Incredible Edibles: Gourment To Go
Who says you can't get blood from a stone? Or capers or lemons? The rocky, sometimes unyielding terrain of the Italian islands produces some of the country's most distinctive food. We've harvested five favorites.
Elba, the arid and mountainous island made famous by Napoleon, produces many varieties of rare honey, including wild rosemary, thistle flower, and an excellent one from corbezzolo (the "strawberry tree"). It is a deep amber color with a strong and slightly bitter flavor, redolent of incense. It's great with cheese ($10; Ballini Apicoltura, Cavo; 39-0565-949836; www.ballini.com).
The opulent dessert wine Passito di Pantelleria, made on Sicily's austere volcanic island of Pantelleria, has acquired near-cult status. Made of Zibibbo grapes grown in terraces on the steep hillsides, the wine is sweetened with sun-dried Zibibbo raisins and has an explosive perfume. Two great bottles are Marco De Bartoli's Bukkuram ($40; 39-0923-962093; www.marcodebartoli.com) and Donnafugata's Ben Ryè ($35; 39-0923-724200).
Also on Pantelleria, the trailing caper bush grows wild from crannies in the dry-stone walls. In May and June the bush's tiny, tight buds are picked by hand and sprinkled with coarse sea salt from Trapani's salt flats. Rinse them well before using in salads or sauces ($6-$8; La Nicchia Bottega delle Specialità; 39-0923-912968; www.lanicchia.com).
The traditional dishes of Sardinia are accented by bottarga—the pressed and dried roe of gray mullet or tuna. A little of this pungent, salty flavor goes a long way ($85-$145 $; Smeralda; 39-0789-66201).
Usually produced by artisans in their homes, limoncello is almost always made with lemons from the Amalfi or Sorrento coasts. But limoncello from Capri is something truly special. The island produces some of the sweetest and most fragrant lemons anywhere ($10; La Capannina, Via delle Botteghe; 39-081-837-8899).
Just Opened: Precious Metals
With stores in Milan and Capri, the jewelry company Vhernier has just added another shop, on Sardinia. Look for its new Callas necklace, fashioned of ebony and diamonds, but don't miss (not that you could) the Valenza-based company's stock in trade: color, color, color. Between the links of its surprise-package bracelets and set in its oversize rings are lapis, turquoise, coral, chrysoprase, sugilite (some with layers of rock crystal)—your call. Capri: At 8A Via Camerelle; 39-081-837-7204. Sardinia: At La Passeggiata, Porto Cervo; 39-348-448-0681.
Insider Tips: A La Dolce and Gabbana
The designers' favorites on Stromboli
GO by speedboat from Napoli or Reggio Calabria, or by helicopter from Messina or Catania.
STAY at the Hotel La Sciara (39-090-986-004).
MAKE SURE TO scuba-dive around Strombolicchio.
BRING HOME handmade crocheted tablecloths and a pumice stone.
VISIT Località Piscità, a wonderful, quiet spot by the sea.
HOBNOB at La Terrazza, the chic club on the island.
• Next time you drop anchor in the Aeolians, drop into Bizarre on Lipari, an abundance of glittery goods selling great jewelry, scarves, sandals, and bags, like a sequined tote ($100). At Via Garibaldi.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than American Express.