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Allegrini 2018
WINE AND FOOD LIBRARY

Southern Italy seen through the eyes of a child, Robert V. Camuto, today a famous wine writer

“South of Somewhere: Wine, Food, and the Soul of Italy” is a journey into Southern Italy, starting from Vico Equense, his mother’s city of origin

In 1968, the ten-year-old child, Robert, came from America and “tasted” Italian life for the first time. He spent the summer in Vico Equense, the city of origin of his mother’s family, surrounded by relatives at the seaside family restaurant and falling forever in love with the way of life, the rhythms, the flavors and the aromas of Southern Italy. Fifty years later, he returned to find his family. The restaurant of his childhood is no longer there and Vico has changed a lot, mainly because of its famous beaches, and the upsurge of hotels and restaurants that attract more and more foreign tourists. However, taking a deeper look, the adult Robert, today one of the most famous wine writers in the world, realized that the beauty, good food, family ties and simplicity, and the spirit of the place has not changed and that he can still live the lifestyle of the past there. This is the autobiographical story that Robert V. Camuto, Italian editor of “Wine Spectator”, has narrated in his latest book, “South of Somewhere: Wine, Food, and the Soul of Italy”. It is a travel story in and around the topmost wine territories in Southern Italy beginning and ending in Vico Equense, the city of the American writer’s maternal grandmother, a small “Paradise on Earth” in the Sorrentine Peninsula.
For that matter, it is the ability to bring back a memory and also to keep a memory that makes us love wine so much. “Absolutely, yes”, Camuto told WineNews. “I have a lot of memories of the first time I went to Vico Equense with my grandmother, which include also the aromas and flavors of Southern Italy and the Mediterranean. So, today when I taste a wine from those territories, I can taste the scents of the sea and the flavors of the coast, and also my memories”. These territories, according to the wine writer, “are experiencing a good period. The “Renaissance” of Italian wine began in the North, 35 years ago, and slowly arrived in the South. Today, good wines can be produced in many territories, but excellent grapes have been grown in southern Italy since ancient times. Recent generations have managed to make the terroir and all their quality express the best in their wines. No other territory has an incredible variety of tastes and aromas like Southern Italy. It is “magic” found in the glass”.
Today, Vico Equense is also the “epicenter” of haute cuisine and products of the Campania region, thanks to starred chefs such as Gennarino Esposito and his restaurant Torre del Saracino, who shares the roots, together with the author, in the “pearl” of the Sorrento Peninsula, but there is more. His family is linked, through the restaurant, when he was a child, to that of Vittoria Aiello, a great chef and pastry chef, daughter of art, and the “other half” of Torre del Saracino.
The author wrote about the spirit of the area (and dedicated an article in the prestigious US magazine, “Wine Spectator”, during the lockdown, to the situation of our country hit by the Covid-19 emergency, “Italian life in a Dark Hour”, that is, “an entire country closed due to the pandemic. What do you need to get through it? Strong nerves, and perhaps an excellent glass of wine...” inviting you to drink wine and consume Italian products, ed.), which is found in a series of “portraits” far from the objective descriptions that too often characterize the world of wine. Therefore, Campania has become the starting point in the book to narrate the richness of viticulture in Southern Italy, from Punta dello Stivale in Calabria to Etna, the earthquake-hit territories from Abruzzi to Apulia, Umbria “of the Popes”, ancient Rome, the Amalfi Coast and Vulture, in Basilicata. The myriad of portraits in the book (University of Nebraska Press editions, October 1, 2021, 280 pages, in English, cover price US$ 24.95) then become one: that is, Southern Italy, land of great wines and fascinating territories, ancient and exceptional raw materials, and incredibly beautiful places, which, despite its “evils” and its contradictions, retains all its charm, even as seen from the eyes of a child.
“It is important to know how to tell and communicate all this”, explained Camuto, “but you also need the right people at the right time to do it. For instance, that is what happened in Etna, at the beginning of the 2000s, the presence and know-how of Sicilian producers that arrived from other territories in Italy as well as in Europe, were concentrated there and managed to create a very powerful image of the territory that brought it to the forefront. This is also happening in other Italian territories, such as Vulture, Abruzzi and Campania. It takes time, you have to narrate and communicate, and make sure that people come to visit these places and touch our stories first-hand”.

The author will present his book on 10 October 10, 2021, at the Rizzoli Bookstore in New York, which will also host, Camuto concluded, “the first of a series of dinners, accompanied by dream wines”.

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