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Published: March 8th 2018
The weather looked promising early this morning, with temperatures predicted to be in the upper 50s under partly sunny skies, so we contacted Francesco for a ride into Sorrento at around 11 AM. After a brief stop to meet the chef and owner of Il Convivio, a nearby restaurant where he recommended we have lunch today, Francesco dropped us off at the museum entrance.
The Museo Correale is housed in an 18th-century villa surrounded by a splendid citrus garden. It formerly belonged to the Correale di Terranova family, a noble family with wide cultural interests, who resided in both Naples and Sorrento. The last descendants of the family bequeathed the villa and their extensive art collection to the city, and the museum opened to the public in 1924.
The museum consists of 24 rooms, distributed on three floors, with over 10,000 pieces on display, including paintings, furnishings, majolica, clocks, and porcelain. The ground floor of the museum is occupied by archaeological finds from excavations carried out in Sorrento and in the Sorrento Peninsula, including vases and furnishings from the 9th- to the 6th-century B.C., Roman marbles, and sarcophagi. We spent about an hour exploring the various rooms and exhibits,
while admiring the architecture of the villa itself; the grand stairways alone are quite impressive.
Before we toured the museum, we had walked through the gardens in back of the villa, where 100-year-old trees and other shrubbery frame a footpath surrounded by lemon and orange tree groves that constituted the predominant aspect of Villa Correale when it was built. The walking path eventually reaches a terrace with panoramic views over the Bay of Naples; however, as it had started to drizzle at this point, we did not reach the terrace.
By this time it was 12:30, so we headed for the restaurant recommended by Francesco, Il Convivio, just a few minutes away by foot. We were welcomed by the chef/owner, Carmine D'Aniello, and then seated at a table in the very comfortable dining room, which we had all to ourselves. Francesco and Carmine have known each other for almost 28 years, so when Francesco raved about the food here, we knew we would not be disappointed. As it turned out, we would savor the best Italian cuisine either of us had ever tasted!
We placed ourselves in the capable hands of the chef, who proceeded to present
us with a sampling of four authentic Italian dishes: antipasto (with grilled zucchini and other vegetables); squid with buttered potatoes; eggplant parmesan; and then freshly-made pasta with clams and mussels. Each beautifully-presented dish exploded with flavor---Dee even liked the squid, minus the "sucker cups"_ :-)_. We also enjoyed a bottle of the house red wine, which is bottled by a local vintner for the restaurant.
Following the meal, the chef brought us a complimentary plate of almond cookies, baked on the premises, and shots of chilled limoncello. He chatted with us, answering Dee's many questions about how he prepares his sauce, pasta, etc. It would be difficult to imagine a more congenial host than Carmine, and it is easy to see why he has thrived in the restaurant businesses he has owned and operated in Sorrento over the last 30 years (his wife and daughter work in the restaurant as well). By the time we said our good-byes, and had exchanged hugs, we felt like part of his family!
After lunch, we walked the short distance from the restaurant to Piazza Tasso, the main square of Sorrento. The weather had turned damp and chilly by this time, and
the piazza did not have the vitality we'd experienced on our previous visit (late-April, 2016), but we walked a bit through some of the tiny alleys and shopping streets that radiate from the square; and then revisited the Sedile Dominova, a public gathering point since the 14th-century. Many of the stores, hotels and restaurants (even the tourist information office!) appeared to be closed for the winter, since the beginning of the tourist season is still a month or more away.
Francesco met us at the piazza, and then drove us back to our apartment in Piano di Sorrento, where we arrived about 4 PM. We made plans with him, weather permitting, for a Saturday road trip to visit the Greek and Roman ruins at Paestum, located south of Salerno; the plan is for his wife and children to accompany us, so it should be a fun trip!
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