Dining in Italy can take hours. You spend the time laughing and lingering amid course after course amongst friends.
If you’re like me, you never want the meal in Italy to end. But when it finally does, it does most wonderfully, with a digestivo, which in Italy is a small sipping glass of alcohol to help aid with digestion.
Mealtimes are likely to end with limoncello in Italy. So let’s explore what limoncello is and why you should try some on your next visit to Italy.
What is Limoncello?
Limoncello is a sweet, zesty lemon liqueur that is very popular in Italy.
The beverage appears bright yellow and cloudy due to the rinds and oils from the lemon.
Although its origin extends from the Sorrento peninsula, limoncello is enjoyed all over Italy.
Some History of Limoncello in Italy
The origins of limoncello are said to have come from an Italian woman, Maria Antonia Farache. She lived on the island of Capri and at the turn of the 20th century, created the liqueur using the abundance from her beautiful citrus garden.
It became pretty popular and well-known locally. It soon became the family business as her grandson opened a restaurant featuring limoncello.
Subsequently, her great-grandson eventually filed for trademark protection, but not until the 1980s.
Of course, there are other claims as to where limoncello in Italy first appeared but this is the widely accepted one.
Making Limoncello in Italy
Limoncello is primarily made in Sorrento, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast.
Although technically limoncello can be made anywhere there are lemons, authentic limoncello needs to be made with the big oval Sorrento lemons the region is known for.
More than half of the Sorrento lemons harvested in Italy are used in the production of Limoncello. They are harvested by hand, never being allowed to touch the ground.
It is the thick, spongey rind that is especially precious in the production of the liqueur. No other part of the lemon is used for this.
Care is taken to ensure no white pith or juice is added.
These components are used to produce other products but never traditional limoncello.
Limoncello is typically made in small batches. The process can take up to about 90 days.
The rinds of the Sorrento lemons are soaked in pure grain alcohol for up to 60 days.
After this, a simple syrup of water and sugar is added to create the final product.
The liqueur stores about 30% alcohol content.
The finished liquid appears bright yellow and cloudy due to the rinds and oils from the lemon. It becomes an intense, tart, slightly sweetened beverage.
How to drink Limoncello
Limoncello is served very cold and often in an iced glass garnished with a lemon peel.
Although it looks like a shot, it is meant to be sipped and savored.
While it can be mixed with other ingredients to make other cocktails, it is best consumed in its pure state.
By mixing it with other ingredients you would miss breathing in the citrusy aroma that is as much a part of the pleasure as the tasting.
It can be paired with food it is mostly drunk afterward as it is considered to aid with digestion.
Where to taste Limoncello in Italy
You may have tasted bottled limoncello before traveling to Italy. If you have, be prepared for a whole new experience.
Not quite as sweet and minus the preservatives, tasting fresh limoncello in Italy is a completely different ball of wax.
Many Italian families along the Sorrento Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast have their own family recipes. As a visitor to a local home, you can expect (hope for!) your meal to end with limoncello in Italy.
A restaurant in Sorrento or any part of the region often will offer a complimentary glass after dining. It is a welcome treat when concluding a leisurely lunch or dinner.
When visiting any part of Italy you will find that limoncello is readily available when requested. It is a favorite drink all over the country.
The Best Limoncello in Italy
The best limoncello in Italy is any homemade batch that comes out of your grandmother’s kitchen.
But of course, if that is not an option there are other ways to get your hand’s on some delicious limoncello.
As you stroll the streets of Sorrento, Capri, or Positano you will see lemons all around you. On trees, on carts, and on shelf displays. They are oval like a football and almost as large.
Lemon decor and souvenirs are everywhere a tourist might wander.
If you are looking to buy Limoncello while visiting the Sorrento Peninsula in Italy you will see bottles of every shape and size in shops. They make for a great souvenir from the Amalfi Coast. Any food souvenir from Italy is a great choice.
Look at the labels or ask the shop owner for limoncello given the I.G.P. certification. This means it was produced in a geographically protected area and therefore the authentic Ovale di Sorrento lemon you are looking for.
The bottles can be as eye-catching and decorative as the limoncello is delicious.
Touring a citrus grove or visiting a local producer is fun and interesting and will usually provide an opportunity to purchase their product.
Desserts made with Limoncello
If drinking limoncello on its own wasn’t enough, you will have the chance to indulge in some pretty awesome lemony treats as well.
All kinds of pastries and cakes can be found made with the tart lemons and citrusy zest of limoncello.
Gracing the display cases of many restaurants and shops are artistic and yummy desserts. Don’t miss out on these lovely sweets and Italian cakes.
Now that you know of this intensely flavorful liqueur you have something new to add to your “must-try” list of culinary delights when visiting Italy.
Remember, It is not difficult to find limoncello in Italy but sipping it along the Sorrento peninsula will be an unforgettable experience. Consider it the perfect way to end every Italian meal.
For more helpful tips when visiting Italy check out this article.
Is this your first time traveling abroad? Check out this guide for first-time international travelers.
Italian Sorrento Lemons. https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/Italian_Sorrento_Lemons_4780.php. Accessed 20 Dec. 2022.
“Limoncello.” Wikipedia, 13 Dec. 2022. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Limoncello&oldid=1127262503.