South of Somewhere begins and ends in American writer Robert Camuto’s maternal ancestral town of Vico Equense, Italy — a tiny paradise south of Naples on the Sorrento Peninsula.
It was here in 1968, at ten years old, that the author first tasted Italian life, spending his own summer of love surrounded by relatives at the family’s seaside pizzeria and restaurant. He fell in love with a way of living and with the rhythms, flavors, and aromas of the Southern Mediterranean.
Fifty years later, Camuto returns to Vico, connecting with family members and a new generation.
A lot has changed: the old family restaurant has been razed, and the seaside developed with hotels and restaurants, including a famous two-Michelin-starred restaurant in a medieval tower now owned by a younger cousin. Though there are more foreign visitors now, the essentials of beauty, food, family bonds, and simplicity have not changed. And here Camuto finds hope that this way of life can continue.
Camuto’s fine-grained storytelling in this series of portraits takes us beyond the usual objective views of viniculture and into the elusive and magical world of Italian “southern-ness.” South of Somewhere takes the reader on a journey through the terroirs of Southern Italy today: from the Calabrian toe of the Italian boot and Sicily’s still active Mount Etna to earthquake-shaken land of Abruzzo; from the remote lands of Campania and Puglia to Basilicata’s Mount Vulture; from the old papal territory of Umbria to Rome’s once great Lazio and back to the evocative cliffs of the Amalfi coast.
While on one level an instructive narrative about Southern Italy’s twenty-first-century wine and cultural renaissance, Camuto’s unswerving eye juxtaposes the good and the bad — immeasurable beauty and persistent blight, corruption and anti-mafia forces, hope for the future and fatalism — in a land that remains an infinite source of fascination and sensory pleasure.
“Robert Camuto’s South of Somewhere is close to my heart. Each chapter is about experiencing the joy and perseverance of incredible iconic winemakers, from Italy’s Mezzogiorno, who have preserved lesser-known native grapes through heroic efforts. In this book, Robert brilliantly brings them to life. We are so fortunate to bear witness to this living history of Italian wine today.”
“A delicious, thirst-inspiring romp full of remarkable personalities, their wine-soaked cellars, and one delectable meal after another. Camuto does it tastefully!”
“Robert Camuto’s multifaceted take on Southern Italy’s many allures is unique and fascinating in that he engages not only the gustatory and oenological pleasures of the region but also its more elusive and near-magical ‘southern-ness’.”