Planeta Rocks

~ A picturesque formation off the coast of Capri. We just sailed through the arch ~

Sorrento and its environs are simply gorgeous.  For first time visitors, it seems as though each corner holds another picturesque facade or dramatic vista.  It’s very easy to get caught up in the emotion.  And that’s ok.  Because to return home from such a place, camera devoid of memories, would be tragic.  The simple fact that Costa d’Amalfi is one of the more unique and beautiful places in the world only adds to the allure.

Sorrento View

~ This was the first picture I took in Sorrento. It’s a clear view to the Tyrrhenian Sea but perhaps the narrow roads are more striking. Driving in Italy is a blood sport & as many of our drivers were quick to tell us, the lines on the road are only for decoration… ~

Sorrento charms in many ways.  From it’s bustling main Piazza Tasso with it’s many via offshoots, some no wider than alleys, to its important Marina Piccola, the town is the gateway to Amalfi.  It’s tightly impinged streets, many restricted to pedestrian traffic only,  are strewn with various shops selling typical, local products. Leather, ceramics, produce, wine, Limoncello and lemon products in all form are around every corner. Pizzeria, trattoria, bars, cafes and gelateria are equally ubiquitous.  There is lots to do and plenty to eat!  As a result, we thoroughly enjoyed this charming seaside village.

Planeta Pizza

~ An amazing Pizza at Da Gigino in Sorrento; mozzarella, pancetta, onion, basil & crusty potatoes ~

There’s no shortage of excellent dining destinations in Sorrento either.  Trattoria and bars abound, are casual and serve authentic cuisine typical of the area and given the proximity to Naples, there is no shortage of excellent pizza.  The one pictured above from Da Gigino was a revelation and my favorite of the trip.  Because the Amalfi Coast is on the sea’s doorstep, it’s only natural that seafood is prevalent. But there are many other options.

Sorrento View

~ The view from our hotel rooftop pool and bar. There is a very tiny beach below, but you look out over the gulf of Naples toward Mt. Vesuvius ~

Sorrento’s Marina Grande, ironically the smaller of Sorrento’s two marina’s,  is full of restaurants perched yards from where local fisherman haul in their daily catch.  You’ll need to work hard to find sub-par food here and the views are simply magical. Since the marina faces due west, there is never a shortage of locals drying their laundry in the sunset. Somehow, it adds to the charm when you might suspect the opposite.  In fact, since dryers are very rare in Italy, the balconies are specially configured for “laundry duty”.

Marina Grande is a tiny enclave of Sorrento.  It’s mostly a port for small, local fisherman to utilize; for locals to congregate for a game of cards or a spritz and there’s a tiny, rocky beach.  It’s lined with wonderful, family owned trattorie.  Porta Marina Seafood and Trattoria Da Emilia are both heartily recommended.

Contrarily, Marina Piccola is the more substantial marina in Sorrento. Luxury yachts abound here.  Larger fishing boats moor here. But perhaps most importantly, Marina Piccola receives all of the ferry traffic running to and from Sorrento and Amalfi.  Here you can sail to Naples, the Isle of Capri and all the other southerly points on the coast.

Planeta Sorrento

~ Marina Grande at twilight. We sat here, Aperol Spritz in hand, while we waited for our table at Porta Marina Seafood. None of the restaurants at the Marina take reservations but yet, they manage to turn tables over without rushing anyone. We arrived around 7:15 and were seated shortly before 8. Perfect! ~

Sorrento is replete with white wine to match its fish. But occasionally, you’ll find some proper reds for pairing with Gnocchi Sorrentino and other similar dishes.  True to that notion were some of the best ravioli I’ve had in my life.  Hand made.  Filled with the lightest, airiest, fluffiest ricotta I’ve ever encountered.  I don’t know how it was accomplished.  It provided the perfect backdrop for one of the rare red wines we enjoyed on the coast.

Sorrento Planeta

~ The classic dishes of Sorrento, whether Gnocchi, or Paccheri or in this case, Ravioli are often adorned with nothing more than the freshest marinara and local basil ~

The Planeta family have been making excellent wines on Sicily since 1995.  Led by winemaker Francesca Planeta, the array of wines, in various styles impresses.  Value exists at every level of the portfolio.  The family’s constellation of six vineyard estates span the length of the island; from Menfi in the southwest to Etna in the northeast.  The subject of today’s article is their Cru Nero d’Avola, Santa Cecilia.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to check in on this wine.  So when I saw it on a list in Sorrento, at a fraction of US retail, it was easy to see that changing.

Sorrento Lemon

~ Sorrento, and in fact all of Amalfi, are notable for their various types of lemons. They appear in everything from smoothies, to granita, sorbetto and of course the regions famous liquor, Limoncello. Even candles! It’s hard to gauge from this picture, but these lemons are about the size of a small football ~

The 2015 Planeta Santa Cecilia is 100% Nero d’Avola.   We decided not to have the wine decanted because the waiter assured me “she will show on her own without it!”  I listened and was rewarded.  In the glass, the wine is a deep garnet red.  It possesses masculine aromas of crushed plum and cherry, fennel and cured meats.   There’s an essence of floral notes that seems to extend with the fennel.  On the palate, the wine is smooth and viscous with black cherry, black pepper and fennel flavors.  It’s medium to full bodied and paired well with an array of foods; the pictured ravioli, burrata with prosciutto, fried fish….it’s a versatile gem.  Fresh and lively, Planeta vinifies Santa Cecilia in stainless steel and then ages it 14 months in barrique before release.  A steal on the list around $25 Euro.  US retail is closer to $40 but even at that price, I’d happily oblige…. 95 points.  Find this wine.

Santa Cecilia

~ The Santa Cecilia is 100% Nero d’Avola from Planeta’s Estate near Noto ~

There is much more food, wine and culture coming from my recent adventures in Roma and Amalfi.   Be sure to stay tuned!

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