Jane's Delicious Garden Blog

Eat Drink Pray

Posted in Travels by Jane Griffiths on the September 25th, 2009

Leaving Jhb airport I bought a copy of the best selling book Eat Pray Love, not realising some of it was set in Italy. I knew that many people had been raving about it and I needed a good book to read while on the road. After 24 hours of travelling via connections in Cairo we arrived in Rome. We met a couple also heading south to Naples and they offered us a lift in their hired mini. Bit of a tight squeeze but much quicker and cheaper than the train. She was Brazilian and worked for American Airlines and he was a doctor from the US. They were travelling on to Sorrento, about an hour after Naples. They were planning to eat in Naples at a restaurant famous for “the best pizzas in Italy.” We checked in our guide book and sure enough, there it was with this bold claim. And bold it is, as the best pizzas in Italy surely must be the best pizzas in the world! We had to try this spot. After bumbling around narrow, busy streets to find our hotel and check in, we found the restaurant – a tiny hole-in-the-wall place with a huge crowd outside. We took a ticket (number 73 – they were serving number 34). A couple of beers later we were in. The first surprise was the choice on the menu. They only served two pizzas! The second surprise was how delicious they were – I was expecting them to be good, but they were really really good! The secret was the locally grown Napoli tomatoes. And the locally made mozarella cheese. And the freshly made pizza dough. It was the first taste of how great the food in this region is. I remember the food in Italy being good, but southern Italy is even better. The following morning we were told that Julia Roberts had been at the very same restaurant the week before. Filming a movie. It seemed very fitting to find out she is playing the lead role in Eat Pray Love!

While telling this story to friends, I realised I had mangled the title and was referring to it as Eat Drink Pray. I have decided Eat Drink Pray is an appropriate title for the week we spent on the Amalfi Coast. My book will never sell in this region – everybody already grows their own vegetables, everywhere. In the smallest corner, on rooftops, on staggeringly steep terraces there are vegetables. The last of the summer crops are at their luscious best. So eat we did. With gusto. Not once have I had to ask a single restaurant to bring me salt, pepper, balsamic or any additional condiment. Every meal has been perfect. Even a fast food paninini from a train station in Sorrento was fresh and tasty. And from fast food to two star Michelin dining. The wedding dinner was held at Palazzo Sasso’s Rossellini restaurant – I lost count of the number of courses around seven.

Eat Drink Pray. This is the land of limoncello. A sweet, tart liqueur made from the peel of a variety of lemon only grown on this southern section of Italy. Every little shop sells its version of limoncello. And every courtyard of every home has lemon trees. They are grown up a trellised support, so the fully grown lemon tree forms a shady roof of a terrace, with lemons hanging within easy picking reach. Free tastings of limoncello are offered from many of the little breweries along the winding paths and alleyways. A shot of icy cold, fiery liqueur is one way to keep the legs moving up steep hills.

Eat Drink Pray – and pray I did. The narrow road which winds its way along the Amalfi coast is cut out of the sheer cliff face. In some sections I was looking out of the bus window, straight down to the Med, hundreds of metres below. The bus drivers, with cool mirror shades and hefty arm muscles, swing their passengers around corner after corner, hooting at oncoming cars (and other buses) to move out of their way. Sometimes there is no room for two vehicles to fit past one another and one has to reverse until there is an inch more space. We invented a game called ‘spot the car without a ding.’ On average only one car in twenty is free of scrapes, scratches, dings and dents.

We are back in Naples for a few days. We will be visiting Pompeii, Vesuvius and Capri – and will without a doubt return to the hole in the wall restaurant for more of the ‘best pizza in the world’

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