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 has been 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 “South-ness.” 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, anti-mafia forces and corruption, hope for the future and fatalism–in a land that remains an infinite source of fascination and sensory pleasure.