Spacious, immaculately maintained and wonderfully practical, the Grand Hotel La Favorita is a hostelry I like very much indeed. Notice my deliberate use of the word ‘practical’. Practicality is a characteristic too many hotels neglect nowadays, and the result of such neglect is a plague of hostelries which look wonderful in glossy magazines but are hard put to offer their guests a comfortable chair or a useable bath tub. There is none of this nonsense at La Favorita – thank goodness. But do not think it lacks aesthetic appeal, for within this palace of sparkling white, located in the historical heart of beautiful Sorrento, you will find an abundance of pretty things.
Sorrento is very popular with the British for weddings. This is understandable, for – despite our reputation – we are a deeply romantic nation. And Sorrento is the place for romance. Viewed from Sorrento, the red sunset over the island of Ischia is one of the most gorgeous sights in the Mediterranean. It must always have been thus, which helps to explain why those lovers of beauty, the Romans – or, at least, their rulers – sought consolation in this part of Italy. They needed to be consoled, for Roman emperors did not always enjoy long and happy retirements. Augustus, for example, was sent into exile, and lived for a time in a villa overlooking the sea on what we now call the Amalfi Coast. Upon that villa’s foundations in Sorrento, in the middle of the 18th Century, the Earls of Mastrobuono decided to build a holiday home for themselves. In 1820 this was turned into a place in which travellers could lodge. And now it is a luxury hotel, the Bellevue Syrene. The clue is in the name, for it does, indeed, enjoy a ‘vue’ which is remarkably ‘belle’.
There are some restaurants to which I really look forward. They are not always particularly grand, but they do always offer me two things: good food and the joy of living. Let us call the second by its French name, joie de vivre. One of these restaurants is in Sorrento. It is famous, not only because I like it, but also because in this place, over a century ago, cannelloni was invented. Then it was called strascinati. Now we call it cannelloni, and we love it. And in the restaurant in which it was invented they serve the best version you are likely to find this side of the Pearly Gates. The exact recipe is a secret, but it is no secret that it includes wonderfully soft pasta, fine beef, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese. The dish is a joy to behold and a joy to eat. And, since joy and the Christian religion are supposed to go hand in hand, let us be content that this dining room is called the Restaurant of the Parish Priest.
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See also Dining in France & American Farm to Table