Italians have a saying, “See Napoli and then die”: it means that all aficionados of beautiful things must visit the city at least once in their lifetime. Naples is a poignantly beautiful city situated in the middle of the Gulf of Naples in the shadow of the Vesuvius volcano, where the sun shines usually three hundred days a year. You feel like you’ve wandered into another world, and in a way you have: Neapolitans have their own rules for culture and life. Music, food, and time are all completely different here. If you want to become Neapolitan for a few days, start with the basics: bask in the sun while savouring a pizza as you mosey through Europe’s largest historic city centre.
Historically Amalfi was the most influential place on the Amalfi Coast, giving the coastline its name. It overlooks a stretch of sea where a historical regatta in mediaeval costume is held every four years at the start of June to compete against the maritime republics of Pisa, Genoa and Venice, which were Amalfi’s rivals in the Middle Ages and used their naval power to dominate merchant shipping in the Mediterranean. Visit Amalfi through the eyes of a painter, and appreciate the town colour by colour: the milky white of the town’s fine handmade paper, the white-black-gold of the cathedral at the top of an impressive staircase, and the emerald green of the waters in the grottoes that can only be explored by boat. And of course the yellow of the sweet lemons growing on the sun-drenched terracing that covers the slopes around Amalfi.
Jean-Paul Sartre called Capri the sacred island. A couple of miles out to sea from the port of Naples and a flurry of ferries and hydrofoils criss-crosses this stretch of watee every day. Over the years myriads of illustrious names have helped create the legend of Capri. Capri welcomes its guests with the heady fragrance of lemons and makes them feel right at home.
The Amalfi Coast has captivated the inspiration of singers, poets and artists from all over Italy with its evocative landscapes. A gastronomic diamond with an international reputation also sparkles here too: the lemon. Amalfi lemons are used to make limoncello, a liqueur with sweet and slightly sharp notes that is also used in countless pastries and cakes including babas, the tiny soft cakes loved by everyone around the world.
Prepare the mixture using a food processor; you will need 250 g ( 2 ½ cup) flour, 20 g (1 tbsp) brewer’s yeast, 50 ml (1 ½ oz) milk, a pinch of salt and 4 eggs. Cream 50 g sugar (1/4 cup) with 130 g (4 ½ oz) butter and add a little at a time to the mixture in the food processor. Now cover with cling film and leave to rest in a cool place for 2 hours. Pour the mixture into baba or dariole moulds and cook at 180° C (350°F) for 20 minutes. Next prepare the syrup by heating 500 ml (2 cups) water, a glass of limoncello and 500 g (2 ½ cup) sugar for a few minutes. Dip the babas into the syrup and then leave them to cool before serving.