Saffron flowers growing on the Amalfi Coast ...

Fiori di zafferano per dorare un formaggio nuovo chiamato il Casone: Saffron flowers are cultivated right here, on the terraced vegetable plots overlooking the Amalfi Coast. at the Tenuta La Volpe Pescatrice. And they are used to prepare a new delicacy, to color a new cheese, il casone, made of sheep milk, a golden tan. Today the TGR Rai 3 journal ran a report on a project started near Furore, a small borgo (village) located between Praiano and Amalfi. The plots, located between vinyards, lemon and olive groves and vegetable gardens, grow saffron flowers that are used to flavor and provide a characteristic yellow color to a sheep cheese variety called "Il casone". 
Tovere, a fraction of Amalfi; typical vegetable gardens and vinyards
The new cheese: Il Casone, as presented by Famiglia Avitabile
The tenuta agricola La Volpe Pescatrice, owned by the Avitabile Family from Tovere (a fraction of Amalfi) has created a new cheese in December 2012, flavored with the first harvest of saffron flowers was brought in. This has also been inspired by an experiment conducted within the framework of the Comunità dei Monti Lattari that has been starting the cultivation of crocus sativus in the vinyards.
A saffron flower (read more about this cheese and topic here).

Lunch amidst mimosa trees: Spring at Da Ciccio, Amalfi

Da Ciccio - Cielo, Mare, Terra: If you are curious about what spring is like on the Amalfi coast, and if you would like to taste the Costiera literally on your plate, learn about how they prepare spring vegetables growing and riping at their doorstep, this is the place to go in early spring, say from March to May - da Ciccio, just five minutes away from Amalfi's centrally located Piazza Gioia by the seaside.
Ambiente bianco, yellow fresie flowers: Da Ciccio, Amalfi
Un raviolo filled with creamy cheese and spring herbs
This comes on your table when you sit down: Home-made bread, and also try the freshly pressed orange juice from the own citrus fruit garden
I brocoletti di privavera, seasoned with just a few drops of olive oil, salt and garlic
Home-made bread, served in a wooden cestino
It is all home-grown and home-made, do try the spring brocoletti (there is also a second kind, the broccoletti neri, which is used for Christmas and winter dishes). 
La pasta in cartoccio, in pergamena (at the moment when it is served at your table)
The pea soup comes with scampi and without (in that case, it is toasted bread)
We also had pea soup from peas freshly picked this very morning in their Scala vegetable garden (Scala is a small village just above Amalfi next to Ravello). 
View towards Salerno
The mimosa tree just below the restaurant
Sea turning turquoise after a thunderstorm
The landmark dish is pasta al cartoccio (pasta cooked in parchment paper, with cozze mussles, small tomatoes, capers, wild oregano). So the ingredients are simple - but freshly harvested or brought in. 
What is more, and adding to a very relaxing experience if you sit by the window, with a panoramic view of the Gulf of Salerno just in front of you. On clear days, you can see the coastline of Paestum which is just opposite. And the sea turns slowly turquoise-colored as the sun is coming out gradually after a spring thunderstorm. 
Limoncello, meloncello on our table
La serra - here the small new plants are grown, for the vegetable garden just above Amalfi
The view once more - mimosa trees, still blooming in the first part of April

Detail of potatoes growing in the background, amongst pot plants
Strilizie flowers
A secnd vegetable garden just below the restaurant, framed in by camelias
Have you ever seen a vegetable garden (here is young insalata romana) framed in by palme nane - dwarf palms?
Salad, potatoes, citrus trees ...
Dessert is delicious, what you would expect here in the coast, but also free. You get to taste limoncello and meloncello. And afterwards, ask whether you can see their hothouse (serra) just downstairs. It is here that they grow the small plants that are then grown in their vegetable garden up in Scala.
And of course, wisteria (this is the parking lot protected by wisteria!!) Up there is Amalfi, and a little farther is Scala ...
For their menu which they update regularly, please see their Facebook Page - Da Ciccio, Cielo, Mare, Terra.

Sorrento Easter Food Delights

Happy Easter to all Readers of my Sorrento Peninsula Blog, with a virtual taste of which specialties are served in Sorrento for Easter: Here is what Hotel Royal in Sorrento has to offer us to celebrate one of the most heartfelt days in the year:
Lasagna alla sorrentina, with basilicum juice
Risotto ai frutti di bosco (dried fruit) and parsil
Fresh green pea sauce and grilled potatoes, peas, salmon in lemon sauce
Fresh green vegetable plate
Strawberry cakelet with cream meringues<
strawberry cakelets; torta mimosa in the background

For Gourmets: Pinoli and other treasures from Mount Vesuvius

Even though tourists arriving in Naples and continuing towards the Sorrento Peninusla can easily overlook the fact that since the times of Plinus the elder, the fertile lava soils originating from Mount Vesuvius have not changed. 
Pine trees take center stage all over the Peninsula - here a view towards Vesuvius in the background, from the Strada Statale Sorrentina. Now in autumn it is time for harvesting the pine nuts.
Now in autumn the pine trees can be harvested - with the pinoli vesuviani being an important ingredient in local cuisine. For example, one recipe combines home-made pasta with ceps (porcini),  peperoncini and the pinoli, sauteed in olive oil from the Sorrento peninsula.
Especially the area covered by the Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio is covered by pine woods, but also vinyards and orchards, and now in autumn is harvest time of many traditional specialties, or ingredients to produce them. 
Lush garden mix on the slopes of Vesuvius: Pine trees everywhere ...
Behind this hill is Pompei - an area covered by orchards, olives and pines
Take a look at a selection of treasures that have been growing here for centuries, ever since the Roman times: Here I would like to focus on the numerous varieties of fruit, from the albicocche (apricots) famous since the times of Pompei, with varieties such as bocuccia, baracca, vitillo, pollastrella and cafona. In spring, heaven is found in harvesting cherries (malizia and durona dael monte varieties), and in late summer the susina pazza di Somma, a plum variety. I have already written on the percocca peach variety in this blog. Amongst the vegetables, you can find the pomodorini (spongilli as they are called), friarielli (read more here), the cavolfiori giganti, and the cipolla della regina, an onion variety growing in Pompei. And - of course - the famous pinoli vesuviani, ready for harvest in autumn. These treasures are surrounded, towards the Nola territory, by foothills of Vesuivus where flowers such as carnations, gladioli, crysanthenum, roses, bocche di leone, irises and even orchids are cultivated .... Quite a colorful picture brimming with flowers and vegetables, having grown lush on the black lava soils, for centuries. 

Fruit and vegetables from the Coast: La Percoca napoletana

Percoca is the name of a heavenly yellow peach with very tasty and juicy yellow pulp, growing in the area of the Phlegrean Fields and on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. And this is what it looks like when it is harvested in mid-summer, that is usually by mid-July:
La percoca napoletana variety - photo courtesy by 
Its name percoca napoletana or percoca del Vesuvio, as they are cultivated in the territories of Acerra, Giugliano, Melito and Campi Flegrei, is said to derive from "praecocqua", meaning precoce, or early (frutti primaticci in Italy). The denomination was used for the first time by writer Rutilio Paladio in the fourth century AD who had divided the peaches into four categories: duracina, persica and armenia, in addition to percoca. Other varieties are also available, such as the percoca di San Martino, that is a percoca tardiva, ripening only towards the end of September. And of course, this peach variety is also available at the adjacent Sorrento Penisula, as is mentioned at the site of I Prodotti di Sorrento 
Olive groves, yes, but there is more: orchards and prominent summer fruit trees grow everywhere and they grow in abundance, this picture was taken near Castellamare on the Sorrento Coast
Well-known in Napoli is the percoca affogata nel vino rosso (peach flushed with red wine), as is called the "sangria napoletana". Lately I tried these fruits, a fine and refreshing Percoca sciroppata: canned in syrup with just water and sugar, as is offered by Sapori Vesuviani, they make a fine part of breakfast, reminiscent of summer all year long, I recommend together with whipped cream and flower sugar.

Sorrento and Amalfi Coast delicacies: Salone del Gusto, Torino

How well known is Food from Campania in Northern Italy, and around the World? How to draw attention to the culinary treasures and traditions of Sorrento and the Amalfi coast? Representatives of the Sorrento Peninsula participated in what is probably Italy's most renowned event to preserve, develop and spread knowledge on culinary traditions, the Salone del Gusto of Turino, 25-29 October 2012. Punta Campanella's Marine Park was also represented, as you can read here, to present the Marine Park and to make an appeal to avoid wasting fish.
On October 27, Capri presented its delicacies cicerchia (peas variety from Anacapri), fagioli (beans), pomodorini (tomatoes), culinary herbs and rosoli liquors. A pasticceria from Piano di Sorrento, the Casa del Dolce will be present to offer its well-known "raffaioli".
Raffaioli - sponge cakelets for Christmas, click here for a recipe
Cetara was present to inform about its specialty "colature di Alici", as you can read here, and so was Tramonti, enchanting visitors with their pizza integrale. Agerola was also present at Campania's stand, presenting fior di latte and provolone del monaco specialties

Graceful olive groves - Colli Fontanelle

In the olive gardens, the year is almost over and the highlight of the year has arrived: it's harvest time. Time to give a review and a bit of information on the history of the olive groves.
The olive trees on the Sorrento Peninsula were introduced here by the ancient Greek settlers, who developed them from grafting. Now the olive fruits that developed from tiny creamy blossoms in early March have turned ripe. In late autumn, olive trees hang full with them and nets are put under the trees that wait for November when the main part of the harvest takes place and olives will be collected. 
Olive trees, terraced gardens, lush green orchards
When you go up the slopes of the Sorrento Peninsula, towards Colli Fontanelle, you will notice the thick dark-green terraced gardens stocked with olive groves.
The olive variant growing here is Penisola Sorrentina DOP, as straw-colored, yellow oil, very aromatic and reminiscent of the scents and tastes of garden herbs such as rosemary and mint. 
Tasting the Sorrento olive oil, than can be enriched with lemons and herbs like basil, thyme and even peperoncino
This Olio Extravergine di Oliva Penisola Sorrentina DOP is being grown in 13 towns and villages dotting the Peninsula and on Capri, by 4000 olivicoltori, on an area corresponding to 1,500 hectares (75% of the olive trees growing in the Provincia di Napoli). The communities are Gragnano, Pimonte, Casola, Sorrento, Piano di Sorrento, Meta, Sant'Agnello, Massa Lubrense, Vico Equense, Capri, Anacapri and Castellamare di Stabia. 
You can click here for informative reading and colorful pictures on the olive harvest, with Capri in view, at Piano di Sorrento. This article "Sapori di Casa Nostra" was posted by Positano My Life, a very colorful blog giving insights on life in Positano.
Silver-green olive trees mingle with orchards and pines, chestnuts on the Sorrento Peninsula

Peninsula Treasures: Walnuts from Sorrento - I noci di Sorrento

The Sorrento Peninsula's slopes (part of the Monti Lattari) are on some parts, in particular on the slopes looking north towards the Gulf of Naples, covered by dense woods. And it's not just the wood-like olive groves and castagneti (chestnut groves) or even ilex groves, many walnut trees mingle with other orchard trees here, like pears and apricot trees. Of course these trees do not grow directly on the coast, but rather inland. And this peculiar variety of plants and trees is possible here because the Monti Lattari quickly rise to peak in approx. 1,400 meters.
Typical picture of slopes rising on the Sorrento Peninsula: pines and orchards mingle - walnut, apricot, pear trees ...
Looking towards the backbone of the Sorrento Peninsula, towards the Monte Faito massive, seen from Torre Annunziata. Slopes are covered with chestnuts, olives, pines, walnut trees, with orchards and vegetable gardens at center stage.
October and November mean harvest time for the Sorrento Peninsula nuts. And they are surely recognized as a special kind of itself: I noci di Sorrento. Traditonally, walnuts were presented to newly-weds for good luck in their marriage, and nuts were also found carbonized amidst the remains of Pompei. Nowadays nuts are also used to enrich pasta and gnocchi dishes, together with pomodori di San Marzano, lemons, herbs, and mozzarella. But you can also try the famous Sorrento nuts liquor, said to have healing properties as all the essence of nuts is said to be contained in it.
Sorrento nuts (Courtesy: Sorrento Dreaming)
I Noci di Sorrento
To buy products made of Sorrento Nuts, you could follow this link to Sorrent'Olio, or even try the Liquore di noci produced by Villa Massa, a tenuta agricola located in Piano di Sorrento.
Or, you may just decide to stroll through Sorrento's Via San Cesareo to look out for all kinds of specialties enriched with or made from walnuts - pastine, liquore, gnocchi, erbe per pasta e anche pasta...
Gourmet shop in Sorrento's Via San Cesareo

Scala e la sua Festa della Castagna

Scala is a small town (pop.1,500 approx), set about 400 meters above sea level, five chilometers up from Amalfi. You can reach it via winding roads from Ravello after approximately ten minutes by car. 
But Scala is not just ANY village - it is the oldest village on the Amalfi Coast - A quiet escape on the Amalfi coast, as you can read in this delightful article on Scala.
The village of Scala as I have seen it from across the valley, from Ravello. Scala makes a very "terraced" impression from here. Imagine the lemon and olive gardens, vegetable gardens, vinyards..., and the quality of life and pure fresh air.  
A maiolica telling us more about the location of Scala and its villages
In October, Scala is famous for its Festa della Castagna where you can taste specialties made from chestnuts that grow abundantly above the Amalfi coast, from Scala inland and into the neighboring valley of Tramonti as well. This gourmet event is described vividly on the Pro Loco Scala Facebook Site, from which  I would like to show a few details.
And - this year, in addition to the delicious food fair and tastings, you will obtain information about the chestnut groves and also, unfortunately, about the plight that endangers these nature treasures - called cinipide galligena.
Here is the program with a wonderful selection of local food, freshly cooked from the most natural ingredients growing so lush on the mountains (Monti Lattari) surrounding Scala, high above the Amalfi Coast, from beans to herbs, from potatoes to hazelnuts.

The Menu - you can retrieve that on the Facebook Site Scala Pro Loco
IF you would like to read more about Scala and Surroundings, the lovely Blog "Ciao Amalfi" has a wonderful collection of articles in English waiting for you. Above, you can view the menu - from bean dishes to pasta with potates and speck, pasta with cèpes and chestnuts, gnocchi with chestnuts, butter and sage, followed by the main dishes sausages and broccoli, turkey with chestnuts, and chestnuts desserts, creams, tarts, honey and jam.
Chestnuts products for the Festa della Castagna (from Pro Loco Scala)
And here is the complete program for a typical Sagra - not just food fair, but a celebration of local traditions and artists. 

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