Category Archives: Sorrento News

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

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.

Michelin Star Restaurants

There are 17 Michelin star restaurants within a 30 km radius of Sorrento, 4 more between Ravello and Salerno, 3 in Naples, 3 on Capri and 2 on Ischia. A full list of names and locations is provided below.

Diners will experience superb cuisine at immaculate tables set in beautiful surroundings and in many cases with breathtaking vistas. A vacation for all the senses.

As you would expect the dishes are true works of art, pleasing to the eye as well as the taste buds. For the moment the delicate aromas and subtle combination of flavours must be left to your imagination, but here is a small selection of culinary masterpieces to feast your eyes on.

The Chefs are obviously masters of their skills with a respect and passion for the ingredients and regional influences, seasoned perhaps with life experiences and memories. This can be demonstrated, in my opinion, by this video showing the preparation of the pasta dish, Pacchero with tomato sauce, by two top Chefs, Marco Parizzi from Parizzi di Parma and Giuseppe Aversa from Il Buco in Sorrento.

Enjoy Chef Aversa’s presentation which is full of humour, passion and respect for ingredients from the south. There are English subtitles.

Giuseppe Aversa Il Buco Restaurant Sorrento

This video was produced as part of a centenary celebration for Pasta Di Martino, a pasta making company. It is located in the town of Gragnano, world famous for the production of dried pasta and home for numerous manufacturers. Some provide factory tours and tastings for visitors and Gragnano is only 25 km from Sorrento.
pasta-tubes
Michelin Star Restaurants in and around Sorrento
In addition to these 25 star restaurants there are another 38 with mentions.
Full details can be found in the Michelin Guide for Sorrento

Two star
Don Alfonso 1890. Sant’Agata
Quattri Passi. Nerano, Marina del Cantone
Torre del Saracino. Marina Equa, Vico Equense
L’Olivo. Anacapri

One star
Terrazza Bosquet. Excelsior Vittoria, Sorrento
Il Buco. Sorrento
Don Geppi. Sant’Agnello
Taverna del Capitano. Marina del Cantone
Relais Blu. Termini
Antica Osteria Nonna Rosa. Vico Equense
Maxi. Vico Equense
La Serra. Sirenuse, Positano
La Sponda. Positano
Zass. Positano
Piazzetta Milù. Castellannare di Stabia
Il Refettorio. Conca dei Marini
President. Pompeii
La Caravella dal 1959. Amalfi
Rossellini’s. Ravello
Il Faro di Capo d’Orso. Maiori
Re Mauri. Salerno
Casa del Nonno 13. Salerno

Mammà. Capri
Il Riccio. Anacapri

Indaco. Ischia
Il Mosaico. Ischia

Palazzo Petrucci. Naples
Il Comandante. Naples
Veritas. Naples

Buon appetito!

A boat trip to Maria Grazia’s

Nautica Sic Sic Sorrento

Here’s a nautical idea for your vacation.

Take a boat for lunch at Maria Grazia’s restaurant on the beach of Marina del Cantone. Not just lunch but their infamous dish of spaghetti and zucchini.

On the way you will cruise along the coastline of Massa Lubrense and sail around Punta Campanella at the extreme tip of the Sorrento Peninsula. After taking in the scenery and keeping cool by swimming in the crystal clear waters you step ashore at Marina del Cantone to the welcoming entrance of Maria Grazia. There’s no rush, take your time to savour the dish, the wine and the surroundings before sailing off to Positano.
Suggest you book a table in advance

Maria Grazia Restaurant at Marina del Cantone

Relax, take in the sun as you follow the shoreline round to the magical setting of Positano waiting like an old friend with outstretched arms to welcome you in. Once ashore soak up the atmosphere, browse the boutiques, sip wine at beach cafes and be amazed by the multicoloured buildings perched above you.

It will be difficult to leave but on the return journey you will be rewarded by the natural beauty of this unique location as you sail close to Li Galli, home of the legendary Siren, and the cathedral like Faraglioni rocks next to Capri. Back on dry land you can start planning your next voyage to the islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida.

Positano view from the sea

“But I’ve never sailed a boat”, I hear some of you say. The solution is simple, take a stroll to Sorrento’s harbour where you will find the small unassuming office of Nautica Sic Sic. Small but overflowing with 30 years experience of sailing the waters of the Bay of Naples and the Amalfi coast.

Nautica Sic Sic in Sorrento

A warm welcome awaits from Capt. Maurizio and his crew who will be pleased to offer advice and proposals for sailing to your dream location. Here’s their website.

Next stop is Paul & Stark on Corso Italia for that yachting polo shirt.

Friends of Sorrento offers advice and assistance in arranging private boat trips as well as a choice of boat tours for small groups (12 max) along the Amalfi coast and around the islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida. These provide opportunities to go ashore and for swimming and snorkelling. Full details here.

Pozzuoli – Its rise and fall

We asked one of our members, Paul Barber, to write an account of his visit to Sofia Loren’s home town, Pozzuoli. Other attractions include the Flavian Amphitheater, which is the third largest Roman amphitheater in Italy, and a Piazza that rises and falls with the volcanic activity.

Pozzuoli is very well-known with Italians and is a very important place for its ancient sights and because of the nearby Solfatara volcano, which is very active. Once the traveller arrives in Pozzuoli, they can visit the ‘Flavian Amphitheatre’, go down to the waterfront for lunch and return up the hill out of town to the Solfatara volcano.

View from VesuviusView over Naples towards Pozzuoli from Vesuvius

When visiting Mount Vesuvius our guide told us about the volcano monitoring station situated there and explained that it is linked to another at Solfatara, where ground movement is constantly monitored in case of eruption of the super-volcano there. Pozzuoli is situated in the middle of the Phlegrean Fields of small volcanos and is subject to a phenomena known as Bradyism, in which the whole town slowly rises, sinks and rises again caused by the underlying volcanic activity. The town has risen more than 11 feet in the past 30 years!

Pozzuoli AmphitheatreAmphitheatre above and below

The ‘Flavian Amphitheatre’ is very interesting; built between AD 69-79, the third largest amphitheatre in Italy (with a seating capacity of 20,000 people), it was the site of the martyrdom of Naples’ beloved San Gennaro – who’s remains are to be found in the Duomo of Naples. The exterior of the building is crumbling a bit, but unlike Rome’s Colosseum, the flooring of the Flavian Amphitheatre survives intact. Visitors can wander through the tunnels and chambers beneath, where gladiators and wild beasts once awaited their fate.

Moving down towards the waterfront, in a palm-shaded, sunken park at the centre of town lies the romantically half-flooded ‘Temple of Serapide’. This was once the marketplace of the Roman city and is marked by three standing columns and a ring of column stubs surrounding a raised circular dais. The site is not open to the public, but can be seen clearly from the surrounding fence.

PozzuoliTemple of Serapide with restaurants in the background

Next to the ‘Temple of Serapide’ is the ‘Trattoria il Tempio’, where the umbrella shaded tables are set on cobblestones directly overlooking the ancient site. Pozzuoli’s seafood was a wonderful experience and this restaurant serves an excellent array of dishes.

A 20-minute walk above Pozzuoli is the elliptical caldera of the ‘Solfatara Volcano’. Although it hasn’t actually erupted since AD 1198, the parched, alien landscape of bubbling mud pits and fumaroles furiously venting sulphurous steam remind intrepid visitors that molten lava still runs just under the ground surface here. Monitoring of ground movement and sampling of gases keep an eye on what’s going on under the surface, together with monitoring on Vesuvius scientists keep an eye out for any sign of increased volcanic activity. This has been a visitor attraction since early Roman times and in its modern incarnation as a tourism site has been going strong since 1900. Guided tours are available to take visitors round the site, which is well worth a visit for those who want to see volcanic activity close-to.

SolfataraSolfatara fumarole

Other interesting sites nearby that could be visited on a guided tour include the ‘Cave of the Cumean Sybil’ and ‘Lago di Averno’ (the gateway to the underworld where Aeneas descended to confront Hades) and trip on a glass-bottomed boat to see the old part of Baia town several metres below sea level (Baia’s underwater archeological park).

Paul Barber. June 2017

Editor’s notes
Pozzuoli is still relatively quiet in comparison to the region’s other attractions and offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore Roman ruins, above and below water, and a volcanic landscape, once thought of as the ‘gateway to hell’. Located 20 km west of Naples it takes around 40 minutes by road and 90 minutes by train. Visitor access to these sites and the transport infrastructure continue to be improved and private small group tours are currently available with Friends of Sorrento.

You can find more information about Pozzuoli’s attractions on these websites:
Wikipedia
Vulcano Solfatara
Pozzuoli’s official website

The copy and photographs of this page are subject to copyright.

Excelsior Revisited

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 a series of articles on a number of luxury hotels, including the Excelsior, and a 10th anniversary therefore seemed an appropriate reason to visit again and update the original feature. So we have booked a few nights during July when we will be visiting friends and business partners.

Here’s our update

First Immpessions

‘A Modern Classic’ was one of a series of articles written by Richard Edwards in 2008/9 under the heading First Impressions. They take a personal look at landmark hotels on the Amalfi Coast and the original articles can be viewed below.
Remember internet technology was still developing 10 yrs ago