When in Sorrento, you don’t make lemonade when life hands you lemons, you make Limoncello. The lemons here are HUGE. Grapefruit sized. And they are sweet.
Locals claim it is because of the soil – the rich volcanic tuffs and alternating layers of limestone. Despite Vesuvius looming in the distance, the volcanic layers are much older (37-12 million years ago from Campi Flegrei from north of Naples (Napoli)) – a much larger volcanic field that may have contributed to the demise of the Neanderthals.
Sorrento is the epicenter of these fabulous lemons and the production of a huge range of products, including Limoncello. If you haven’t had a chance to taste Limoncello – it’s described as a ‘taste of sunshine.” In its primal form – it is alcohol (usually vodka) infused with the taste of lemon rind. It’s best when it is ice cold (we have some in our mini-freezer.) The official recipe and history is here – but the recipe is a translation – and suitably vague on details.
There are all sorts of stories / myths / legends on how and where Limoncello was invented, and they center around three towns – Sorrento, Almalfi, and Capri on the Sorrento/Almalfi coast. Was it invented by fishermen trying to stay healthy, or to delight monks during their prayers? The myths add to the fun.
Where ever and however it originated, they certainly embrace it here today. Lemons are everywhere – in the garden of our B&B, in groves in the center of town, and throughout the hills.
Local art celebrates the lemon, and the stores are full – not just with Limoncello in bottles that span a huge variety of shapes and sizes for collectors – but of any product you can imagine that can be made out of lemons.
Limoncello is now the second most popular (hard alcohol) drink in Italy after Campari according to Rick Steves. It’s only been produced commercially since 1988, but is now readily available all over southern Europe, and it beginning to become available for the world-wide market. Yummy! Sunshine in a bottle.