Drinking the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Positano, Napoli, what do you drink? Well there’s always wine. Yes wine, Campari, an Aperol Spritz, Prosecco, Mineral Water, Cappuccino, Espresso, and you must drink some Lemonade, for after all, you’re in The Land of Lemons of the Devine Coast of Amalfi. Or if you’re on Capri, Ischia, Sorrento or Salerno, or the Capital City of Napoli, it’s all the same. All the same of what you might drink, what the locals drink, business men, travelers, tourists, whoever.
Yes, you will drink Cappuccino and Espresso, it’s good all over, and every Barista takes pride in his coffee making skills and prowess. And when it comes to Espresso, the Neapolitans are the World Champions of making it and drinking it. Espresso that is.
And if on your trip to Positano, Capri, Sorrento, wherever your destination is down there, if you’re in Napoli, try and go to the Gran Caffe Gambrinus for one of the great cafe experiences of your life. The Gran Caffe Gambrinus is heir to the great Neapolitan coffee tradition, for coffee and the art of making and drinking a proper Espresso, is at its highest level in Gambrinus. Espresso in Napoli is rooted in ritual and the habits of each social class. There is a phenomenon in this habitual ritual that makes the simple moment of refreshment an opportunity for culture and socializing. You will experience a moment of great pleasure as you partake in this esteemed ritual known as espresso. But not just any Espresso, but a Neapolitan one. And while at Gambrinus, drinking your Cappuccino, Espresso or Special Gambrinus Caffe, why not treat yourself to a Sfogliatelle as well?
All over the Amalfi Coast, in Naples, and especially popular on the Isle of Capri are Lemonade Stands. It stands to reason that with all the Lemon Groves you find on Capri, in and around Sorrento, and in Minori, Maiori, Atrani, and Amalfi, that they’d be serving that refreshing lemon based drink, Lemonade, yes they do. Though lemons are grown all over the coast and on the islands, there seems to be two places that you see Granita and Lemonade Stands more than in other parts of Italy, and those two places are in Napoli and on the Isle of Capri. And when it comes to me personally, I always remember that first Lemonade I ever had there, and that was the Lemonade Stand on the Piazzetta of the Piazza Umberto that’s right there before you, when you get off of the Funicular of Capri, if you happen to be taking it. And if you do take the Funicular from the bottom at Marina Grande, once up are at the top and your ride is over, the first thing you’ll see when you exit the Funicular is that Lemonade Stand that is so very inviting on a hot Summer day. So, just as I did on that day in the Summer of 1988 when I had my first, I got a glass of Lemonade. I got off of the Funicular, saw the Lemonade Stand and I couldn’t resist. I got myself a nice cold refreshing Lemonade made with the Lemons of Capri. Later on, in the trip (1988), I’d have my first Limoncello, that hugely famous after dinner drink made with the local Lemons. So, you see, it’s usually the littlest things that I love most when I travel. Like that lemonade on Capri in the Summer of 1988, my first Campari, Aperol Spritz, and most recently a lovely liquor made in these parts called Finochietto (Fennel Liqueur), that the waiter brought for me and my cousin Tony, after dinner at Z’Antonino one night in Sorrento. Wow, I went nuts when I tasted this wonderful liqueur for the first time. It was a revelation. I never had it before, and I absolutely loved it. So much so that when we finished dinner and took a little walk, as we passed by a Salumeria that sold Limoncello, Amari, and other liqueurs, including Finnonchietto, I just had to get a bottle, and so I did (8 Euros).
So, now as we talk of drinking on the Amalfi Coast, we come up to the subject of the Aperitivo and Aperitivo time on the Amalfi Coast or anywhere in Italy for that matter. Well, what is Apertivo anyway you say? Aperitivo is a drink that you have before dinner, and is meant for socializing as well as getting your palate going for the meal to come. Most often when you go for Aperitivo (aka Aperitif) and order a drink at the traditional aperitivo time (late-afternoon & early-evening), the waiter will bring you some little snacks along with your drink (Aperitivo). The snacks might be as simple as a bowl of Potato Chips and Olives. In addition, some places might serve canapes (crostini) with various toppings, all for the price of the drink. The most popular forms of Aperitivo drinks are anything made with Campari or Aperol, such as Campari & Soda or OJ, a Negroni, or Aperol Spritz. Prosecco or any wine at the aperitivo hours are also considered as aperitivo drinks. You can get any other cocktails made with Vodka, Gin, Rum, Whiskey or other forms of alcohol other than Prosecco, wine, Campari, or Aperol, but these cocktails may be quite a bit more expensive than the traditional Aperitivi.
On a recent trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast, I partook in the delightful ritual of Aperitivo on numerous occasions. It was quite wonderful sharing this ritual with my cousins Tony, Mimmo, Marta, and friends in Salerno, Sorrento, Positano, and Vietro Sul Mare. My trip started off in Rome for a day before I hopped on the high-speed train to Napoli the next day. After landing in Rome, checking into my hotel, I took a shower and then a nap. Well, more than a nap, I fell asleep for 6 hours. I finally awoke and hopped in the shower again.
Once I showered and got dressed for one more evening out to my beloved Roma, I had a plan. My plan was to walk over to the Metro stop and take a train to near the Piazza Spagna where I would go walk around and enjoy a bit of time at this one of Rome’s most popular spots. I walked up The Spanish Steps, taking pictures along the way and enjoying the scene before me; the people and that view from atop the Spanish Steps is absolutely magnificent. I stayed there to enjoy it for a little while. So, now onto the second phase of the plan.
After spending a half-hour enjoying the Piazza di Spagna, my plan was to walk over to the Piazza di Popolo from there, a short 8 minute walk away. Yes, my plans included going to Piazza di Popolo to see the beautiful little twin churches of Santa Maria Maracoli and Santa Maria Montesanto and to have an Aperitivo at Rosati afterwards. After that, I’d go on to dinner. So after leaving the Spanish Steps behind I made my way along to the Via Babuino leading me to my destination of the Piazza di Popolo and all its offerings.
When I arrived about 10 minutes later, I walked towards the Fountain of Neptune to get a good view of the Twin Churches. I took a few pictures of the churches, then asked a couple if they would take a picture of me in front of them. They took a couple nice pictures that are now part of my wonderful memories of that day, and even back to 1985 and 1986 in Rome. After taking pictures of the two churches and the Piazza and myself, I went over to the churches to go inside. The Chiesa Santa Maria Miracoli was closed, but the doors to Santa Maria Montesanto were open, and there was a Mass being conducted. I went in and sat down to relax there. I listened to the priest and parishioners as they responded to the priest. I said a few prayers for my sister Barbara, myself, my Brothers Jimmy and Michael, and their loved ones, and then I left the church.
After my time at the churches I walked across to Rosati for my little aperitivo. I took a seat at a table outside to watch the World go by the Twin Churches and life on the Piazza Popolo. I ordered a Campari Soda and the waitress brought it to me along with Olives, Potato Chips, and Canapes. And yes, I sat back, sipped my Campari and watched the World go by. I had quite a nice little Aperitivo Time at Rosati and then it was on to dinner.
Drinking? You can’t talk about drinking in Italy without talking about wine. On this recent trip I was briefly in Rome where I drank Frascati with dinner that night, followed by an Amaro of Capo di Stato digestive from Calabria.
Now, down to Campania and the Amalfi Coast and the wines down there. This area has some wonderful wines that are sure to please all. There are a lot of very good white wines, as there should be with all the wonderful seafood available and simply for the fact of the heat and being on the coast in Summer, for many people, white wine is the way to go. The White Wines of the area are some of the finest in Italy, in wines like; Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, Coda, Falanghina, Biancolella, and a few others, with these being the main ones as well as being the most popular. When it comes to reds, Aglianico is King, especially in the form of “Taurasi” the most prestigious red wine in all of Southern Italy. The red grape Palumbo, also known as Piedirosso which makes up the local wine that is called Lacryma Christi, meaning “The Tears of Christ.” This grape makes wonderful fruity wines as is in the case of Lacryma Christi. Yes, Aglianico is the most renowned red grape varietal of the region, but the grape Piedirosso and the wines that it makes up, they are not far behind in stature. The more famous wines are made with Aglianico, the grape that makes up the famed Italian wine known as Taurasi.
There is a most lovely legend that goes along with the wine Lacryma Christi, which can be found as either white or red wine. As the legend goes, when Saint Lucifer (the Devil) was cast away, he took a piece of Heaven with him. When Christ first saw the Bay of Naples, he recognized it as the stolen piece of Heaven and he wept over its loss. It’s said that as Christ wept, where his tears landed on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius is where the grapes that make up Lacryma Christi first sprang up from, and these are the grapes that sprung from the Tears of Christ. So the legend goes, and it’s quite a lovely one at that.
After dinner, many people will have a Limoncello, a liquor that is synonymous with Capri and The Amalfi Coast of Italy. This liquor made with the abundant Sfusato Lemons of the Amalfi Coast is a long standing after dinner ritual on the Isle of Capri, in Sorrento, and all along the coast, however, some as myself prefer to have an Amaro Lucano or Rucolino which I recently discovered on my stay in Ischia this past Summer, and just fell in love with this unique Amaro made with Rocket (Arugala) as the main ingredient, along with lemon peels, and various roots and herbs, as all amari have their very own, highly guarded “secret recipes.” Amaro Rucolino has been made on the island of Ischia by the Savastano family since 1880. I just love it. The previous year, while having dinner at Trattoria Antonino in Sorrento one night with my cousin Tony, the waiter brought us some nice after dinner drinks when we were finished with our meal. First he brought us each a Limoncello which everyone drinks after dinner in Sorrento. And after that, the kind sir brought us something I’ve never had before. He gave Tony and I each a little glass of Finocchietto liqueur made from wild fennel. Not nearly as famous as Limoncello, Finocchietto is better known to locals, and is just one more wonderful thing about the area. It’s quite tasty, and a delightful way to end any meal on the Amalfi Coast. And I say that it’s always wonderful to make another nice new discovery, isn’t it?
So you see, drinking in Napoli, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast, is a very pleasant pastime, whether drinking Cappuccino in the morning, Espresso later in the day, Lemonade, or Limoncello, local wine, a Negroni, Campari, or Aperol Spritz, you’re going to have a good time. You have to? You’re in Amalfi so enjoy it.
EXCERPTED From POSITANO The Amalfi Coast Cookbook & Travel
Daniel Bellino Zwicke