After an exceptional week in Rome, my mother, daughters and I headed for Naples to join our tour group on the inaugural year of Vegano Italiano Festival. Jumping into their 2nd week’s tour slot coupled us with guest hosts, the effervescent Carolyn Scott-Hamilton and the unassuming Dr Ruby Lathon.
The majority of our travel mates don’t follow a full plant-based way of eating (yet on this tour they chose to). Some were family of guest hosts, others simply looking for a healthy, fun way to experience the south of Italy. For us, we wanted to experience community, southern Italy and enjoy local seasonal foods.
That we did!
Day 1: We based ourselves at Villa La Ginestra in Cilento for the entire week, taking day trips in and around the area. The National Park of Cilento is an UNESCO site. (meaning it’s marked as special cultural or physical significance by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.) The area is known for their harvests of olives, chestnuts and vineyards. A glorious environment!
Day 2: This was one of our favourite days of the tour – for two reasons; water & food! Plunging ourselves, (well my daughters were brave enough to dive in) into the very cold river water of nearby town Felitto, was invigorating and the valley so peaceful.
We were also relieved from the day’s blazing heat as we refreshed ourselves on the chilled water and wine offered at a local farm-house lunch. The meal was, by far, my favourite lunch of the week! Kudos to L’Occhiano for catering to variety in texture, taste, presentation and produce!
Then off to eat the best potato chips I’ve ever tasted! I can barely believe I’m raving about potato chips. These particular red potatoes apparently only grow at a very high altitude, so they’re highly prized and know locally as “la patata rossa di montagna” (red potato of the mountains).
For supper we enjoyed the best dinner of the whole tour – made by us! Yes, along with our guest hosts we put together the juiciest seasonal fruits and veggies southern Italy had to offer. It was unanimous – we all craved more of these, mostly raw, flavoursome fresh foods on our dinner plates!
Off to the Cilento coastline for a trip to the Palinuro caves where we got to marvel at incredibly translucent and the bluest of water. (apparently created by light from underwater caves.)
After a welcomed sea water swim, a plate of risotto and chilled white wine, we piled into the bus for the trip back to our villa. Not before stopping off at a winery for some white wine from Cantine Barone, (sadly, white wine was in short supply during our villa stay).
Day 5: We began our day visiting one particular town, one of about 80 villages in Cilento, to tour the charming Castle of Roccadaspide and ended our day with the best in-villa catered meal.
While the villa’s in-house catering was underwhelming for the best part, this lovely pizza evening was an exception. Skilfully prepared in their outdoor pizza oven, we got to enjoy about 6 varieties of toppings, the calzone, which incidentally originates in Naples, was outstanding! Dr Rudy Lathon also made us each a slice of raw pizza, gluten-free and delicious!
A tough choice though as we had 3 options, either stay in the town of Sorrento, or ferry it to the Island of Capri or Positano. We hit a heat wave taking it to 42 °C that day, so our family’s choice to enjoy gelato (ice-cream), while popping into charming stores in the narrow paved streets of Sorrento, was a welcomed one.
That evening, back at the villa Dr Ruby demonstrated and served us a delish starter of raw zucchini pasta with marinara sauce. We ended the evening on a high as an enthusiastic group of local vocalists sang cultural lyrical stories.
Day 7: The south of Italy is pretty synonymous with the story of Pompeii. With good reason. This ancient city, and its tragic volcanic demise, some 2000 years ago, is chillingly captivating. What a great tour we had, with another knowledgable guide, answering all our varied questions.
That evening Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, The Healthy Voyager, did a splendid demo on making potato gnocchi – yum! Then we each got to have a go at rolling all sorts of pasta, what fun!
Goodbyes and hugs: We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on this tour. In big part due to sharing our week with such super travel buddies! Thank you to each and everyone for your kindness and for showing my daughters, especially, how community spirit and compassion can enhance our world!