Vertical-Lemon-OrchardFirst, let me just say I was too busy eating, drinking and living la dolce vita to post from Italy. Seriously, what was I thinking! I’m back, and here’s some of what I found in late June in Campania (Amalfi Coast and Naples; I didn’t make it inland—see la dolce vita above).

Lemons. If there’s one defining fruit for this area, this is it, specifically the IGP-protected sfusato amalfitano variety. Often grown in steeply terraced orchards clinging to vertiginous cliff sides, these lemons are intensely aromatic and although acidic, are somehow subtler than our everyday Eureka and Lisbon varieties.

They show up everywhere and in everything. My husband and I especially dedicated ourselves to acquiring deep knowledge of granita di limone and limoncello, the local lemon liqueur.

And sfusati have large leaves that are perfect to use when grilling bits of mozzarella or the tiny local fish called bianchetti.

A' Paranza apps: bianchetti in lemon leaf, bandiera fish, alici tortino, tuna carpaccio, zucchini blossom filled with swordfish, potato, and smoked mozzarella

Tomatoes. Thick-skinned, intensely flavorful pomodorini vesuviani (similar to our “Juliets”), grown in the volcanic soil near Mt. Vesuvius, were abundant at the neighborhood negozio di alimentari and roadside farm stands. Tied up in great bunches as pomodori a piennolo, they are left hanging in the sun and, later, in well-ventilated attics to dry and intensify in flavor through the winter.

Pomodorini vesuviani al Piennolo

Fresh, they are used in salads, pastas (plain and with seafood) and on pizzas. For €1.50, I bought enough tomatoes to see me through several breakfasts (with 6-minute eggs) and lunches (with the most amazing local mozzarella di bufala I ever ate). As for larger and sauce tomatoes, it seemed a bit early in the season. I found both ripe and unripe (pomodoro verde) at shops, farm stands, and farmers’ markets.

Tomatoes and eggs

Zucchini and Eggplant. I’d forgotten how special everyday zucchini can be until I was reminded by the reverential treatment they get here, particularly near Nerano, between Naples and Positano. Zucchini star in luscious sauces for pasta and gnocchi (no tomatoes) and are often paired with clams.  Both female (attached to the squash) and male blossoms were available at markets for stuffing and deep frying. You can see my favorite stuffed-blossom experience in the app pic above. It’s filled with swordfish, potato, and smoked mozzarella, and I ate it at A’ Paranza, an osteria in Atrani, the smallest town in Italy.

I found multiple varieties of eggplants including my favorite, Rosa Bianca, and another similar-looking one a fellow farm-stand shopper identified as Viola.

Robust eggplant was often paired with tomatoes and smoked or plain mozzarella, as in this popular Capri combo, Pennette Aumm Aumm–small penne in “secret sauce.”

Campania Eggplant

Next up, more from Campania and also Lazio.