AGRICULTURE

This is one of the few areas in Italy, where in such a relatively small corner of land, agriculture provides not only a setting for its natural beauty, but also a range of high-quality products such as lemons, oil and cheese, all acknowledged for their excellence at both national and European levels.

The layout of the land, the climatic and environmental conditions as well as the traditional methods of cultivation have all contributed to the creation of extensive terraces of lemon groves along the slopes rising from the sea.  

The species grown here can only be found in this area and the groves are protected from cold winds, hail and possible low winter temperatures by the characteristic straw pagliarelle which are placed over the trellises (pergolati) during the colder months from November to March. The trellises are made out of chestnut stakes obtained from local woods.  

The Massese lemon (Femminello sorrentino) differs from the Amalfi Coast lemon (Sfusato amalfitano) in that it has a thinner peel and a stronger aroma. Lemons were already being exported both to the U.S.A. and to the U.K. in the 19th century, used for their high content of vitamin C.

Nowadays, they are utilised not only for health and culinary purposes, but also as the main ingredient of limoncello, a lemon liqueur obtained from an infusion of lemon peel, to be found at all the best tables in the world. Other liqueurs are also produced using typical aromatic Mediterranean plants such as myrtle, fennel, carob and bay.

Moving away from the coast and up the sun-facing hills you can find vineyards supplying excellent red and white wines to accompany the typical dishes of this area. Chestnut trees providing the wood for the stakes and listels of the trellises and pagliarelle cover the shadier slopes.

In the higher areas where the soil is less fertile, olive trees abound; these may always have grown there, as their age testifies. There is also mention of sacrifices having been made in Greek times to the Goddess Minerva using local oil.

The oil produced here has a characteristic taste and aroma which distinguish it and give it its high market value. The European Community recognises this product as D.O.P. (Denomination of Protected Origin) thanks to its unique qualities.

Lastly, using milk taken from locally reared cows, small dairies produce two types of cheese which are also included in the European Community’s list of protected products and which are in great demand at Neapolitan meals: the treccia (fresh spun cheese in the form of a plaited ring) and the caciocavallo (a semi-mature pear-shaped cheese with a small head). Its name derives from the fact that the cheeses (caci) are tied in pairs by their heads and placed to mature astride (a cavallo) a pole; thus cacio a cavallo or “cheese astride”.

Apart from these commercially important products, visitors will be able to see how each rural home has its own small garden growing quality tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, beans etc. These vegetables are not only for family consumption, but also provide the traditional dishes which have made many local restaurants famous.