I have a weakness for lemons. Perhaps it is because we never had a lemon tree, but used to pinch them from the neighbour's tree. While I adore lemons in pots and look after mine like children (wrapped in scarves in the old chicken shed through winter), lemon trees in the ground send me into ecstasy. Imagine my daily thrill when I recently went to southern Italy, south of Sorrento in fact, and walked through lemon orchards to the sea, saw them bobbing over every fence, fraying delicately in every garden. Bliss for moi.
I took the night train down from Verona, cruised through Rome at dawn, and arrived in boisterous Naples mid-morning. Not my first time. As a young au pair I was dragged off by a rich Milanese family to their holiday home on Stromboli.. just as the story goes in Peltand Other Stories. Before catching the ferry I slept in the station with my cropped hair and knapsack: the NZ guy next to me had his wallet sliced out of his jeans.
But last month I was heading out of Naples towards Sorrento, then up to a village high above the coastline with the swish island of Capri plonked in front. Seafood was enjoyed, everybody’s favourite bitter green cima di rapa was devoured, the coffee was divine, much wine was thrown back and the company was very, very good.
Funny, it seemed that everything we ate or were offered was to be washed down with the local drop limoncello, which you may or may not have tried. Imagine a smooth lemon juice going down like a sweet sunkissed syrup. It perks you up quick smart. I can’t believe I gave my bottles away and will face the hot summer without them! It seemed there was a lemony idea for every moment of the day: fresh lemon juice for breakfast, tangy lemon biscuits; and lemon drizzled over your squid, your octopus and your grilled fish thanks.
And of course limoncello at any hour...
Every morning skeins of cloud would fade away to reveal Capri on her silver platter of sea. Most of the time I was dumbfounded. I confess I didn’t manage to go there, preferring a lazy day on the beach and not so keen to mingle with the tourists. Lots of big pebbles and a long walk. It wasn’t even warm, but this Australian decided to have her first Mediterranean swim of the season. Picture this skinny writer in a borrowed costume working up her strokes out to the moored boats – and half-dying of hypothermia afterwards. Limoncello required.
|I wanna go back!|
We also savoured Sorrento from her most marvellous vantage point. The bar on the jetty under the cliff. Far away from the tourist throng. Close to the lapping of the water. Seafood to die for. An afternoon I didn’t want to end. I would do almost anything to be back there..
Lastly, for all you lemon-lovers out there, this is from Pablo Neruda's A Lemon. It is sublime.
So, while the hand
holds the cut of the lemon,
half a world
on a trencher,
the gold of the universe
to your touch:
a cup yellow
a breast and a nipple
perfuming the earth;
a flashing made fruitage,
the diminutive fire of a planet.