Campania has a much different appearance and feel than the central or northern Italy. You can see the shift in the vegetation, more tropical and lush, the changed geography, a combination of volcanic and limestone formations, and the differences in the people — more heavily-built, somehow more Mediterranean, whatever that means. Many Sorrentines say they are descended from Saracens.
As for the cooking, there is more sauce and larger portions than in either Tuscany or Rome. Restaurants play music, not the American pop ballads that blast from bars up North, but mandolin, accordion, and stringed instruments more typical of this place. There’s less English, spoken except for the ever-present merchants ready to cater to the tourist. The regional trains, like the Circumvesuviana line between Napoli and Sorrento, is more like the subway, an unreserved free-for-all during boarding, a commuter service that transports workers and students to and from their homes and places of occupation. Tourists are indulged, by some, but for the most part, the locals ignore or regard tourists like us with a certain disdain, porbably thinking of us as an interference and nuisance. Unlike other parts of Itly we have visited, here it seems that not everyone is 100% dependent on the tourist trade.
Not that the tourist trade doesn’t exist. In Sorrento, perhaps more than anywhere we’ve encountered in Italy, street after street is lined with storefronts and sidewalk displays of merchandise, mostly imported, but occasionally locally-made: ceramics, purses, shoes, lemon-products, clothing, souvenirs, knick-knacks. All manner of goods fill doorways, line shelves and spill onto the sidewalks. Large cruise ships, sail in and out of these coastal towns, disgorging shoppers and day-trippers into town and onto tour buses that barrel down the narrow twisting roads to the regions attractions — Pompeii, the Amalfi coastline, even as far south as Salerno and the Greek temples at Paestum. Ferries and tour boats constantly take visitors to Capri, Ischia, and other destination in the Tyrrhenian Sea and along the heavily populated Bay of Naples.
Vesuvius dominates the northern section of the Bay of Naples, where close to three million people still live along it slopes, easy targets for the next inevitable eruption. Today Vesuvius looks benign, but it still remains active. It’s not difficult to see why so many people are attracted to the blue ocean waters of the area and the cool breezes. Water is abundant, despite the latitude. The seemingly endless sun helps to produce a bounty of grapefruit-sized lemons, oranges, grapes, olives and a variety of other produce. The reclamation and utilization of seemingly impossibility steep hillsides through terracing has been going on for centuries for centuries and clever practices of protecting and increasing yields have been long-established. Black mesh fabric both protects the tops of trees and is used to capture falling fruit. Wooden poles driven deep into the volcanic soil provide solid structures on which to spread and hold these nets. Stone walls retain embankments, and elaborate water systems provide moisture.
The natural beauty of the area and the passionate intensity of the inhabitants make it easy to see why the region remains a vital part of the Italian economy and a destination for visitors from all over the world.
- Posted from my iPad