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The Story of Sorrento's Famed Citrus

21 July 2022
by Giadzy
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Naples is known for its pizza, Rome is known for its pasta, and Sorrento is known for some of the best citrus in the world.

Situated on the bay of Naples is a stunning little seaside town perched on the mountainside: Sorrento. Located on the northern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula, Sorrento has a view of Naples, Mount Vesuvius and the island of Capri—and that view will often be framed by giant citrus fruits.



Citrus, particularly lemons, are an iconic symbol of Sorrento. These fruits boast a thick and aromatic peel (perfect for infusing into liquor, olive oil, and beyond) and unbeatable flavor. The outskirts of the town are characterized by lemon groves climbing precariously on steep cliffs, and when the season is right, you'll see the cliffs decorated with bright yellow and orange dots and the unmistakable perfume of citrus in the air. 



While the steep bluffs of the oceanside cliffs might not seem like the most suitable location for growing citrus, it's all about the climate, the fertile soil, and unique farming system. 


Growing Citrus In Sorrento

With year-long temperate weather that rarely ever dips below 30 degrees F, plentiful sun and coastal breeze, it's a prime location for some of the best citrus in the world. The only issue? Nearly vertical cliffsides, making farming operations originally very difficult. 

The solution was to build terraces that follow the grooves of the mountain's natural contours, each with a plateau of the region's fertile soil. While the region originally grew all kinds of crops for sustenance purposes, by the 18th century, lemons were already in international demand. Farmers began replacing less profitable crops with citrus, which meant they had to come up with some new farming techniques. Enter the Sorrentine Pergolato.

 The Sorrentine Pergolato is a canopy structure traditionally made from the wood of the ever-present chestnut tree. These ubiquitous trellis systems supports the trees, protects them from high winds and cold snaps, and has become a popular sight for visitors.

Sorrento Lemons

The Sorrento Lemon

The Sorrento lemon is so prized, it has been given IGP designation. This means that the lemons grown in this exact region are so distinct, no other lemon grown in another location can be called a Sorrento lemon.


There are quite a few varietals and names of these lemons within Sorrento: the Femminello, Ovale di Sorrento, Limone di Sorrento and Massese Limone di Massa Lubrense among others. These lemons are slightly different than the ones grown on the Amalfi Coaston first glance, they are rounder in shape and less egg-shaped than Amalfi lemons. However, both are incredibly fragrant, sweet, and aromatic, and the thick peels are full of essential oils. 

That incredibly flavorful peel is why these lemons lend themselves to the regional specialty, limoncello, and infused oils like Gargiulo's Sorrento Lemon Oil.

Orange Trees In Sorrento

The Sorrento Orange

The Sorrento Orange might not be as famed of a symbol as the Sorrento Lemon, but it's equally deserving of attention.  



These oranges are the result of two different varieties of orange trees: the Biondo Sorrentino and Biondo Equense. Like the lemons of this region, they are characterized by thick and aromatic peels that are perfect for infusing oils (such as this one!) and candying. The flavor of the orange itself is very sweet, slightly sour, and incredibly juicy. The oranges are often used for jams and desserts, but it's just as perfect squeezed straight into a glass.


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