All posts by Richard Edwards

Cocktails at Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria

Signature cocktail menu at the Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento
Selection from the 20 Signature Cocktails

The menu at Bar Vittoria takes a leisurely trip around the world, from Portugal to Germany to Cuba and Japan and eventually back to Italy, with each country inspiring a cocktail. The Madame Bovary from France, the Bollywood from India, the Tartan from Scotland and so forth. The clifftop terrace has stood since 1834 – when the hotel became a favourite stop on the Grand Tour route – and since then the bar has served whiskies to Jack Lemmon, champagne to Marilyn, and pretty much anything a monarch, opera singer or film star might fancy.

On our visit we tried the Flauto di Pan, a take on the Peruvian classic Pisco Sour, delicately flavoured with pineapple and pomegranate. A refreshing aperitif with enough complexity to keep you interested. Then from Italy the Stradivari, a kind of Aperol Spritz/Negroni cross, adding limoncello and moscato wine. And from the US, maybe our favourite, the Marilyn: a boozy after-dinner sipping drink made with bourbon, Ancho Reyes (a chili liqueur which gives a little kick) and Amaro 18 – Italian bitters made with aromatic herbs. There’s also a little waiter theatre to enjoy…our Stradivari was poured and topped with prosecco in front of us from a silver trolley, and the ladies at the neighbouring table enjoyed a live martini-mixing.

The Flauto di Pan
The Flauto di Pan (“panflute”) with Vesuvius in the background

The signature cocktails were created by head barman Gerardo Oliva, whose CV includes the Capri Palace in Anacapri, and the Castello del Nero Hotel & Spa in Tuscany. And there are lots of little menu details that nod to history or culture or local mythology. The Liquore delle Sirene pops up in a few drinks, an Italian liqueur of 23 botanicals including Mediterranean fruit and flowers, Asian sweet spices and bitter roots from the Americas. It’s used in their Parthenope cocktail, named after a Siren in Greek mythology. (The Sirenusas are an archipelago of islands between Capri and Positano – the name a reference to the sirens said to have lived there and lured sailors to their doom.)

The prices here aren’t for the faint-hearted: the cocktails are 18 euros each. But, remind yourself, this is a once-in-a-lifetime drinks experience. And to soften the blow, they don’t skimp on the nibbles. At the very least you can expect a generous trio of crisps, toasted almonds and big sweet green olives (according to a quick internet search, Castelvetrano olives from Siciliy). We were also brought a plate of tasty amuse-bouches – cream cheese and chorizo in shortcrust-pastry boxes, miniature pizzas, and bitesized basil and mozzarella sandwiches.

Cocktails and canapes at the Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento
Champagne cocktail, the Stradivari and snacks aplenty

It goes without saying that you can order off-menu – the barman will make any classic cocktail on request. We had a great gin martini the night after too. For me, the only things missing from the menu were a few good craft beers. Granted it might not be their priority (and maybe Campania hasn’t been hit by the craft-beer craze like the UK) but it couldn’t hurt to add to the omnipresent bottle-of-Peroni.

The bar hosts live music every Friday night, including international jazz artists. On our visit, a quieter Wednesday, there was a pianist on the terrace playing the traditional Italian songbook – Torna a Surriento etc.  I personally find this kind of music a little sentimental, and preferred the modern tracks they had in the background later into the night. (Hearing a contemporary sound in a historical setting can be strangely magical.) That said, some might consider a traditional soundtrack part of the Excelsior experience.

View from the bar terrace at sunset
View from the bar terrace at sunset

And then of course there’s the view. Honestly it’s a fight to not spend the whole time reaching for your phone – and I did find myself wishing that people were a little less phone centric – because the sunset is breathtaking. If you’re visiting Sorrento but not staying at the Excelsior, you’d do very well to head down to Bar Vittoria (check beforehand what time the sun sets) and see for yourself why it’s such a firm favourite.

by Sam Edwards
www

Sorrento Summertime

Sorrento Summertime

(12 Aug to 16 Sept)

An exhibition that combines culture and fun for everyone in the wonderful setting of Villa Fiorentino. Concerts of Neapolitan music, Italian and jazz music and a concert dedicated to the history of the musical. Theatrical evenings for those who like listening to readings and recited passages from texts by great authors and more.

Some events are free and others from 5.00 euros. For full details of events and dates see the official programme.

Sorrento Vintage Market

Sorrento vintage market

(August)

A chance to discover something unique, perhaps a hidden masterpiece, a work of art, a momento, or just enjoy the wonderful setting of the Chiostro S.Maria della Grazie, Piazza S.Antonino, in the heart of old Sorrento.

Sat 5 and Sun 5 Aug
Sat 11, Sun 12, Mon 13, Tues 14 and Wed 15 Aug
Sat 18 and Sun 19 Aug
Sat 25 and Sun 26 Aug

From 10 am to 9 pm

Excelsior Vittoria – 6 years on

Excelsior Vittoria Hotel Sorrento Review

We first visited Sorrento in 2000 and stayed at the Excelsior Vittoria on several occasions, but it has been 6 years since our last visit. 10 years ago we also wrote an article on the hotel, and now seemed an appropriate reason to update the original feature. So we booked three nights in July and here are our thoughts.

This bronze sculpture, by Giuseppe Tirelli, is one of many works of art throughout the hotel, and captured the immediate feeling of relaxation and being pampered on arrival. There are certainly more staff with many familiar faces now passing on their considerable experience and advice to the next generation. Here are Giovanni, Raffaele and Giuseppe.

A warm welcome at the Excelsior Vittoria

The character and atmosphere of public rooms remain as captivating as ever and the stroll from the main gate entrance all the way down to the 20’s lobby and through to the terrace is iconic. The terrace has not changed, it does not have to, it simply provides a perfect spot to view the Bay of Naples and all that surrounds it. The lift down to the port has been modernised and the area immediately below the terrace now hosts a small clean beach and restaurant.

The hotel now hosts a full programme of events throughout the year, including music, charity dinners and art exhibitions. Regular jazz performances take place on the terrace accompanied by glorious sunsets, delicious canapés and aperitifs, including Excelsior’s 20 signature cocktails which are worthy of their own review (currently being written).

Sunset from the Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento

As expected from a five star hotel, the rooms are continually being refurbished to meet the comfort and technological requirements of today’s guests. A number of things caught our eye such as the luxurious, cool cotton sheets, the simple flexible overhead reading light, flip flops, complimentary bedside bottles of water every night and trouble-free wifi. This attention to detail is noticeable throughout the hotel and its gardens. There are double hammocks for relaxed reading under the shade of orange and lemon trees, quiet intimate corners amongst pergolas and discreet safe play areas for children.

And the food?

Excelsior Vittoria breakfast table

Let’s start with the first meal of the day. A breakfast banquet in the elegant Vittoria Breakfast Room. A selection to satisfy and tempt all tastes with a chef preparing eggs and pancakes to your taste and another blending fruits and vegetables of your choice. Traditional Neapolitan breads, carrot pie, rice cake, plum cake, sfogliatella napoletana and much, much more would require a stay of two weeks to sample them all. The table service was exceptional.

Moving onto a light lunch, especially after that breakfast, the L’Orangerie Restaurant offers an excellent selection, we ordered stuffed zucchini flowers and a perfect caprese salad. Its proximity to the pool means you can book a table from your sun lounger and – if you’re eager to get back to that novel – take your champagne away with you when you’ve finished. In the evening it transforms into a very chic but informal setting and is often used for gala and charity dinners.

Excelsior Vittoria pool

The Michelin Star Terrazza Bosquet Restaurant presented a culinary experience appropriate for a special occasion with the company of Vesuvius and sparkling Naples to share a very memorable evening. The pigeon breast was delicious and the Fiorduva white from Marisa Cuomo Winery perfect with the risotto.
We visited the Marisa Cuomo Winery during this visit and will be writing a post shortly.

I believe one of the secrets of the Excelsior’s success is that the owners – three generations of the Fiorentino family – are based there most of the season and involved in its day to day activities. This family approach seems to permeate the whole fabric of the hotel and the staff’s attitude to their guests.

The changes made since our visit six years ago are subtle and reflect a continual ‘fine tuning’ of services and amenities that compliment rather than compete with the hotel’s unique location and history. 2019 sees the hotel’s 185th anniversary and perhaps this is the truest seal of approval.

Richard Edwards MA

The Excelsior Vittoria Lobby

Exclusive promotion for Friends of Sorrento members
A 6/8 day vacation with 3 nights at the Excelsior, 2/4 nights at a 4* central hotel, wine tasting at Marisa Cuomo Winery, private transfers and select tours. For more details on this promotion or customised itineraries please contact us.

Sorrento Incontra Festival

Sorrento Incontra Festival

(16 July to 30 August)

Sorrento Incontra – La luce dei Luoghi (The Light of Places) is a festival of music, dance, art and tradition performed in different locations in Sorrento with free admission. The outline programme below provides times and venues.

PROGRAMME
16/07 – 21,15 – Villa Comunale. Barcellona Gipsy Balkan Orchestra
25/07 – 21,15 – Terrazza Panoramica del Teatro Comunale Tasso. Francesco Di Bella
03/08 – 21,15 – Chiostro di S.Francesco. Uanema Orchestra
04/08 – 21,15 – Chiostro di S.Francesco. La scuola d’arpa del M° Lucia di Sapio
06/08 – 21,15 – Chiesa di S.Francesco.. Concerto d’organo di Viktoriya Koshuba
07/08 – 19,00 – Centro Storico. Gran Parata e Danze Popolari della Campania Felix
07/08 – 21,15 – Villa Comunale. Gran Ballo di Pulcinella
10/08 – 21,15 – Chiostro di S.Francesco. Inva Mula accompagnata al piano da Genc Tukiç
18/08 – 21,15 – Villa Comunale. Emanuela Bianchini, Francesco Di Bella e MSPD in “Passione”
23/08 – 21,15 – Chiostro di S.Francesco. Enzo Gragnaniello & Solis String Quartet
30/08 – 21,15 – Villa Comunale. Tortroured soul

Sorrento Classic Music Festival

Sorrento Classic Music Festival

(July 20 to August 6)

The Sorrento Classica International Summer Music Festival and Masterclasses include a number of concerts at the Cloister San Francesco. There is free admission to events taking place on July 20, August 4 and 6, subject to seat availability. Concerts begin at 21.15 pm so arrive early for a better chance of finding a seat.

For further information on all the concerts and masterclasses view the official programme.