My dad’s side of the family are from Naples and the surrounding areas, and I can’t wait to go back to visit again after seeing your photos – especially the sfogliatelle! yummy!

  • Scott at Real Epicurean #8

    Limoncello = a big fat yes all the time where I’m concerned.

  • Maria #9

    What a fun trip! Thanks for sharing your photos! I need to go back to Italy and soon:)

  • Maia #10

    In very rare cases, pizza can and should take a backseat to more awesome experiences. :) Looks like a fabulous trip.

  • L #11

    I just came across your blog and LOVE it. The post with the Stracciatella recipe has be making my husband get me an ice cream maker just so that I can try it. :) I am so excited and looking forward to reading/seeing more.

  • Madison #12

    Ah Italy, I wish I was there now. I love that blue shirt!

  • Fragolina #13

    Great pictures.Last month, my husband & I were in Naples, we just passed by pizzeria Da Michele, ate the most delicious pizza ever.Then we headed to Pompei and then Sorrento,all in one day, but we loved Sorrento, we visited the narrow street full of shops,it was amazing, we drank limoncello,soap shopping. seeing your pics reminded me well of where we were.We wanted to go to Positano,but no time,so we’re planning a nice trip for next year,stay in Sorrento few days and visit Positano, Capri and the Amalfi coast.We were amazed by the sea view.

  • Krystal R #14

    Oh how I love Italia…Sorrento was one of my fave towns, too. Limoncello sorbet is a great way to honor a fabulous place!

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  • Saf #16

    Lovely post!

  • marta barbieri #17

    excelente blog. Estaba pensando visitar sólo la toscana, pero parece que la amalfitana vale la pena. Gracias¡

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