In Sorrento, Christmas is a thing of beauty.
Once the season falls behind the horizon – taking with it the energetic pace of summer along with the Amalfi devotees who make a pilgrimage to Sorrento each summer – a new stage is set.
The Christmas season in Sorrento is an enchanting fusion of Italian traditions against the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea. It's intimate and quaint, yet magnificent and very lively. Despite the winter being in full swing, this time of year feels the warmest of all.
Dotted around the town, locally handcrafted and oh-so-intricate nativity scenes, or presepi reside in churches, homes, and meeting places. The narrow, cobbled streets are proudly illuminated with festive lights and decorations inviting passers-by to enter another realm. The Christmas market, a central meeting point for old friends and family, encourages us to sing, eat, drink and dance to honour our own blessings and the year that has passed. It is something of a fairytale, which is no easy feat for a town that is so magical in the summer, too.
But perhaps, most important of all – and the very prelude to the town’s festive forces – is La Vigilia. A traditional, all-singing, all-dancing family dinner held on Christmas Eve, and a cinematic production in its own right.
This year, we turned to our own old friends in Sorrento to help us celebrate the holiday season and to hold our own La Vigilia. The Fiorentino family – who have been owners and operators of the iconic Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento since its inception in 1834 – know a thing or two about throwing a party. It seemed only natural.
In the opulent 18th century grandeur of the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, at a table brimming with Italian roses and candelabras, we celebrated with Hotel Manager Guido and his beloved wife, Ornella, Luca, who oversees the hotel’s marketing and the fabulous Signora Lidia, Guido's mother.
Each member of the family played a starring part in our La Vita è Bella holiday campaign shoot earlier this year, and we like to think that we imparted a sense of Australian Christmas. It was a day (and night) of lively laughter, lashings of lavishness, and that all-too-familiar feeling of family.
“Sorrento offers many activities for Christmas and New Year, like concerts, art exhibitions and Christmas markets. The town Christmas lights are magical and attract many people to visit and enjoy the atmosphere.”
“Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria is magically ornate, from the entrance gate till the lobby. Thousands of Christmas lights and luxury decorations coat the hotel and our garden. We celebrate starting from ‘The Immaculate Day’ on 8th December, when we turn the lights on. At the hotel, we wink at tradition: we organise the La Vigilia dinner of the 24th, and a lunch of the 25th both of which are abuzz with musical performances. On New Year’s Eve, the Excelsior Vittoria traditionally throws a themed Gala dinner, combining innovative culinary proposals with the tradition.”
“Santa Claus comes to offer presents and surprises to our guests on Christmas Eve. Our chef proposes a selection of season traditional Neapolitan desserts, like zeppole and struffoli.”
“Our favourite dish is Linguine alle vongole on the 24th night!”