El Portal: An Encounter with Nature, the Sacred and our Past

 

Also known as the Birdland sanctuary; El Portal (from the Spanish “The Gate”; named this way because of the two main wooden gates that were placed at the entrance of the village) is one of the very first archeological sites registered in Miami Dade County.

Because El Portal isn’t a touristic attraction opened to the public; please be cautious if decide to visit, respect the nature, the silence and the neighbors. El Portal is a residential village were peacocks walk free; an almost enchanted forest with hundreds of year old trees guiding the path to a Tequesta Indian Burial site.

The Tequesta Indians; one of the first people of today’s South Florida lived in the areas known as the Biscayne Bay and the South bank of the Miami River including what is today the Village of El Portal. In 1560 Admiral Pedro Mendendez de Aviles took contact with the Tequesta Indians who were later transferred to Cuba, converted to the new faith and later vanished.

One of the ancient trees at the Village of El Portal, a sacred habitat.
One of the ancient trees at the Village of El Portal, a sacred habitat.

Once at El Portal; I had my first encounter with that exuberant vegetation and the endless variety of botanical species; because of my Native American origins I felt the need to visit the site and respectfully give back to the earth what is from the mother earth: I had kept for the longest time a few ritual instruments I received from the Mbya Guarani Indians back in Paraguay which I deposited on to the sacred mound. I prayed in silence and felt in whole harmony with the nature.

This tablet marks the habitation mound of the Tequesta Indian
This tablet marks the habitation mound of the Tequesta Indian
One of the typical scenes at El Portal: Peacocks crossing the road
One of the typical scenes at El Portal: Peacocks crossing the road
I thought this was also one of the cutest signs: Caution: Duck crossing
I thought this was also one of the cutest signs: Caution: Duck crossing

In addition El Portal is a certified Wildlife Habitat, as a source of the Four Basic elements needed for wildlife to thrive: food, water, cover and places to raise the young spices. I discovered signs marking the pathways while numerous butterflies revealed their beautiful colors. This site provides also the necessary milkweed, nectar sources and shelter to sustain monarch butterflies as they migrate though North America.

As seen on SFL Style Magazine http://www.sflstyle.com

El Portal an encounter with our past

El Portal

St Barths: An island like no other

 

“Some people look for a beautiful place, others make the place beautiful”

St Barth; an almost unreachable destination in the French West Indies is the perfect hideaway for the jet setter. Surrounded by pristine white sand beaches, unspoiled nature; mountains and the turquoise clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean this associated Island of France had a long history before becoming the top destination for celebrities in search for privacy.

I thought this was also one of the cutest signs: Caution: Duck crossing
The airport in St Jean – St Barth is actually one of the most difficult landings in the history of aviation

The Beginnings: In 1493 Columbus landed in St Barth and named the Island after his brother Bartolomeo; the first inhabitants of the Island were the Arawak Indians; hostile conditions and the lack of gold were crucial for the Spanish Crown and St Barth remained forgotten for centuries; later ruled by the French; then sold to the Dutch to be returned to the French; St Barth started to be noticed by luxury resort developers just in the 1950’s when Rockefeller built his private home in the top of the mountains in Colombier; West side of the Island.

 

The discovery of St Barthelemy.  Columbus gave to the Island the name of his brother Bartolomeo.
The discovery of St Barthelemy. Columbus gave to the Island the name of his brother Bartolomeo.
A view from the cliff at Colombier.
A view from the cliff at Colombier.

Today; the most expensive yachts in the world are no strangers to St Barth and every day is almost a competition on size and style.

The Eclipse
The Eclipse mega yacht owned by Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich, I spotted from my balcony at the Beach House in Corossol.
Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH Flamandes Beach
Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH Flamandes Beach

Shopping: For luxury shopping the Quai de la Republique; Le Carre D’Or; a Caribbean version of Beverly Hills with the most desirable designers and limited edition collections made exclusively for St Barth. I spent many hours at the Dolce & Gabanna flagship store opened just a few months ago with its own Martini Bar for D & G collaboration. The colorful collection reflects the spirit of the Island; floral scarfs; bejeweled mules, oversized sunglasses, embellished straw baskets and wedges and the 1950’s inspired cocktail dresses just makes us want to wear them all and go for a stroll in a Moke (the ultimate transportation in the Island) around Gustavia.

The Dolce & Gabanna loves St Barth collection at the DG flagship store in Gustavia
The Dolce & Gabanna loves St Barth collection at the DG flagship store in Gustavia
The Moke
The Moke is the best transportation in St Barth. Wearing a hand embroidered dress and Mayan necklace.

St Barth is the culinary capital of the Caribbean; suddenly we see people walking with baguettes on the streets and freshly made pastries can be found at any of the Boulangeries and Patisseries; at supermarkets all of them carry French brands and is like going to Paris in the middle of a tropical setting.

Desserts served at Cheval Blanc. Flamandes Beach
Desserts served at Cheval Blanc. Flamandes Beach

Flamandes: The lifestyle of the Island is resort chic with impeccable service and attention to details, the French touch is notorious; For lunch I truly enjoyed The Cheval Blanc in Flamandes; it was also the best beach for swim and great cuisine by Chef Yann Vinsont. The Cheval Blanc is part of the LVMH Luxury Resort collection.

Flamandes Beach
Flamandes Beach

 

Lunch at Case de L'Isle Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH
Lunch at Case de L’Isle Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH

Grand Cul de Sac: Lunch at Le Sereno in Grand Cul de Sac is another must on my list; from its sister 5 star hotel “Il Sereno” in Laco di Cuomo; Le Sereno exudes style; designed by renowned Parisian designer Christian Liaigre.

The lagoon at Sereno Beach is also perfect for paddle boarding or canoeing in the afternoon. Great place to spot the turtles swimming on the water or picking up giant conch between the rocks.

 

Next to Le Sereno; Le Guanahani is another impressive luxury resort with a Spa by Clarins and its distinctive tiki bars by the beach; Le Guanahani offers true island feeling.

Le Guanahani St Barts
Wearing an embroidered vintage Manila shawl at the beach of Le Guanahani – Grand Cul de Sac, St Barth

St Jean: Dining in St Barth: a must is the Eden Rock at the “In” Beach of St Jean just next to the airport; with two signature restaurants: “On the Rocks” at the top of the cliff or “The Sand Bar” both headed by Michelin starred Chef Jean-Georges.

Eden Rock St Barts
Eden Rock St Barth by night

St Barth preserve its Colonial charm from the Dutch era; the Creole and the French; signs on the streets are both in Dutch and French.

Creole Village St Barts
At the Comca-Comca Creole Village in St Jean wearing a custom embroidered Otomi dress

Shell Beach: Walking distance from the lively port of Gustavia and just steps from divine dining spots like Bagatelle and Bonito; we are in Shell Beach; a small portion of the Island covered with shells of all types and colors; you never know when you’ll find a unique one in the middle of all these shells.

Shell Beach
Shell Beach and Flamingo espadrilles by Soludos @soludos weaved basket with Oaxacan accesories

St Barth has it all; from hiking thru the mountains and spotting baby turtles on the way to incredible views of the secluded Island in Colombier to infinite white sandy beaches in Saline or the freshest catch of the day to your table.

Shell Beach St Barts
Shell Beach

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous.

Until the next destination.

Posted on Fashion & Wine Magazine http://www.fashionandwinemag.com

 

 

 

The Phlegraean fields (I campi ardenti) A look in to an ancient civilization and viniculture

The Sibyl's cave: according to the myth, this was where to find the Cumaean Sibyl; the oracle consulted by Aeneas.  The tufa passage way, trapezoid in section is naturally illuminated by narrow fissures and ends in a vaulted chamber.  The system connects Cumae to lake Averno.
The Sibyl’s cave: according to the myth, this was where to find the Cumaean Sibyl; the oracle consulted by Aeneas. The tufa passage way, trapezoid in section is naturally illuminated by narrow fissures and ends in a vaulted chamber. The system connects Cumae to lake Averno.

The wide arc of land around the Pozzuoli Bay has been known for centuries as the Campi Flegrei (The Phlegraean fields) or Burning Fields, because of the constant volcanic activity.  Mud still bubbles from the clay bed of the solfatara and in places the ground is still hot, you can easily boil an egg if you place it under the soil.

La Sibilla winery is located in the historic Phlegraean fields overlooking the sea, the minerality of the terroir makes the perfect soil for the ancient grapes of Greek origins including Falanghina and Per'e Palummo also known as Piedirosso
La Sibilla winery is located in the historic Phlegraean fields overlooking the sea, the minerality of the terroir makes the perfect soil for the ancient grapes of Greek origins including Falanghina and Per’e Palummo also known as Piedirosso

Over time some of the Phlegraean craters became lakes.  Lake Averno thought to be the entrance of hell and owes its name (a-ornon in Greek: without birds) to the once suffocating vapours.

A 100 years old wine of Piedirosso at La Sibilla winery.  Piedirosso (red foot) is also called Per'e Palummo in Neapolitan dialect which literally translates to dove's foot.
A 200 years old vine of Piedirosso at La Sibilla winery. Piedirosso (red foot) is also called Per’e Palummo in Neapolitan dialect which literally translates to dove’s foot.

At the end of the 1st century BC, its almost sacred character declined after the construction of Porto Giulio, a systems of channels that connected the sea and the lakes, ships first reached the outer port in Lake Lucrino and then the inner basin of Lake Averno, connected to Cumae by the tunnel through Monte Grillo.  The port was abandoned when silted up and trade was transferred to Miseno.

And is here at La Sibilla wineries where we can see this aqueduct from the first century BC
The aqueduct from the 1st century BC can be seen on the land where is now La Sibilla winery in the Phlegraean fields
The "Enoarchaeology" is practiced here from the "terroir", the land located in an archaeological site to the ancient viniculture techniques used by the first colonies of Greeks who founded Cumae
The “Enoarchaeology” is practiced here from the “terroir”, the land located in an archaeological site to the ancient viniculture techniques used by the first colonies of Greeks who founded Cumae
The ancient cave inside La Sibilla winery produces excellent wines featured in AIS Duemilavini and Slow Food's Guide to the wines of Italy
The ancient cave inside La Sibilla winery produces excellent wines featured in AIS Duemilavini and Slow Food’s Guide to the wines of Italy
The key that opens the cave of La Sibilla
The key that opens the cave of La Sibilla
Piedirosso is aged for 18 months on French oak barrels at La Sibilla
Piedirosso is aged for 18 months on French oak barrels at La Sibilla
Example of biodiversity were vines coexist along with other agricultural forms.  The Azienda Agricola La Sibilla participates in the Slow Food commission and has some legumes on a DOP category
Example of biodiversity were vines coexist along with other agricultural forms. The Azienda Agricola La Sibilla participates in the Slow Food commission and has some legumes on a DOP category such as the chickpeas (ceci) of the Phlegraean fields historically cultivated by the Greeks in this land.
Vincenzo di Meo, young enologist in charge of the family owned winery La Sibilla conducting a wine tasting of his own production.
Vincenzo di Meo, young enologist in charge of the family owned winery La Sibilla conducting a wine tasting of his own production.

Cumae

Founded in the 8th century BC by Greeks stationed on Ischia, Cumae is one of the oldest colonies of Magna Grecia.  The founders of this colony came from Eubea, a Greek Island of the Aegean sea.

Cumae Archeological Park.  Cumae was a powerful port for centuries and resisted the Etruscan but succumbed to the Romans in the 3rd century BC becoming a Roman colony.
Cumae Archeological Park. Cumae was a powerful port for centuries and resisted the Etruscan but succumbed to the Romans in the 3rd century BC becoming a Roman colony.
The remains of the Temple of Jupiter, this ancient sanctuary became an early Christian church, the altar and the baptistry pictured here.
The remains of the Temple of Jupiter, this ancient sanctuary became an early Christian church, the altar and the baptistery pictured here.
Arco Felice and entrance to the archeological site.  The Roman city grew up over the ruins of the Greek city in the 5th and 6th centuries but was utterly destroyed by the Saracens in 915.
Arco Felice and entrance to the archeological site. The Roman city grew up over the ruins of the Greek city in the 5th and 6th centuries but was utterly destroyed by the Saracens in 915.
Today, new discoveries by the Orientale University of Naples shows the artifacts used by the ancient Greeks to cook and eat their food, part of the Archaeogastronomy.   A form of "ollae" or ceramic pot very close to our contemporary terracotta pots.
Today, new discoveries by the Orientale University of Naples shows the artifacts used by the ancient Greeks to cook and eat their food, part of the Archaeogastronomy. A form of “ollae” or ceramic pot very close to our contemporary terracotta pots.

Villa Eubea and Vinaria, a cult to food and wine in the ancestral site

I had the full Archaegastronomy experience inside the cave of Vinaria, the restaurant of Villa Eubea just a walk away from the archaeological site.
I had the full Archaeogastronomy experience inside the cave of Vinaria, the restaurant of Villa Eubea just a walk away from the archaeological site.
Sampling of seafood and fish at Vinaria including fresh octopus salad and fried grouper.
Sampling of seafood and fish at Vinaria including fresh octopus salad and fried grouper.
Grilled seafood and fish paired with organic grown veggies paired with Falanghina of the Phlegraean fields DOC.
Grilled seafood and fish paired with organic grown veggies paired with Falanghina of the Phlegraean fields DOC.
Excellent dining experience at Vinaria wine & flavors, restaurant and cave.
Excellent dining experience at Vinaria wine & flavors, restaurant and cave.
The restaurant inside Vinaria's cave
The restaurant inside Vinaria’s cave
The sustainability of Villa Eubea and Vinaria where the vegetables used their cuisine are organically grown on their very own site.
The sustainability of Villa Eubea and Vinaria where the vegetables used in their cuisine are organically grown on their very own site.
Lemon trees at Villa Eubea used for the restaurant's consumption.
Lemon trees at Villa Eubea used for the restaurant’s consumption.
An old press at Villa Eubea, was still used here for years to get the last drops of juice from the local grapes.
An old press at Villa Eubea, was still used here for years to get the last drops of juice from the local grapes.

Buried Greek towns and Roman ruins, reveal the region’s ancient history, the burning fields and their volcanic soil bringing up the flavors on this land that gives in return high mineral wine and delicious fruit and vegetables.

Next, we will explore the rest of this amazing territory going from Pozzuoli to Baia and Bacoli stopping by more wineries, restaurants by the bay and archeological sites.  See you tomorrow, thank you for reading.

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco, all pictures by me taken with IPhone 4S and Sony Cybershot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pompeii and Herculaneum, a walk on the roads of ash and wine

The Goddess of Love.  Is one of my favorite frescoes inside the many houses of Pompeii.  This fresco was discovered in 1952 located on the back wall of the garden, it portrays Venus with 2 cherubs in a pink seashell.
“The Goddess of Love” is one of my favorite frescoes inside the House of Venus. This fresco was discovered in 1952 located on the back wall of the garden, it portrays Venus with 2 cherubs in a pink seashell.

The remains of Pompeii were discovered by accident in the 1590’s when architect Domenico Fontana was excavating the canal to bring the waters from river Sarno to Torre Anunziata but it was not until the 1750’s that the site was seen as an archaeological treasure and one of the most important and well preserved examples of Roman civilization.  Follow me on this amazing trip around the streets, houses and wineries of Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Vesuvius National Park.

The Amphitheatre, the oldest of its kind in existence, was used for gladiatorial combat and could hold 20,000 people.  The stone tiers were separated in to different sections for the various social classes.
The Amphitheatre, the oldest of its kind in existence, was used for gladiatorial combat and could hold 20,000 people. The stone tiers were separated in to different sections for the various social classes.

In 90-89 BC the people of Campania became Roman citizens.  Naples (Neapolis) or the new city came in to contact with the growing power of Rome.  In AD 79 the erupting Vesuvius buried a number of ancient Roman cities including Pompeii.

Ash and debris covered Pompeii and bodies were buried by a landslide of thick mud.  People tried to scape but didn't make it, many were killed by the toxic fumes while engaged in everyday tasks.
Ash and debris covered Pompeii and bodies were buried by a landslide of thick mud. People tried to scape but didn’t make it, many were killed by the toxic fumes while engaged in everyday tasks.

IMG_08211

Wealthy residents in Pompeii had often well decorated walls like this one found in the House of The Vettii.
Wealthy residents in Pompeii had often well decorated walls like this one found in the House of The Vettii.
Statues found in the streets of Pompeii
Statues found in the streets of Pompeii
Many sculptures from Pompeii and Herculaneum were removed from the original site and placed at the Archaeological Museum of Naples, Pompeiian mosaics and frescoes are also  preserved in the Museum and date from the 2nd century BC to AD 79.
Many sculptures from Pompeii and Herculaneum were removed from the original site and placed at the Archaeological Museum of Naples, Pompeiian mosaics and frescoes are also preserved in the Museum and date from the 2nd century BC to AD 79.
The owners of the House of the Vettii were freedman who become rich merchants.
The owners of the House of the Vettii were freedman who become rich merchants.

Thanks to the many discoveries we can have an idea of the life in the Roman houses of Pompeii, constructed generally around two open courts; the atrium; an Italic feature and the colonnaded garden of Greek origin.  But not only the architecture and the art in their walls, Pompeii reveals much more in the bodies of people unearthed along with their everyday objects.

A public fountain in Via dell'Abbondanza.   The excavations for this street lined with homes and shops ends just to the left of the Amphitheatre.
A public fountain in Via dell’Abbondanza. The excavations for this street lined with homes and shops ends just to the left of the Amphitheatre.
One of the horse barns in Pompeii still shows utensils for horse riding and the remains of a horse placed on display
At the House of the Chaste Lovers is possible to see the fossilized bodies of the mules that used to drive the millstone for grinding wheat.
Medusa's head (Sec. IX BC) House of the Centaur. Pompeii.  On display at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale
Medusa’s head (Mosaic IX Century BC) House of the Centaur. Pompeii. On display at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale
The Lunapare was the best organized of Pompeii's many brothels.  The walls were decorated with erotic paintings and sculptures symbolizing fertility or describing the many services offered in this houses.
The Lunapare was the best organized of Pompeii’s many brothels. The walls were decorated with erotic paintings and sculptures symbolizing fertility or describing the many services offered in these houses.

Lacryma Christi and the ancient wine making in the Vesuvius

A Paleo Christian legend says that Christ cried over the Vesuvius and His Holy tears blessed the vineyards giving name to this excellent wine.  Other legend distorted from the pagan mythology says that Jesus visited a hermit converting his bad beverage in to amazing wine.  Today we can see many frescoes with wine rituals from the houses in Pompeii that have survived the ashes after the eruption of the Volcano.

The Wine Offering.  Fresco found in Pompeii (Sec. VII BC)   Many of these well preserved frescoes can be seen at the Archeological Museum of Naples (Museo Archeologico Nazionale)
The Wine Offering. Fresco found in Pompeii (VII Century BC) on display at The Archaeological Museum of Naples (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) Wine making and consumption was very important in Greek and Roman cultures, just like drinking water.
An example of ancient viniculture techniques in Pompeii 79 AD.  Today these vineyards are curated by Mastroberardino wineries producing limited vintages of Greek origin vines including the Lacryma Christi.
An example of ancient viniculture techniques in Pompeii 79 AD. Today these vineyards are curated by Mastroberardino wineries producing limited vintages of Greek origin vines.
Ancient Caprettone vines facing the now dormant volcano.
Ancient Caprettone vines facing the now dormant volcano.
The land around volcanoes are rich in alkali and phosphorus and is extremely fertile.  Lacryma Christi is a great wine produced in the slopes of the Vesuvius.
The land around volcanoes are rich in alkali and phosphorus and is extremely fertile. Lacryma Christi is a great wine produced in the slopes of the Vesuvius.
The mineral soil of the Vesuvius where the Piedirosso and Aglianico made the perfect blend for Lacryma Christy reds.
The mineral soil of the Vesuvius where the Piedirosso and Aglianico grapes are used to make the Lacryma Christy reds.
In this volcanic land so rich for the agriculture  the organic "Pienolo tomatoes" just like the wines;  obtained the DOP category (Denomination of Protected Origin) The Pienolo tomatoes are promoted by the Slow Food Commission Vesuvian Chapter and are another example of sustainability in bio-agriculture.
In this volcanic land so rich for the agriculture the organic “Pienolo tomatoes” just like the wines; obtained the DOP category (Denomination of Protected Origin) The Pienolo tomatoes are promoted by the Slow Food Commission Vesuvian Chapter and are another example of sustainability in bio-agriculture.
Pienolo DOP tomatoes on display on a local Vesuvian trattoria; it shows the way the tomatoes are placed on stalks for their cultivation and after harvest they need to be maintained on the same way for better conservation, this is according to an ancient tradition in Campania.
Pienolo DOP tomatoes on display on a local Vesuvian trattoria; it shows the way the tomatoes are placed on stalks for their cultivation and after harvest they need to be maintained on the same way for better conservation, this is according to an ancient tradition in Campania.
The Vesuvius National Park it's a protected area where generations of family owned wineries make distinctive wines like Casa Setaro, a small wine producer that I had the pleasure to visit on my trip to the Vesuvius.
The Vesuvius National Park it’s a protected area where generations of family owned wineries make distinctive wines like Casa Setaro, a small wine producer that I had the pleasure to visit on my trip to the Vesuvius.
Aglianico vines in Pompeii
Aglianico vines in Pompeii
I had the pleasure to visit Vigna Pironti with the Italian Association of Sommeliers (AIS) Vesuvian Chapter.  Vigna Pironti produces great red and wine varieties of Lacryma Christi, some of them named after the houses in Pompeii.
Visiting Vigna Pironti with the Italian Association of Sommeliers (AIS) Vesuvian Chapter. Vigna Pironti produces great red and wine varieties of Lacryma Christi, some of them named after the houses in Pompeii.
An ancient barn at Vigna Pironti's fields
An ancient barn at Vigna Pironti’s fields

 

Detail of wall decoration. Pompeii
Detail of wall decoration. Pompeii
Detail of a mosaic found in Pompeii
Detail of a mosaic found in Pompeii

Herculaneum

The town’s quiet existence was brought to an abrupt halt in AD 79 during the eruption of the Vesuvius that buried Pompeii with deep lava and mud.  The site of ancient Herculaneum is well below the level of the modern town.  The area is still being excavated.

In 89 BC the town became part of the Roman Empire, a residential municipium and resort.
In 89 BC the town became part of the Roman Empire, a residential municipium and resort.
Excavations in Herculaneum began in the 18th century and uncovered Roman houses built around a rectangular plan.  Perhaps the best known is the Villa dei Papiri.
Excavations in Herculaneum began in the 18th century and uncovered Roman houses built around a rectangular plan. Perhaps the best known is the Villa dei Papiri.
The Trellis House, a characteristic example of an inexpensive Roman multi-family dwelling and is made of wood and reed laths in crude tufa and lime masonry.
The Trellis House, a characteristic example of an inexpensive Roman multi-family dwelling and is made of wood and reed laths in crude tufa and lime masonry.
Many thanks to AIS Comune Vesuviane, Vigna Pironti and Casa Setaro Wineries for the fantastic tasting.  Cheers!!! Thanks for reading.
Many thanks to AIS Comune Vesuviane, Vigna Pironti and Casa Setaro Wineries for the fantastic tasting. Cheers!!! Thanks for reading.

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco.  All pictures by me taken with IPhone 4, 4S and Sony Cybershot.  You are more than welcome to share them mentioning the font.

Flavors and aromas of the Sorrento Coast

I finally arrived to the Sorrento Coast and my first stop is at the cliffs of Vico Equense, of Etruscan origins this little town has a lot to offer from the dramatic panoramas to pizza by the meter or Michelin Guide Starred Restaurants.  The Sorrento Peninsula is definitely an unforgettable culinary experience.

A view from the Saracen Tower (Torre del Saracino) dated from the VII century.  Here is located one of the best Restaurants of Italy "Torre del Saraceno" by Chef Gennaro Sposito
A view from the Saracen Tower (Torre del Saracino) dated from the VII century. Here is located one of the best Restaurants of Italy “Torre del Saraceno” by Chef Gennaro Sposito

But who where the Saracens and why they came to this part of Italy? Around the 455 AD the coast was invaded by Arab tribes, many watchtowers can still be seen on the cliffs to prepare the inhabitants for further attacks.  Saracen was a term for Muslims widely used in Europe during the Medieval Era.

Now a brief tour of the tasting menu at The Saracen Tower, enjoy!

And I can only describe as "sublime" each of the well deserved Michelin stars of the creative Chef Sposito, pictured here one of the starters from his sampling Menu, all made with organic ingredients grown on his own sustainable garden.
And I can only describe as “sublime” each of the well deserved Michelin stars of the creative Chef Sposito, pictured here one of the starters from his sampling Menu, all made with organic ingredients grown on his own sustainable garden. The fusion of truffles and spices gives this soufflé an interesting approach to the fusion of 2 worlds.
The pistachio and herb aromatic bed for the prawns, crusted nuts and beet sauce on the side
The pistachio and herb aromatic bed for the prawns, crusted nuts and beet sauce on the side
Local caught treasures of the sea naturally steamed on a base of hot stones well paired with Scala Fenicia wine of Capri
Local caught treasures of the sea naturally steamed on a base of hot stones well paired with Scala Fenicia wine of Capri
Raw squid on its own ink
Raw squid on its own ink
The maître offering a selection of the finest Italian, Belgium and Swiss blocks of chocolates with choice of aged rum, Armagnac, cognacs and other selected digestives.
The maître offering a selection of the finest Italian, Belgium and Swiss blocks of chocolates with choice of aged rum, Armagnac, cognacs and digestives.
Exploring the cellar located in the basement of the  Tower of Saracino.  As a sommelier this was such an amazing experience.
Exploring the cellar located at the lower part of the Tower of Saracino. As a sommelier this is always such an amazing experience, I am going over the vintages, the wide selection of local growers as well as the main growing Regions of Italy: Piedmont, Tuscany, Alto Adige and Veneto.
The Master Sommelier guiding me around the cellar of the Saracen Tower.
The Master Sommelier guiding me around the cellar of the Saracen Tower.
The turquoise waters of the Gulf of Sorrento with the majestic Vesuvius.
The turquoise waters of the Gulf of Sorrento with the majestic Vesuvius.
Fiat 500, when it comes to traveling around the Sorrento Peninsula I choose the Cinquecento, easy to park and get around the coastline.
Fiat 500, when it comes to traveling the Sorrento Peninsula I choose the Cinquecento, easy to park and get around the coastline.
Sea Bass on a bed of spice pumpkin sauce topped with a grilled prawn at Signum Cubo Restaurant in Vico Equense.
Sea Bass on a bed of spiced pumpkin sauce topped with a grilled prawn at Signum Cubo Restaurant in Vico Equense. A casual restaurant inside a boutique hotel in Vico.
At Cubo Signum a selection of crudos from salmon to grouper and tuna
At Cubo Signum a selection of crudos from salmon to grouper and tuna
Grilled salmon with avocado sauce, the fusion of Asian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Grilled salmon with avocado sauce, the fusion of Asian and Mediterranean cuisine.
The Mimosa it's a traditional sponge cake of the Sorrento coast filled with a delicious lemon cream
The Mimosa it’s a traditional sponge cake of the Sorrento coast filled with a delicious lemon cream
The Bar at Signum Cubo
The Bar at Signum Cubo
The warm setting of Cubo Boutique Hotel in Vico Equense
The warm setting of Cubo Boutique Hotel in Vico Equense
Skating on ice in Vico Equense
Skating on ice in Vico Equense, it’s one of the family activities during the Holidays
The Procession during the Three Kings festivities at the Piazetta of Vico
The colorful procession during the Three Kings festivities at the Piazetta of Vico. The three King’s day is celebrated with a Holy procession in many small Italian towns. I was able to watch it from my Hotel balcony.
The procession during the Festivities of the Three Kings at Vico Equense
The parade during the Festivities of the Three Kings at Vico Equense just like in many Italian towns this is an ancient tradition goes back to the late 6th century.
The famous Pizza a metro, a favorite with locals, this restaurant has been serving since the 1930's
The famous Pizza a metro, a favorite with locals, this restaurant has been serving since the 1930’s
The colorful harbour of Vico Equense just at walking distance from the Saracen Tower.
The colorful harbour of Vico Equense just at walking distance from the Saracen Tower.
So I stopped by the charming restaurant of Le Ancore Hotel in Vico Equense and tasted this delicious peppered mixed seafood "impepata di frutti misti di mare" a local tradition
So I stopped by the charming restaurant of Le Ancore Hotel in Vico Equense and tasted this delicious peppered mixed seafood “impepata di frutti misti di mare” a local tradition
Another reach plate of fresh seafood including marinated anchovies, fresh Gulf shrimp, octopus,  stuffed squids, grilled fish and langostinos
Another reach plate of fresh seafood including marinated anchovies, fresh Gulf shrimp, octopus, stuffed squids, grilled fish and langostinos
The famous Sorrento lemons, freshly squeezed to make "granitas" (frozen lemonade) in the summer or the dessert liquor limoncello
The famous Sorrento lemons, freshly squeezed to make “granitas” (frozen lemonade) in the summer or the dessert liquor limoncello
Remember that traditional Neapolitan song "Torna a Surriento" this is a town that will definitely make you come back.
Remember that traditional Neapolitan song “Torna a Surriento” this is a town that will definitely make you come back.
The lemons here are enormous, don't forget to try the "Delizia al Limone" a tarty dessert that has the characteristic flavor of Sorrento's traditional citric.
The lemons here are enormous, don’t forget to try the “Delizia al Limone” a tarty dessert that has the characteristic flavor of Sorrento’s traditional citric.
Organic grown oranges from Sorrento are used to make this excellent jam produced by Casa Barone approved by The Slow Food Commission
Organic grown oranges from Sorrento are used to make this excellent jam produced by Casa Barone approved by The Slow Food Commission

 

Juicy and red tomatoes, creamy white mozzarella di Bufala, ricotta and fior di latte, fragrant green basil, topped with a swirl of olive oil.  The mix of intense flavors and vivid colors, is characteristic of a cuisine that reflect the region’s Mediterranean climate.  Dishes rely on their success because of the freshness of the local ingredients.  Getting the fish fresh from the harbor is still part of the local life; sword fish, anchovies, mackerel and sardines; clams, mussels, octopus, squid and cuttlefish are served in dozens of ways including pasta.

But when in Sorrento, don’t forget to try the “Gnocchi alla Sorrentina”, the “Delizia al limone” and a sip of “limoncello”; you are on your way to a longer and healthy life.  Salute!

Capri : A rock in the middle of the sea (Uno scoglio in mezzo al mare)

The Faraglioni, the island distinguished rock formations.
The Faraglioni, the island distinguished rock formations.

The myth about Capri goes back to Homer’s epic tale “The Odyssey” when Ulysses and his troop were going back to Troy, they couldn’t resist the temptation to hear the seductive songs of the Sirens around today’s Capri, they filled out their ears with wax so they won’t listen to the Sirens and kept navigating but they crashed in to the stones and vanished.

Of course you won’t vanish like Ulysses’ troops in Capri but you will be so tempted by the natural beauty.  One of the trips you can do is on a boat to the Grotta Azzurra (The Blue Grotto) where Romans used to worship the waters.

A view from The Punta Tragara Hotel
A view from The Punta Tragara Hotel

Capri is the world’s first resort, dating back Emperor Augustus (29 B.C.) at that time Capri was under Naples rule, Augustus gave to Naples the Island of Ischia and turned Capri in to his very own private Resort. Today you can enjoy the magnificence of the oldest resort in the world just like Jacky O, Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth and many more celebrities and film stars did in the 1950’s when international tourism arrived to Capri.

La Piazzetta
Capri is so charming, an island so fashionable with unique style. Just stop by the Piazzetta where you can watch the locals wearing their impeccable white pants sipping limoncellos at sunset.
Arriving to Marina Grande.  Capri is about 4 square miles, easy to explore.  Being there gives you a sensation of being apart from the world, because cars are prohibited in such a small island, you need to walk everywhere.
Arriving to Marina Grande. Capri is about 4 square miles, easy to explore. Being there gives you a sensation of being apart from the world, because cars are prohibited in such a small island, you need to walk everywhere.

When coming to Capri, don’t expect to rush anything (piano, piano) slowly slowly, this is the land of the “Dolce far niente” (sweet idleness).  Act like a local, walking the streets Jacky walked, a good excuse to get your hand made sandals to your measure by the local handcrafters, wear oversized sunglasses, a silk foulard in your head and capri pants.

"The charm of Capri then and even now, is that little by little you become part and parcel of life on the island, and as small as it is, there are always new discoveries" (Cyril Dwek)
“The charm of Capri then and even now, is that little by little you become part and parcel of life on the island, and as small as it is, there are always new discoveries” (Cyril Dwek)
The first evidence of humans, tools, weapons and pottery were found in Anacapri, the village above Capri, early Greek colonists called Teleboians who arrived in the 8th century B.C,  (Pictured here a view from Villa San Michelle)
The first evidence of humans, tools, weapons and pottery were found in Anacapri, the village above Capri, early Greek colonists called Teleboians who arrived in the 8th century B.C, (Pictured here a view from Anacapri’s Villa San Michelle)
The Etruscan sphinx at Villa San Michelle
The Etruscan sphinx at Villa San Michelle

There are many theories about the name Capri, a popular one says that it comes from the Greek “kapros” (wild boar) but the most widely theory is that it derives from the Latin “capreae” (goats) which makes sense been a referred as the Goat Island.

After Augustus died (poisoned or not by his wife Livia) his successor Tiberius took possession of Augustus villas converting them in a place for banquets and orgies, this lifestyle which is part of Capri's historical facts can be seen on Gore Vidal's film "Caligula"
After Augustus died, his successor Tiberius took possession of Augustus villas converting them in a place for banquets and good times, this lifestyle can be remembered on Gore Vidal’s film “Caligula”
The gardens at Villa San Michelle in Anacapri
The gardens at Villa San Michelle in Anacapri
When you walk around Capri one famous sightseeing is Villa Jovis, the residence of Tiberius, he named that way in honor to Jove (Jupiter) the God of conviviality
When you walk around Capri one famous sightseeing is Villa Jovis, the residence of Tiberius, he named that way in honor to Jove (Jupiter) the God of conviviality
One of the many villas you will see while walking around Capri
One of the many villas you will see while walking around Capri
The courtyard at La Scalinatella Hotel
The courtyard at La Scalinatella Hotel was home of the couturier Valentino, now owned by the Morano family, is where Churchill and Maria Callas used to party.
La Caponata Caprese, one of my favorite restaurants in Capri is Edode where you can taste their version of "caponata caprese" made with buffalo mozzarella, anchovies, kalamata olives, basil, zucchini, tomatoes and fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil under a bed of whole wheat bread dipped in water and olive oil.
La Caponata Caprese, one of my favorite restaurants in Capri is Edode where you can taste their version of “caponata caprese” made with buffalo mozzarella, anchovies, kalamata olives, basil, zucchini, tomatoes and fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil under a bed of whole wheat bread dipped in water and olive oil.
The Caprese cuisine is fresh, simple and less complicated,  the fish brought technically from the sea to the table with a few hours of being caught.  The sword fish pictured here was seasoned with just fresh aromatic herbs, lemon and olive oil.
The Caprese cuisine is fresh, simple and less complicated, the fish brought technically from the sea to the table with a few hours of being caught. The sword fish pictured here was seasoned with just fresh aromatic herbs, lemon and olive oil.
On this tiny island everything seems to taste better, pictured here the infamous Tiramisu
On this tiny island everything seems to taste better, pictured here the infamous Tiramisu
In the winter of 1952 Pablo Neruda stayed and composed during his exile at the home of prominent Caprese Edwin Cerio
In the winter of 1952 Pablo Neruda stayed and composed during his exile at the home of prominent Caprese Edwin Cerio

The iconic Caprese boutique “La Parisienne” is perhaps known for the famous Capri trousers, here is where Jacky Kennedy Onassis used to have hers tailor made. Michael Kors was for years a guest at The Grand Hotel Quisisana and he described the view from the terrace facing Via Camerelle as the front row of a fashion show. Fashion designer Oscar de La Renta went to Capri to receive the award “Tiberio d’oro” at Mare Moda, the island notorious fashion show. Valentino, Givenchy, Gianfranco Ferre, Missoni, they all came personally to show at Mare Moda.

When Emilio Pucci opened his first boutique in 1950 it was in Capri, his vivid prints  were so characteristic with Capri's vivid spirit, his boutique in Via Camerelle still stands.
When Emilio Pucci opened his first boutique in 1950 it was in Capri, his vivid prints
were so characteristic with Capri’s vivid spirit, his boutique in Via Camerelle still stands.
The Missoni boutique right next to the historic Hotel La Palma
The Missoni boutique right next to the historic Hotel La Palma
A more recent addition to Capri's fashion: The Capri watch, has the emblematic clock of the Piazzetta.
A more recent addition to Capri’s fashion: The Capri watch, has the emblematic clock of the Piazzetta.
Montserrat Franco Sphinx Capri Sandal
The tradition of sandal making in Capri is known worldwide. My sandal collection is originally made in Capri with 100% Italian leather and Swarovski crystals.
Capri style
Wearing the Capri style

Capri is more than a rock in the middle of the sea, Capri is a lifestyle, the concept of chic and casual was immortalized here and will be here to stay. If we are not the privileged ones that can make Capri our home we can
still live… the Capri way, salute!!!

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco. All pictures taken by me.  Additional Photo credits: Benny Galasso-Bely Franco.

For more info on Montserrat Franco sandals made in Capri, visit the store at:

http://www.store.montserratfranco.com

Great trips around Italy on a Vespa: The Amalfi Coast

 

One of the greatest trips with breathtaking views are around the Amalfi Coast, most of these trips can be done  a weekend, again the Vespa is one of the best transportations when it comes to getting around those narrowed roads
One of the greatest trips with breathtaking views are around the Amalfi Coast, the Vespa is one of the preferred transportations when it comes to getting around those narrowed roads

Going to the Amalfi Coast is certainly memorable and a unique experience, the story of Amalfi is linked to the nymph Melphe, the apple of Hercule’s eye and the legend says that he built a city so high on the cliffs to buried her when she died but there is another theory; when Romans lived here in the IV century named it Melfi.

In recent years Unesco has included the Amalfi Coast in its world Heritage sites
In recent years Unesco has included the Amalfi Coast in its world Heritage sites

Suspended between the sea, sky ad earth the state road 163 twists and turns in an almost never ending path around the Coast, it has stunning views from every corner.  In the 19th century access to the Amalfi coast was very difficult and possible only by the mountains in mules.  By the 1900’s the isolation of this part of Italy attracted many travelers. In Edwardian times the coast became a destination of choice by British aristocrats, later actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo and Sophia Loren  brought fame to the area.

You can find some of the best well kept secret restaurants of Italy (Michellin stars and local eateries) with amazing menus that are well worth the narrowed roadside trip and the headache.

A view from the Amalfi coastline
A view from the Amalfi coastline

Arriving to Nerano

nerano
The first stop in the Amalfi coast is the quiet fishermen village of Nerano, part of Massa Lubrense. Below is the town of Marina del Cantone popular for its small seafront and restaurants, here is the Star Michelin Restaurant “La Taverna del Capitano”

 

Fior di zucca ripiena (stuffed zucchini flower) How beautiful is to eat a flower stuffed with fresh ricotta cheese on a bed of summer tomato sauce
Fior di zucca ripiena (stuffed zucchini flower) How beautiful is to eat a flower stuffed with fresh ricotta cheese on a bed of summer tomato sauce.

 

capitano 2
Taverna del Capitano; a family tradition from grandfather Alfonso to son Salvatore Caputo who is one of the youngest recognized star Chefs of Southern Italy. Pictured here marinated spigola (European sea bass) covered with grilled aubergine, with zucchinis in julienne, cherry tomatoes and a bed of aromatic herb sauce. I paired this dish with Marisa Cuomo’s Amalfi Coast Fior D’Uva wine.

la taverna del capitano
Spaghetti alla Nerano, since you are in Nerano you must try this fresh hand made pasta which definitely tastes better with the fantastic view. It is characteristic with the bold flavors of the Provolone del Monaco cheese and slices of zucchini.

 

On my way to Positano I stopped to admire the view
On my way to Positano I stopped to admire the view

 

View from La Sirenuse Hotel in Positano, great place for an aperitif at sunset
View from Le Sirenuse Hotel in Positano, great place for an aperitif at sunset
Positano.  In 1953 John Steinbeck wrote that "Positano bites deep, it is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone"
Positano. In 1953 John Steinbeck wrote that “Positano bites deep, it is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone”
The view from Le Sirenuse Hotel opened in 1951 when the Marchesi Sersale turned their summer house in to a charming Hotel.
The view from Le Sirenuse Hotel opened in 1951 when the Marchesi Sersale turned their summer house in to a charming Hotel.
Mozzarella di Bufala.  I stopped at Next Café in Positano to savor this fresh traditional soft cheese eaten only within a day or so of being made, solely from the milk of water buffalo.  In the Amalfi coast the Buffalo mozzarella is produced in Tramonti.
Mozzarella di Bufala. I stopped at Next Café in Positano to savor this fresh traditional soft cheese eaten only within a day or so of being made, solely from the milk of water buffalo. In the Amalfi coast the Buffalo mozzarella is produced in Tramonti.

 

On my way to Praiano, Marina di Praia

 

Furore, before arriving to Amalfi I had to make a stop and contemplate the Fiordo of Furore, fishermen houses clinging on the rocky mountains.  Be aware of the many steps you will need to climb from the road to the beach and careful with that 2 way road that fits only one car at a time.
Before arriving to Amalfi I had to make a stop and contemplate the Fiordo of Furore, fishermen houses clinging on the rocky mountains. Be aware of the many steps you will need to climb from the road to the beach and careful with that 2 way road that fits only one car at a time.

Amalfi

Amalfi  has the glamour of the once glorious maritime Republic, the Duomo di St Andrea was founded in the 9th century and rebuilt in Romanesque style in the 11th century.  The campanile is is decorated with Arabic like interlaced arches, typical of the Southern Italian
Amalfi has the glamour of the once glorious maritime Republic, the Duomo di St Andrea was founded in the 9th century and rebuilt in Romanesque style in the 11th century. The campanile is is decorated with Arabic like interlaced arches, typical of the Southern Italian Romanesque.
I stop for some readings at the Piazza Duomo before heading to one of my favorite restaurants "Da Gemma"
A pause at Piazza Duomo before heading to one of my favorite restaurants “Da Gemma”
Fresh fish is important part of the Amalfi cuisine, the flavor and freshness of the fish should shine and not be masked with many flavors
Fresh fish is important part of the Amalfi cuisine, the flavor and freshness of the fish should shine and not be masked with many flavors
The food from the Amalfi coast features more fish, lemons and herbs.  Pictured here one of the dishes served at Da Gemma
The food from the Amalfi coast features fish seasoned with lemons and herbs. Pictured here sea bass served at Da Gemma paired with the local white wine Marisa Cuomo’s Costa d’Amalfi Furore is a superb blend of 60% Falanghina grapes and 40% Biancolella
"Melanzane di Cioccolato" is a hybrid of a lasagna like made for dessert with eggplant covered in hot chocolate sauce and chips of caramelized fruit, sugar covered almonds and nuts served with vanilla ice cream and a syrup snowflake for garnish
“Parmigiana di Melanzane al Cioccolato” (Baked Aubergine with chocolate) is a hybrid made for dessert with eggplant covered in hot chocolate sauce and chips of caramelized fruit, sugar covered almonds and nuts served with vanilla ice cream and a syrup snowflake for garnish
Sweet ending with macchiato (as I can't take my espresso is too strong) and a variety of home made cookies and flavored pop corn
Sweet ending once more with macchiato (as I can’t take my espresso is too strong) and a variety of home made cookies and flavored popcorn

 

 

 

Ravello was part of the Duchy of Amalfi in the 9th century.  Villa Rufolo is one of Ravello's landmarks by excellance, with Arabic elements and a mixture of 13th and 14th centuries architectural styles
Ravello was part of the Duchy of Amalfi in the 9th century. Villa Rufolo is one of Ravello’s landmarks with Arabic elements and a mixture of 13th and 14th centuries architectural styles

 

A view from Villa Rufolo's amphitheater, the Ravello's annual Music Festival takes place here in July.  Here is where Richard Wagner got his inspiration to write his Opera "Parsifal"
A view from Villa Rufolo’s amphitheater, the Ravello’s annual Music Festival takes place here in July. Also in this place is where Richard Wagner got his inspiration to write his Opera “Parsifal”

Maiori, Minori and Cetara

the next towns along the coastline are Maiori, Minori and Cetara where the ancient Maritime Republic arsenals were situated, dates back to Roman times.
Stopping at Sal Di Riso's bakery is a must while in Minori, Salvatore di Riso was the first Pastry Chef from Southern Italy to be admitted in to the prestigious Italian Master Pastry Chef Academy.  His renowned cakes and desserts are world famous, Pope John Paul II approved.
Stopping at Sal Di Riso’s bakery is a must while in Minori, Salvatore di Riso was the first Pastry Chef from Southern Italy to be admitted in to the prestigious Italian Master Pastry Chef Academy. His renowned cakes and desserts are world famous, Pope John Paul II approved.

 

Vietri sul Mare

Arriving to Vietri sul Mare will lead you to some traditional shops where you can get the best deals on majolica ceramic that made so popular this part of the Coast, these hand painted utensils have been made here since the 1400
Arriving to Vietri sul Mare will lead you to some traditional shops where you can get the best deals on majolica ceramic that made so popular this part of the Coast, these hand painted utensils have been made here since the 1400
I love to go to the Amalfi Coast in winter as well
After my last stop at Vietri sul Mare I am ready to head back to Naples. I love to go to the Amalfi Coast in winter as well.
I made my way back by the woods instead of using the coast line road.  The first traces of snow were there and it was extremely cold but as a sunny Floridian I had to touch the snow, I just had to
I made my way back by the woods instead of using the coastline road. The first traces of snow were there in November and it was extremely cold but as a sunny Floridian I had to touch the snow, I just had to