Italy: On to a shore thing

By Roger Crow

When a gastronomic cruise offers lemons, Roger Crow discovers limoncello.
Sorrento with Vesuvius in the background. Photo / 123RF
Sorrento with Vesuvius in the background. Photo / 123RF

It's a sun-kissed morning in Italy as our vehicle navigates a series of photogenic bends.

"On days like these . . . " - the opening theme tune to Michael Caine classic The Italian Job is playing on my mental jukebox as I soak up the experience.

Our mission, unlike that of Caine's anti-hero, is not to abscond with a load of gold bullion, but retrieve a few of the edible treasures on display in Sorrento's markets.

My accomplices in this pioneering venture are Chef, a Spanish native, who has come prepared with a cool bag; our witty guide; my wife; and a coachload of fellow tourists.

None seems too worried as we skirt close to the edge of the cliffside.

During a previous day at sea, sailing from Chania, Crete, to Sorrento, we experienced some of the best dining cruise ship Celebrity Reflection had to offer.

It's easy to treat most luxury ships as floating buffets, especially when there's such a variety available at most hours of the day or night.

Fancy a fusion of curry, nachos, mashed potato and pasta? No problem. The ship's assorted kitchens turn out fresh meals to cater for the 3000-plus passengers.

Aside from the buffet, we also enjoyed dinner at one of the main "everyday" restaurants as part of the all-inclusive deal. It was so good we felt we'd wandered in to one of the high-end eateries by mistake.

But our foodie adventure was only just beginning.

Sorrento Gastronomy Discovery is a new excursion offered by Celebrity cruises. Whether you can give Blumenthal or Ramsay a run for their money in the kitchen, or are just passionate about good food, the experience of sourcing ingredients in Sorrento is a delicious diversion.

Stopping at a fruit and vege stall, Chef squeezes giant lemons, and smells them like a forensic investigator. In Spain, he told us, he'd eat them with salt, but here he is searching for something to add a zing to our meal and reflect the flavour of Sorrento.

While he goes off to collect the rest of his ingredients before returning to the ship to prepare dinner, my fellow tourists and I take a short trip into the hills where we fall in love with a rustic olive farm.

Our guide, Gina Buglione, greets us with a warm smile.

Gina relocated to Italy from the English city of Derby in 1991 and raised a family. It's not hard to see why she stayed. A picture-postcard olive farm with trees up to 500 years old; plump lemons hanging off branches, and a dazzling view overlooking the Amalfi coast. The place is bursting with vitality.

After a quick demonstration of ricotta and mozzarella making, a lunch featuring both, and lemon cake so light it could have been injected with helium, we sample different varieties of limoncello. Chocolate and melon are instant hits although you can't beat the zesty original.

Next we're Positano-bound, driving up a snaking road with more twists than a bowl of tagliatelle. The views are glorious: houses, hotels and shops layered on top of one another like an enormous wedding cake descending down to the Amalfi coastline.

Back on board, at The Porch restaurant, we get to taste the products of Chef's efforts. A limoncello balsamic reduction that summed up Sorrento in a mouthful.

FACT FILE

Sorrento Gastronony Discovery is one of the Shore Excursions offered by Celebrity Cruises on ships calling at Naples. Various 2017 sailings are available. See celebritycruises.com for more information.

- Spy.co.nz

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