June 4, 2017 – Sorrento, Italy
After our full day of flight to Italy and a full day touring Pompeii and then eating and drinking wine, it was time to relax! Sunday found us in bed, sleeping until the maid opened up our door at around 12:15 pm. She was shocked to see us still in bed! We did ask her to leave and that we would let them know when we needed her services. She apologized profusely but after explaining about our long flight and time difference, she left still apologizing. Wide awake now, we decided to shower and dress and head out for something to eat.
The weather was perfect. The sun was shining and there were so many people walking around the town. We found a restaurant across the street from our apartment, La Fenice. They were actually just opening up and they had a display of different fresh fish packed in ice. We were given the option of sitting inside or outside, we choose outside. I also went up to the display case and ordered the sea bass. We ordered a bottle of white wine and sparkling water. The waiter was so nice and easy on the eyes! We found out later he was one of the owners. When we left, he insisted on taking a selfie with me!
The sea bass had been cooked in olive oil and lemon. It was delicious! The meal came with bread (their bread is out of this world and didn’t upset my stomach). No butter is put on the table unless you ask for it. The two guys sitting at the next table were locals. They looked Mafia type, eating their afternoon meal before picking up their security check! They both had the spaghetti and clams, which looked amazing. After dinner, the waiter brought each of us a shot of limoncello. We were pronouncing it “lemon cello” and we were corrected as it’s really called “LE moncello” the “i” has a long “e” sound.
We walked around town for a few hours exploring the different shops and checking out other restaurants as to where we wanted to have dinner. Yes, eating and drinking were the priority and of course relaxing. We walked down to the beach, which was wall to wall people and umbrellas. The sand is black and because it isn’t very wide, like the beaches say in San Diego, people were literally crawling over each other! There are shops and bars along the coast line and we stopped in for a beer and sat outside, enjoying the view. Seriously, you would be a fool to plan a vacation in Italy and stay on your diet. The food is just so flavorful, it’s hard to have a bad meal here not to mention the wine, every bottle we purchased was delicious.
Because Sorrento is a tourist town and a stopover for cruise ships, the streets are usually packed with people. It’s a great place to people watch. We discovered the weekends are not the time to enjoy working on your tan. After walking down to the beach, we decided to follow the stairs back up. Along the way, the view was extraordinarily beautiful. From the different vantage points, we could see Capri Island, the Bay of Naples, and the plethora of umbrellas from above made for some awesome photos. I will post pictures later after I figure out how to download everything. All in all, it was a great day of people watching, exploring the town of Sorrento, and getting a little shopping in.
Italians are very hard working people. The shops would change out their window displays on a daily basis. The waiters and owners were always present so if you frequented a place, you actually got to know them and they would greet you warmly. That evening we took Umberto up on his suggestions. We ate pizza, again, at Ole Sole Amio where the proprietor, Maria, was just a doll. She greeted us warmly with a buongiorno, and a kiss on both cheeks! Imagine that! She was also the head chef and her pizza was oh so good. When we left, we told her we would be back. We then walked up the road and stopped at a gelato shop where we both got a gelato to go and then walked around the main street. Families, tourists, couples were gathered in many of the local bars, the street was closed to cars, so we were able to enjoy a beautiful summer evening slowing walking in the middle of the road, eating our gelato’s and taking in the sites. There was entertainment along the way, a woman who was painted all white and stood like a statue, an invisible man who was wearing a hat and sun glasses, and musicians playing for change.
I had been here only two days and was falling in love with Sorrento and her people. We went back to our apartment, full and happy. We planned our excursion for the following day, a train ride to Meta to find out information on my grandfather and his family.
June 5, 2017
Another beautiful day in Sorrento. I opened up all the shades and drapes in our apartment and walked out to our balcony to greet the day. If I looked to my left, I could see the water. I looked below and there was a produce truck delivering fresh produce to the restaurant that was just below us. The sounds of traffic and people was music to my ears. I couldn’t wait to set out to the train station and explore Meta.
The train ride to Meta was a quick one, 3 stops between Sorrento and Meta. We even got live entertainment on the train. A man with an accordion and his assistant who played the tambourine. It was lively and fun and when the girl came around for tips, we gladly contributed. When we got to Meta, we walked a few blocks and came upon the church where my grandfather had been baptized. There was scaffolding surrounding the building but it was open. We decided to find the municipal building first and by mistake, we walked into a school. We thought it looked like a government building and it took one of the teachers to explain, in English, that we were actually in a school! We had a good laugh! She directed us as to where we needed to go.
After walking what seemed like miles (my hips were killing me by now from all the walking we were doing) we came upon the municipal building just before noon. In Italy, many businesses and government offices close at noon until 2 or 3 each day so we had just made it in time to put in our request. The woman behind the counter took my information about my grandfather and told us to return the following Thursday. Good thing we weren’t leaving until Thursday afternoon or I would have been out of luck! We thanked her and left. We walked around a few more streets exploring Meta, which sits on the water and is not as busy as Sorrento. In fact, it was pretty quiet. We decided to have lunch there (breakfast isn’t a huge deal in Italy so most times we didn’t eat breakfast). We ate at a restaurant called “Good Times” that had seating inside and out but again, it was so beautiful out, we chose an outdoor table which was along the sidewalk. The only downside to that was the barking dog in the apartment upstairs from the restaurant. He was guarding his street and barked constantly.
I ordered spaghetti and clams this time and as an appetizer, we got steamed mussels. All of which was, again, so tasty. Two pints of beer came in very large steins but we managed to drink it all. We walked back to the train station without stopping at the church. I figured when we came back for the birth certificate, we could stop into the church to take pictures and see what information they had.
When we got back to Sorrento, I happened to walk by a clothing shop and proceeded to go and purchase some clothes and a new leather purse. We were also scheduled to take a gelato making class that evening so we actually found the place where that was going to take place, it happened to be on the way to the train station. We stopped by the grocery store and bought some salt. Let me tell you about Italian salt. It is what makes all their food so delicious. It isn’t salty but seems to bring out the flavor of everything. I had to bring some home with me!
We took a gelato class that evening from Dave’s Gelato, of course we did’t make gelato, we made a lemon sorbet. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to make gelato but the sorbet was delicious. I was chosen to do the measurements of the lemon juice and sugar water, which was in metrics, which I know not how to convert without a computer. The class lasted about 45 minutes. We left with a certificate, recipes, and two free scoops of the gelato from his store.
June 6th was another free day for us to do whatever we wanted. Those free days were a little dangerous for me because I always wanted to go shopping. The shops had some great stuff in them. So I brought home some spices from a spice shop, and then we had to purchase Italian leather, so I got a soft, black leather jacket for “spring time” use. We got all the grandkids Italian watches and t-shirts. I saw these balloon pants that were popular in Italy and so because they were so comfortable, I got 3 pairs along with some shirts and blouses. Hubby had been wearing this vest with all these different pockets and seemed to be weighted down by what he was packing into the pockets. I suggested he get a “man bag” so we went to the leather purse shop and we got him 2 new man bags for him to carry all his stuff in. I think I created a monster with those man bags!
June 7th – Capri
We got up early to meet the van that was going to take us down to the dock to our boat and captain. As it was, there were about 24 people taking this tour with us but only 12 per boat. We got the last boat and I’m glad we did. The captain and his first officer were so nice! We left the dock about 9:00 am and headed out towards Capri, which was about an hour away. The weather was perfect, again with temperatures around 80. Our first stop was the blue lagoon. Some said it was a tourist trap but we didn’t care. We wanted to experience Italy and this is how these men support their families. We paid extra to board a small row boat which took us into a grotto under the mountain. It is said that the Roman’s would come there to swim inside. When the sun hit the water from the small opening, the water was a beautiful shade of deep turquoise. Our steer person began to sing in Italian which echoed off the walls! It didn’t last very long but the experience was well worth the money. We boarded onto our speed boat again and the captain took us into the port of Capri. We had four hours to spend in Capri to explore the island and try out their restaurants. We stayed in the small town and found a restaurant were we had lunch and a nice bottle of wine. We then walked around the small town and purchased some souvenirs, and found out about the legend of the bells.
“Years ago, there lived a poor shepherd on the island of Capri, the only son of a widow. The two lived in a rough shack and their only possession was a sheep that the shepherd would take to graze on the slopes of Mount Solaro.
One evening, the young shepherd stopped to gather flowers and lost sight of his sheep. He was petrified and wondered what would become of him and his mother without their precious pet.
Just then, he heard the distant sound of bells and ran toward it until he got to the the edge of a gulley. There, he was suddenly blinded by a bright light and Saint Michael appeared to him on the back of a white horse and told him, “My son, take this bell and follow its sound; it will protect you from harm”.
With these words, the saint gave the boy the bell that had been hanging around his neck.
From that day on, the shepherd’s life was one of abundance and joy and he had everything he could wish for.
The famous “Villa San Michele” was later built on the spot where Saint Michael appeared and the lucky bell became a symbol of Italy’s island of Capri…” (http://www.capribell.it)
I was exhausted by the time our captain showed up to pick us up. In fact, we had walked over to where the boat would dock and I took a little siesta on one of the benches. When we boarded the boat, the captain then cruised us around the entire island. He showed us where the coral came from. It grows on the sides of the mountain rock in the water and as the waves lapped up on the rock and pulled away, you could see the orange/red coral. It was pretty spectacular. He anchored so the one’s who wanted to swim in the Mediterranean could and we stayed on board drinking wine with the captain. Well, the captain didn’t drink because he was driving, but he kept our glasses full! When everyone was back on board, we went through the natural occurring arches and tradition has it that when you pass under them, you must make a wish and kiss the one you love. The Italians are just romantics at heart. We passed by Sophia Loren’s house which sits into the mountainside and was massively impressive. We then headed back to Sorrento. It was a full day filled with great experiences, one’s we will never forget.
The next day was another free day. We went to Bougainvillea’s again for lunch and while sitting there eating yet another pizza, I just had to ask the owner, Rosa, about the recipe for the dough. That’s when I saw their brochure about their pizza cooking class. I asked her about it and she told me the class was usually on a Thursday but they moved it to Friday for that week, (which was tomorrow). How lucky were we? We signed up and paid for class. I was excited! I love to cook so anytime I can take a cooking class that is going to teach me something new, I’m all in.
Friday was a lazy day for us. We slept in and then walked over to the market to purchase some lunch meat and fruit. I made us lunch at the apartment and we pretty much just lazed it all day watching Netflix. I know, we were in Italy and watching Netflix! But we’re old and needed a day of rest! Plus, we were going to be cooking and eating our pizza that night and I wanted to be sure I was rested up for it.
The pizza class was amazing. The chef and Theresa (the owner’s daughter) were a delight to listen to as she explained everything in Italian and English. There was a mother/daughter from Rome along with another couple from Michigan (who showed up late) and then my husband and myself. One thing that Theresa had said referencing the mother/daughter team “A man should watch the mother and then marry the daughter” So I had to tell her that that is exactly what my husband did. He had known my mother before he knew me, so when we were introduced it was only logical that he marry me since he loved my mother so much!
So, the pizza dough was what I was most interested in learning to make. Their dough is made 4 days in advance from using it. They use two types of flour, 0 and 00 flour. Of course, this was confusing for me because I know flour by white, wheat and gluten free. So, it had to be explained as to where can I purchase 0 and 00 flour. Come to find out 0 flour is our regular flour and 00 flour is pastry chef flour (thinner less coarse). The yeast is not dry yeast but live yeast that can be purchased from a brewing distributor, beer brewing that is. Once you knead it to the consistency it needs to be, you place it in a plastic container with a lid and place it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. If you don’t use it within 4 days, you can wrap it individually in plastic wrap and freeze it for a later day.
We were told when we are shaping the dough, never touch the middle only the sides. The dough can be shaped into an individual pizza pie just by stretching out the sides by moving it around and around constantly. If you touch the middle, it becomes too thin and may cause the pizza dough to have holes in it. My nails were long and kept breaking through the dough and we all got a good laugh when they saw all the nail holes in my dough! Chef fixed it for me and then we got to add our toppings. I used mushrooms, smoked cheese and mozzarella, sauteed onions, prosciutto (parma) and tomato sauce made from basil, garlic, olive oil and plum tomatoes. It went into the fire oven and it took about 5 minutes (the fire oven uses lemon and orange wood to give the pizza a little citrus flavor). And then Bon Apetit!! Damn, it was good! We left with our recipe, a certificate, full bellies, and a plan to build us a pizza fire oven!
Saturday and Sunday were more free days to relax, eat, explore, and drink. While we were there we purchased red coral, a case of limoncello (as of this writing, we still haven’t received it, reason being it supposedly got caught up in customs. When we do finally get it, I wonder how many bottles will be missing!?) Wine, spices, leather, t-shirts, clothing, and I wish I had been able to bring home some bread!
Every morning we stopped in at Bougainvillea’s for Cappuccino’s. Rosa made the best one’s. Walking down the street, we had people calling out to us because now we had been there for a full week and were getting to know people. We checked out real estate there because frankly, I would love to move to southern Italy where my DNA started and experience it year round. It’s doesn’t snow there. I want to learn to speak Italian which was such a beautiful sound when I would hear people speaking it. I want to go there and write. And who knows, one day we may just do that as my husband loved it as much as I did. The Italian culture is so simple yet so exquisite. Family oriented and friends are also welcomed into that circle. I miss it every day since we left.
Monday evening we had another cooking class! Yes, as I stated earlier, I love to cook and I wanted to learn everything I could about my ancestors and their cooking. This time it took us a while to find the place and I’m glad we spend a good part of the later morning looking for it. We walked, and walked, and asked directions and finally we found it. We arrived a little early that evening and we were cooking with another couple from Manhattan. They had been married the same amount of time as my husband and I only they were much younger. They told us they lived in Manhattan for the experience. Bravo to them! We were working with Chef Antonino Aiello and he started us off with Italian meats and cheeses. I learned that Parmesan cheese should not be used on pasta but used as an appetizer along with capaciola, salami, and parma ham. He then served us Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine. The menu was gnocchi, tomato sauce, and chicken cacciatorie and for dessert, tiramisu. Of course the ladies got to do the cooking, which believe me, I had no problem with, and the guys got to write down the recipe as the chef dictated it to them.
Let me tell you, I was in heaven! The chef was knowledgeable and funny! He had worked at some of the 5 star restaurants all through Italy and then decided he wanted a simpler life. He opened his cooking school so he has more free time to go to the beach as he put it. He’s also single ladies, so he’s looking!
Dinner was delicious! Not only did I learn some new recipes which I’ve used many times since our return home, but found out one important fact about olive oil and EVOO. We used a cup of EVOO in the chicken recipe and because we heated it up first (you throw a slice of onion in the oil and when it starts to brown, the oil is ready for the chicken) when every thing is ready, you still have a cup of oil in the pan. The food doesn’t absorb the oil, it just gives the food more flavor! Chef wants us to use EVOO but EVOO here in the states is much different than the EVOO in Italy, so I use my olive oil instead and I’m finding it tastes like the EVOO in Italy.
On our walk home that evening, we came across a very old stone structure that sits down into a grotto between the roads. I couldn’t make out what it was so a friend had sent me a picture of it and had asked if we had come across it yet. At the time we had not but as I said on the way home that night I happened to look down and boom, there it was. I sent him a picture and asked him if he knew the history as we were unable to find out what it was. Turns out it used to be a flour mill and when buildings started going up in Sorrento and the population increased, it caused more humidity which wasn’t good for the flour so it closed up and moved. The structure is still there overrun by plants and trees and crumbling rock but standing there serene and full of history. Oh, if those walls could talk.
The rest of our stay, we continued to visit the restaurants and markets we loved. On Thursday, we went back to Meta and sure enough, they had my grandfather’s birth certificate and the address where he was born. Kids were born at home in those days back in 1891. When we asked where the address was the guy told us just down the street! So we took a walk and found his street and his house! I took pictures and my imagination started running wild. What it must have looked like back in 1891 and that it was still standing! It was bittersweet because I really did not want to leave. I wasn’t ready to go home but alas, we had to get back to the apartment and pack up the rest of our stuff. We stopped in at the church and went through the mound of books the priest had and walked around the church in awe. It was so beautiful. I purchased a cross to wear around my neck, though I’m not a practicing Catholic, it was a token that my relatives had been baptized here.
Our last night in Italy was spent in Naples to be closer to the airport as our flight left at 6:00 am. Much too early for me but with an 8 hour difference from Colorado, it was really the only feasible option. As we drove to the airport at 3:00 am, the streets were deserted with the exception of a few loose dogs running the streets. It reminded me of the street gangs that would roam the streets while everyone else slept. I could see where my relatives, who had settled in New York, continued the Italian tradition of markets, butcher shops, and ware wagons. How family and friends would gather around large tables with an abundance of food and just talk over wine, beer, salami and pasta. Oh, how I was going to miss Italy. This is where my roots were, this is where my DNA started. Yes, this was the life I had grown up to know. All the memories came flooding back into my mind all at once, the family get together’s every Sunday, hanging with my cousins who were really my first friends. My eyes filled with tears but they were happy tears. I was grateful for the childhood memories and more proud than ever to say, yes, I’m Italian and proud of it. And though this was my first visit to Italy, it felt like I had been there before. With my last name of Cafiero, it seemed everyone I came in contact with welcomed me home with open arms. And yes, I felt more at home in Italy than I have anywhere else I have ever been. I’d say there is something to that….so much so, I have vowed I will be going back. Until next time….Ciao!
I would like to thank my husband for making this trip possible. If it wasn’t for you babe, who knows when I would have been able to have this experience. I love you!