Italy’s magnificent Sorrentine peninsula, Amalfi Coast and Isle of Capri are some of the most beautiful places on earth.
With astonishing scenery; picture-postcard towns and villages; and a gentle laid-back lifestyle, this part of the Campania region of southern Italy is largely unspoilt, despite its appeal to travellers.
And, in recent years, the area has also become well known for Limoncello, a locally-produced lemon liquer whose fame has quickly spread around the world.
On our last visit to Campania, we sampled Limoncello before and after meals and were told that, traditionally, it was made from the zest of the Femminello St. Teresa lemon – also known as Sorrento or Sfusato lemon.
Put simply, lemon zest, or peels without the pith, is enriched by water, alcohol, sugar and syrup.
The process takes about three months and we were told that varying the sugar-to-water ratio and the temperature affects the clarity and flavor.
A popular ingredient in cocktails, Limoncello gives a strong lemon flavor without the sourness or bitterness of pure lemon juice.
In typical Italian fashion, there seems to be a debate about the origin of the popular liquer, depending on who you ask – and where.
We were told that Limoncello was first made about 1900 on the Isle of Capri, that jewel of an island much beloved by the rich and famous.
However, ask that same question on the Amalfi Coast, and you are likely to hear that the liquer is actually much older – possibly first used by fishermen to fortify themselves against the cold.
Yet others, are convinced that the recipe was actually born inside a monastic convent.
But, regardless of Limoncello’s origins, sales of the liquor – with its unique taste and the aroma – has grown like Topsy.
It is is also produced in Sicily; Sardinia; the Maltese island of Gozo; several other places in Italy; and even in France and the United States.
Limoncello is the second most popular liquer in Italy and is also a big seller in the US; Canada; the United Kingdom; Australia and New Zealand, to name a just a few areas.
We were told that the lemons of southern Italy are particularly good for making Limoncello, because the Mediterranean climate produces fruit with a thick and colourful skin.
So …. do we recommend Limoncello? Without hesitation.
And, for us, the liquer is just another reason to visit a particularly stunning part of the planet.
Photo attributions: Lemons courtesy Wikimedia Commons photo by user BigFan; homemade Limoncello courtesy Wikimedia Commons photo by user Alejo2083.