Tag Archives: food and wine

Living on the Edge/Torre Del Greco

Christ the Redeemer statue at the marina entrance, Torre Del Greco. Photo by Rebecca Di Donna.

Torre del Greco, a comune of Naples, sits in the shadow of Mt Vesuvius. Up until the early twentieth century, it was a resort for wealthy Italians and tourists seeking to climb Mt Vesuvius. Today it is a gritty, blue-collar town, not concerned with packaging itself for outsiders, which is quite refreshing. We went there to meet an online friend from the sea glass world, Rebecca Di Donna. She and her husband, Paolo, invited us to their apartment for a late lunch after we finished seeing Pompeii. Dennis and I got back on the Circumvesuviana and rode a few stops down the line, toward Naples. We got off the train at Torre and started walking toward the Marina, somehow managing to get lost even with directions.

 

 

Being “lost” is a good way to find your way around!

As we walked through the town I thought about its close neighbor, Herculaneum. Once a city of wealth and prestige, it was completly destroyed when Vesuvius erupted in 79 A. D.  Torre del Greco was lucky that day-spared by the gods, so to speak. Natural disasters are kind of personal to me. I was living in Washington state when Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, and remember the uprooted forest trees stacked like pick up sticks and mountains of volcanic ash along the interstate. Thirty years later I still live in Washington state, on a beautiful peninsula that happens to be in a tsunami zone. With proof that an earthquake and tsunami wiped away much of the area in the 1700’s, we live with the knowledge that its “not if, but when”. Still, we go about our daily lives and try not to obsess about the future too much (at least I don’t). Is that how it is to live here? I wondered, as we walked by signs of past volcanic eruptions.

Lava flows following the line of the building and street from an eruption in 1862. photo by Rebecca Di Donna

Times change, of course, but the basics of everyday life; eating, drinking, working, praying go on. Like their ancestors, the modern inhabitants live their lives within the shadow of an active volcano.

Food For The Soul

The fertile (volcanic) soil produces the most flavorful produce and wines, which we were about to experience firsthand at the lunch that awaited us- but we were still lost.

The olive market, photo by Rebecca Di Donna

Fresh artichokes!

Roasting carciofo (artichokes) street vendor, photo by Rebecca Di Dona

The Coral Museum

There is a coral museum in Torre that I really wanted to visit, but it was closed the day that we were in town. The most beautiful coral comes from the nearby Mediterranean sea, and an industry sprang up here in the 1700’s producing cameos and jewelry from the vibrant red and orange branches.  Coral has been used for adornment and worn as a protective amulet for centuries. On a personal note, I have always loved coral ever since I was a teenager and a package arrived from Italy containing a box of Altruda family jewelry.

The cameo’s and broach belonged to my great aunts. There were seven coral amulets, worn by my grandfather and his siblings when they were children.

The residents of Torre del Greco are called corallini, in reference to the cameo and coral jewerly industries located here.

 

Commemorative postal stamp, literal translation “processing of the coral, Torre del Greco”

Maybe next time?

As we walked toward the Marina (the long way, I’m sure), I had to stop to photograph the details we passed along the way. I was hoping we would find Rebecca’s apartment before too long, as we had already walked miles on the hard paving stones of Pompeii. We were ready for a glass of wine and a snack!

The influence of Egypt was popular centuries ago in Pompeii, and today, in Torre del Greco.

Doorknockers are one of my favorite things to photograph!

One of many neighborhood shrines.

The influence of religion and ritual are very much alive here. Street processions, singers, submerged statues in the marina for protection- yes, protection would be very much on the minds of people at any time in history who lived here.

The End is Near

Marina view at Torre del Greco

At last, we found their apartment address and rang the bell. No one answered. Two boys from across the street watched us and then came over. They confirmed that our friends lived here, and then they rang as if that would produce better results, but no dice. Not sure what to do next, we walked over to a nearby bench facing the harbor, and sat down. Very soon a man on a Vespa rode up and asked if we were Judith and Dennis. It was Rebecca’s husband, Paolo. They had been looking for us!

Pranzo Fatto a Mano

Near the entrance to the apartment

View of the harbor with the statue of Jesu, as seen from their living room. Not pictured: Mt Vesuvius-it was too cloudy.

We were brought upstairs to the top floor apartment of a six-hundred-year-old building. Rebecca and Paolo, whom I had never met in person before, seemed like old friends. As with other people I have met from the sea glass world, we already had a lot in common. Soon we sat at their table and had the beautiful food prepared by Chef Paolo for our lunch.

Fried peppers and tomatoes, cooked in locally produced olive oil.

Fresh mozzarella di bufalo, olives, bread, and wine, all from the local area. What more does anyone need?

Bread baked that day at their local bakery.

They fill their glass jugs at the local cellar with wine from a vineyard near Mt. Vesuvius.

As we sampled the delicious food, conversation flowed like the hearty Vesuvian wine. Paolo, who is from Capri, is a professionally trained Chef. He had lived in the States for a number of years, and was working at a restaurant in Santa Barbara when he and Rebecca met. They hit it off, married, and moved back to Italy about five years ago. Our visit included a show and tell of sorts. I showed some of my sea glass and ancient coin jewelry. Rebecca, an artist, showed us some of her mixed-media pieces hanging on the walls of their home. Her creativity overflows in everything she touches, be it painting, photography or lifestyle. Many of her photos of everyday life are included in this post. Thank you Rebecca!

Privacy screen glass, once used in bathroom doors and windows, turned into sea glass and found on the beach by Rebecca, photo by Rebecca Di Donna.

I drooled over her Italian sea glass and pottery collected on Capri and all over the Mediterranian. Of course, we had to do some trading!

 

Grazie Mille Rebecca and Paolo-ci vediamo lánno prossimo!

Before it got too dark, Dennis and I started back for the train station. This time we had better directions and made it there in about ten minutes. We got on the train for Sorrento, tired, content and happy. We could not stop talking about our visit, rehashing Paolo and Rebeccas’s incredible hospitality.  I will definitely return to Torre del Greco on a future visit to see the coral museum. Hopefully next time the sun will be shining so I can actually see Vesuvius!

Next Post/Amalfi Coast

Vesuvius as seen from their apartment-photo by Rebecca Di Donna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life is a Banquet~Sorrento

Sorrento, the land of Limoncello

From Naples, we took the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento, squeezing onto the standing-room-only train, suitcases at our feet.  The ride from Naples to Sorrento took an hour. I was glad we were there before the hot summer season approached!

 

The Circumvesuviana, Naples.

When my friend and I were planning this trip, we reserved four days in Sorrento. Both of us had been to Italy before, but never in the South. There is so much to see and do in this area! Of course, four days is not nearly enough. Our wishlists included: hiring a cute driver to take us sightseeing along the Amalfi coast, taking a boat to Capri, going to  Pompeii and Herculaneum, perhaps hiking Mt Vesuvius, seeing the ruins at Paestum, and, oh yes, I hoped to meet in person an online friend and sea glass collector, Rebecca Di Donna, who lives in Torre Del Greco.

When I was a kid, my grandmother often used the cautionary expression  “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”  This adage relates not only to food but to everything, really-especially time.  While I have always slanted toward  Auntie’s Mame’s “Life is a banquet” outlook, sometimes less really is more. My advice to those planning a trip; don’t overfill your dance card. Slow down and savor the details, leave room for the unexpected.

Sorrento

 

Torna a Surriento

When the train reached Sorrento, a young boy with an accordion came aboard and started playing Italian folk songs. There was a plastic cup for tips attached to his battered accordion. I made sure to leave some euros in it as we departed. I would discover on subsequent train rides that Sorrento was a regular haunt of accordion playing buskers, (but more on that later.)

Home Sweet Home

As arranged, In the town square we met Max, who was sent by our air b&b host to guide us through the maze of streets to our destination. After Naples, this resort town felt a bit like Disneyland, filled with tourist shops and higher priced restaurants.  As we followed Max, I eyed the goods displayed in front of stores-leather purses, ceramics, lemon-based gifts, resort fashions, jewelry and more. We turned at a gelato stand and went back from the street to our air B&B. Casa Torino was located above a florist shop in the heart of old Sorrento. It was airy and comfortably equipped, with a full-size kitchen, fold out couch on the lower level and an upper sleeping loft. We had a view down to the street below and could watch the interplay of tourists until a heavy rain started to pour, bringing an abrupt end to the activity below us.

The view from our apartment, rain emptied streets.

Max offered the services of a private driver for an Amalfi coast tour, and to put us on the passenger list for a small boat to Capri if we were interested. We decided to make reservations for both at the end of the week when hopefully the weather would be better. We settled into our new place and then decided to go out and explore in the rain.

We ventured out with those umbrellas bought in Vasto. The late afternoon streets were empty,  many outside displays were covered with tarps. Hungry, we shopped for cibo e vino at the local deli and fruit stands, and yes, my eyes were bigger than my stomach!

Life really is a banquet!

 

We returned to our cozy apartment with wine, fresh baked pane, salami and cheese. Tomorrow we would spend the day exploring the ancient ruins of Pompeii-rain or shine.

Next Post: Pompeii