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!
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.
It’s a fascinating place, though. Fascinating and eerie, walking through the vestiges of a lost town.
Ancient jars collected and on display. There were quite a lot of articles of daily living recovered from the site.
An ancient oven – where bread was baked in the old days.
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.
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.
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.
At a scenic overlook with the most amazing view of Positano. Oh wait, you’re probably waiting to see the actual view…
The town of Positano…
…and the entire view. Isn’t it just dreamy?
A particularly colorful (and delicious-looking) fruit stand by the side of the road. See the giant lemons hanging from the top?
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.
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.
One store had their limoncello-making machinery on display in the back.
Pretty much any type of lemon-themed gift item can also be found as you wander the town, like these lemon-shaped soaps.
Such gorgeous cherries!
Some meringues bigger than my hand, in a gelato shop.
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!
A rainbow of sandals.
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!
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 adapted from David Leibovitz's The Perfect Scoop.
- 3 cups (25 1/2 fl oz) whole milk
- 1 cup (7 oz) sugar
- zest from 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons limoncello
- 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.