Whether you’re looking for the sophistication of Michelin-starred restaurants or the simplicity of a perfectly crisp pizza, the Sorrento peninsula is pretty high on our list of foodie destinations.
Located about 50 kms south of Naples, on Italy’s south-west coast, the peninsula is surrounded by the Lattari Mountains and in a prime position in terms of food production. Terrace upon terrace of orchards and vineyards dominate the landscape, with endless rows of olive, orange and, above all, citrus trees. It’s no coincidence that citrus and shrimp tagliatelle, ‘delizia al limone’ (lemon cream sponge cake) and Limoncello liqueur are fabulous local specialities.
Dishes can be very localised – Sorrento is famed for its ‘gnocchi’, with basil-infused tomato sauce and melting mozzarella, Massa for its fresh seafood and Vico Equense for its pizza (where you can actually order by the metre).
If the sheer pleasure of eating exquisite food is enough for you, there’s a choice of Michelin-starred restaurants in the area, such as Don Alfonso or Quattro Passi (both 2 stars). But if you’re looking for the complete experience – from picking your own herbs and vegetables, to learning new recipes with the best local ingredients and, of course, enjoying the fruits of your work – then consider combining a holiday with learning a new skill.
Chef Carmen Mazzola runs the cookery school, Cucina del Gusto, at the Relais Oasi Olimpia.
In a gloriously tranquil setting in the hills above Sorrento, with views of Vesuvius and the island of Capri, the hotel is the perfect antidote to the, at times, frenetic pace of Sorrento. The colonial-style building dates back to 1892 and is surrounded by landscaped Mediterranean gardens, with a pool and tennis court.
Carmen established the Cucina del Gusto in 2002 as a way of sharing her passion for Italian cooking with others.
Enjoy cooking in a well-equipped kitchen with large granite counters, professional utensils and an outdoor veranda for breaks.
Lessons last about 2 hours, using recipes designed to be easily repeated at home and classes are for a maximum of 14 people. A typical lesson covers 3 to 4 courses (antipasti, fresh pasta, fish or meat and dessert) using recipes from Naples, Sorrento and other southern Italian towns and villages. All ingredients are local, with many picked fresh from the kitchen’s garden.