Monday, April 11, 2016

Farewell to Sorrento (2016/6)

First off, a correction to yesterday's blog. I discovered that the very quiet courtyard which we visited actually belongs to the Conservatorio Scuola S.M. Delle Grazie - a school! - as can be seen from the picture which I took one evening, which clearly identifies the building. In retrospect, it's not surprising that the courtyard was empty, as we visited on a Saturday morning.

Today we walked to Piazza Angelina Lauro: this is approximately opposite the train station. We had been here before - we ate lunch here on the second day and I had walked through it one morning (almost every morning, I have taken a 3km speed walk through various places in Sorrento, both stretching my legs and scouting out locations), but we hadn't really looked at the garden which is at the 'far end' - the end closer to the sea - properly. This is another little garden paradise with a variety of trees, bushes and flowers, featuring the tree pictured on the right with its massive trunk.

This was an added bonus as we were only passing through this piazza, on the way to our destination: Museo Correale di Terranova.  As Wikipedia puts it, the museum is situated in a patrician villa, surrounded by a citrus grove, with a terrace of Belvedere that overlooks the Gulf of Naples. The villa is owned by Pompeo and Alfredo Correale, the last descendants of the family. The museum exhibits collections of Neapolitan painters dating from the 17th and 18th century. It contains valuable Capodimonte and Sèvres ceramics, Murano glassware, Bohemia crystals and a collection of watches [actually clocks]. There is also an archaeological collection. Some works date from the 19th century and the mansion displays tables, furnishings and finely inlaid jewel cases. In the library are works by Torquato Tasso. On the ground floor, there are a few rooms with exhibits from the beginning of the 20th century which are fascinating, as well as one room containing stonework originating from local villas dated the first and second century AD - similar to what we saw in the museum in Naples, but without frescoes.

There is also a very pleasant garden attached to the museum, which adjoins an area called L'Agruminato, which is a citrus garden. The skies had been somewhat overcast when we left the hotel in the morning (as a result of the overnight rain), but by the time we had finished in the museum and entered the garden, the weather had changed and had become sunny once more (albeit slightly cold). The day would get warmer and warmer, so that by 5pm, it was yet another sunny day in paradise.

From the gardens, we walked back - via a more scenic route - to the old town for lunch, escaping the more upmarket tourist traps (or so I think) in Piazza Tasso. For the past few days, I have been eating the local speciality - Gnocchi alla Sorrentina - for lunch; I have noticed that everyone prepares it slightly differently. Today, there was only one basil leaf on the dish whereas yesterday there were several; the Leone Rosso cooked the dish without cheese, which one added later.

I think that the winner of the informal contest for best Gnocchi was the English Inn, a fact which would no doubt surprise them as they aim for tasty but modest food. This is something that I can definitely cook at home, although whether anyone will eat it is another matter. I wrote a few months ago about cooking chicken breasts in tomato sauce; I will try and improve that dish by adding fresh basil.

The evening was very pleasant and the streets, especially Corso Italia (which becomes pedestrian at this hour), were full of locals taking their evening stroll (here and there I heard snippets of English). After walking around a few piazzas, I thought to head home, so I cut through some alleys and came across a group of young Italian girls, dancing folk dances. This was part of the 3 day mini-festival, which really only comes to life in the evening (and the previous evening had been washed out). I had come without my video camera so was forced to use my basic smartphone in order to film them. 

They compensated with enthusiasm what they lacked in skill: only the girl on the far left of the picture seemed to know what she was doing. The picture shows that all the other girls are looking to her for guidance. The small crowd which gathered were very appreciative. Further on, I came across a singer accompanied by a harpist, but every time I tried to take a picture, a photographer (who was either the event's official photographer or from the local paper) stood directly in front of me, thus ruining what I was filming. Most tourists show consideration for their fellow cameramen, allowing room for pictures and not getting in the way, but this man just barged in and stood wherever he wanted without paying attention to anyone else. Anyway, this was a fine ending to our second trip to Sorrento.

I think that this trip was better than the first one; the first time around, we made more trips but everything was new and I don't think that we made good use of all our time. Our location too was problematic then. This time, being in the centre of Sorrento helped greatly and we had the time to visit less obvious - but more fulfilling - attractions. As I put it, the old town alleyways attract tourists like moths are drawn to a flame - which is a shame, as there are better things to do with one's time, and especially with one's money.

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