Walking along the back tiny streets, around every corner, in every square is like finding the most beautiful village in Italy. And that’s exactly what Petralia Soprana is, the winner of the title “most beautiful village”.
My tours to Italy, Spain, and Greece are always in the European summer, so in preparation for my upcoming tours to Italy, here are my top summer travel tips for you.
I love flying and I fly all the time for my food and wine tours. Living in Australia means that the flights to Europe are long, at least 24 hours, and as a tour host, I need to arrive at my destination refreshed and ready to greet my very important guests with warmth and enthusiasm.
When designing my food and wine tours, I like to experience the cities and towns for myself and that is how I discovered the Top 5 things to do in Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi that aren’t tourist attractions.
1. Take a lift ride down through the cliffs to the Marina Piccola for a boat trip to Capri or along the coast admiring the awe-inspiring cliffs and the magnificent villas that cling to them.
Wander around the tiny streets checking out the local shops and enjoy a passeggiata along Corso Italia stopping in at the Piazza Tassa to enjoy an apertivio while watching the passing crowds
Enjoy a delicious coffee, herbal tea, glass of wine or cocktail at D’Anton Design Bistro/Bar, in Piazza San Antonia. D’Anton is a beautiful homeware and decorating bespoke store that will make you want to buy a villa just to decorate it.
2. Wander into the Bellevue Syrene, 5 star Relais Hotel, resting on the cliff’s edge in Piazza della Vittoria.
Built in 1820, the hotel’s grounds, garden and interior to the villa are a must, enjoy lunch or drinks on their terrace under the beautiful cascading wisteria and overlooking the stunning views of the Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii.
Take a sneak peek into some of the open doors that you often see wandering through little towns. You just may stumble across some of the most beautiful interiors of villas often from the 15th and 16th centuries. Most of the private gardens in Sorrento are beautiful, filled with citrus trees, flowers huge ceramic pots, and tiled in hand-painted Italian tiles.
Watch Dominique on location in Sorrento on her YouTube channel: https://studio.youtube.com/video/uiFMzsu3JuI/edit
3. Pick up some new colourful ceramic plates, either for your table or the wall – they make beautiful wall hangings as well as decorative table wear.
Enjoy an espresso and pastry overlooking the grand 9th Century Duomo di Saint Andrea in the Piazza del Duomo, it’s a perfect place to take in that Italian sun, that Italian atmosphere while thinking about your next move.
Wander down the main street, past all of the tourist shops and restaurants and head to The Paper Museum – Museo della Carta, Amalfi is known for its paper-making tradition. This is a perfect place to stock up on your unique paper for that special letter or as a gift instead of the old tea towel or postcard.
Head to the “Gran Caffe” on the Corso delle Repubbliche Marinare to relax in the afternoon at their lovely clothed tables right near the water. After all of your sightseeing, shopping, eating and while waiting to board your boat, this old cafe will make you feel as if you are back in the 1950s. Although not winning medals for its food, it is the perfect setting surrounded by lush geraniums in which to enjoy a coffee, or afternoon granita and to just take in that “Amalfi” feeling.
4. Steer clear of the tourist traps for food and head further afield to Trattoria Dei Cartari in Piazza della Spirito Santo.
This is a simple trattoria with surprisingly delicious food. We ordered the smoked provolone baked in lemon leaf, the baked eggplant topped with olives, capers, fresh cherry tomatoes and anchovies and the pesce aqua pazza, which was amazingly delicious and fragrant with mint in a tasty fish broth and those melt in your mouth potatoes that the Italians seem to know how to do so well. To finish we were tempted by the chef’s special recipe for a pinenut, almond and jam tart unique to this trattoria as it is his nonna’s special recipe.
5. Wander through the winding streets and up and down the many stone stairs and allow yourself to get lost in this labyrinth of a town.
Positano is the perfect place to be spontaneous and don’t worry about where you are going or where you have been. I guarantee you won’t cover the same street twice and there is always a surprise just around the corner.
Have your camera handy and be ready to capture every moment. Positano is a photographers dream. With every corner comes an opportunity to photograph, a beautiful doorway, a fragrant lemon tree or winding branches over archways creating artworks in themselves, or a staircase tiled with stunning hand painted Italian art. These are what postcards are made of so don’t buy your friend memories of your journey, take pictures and create your own.
Enjoy an Aperol spritz by the sea. Wander down to the water’s edge amongst all the little shops and enjoy a refreshing Aperol Spritz, the perfect Italian summer beverage to sip on while you take in the sea air and all of the action of the beach front. There are quite a few cafes and restaurants that line the sand and I spent hours sitting just taking it all in and enjoying a moment of just being Italian.
Catch up with more of Dominique on her You Tube channel at https://studio.youtube.com/video/hfjy5Z9UgPM/edit
Pick yourself up some hand made leather sandals. There are wonderful artisan leather shops dotted all along the streets of Positano and a perfect place to have your own pair of handcrafted leather shoes made. Tailor-made shoes are no comparison to the ones you just buy in the shops, do yourself a favour and grab a pair. It’s not summer unless you have those gorgeous strappy sandals or a pair of leather loafers to wander around in and take home with you.
There are many great restaurants in Positano and one kept coming up as highly recommended and that is La Tagliata (located up in the mountains). Renowned for its zero miles, amazing value and wonderful menu it is a must to try, catch a local taxi or rent a scooter to make the trip it’s definitely worth it. Chez Black and L’Incanto are also great options for lunch and are a little closer to the centre of town and accessible by foot.
How travelling and experiencing different cultures has influenced my cooking – Dominique Rizzo’s Interview by A Taste of Harmony
You’ve been running food and wine tours since 2012 now, how has travelling and exploring the cuisines of Sicily, Spain, Greece and Norfolk Island and others, influenced your cooking and recipes?
Everyone would have to agree they are inspired, even just a little by the gastronomic delights they experience when travelling. For me it’s the same, I come back from my tours completely energised and even more inspired to cook more, use more fresh seasonal produce, shop at local markets explore new places, and most importantly what I bring back with me from my travels is the emphasis on keeping things simple and to let the star ingredient shine through.
The simplicity of the street food in Sicily, chickpea panelle arancini, Pane con le milza,sfincioni and croquettes, date back thousands of years, with traditions that have been handed down through generations and techniques and customs passed on through the many different cultures that has stepped upon Sicily’s soil. Romans, the Spanish, Swabians, Greeks, Normans, Arabs and so on have all left their mark on the food here. I used to think that my food was sometimes too simple and then whenever I come back from one of my food tours, I am comfortably confident in what I do and the recipes I come up with. I give them my own twist and flavour but fundamentally I always reflect back to the food I ate on my tours, their way of life and the importance of culture, tradition and community and it always grounds me.
My cooking has become a melting pot of them all, combining the flavours, ingredients and methods of cookery. In all honesty, I feel that these cuisines are some of the healthiest ways of cooking. Their cuisine styles are simple and I believe it is with the addition of the exotic spices, fresh herbs, fresh and dried fruits and nuts, that simple 3 or 4 ingredient dishes can sing louder with flavour, and have us drooling more than some of the more lavishly garnished, intricate ingredients and long, complicated dishes we find.
More locally, Norfolk Island has been an amazing food experience and left a definite mark, not only on my cooking, but more so on my philosophy for living and importance in strength of community. Norfolk has this amazing, friendly, wonderful sense of freedom. Its waters and air are pristine, it has a very interesting history and unique flora and fauna. Apart from some pre-packaged items and a couple of fresh ingredients, everything is grown, harvested and produced locally. I absolutely love that. Their traditions and history are really embraced with great pride and respect from the locals, their precious island and its unique lifestyle is embraced by everyone. It is an amazing place to visit for either a quiet relaxed getaway enjoying some amazing wine and food experiences or a wild adventure of fishing, sailing, boating, rock climbing, bush walking and attending the many events and festivals which they have on the island.
Your tours involve small groups of 14-16 people, have you found through sharing and learning about food together while on tour you also learn a lot about each other?
Yes absolutely, it’s part of the main reason I love running my food tours. I have the greatest honour of meeting so many amazing, passionate and interesting people and as much as I have learnt so much about them, the stories of their lives and how they interact with others, their quirks and why they might do the things they do. I have learnt so much about myself, which I have been so grateful for.
I have always believed that sharing a meal, engaging in a cooking lesson together, tasting wine and enjoying conversation, any means of gathering together around food brings out the best and sometimes the worst in people, but usually the best.
The biggest lesson I have learnt in my life that has been reinforced through running my food tours is never judge or make judgment on others as you never know what is really going on for someone behind closed doors. Until you have sat with them, engaged, connected, communicated and listened to their stories, it’s hard to imagine some of the painful events that people have experienced, which in turn has made them who they are.
I really like to just sit back, ask questions and listen to get to know people and what they like, dislike and I really enjoy asking people about their life. I find the more I know about someone, the more I am able to better understand who they are, their culture, beliefs, and in return they can better understand me and I believe this is the basis to peace and harmony between us as humans.
If you had to pick one experience from your tours that has been a highlight for you so far, what would it be?
That’s a very difficult question!
It wasn’t necessarily an experience, more like a moment where we were all in the most beautiful moment of laughter, joy and sharing a stunning dinner on the Island of Salina. It was a series of little events, positive outcomes for some of my clients and some wonderful transformations they had simply by being able to just sit back, relax and be guided around on my tour. I design and host my tours because I know what it’s like to organise travel either before you go or while you are on the go and quite frankly it can be exhausting.
Sometimes you come back not rested or relaxed but slightly stressed and underwhelmed at all the places you missed seeing, the restaurants you didn’t get to, the distance you didn’t travel and sights you didn’t see because you were travelling on your own or organising it yourself. It’s a big job. I saw my clients faces lighten up, their smiles grow more frequent, they were glowing, their personalities opened up and on that occasion, we just laughed and laughed.
For me it was one of the most special times I have had on tour.
Why do you think it’s important to celebrate cultural diversity in our workplaces, kitchens and in general?
I personally, am becoming so despondent at the way we as humans are treating each other. It’s frightening and really sad to see and hear the way some people talk to each other, tease, taunt, troll and hurt others. People don’t listen, they refuse to open up and understand. If everyone could just stop and listen, and accept that everyone is different, that we all have different cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, understandings, ways we do things and ways we think., then I believe we would have way less hate and way more harmony.
I really feel that it is beyond important, almost a necessity to celebrate cultural diversity, not only celebrate but we need to be constantly educated and reminded of its importance. Without celebrating cultural diversity, we wouldn’t have half the interesting aspects of our country that now exist. We would not be open to new ideas and ways of doing things.
The more we can celebrate and be open to cultural diversity, the more we will have stronger communities looking out for each other and not just it being mine, yours and theirs. I sincerely hope that in my lifetime we will be celebrating not just one day through A Taste of Harmony and bringing this awareness to cultural diversity on this day, but that it will just be the norm. Acceptance, understanding and freedom for everyone to live their lives embracing their tradition, culture and to embrace everybody else’s’ with the same respect would be my greatest joy.
Why should workplaces get involved in A Taste of Harmony?
To get involved with Taste of Harmony is to say to your employees, we embrace and accept everyone equally. We see the importance of cultural differences as a benefit to our business and we support and respect it. We welcome different, we welcome diverse and we are open and willing to engage in bridging the gaps and to open the lines of communication. It can only be a good positive outcome for businesses to engage everyone together on an even platform – strength in numbers.
Dominique Rizzo is one of Queensland’s leading chefs, author and owner of Putia Pure Food Kitchen. Learn more about Dominique’s Food, Wine & Culture Tours to destinations such as Sicily, Greece, Spain and Norfolk Island here.
DOMINIQUE RIZZO IN CONVERSATION WITH SAINT AGATHA (courtesy of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre)
DR: Dear Saint Agatha.
SA: I am. Lord Jesus Christ, you created me, you watched over me from infancy, kept my body from defilement, preserved me from love of the world.
DR: I can’t imagine the courage it took, and the strength of your faith. When my father first took us back to Sicily, I saw how the community honours the saints. I try to picture myself in your shoes. I couldn’t do what you did.
SA: I’m not sure I understood, Dominique. Jesus Christ, Lord of all things, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am – you alone. I am your sheep. Make me worthy to overcome the Devil.
DR: Quintianus arrested you because you wouldn’t renounce your promise to God and consent to sin with him. St Agatha, you were a child.
SA: We are all children, Dominique. He arrested me for my faith in Jesus Christ. He arrested me because I would not renounce my vow. They used tongs and then knives. If you threaten me with wild beasts, know that at the Name of Christ they grow tame; if you use fire, from heaven angels will drop healing dew on me.
DR: *sobs* They cut off your breasts.
SA: Just as wheat cannot arrive at the granary before it is cleansed from the chaff, so my soul cannot enter into Paradise if my body, beforehand, is not humbled by tortures. Yes, they did. Also fire and shards.
DR: To me, you are the essence of a young woman of strength believing in yourself and God.
SA: *smiles, beatific* Saint Peter came to my cell and healed me. I am the patron saint of bell-founding.
DR: But also of women who have breast cancer and of rape and violence against women. Given what’s going on in our world today… When I go into churches, I cry, Saint Agatha.
SA: I said to my torturer, on the last day, your words be but wind, your promises be but rain, and your menaces be as rivers that pass.
DR: I was in Sicily for your feast day, and the bakers made minni di virgini in your honour, little rounded cakes filled with ricotta, coated with marzipan, a cherry on top.
SA: Cakes! I love cakes. I’m the patron saint of bakers too, Dominique, and you aspire to pure food so we’re sisters as well as children of God. And also earthquakes and volcanoes because the Lord unleashed them to punish my tormentors who will burn and suffer in Hell for all eternity. All eternity. *smiles, beatific*
DR: You are a martyr.
SA: I am a girl who died at fifteen.
DR: Exactly. I am in awe of you, Saint Agatha.
SA: Blessings, sister.
Departing 13 December 2013 – Brisbane to New Zealand
Sailing from Brisbane, Orion will cruise some of the most beautiful seascapes in the world. On this itinerary, we’ll not only sample the sights of the South Pacific but the tastes as well with a sensational onboard program of fine food and wine created by our guest chef, wine and cheese makers. As we cruise to the colonial attractions of Norfolk Island and on through New Zealand’s magnificent Bay of Islands Orion’s guests will enjoy stunning signature dishes featuring the best South Pacific produce. Tasman Discoverer is a delight for those who enjoy fine food and wine as well as photographers and walkers all sharing a sense of adventure. I will be a Guest Lecturer along side Cheese Makers – Markus & Sara Bucher, Maleny Cheese; Wine Maker – Tony Bish, Sacred Hill Wines.
- 7 night cruise aboard “Orion” in selected accommodation
- Including all meals, wine package, wine and food workshops with tastings and demonstrations – departing Brisbane – 13th December 2013
- 1 night accommodation in Auckland with breakfast
- Lunch and tastings at Artisan Wines, Auckland, vineyard and food market
- Coach transfers in Auckland – ship, hotel, vineyard, airport
- Economy flight from Auckland to Brisbane with Emirates on 21 Dec13
- Port charges, air taxes
- Terms & conditions apply
To join me or to find out more on this 7 day Cruise or to find out more visit The Cruise Centre or email The Cruise Centre click here.