Father and son, Benito and Arturo Iaccarino know the ingredients of La Dolce Vita.

Arturo trusts coral waffles, seawater, chili pepper threads, and a large square block of ice. Slushy ice is taboo in a cocktail in southern Italy. It is not compatible with a life of pleasure, luxury and indulgence. He is a big fan of bourbon too, and, of course, Champagne.

Signor Iaccarino Senior creates his “sweet life” with yellow and red cherry tomatoes, pumpkin flowers, crispy bacon pancetta, “croccante” (crunchy) courgettes, the finest outsized Sorrento lemons, and freshly-shaven Mozzarella and Provolone del Monaco lemon cheese. To pursue a life of beauty and the best, you must know your way around a wood oven or know someone who does and knows his toppings too.

Benito has worked for fifty years at the now 550Euro+ a night B&B Hotel Mediterraneo in the south Italian coastal City of Sorrento, fifty km from Naples. Beginning as his father’s glass washer, Arturo succeeded him as bartender and mixologist at the hotel’s Ottermare and Sky Vista bars. 

Hotel Mediterraneo
Hotel Mediterraneo. Photo courtesy of Hotel Mediterraneo Sorrento

Benito now gives pizza-making lessons at the Acqua Pool, introducing guests and students to the secrets and pleasures of Neapolitan pizza. He also teaches you the art of the grinder. As well as a cheese shaver. No Dolce Vita is complete without plenty of black pepper and buffalo. His specialty is his lemon-scented Mimosa. The hotel has even named a pizza after him – the  Benito 50.

The Mediterraneo’s Sky Vista, commanding views of the Bay of Naples and Capri, must be one of the great sundowner venues of the world. There, as you sip an Arturo aperitivo, you feel the high life course through you. If you order his “Vento In Poppa” will be drinking in the wind in your sails and have a tailwind behind you. 

“I am like a Roman Emperor when I decide on my new cocktail list for the season, “ says Arturo. “I give an idea the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. The most successful of the previous season always stays on the card. Mocktails make up 50 of the list. My Acquazzurra is made with Steinbock alcohol-free sparkling, Seedlip spice 94, blue spirulina, lemon thyme, and seawater.” 

Hotel Mediterraneo room balcony
Hotel Mediterraneo room balcony. Photo courtesy of Hotel Mediterraneo Sorrento

His Oltremare (“Under the Sea) is made with DUBL Brut, Caprisius gin, Italicus, and blue spirula. His Barrier Reef with Belvedera vodka, Savoia aperitivo, elderflower syrup, cranberry juice, and aqua faba (canned legume juice). “Red Sea” is made with Annurchino apple liqueur, Aglianico local red wine, cinnamon syrup, and fresh lime.

You have to have something special to toast the special sunset from such a special place. It is so special that, for non-residents, there is a minimum cost of 150 Euros to sit on “a front-line sofa” to watch and photograph the sun drop into the Tyrrhenian sea. 

Aqua Pool Pizza Class
Aqua Pool Pizza Class at Hotel Mediterraneo. Photo courtesy of Hotel Mediterraneo Sorrento

Hotel Mediterraneo began as a two-star, however, it is now very much a five-star hotel. The staff has remained the same. It is a family hotel for the staff as well as guests. It is a happy place to be for all. It is living proof that “a haven of tranquility” and “oasis” are not clichés. Around the pool, under the palm trees, and beside the citrus grove, the only sounds are the palms rustling and the wistaria blossom gently floating down onto loungers. Even the waiter with the leaf blower disports himself elegantly and stylishly. A piped music is low-key. Later, there are DJ sets on the roof terrace, but the things that remind you where you are, are the sound of passing Vespas and the sight of menus.

Vesuvio Panoramic Restaurant dishes at Hotel Mediterraneo Sorrento
Vesuvio Panoramic Restaurant dishes at Hotel Mediterraneo Sorrento. Photo courtesy of Hotel Mediterraneo Sorrento

Giuseppe Saccon, Executive Chef of the hotel’s clifftop Vesuvio Panoramic Restaurant was born in Torre del Greco. His culinary career began in Franciacorta, after an internship at the Albereta restaurant run by Maestro Gualtiero Marchesi. And then under Enrica Crippa. He arrived at the Mediterranean in 2009.

Chef Giuseppe delivers the good life with pasta from Gragnano, Cetara anchovies, amberjack, Fratelli sautéed broccoli, and delicious “pienneo” and “datterni” baby tomatoes. His credo is a respect for culture, roots, and simplicity, demonstrated by his reinterpretation of the recipes of the owners’ grand-mother, Antoinette Lauro (“Nonna Etta”) who turned the 1912 private residence of a shipping magnate into a hotel after the Second World War. He has reinterpreted her potato dumplings, browned sea bass, and baba brioche dessert – rim or limoncello-soaked, mushroom-shaped, and inspired by the dome of  St Sofia’s Church in Constantinople.

Knowledgeable beyond her years, Nadia Siggnano is on hand to help with wine pairings such as Benito Ferrara Vigna Cicogna, Antonio Mazzellla Vigna del Lume Bianciociollella, and Feudi di San Gregorio Priilegio Passito Fuiano. You can choose between a selection of the best Campanian wine, such as Taurasi, Greco di Tufo, and Fiano di Avellino, the Volcanoes, including Lacryma Christi, grown with groe grown on Vesuvius, and Gli Scugnizzi upcoming regional wine producers and most iconic, “Mammasantissima”.  Salvatore Iaccarino (no relation) is the charming restaurant manager.

Hotel Mediterraneo rooftop
Hotel Mediterraneo rooftop. Photo courtesy of Hotel Mediterraneo Sorrento

Specializing in Arangara lemon and orange essence and Maria Galland rituals, Le Pietre (“Stone”) Spa offers “relaxing maneuvers”, an emotional shower, and an ice waterfall. La Dolce Vita is impossible with excessive sebum build-up—and bad nails.

Whether you have ordered in the bar ceviche with seared cuttlefish, the house lobster beetroot sandwich, one of Arturo’s Pure Italian G&Ts (Del Professore gin, J. Gasco tonic, and Italian botanicals), a “Ulysses Temptation” (Malfy Gin with Aperitivo Gamondi) or an American In Sorrento (Bitter Campari Carpeno Antica Formula, local Nocino nut liqueur and red vermouth, at the Mediterraneo the “Good Life” is in your grasp every moment of your stay.

Among the parquet floors, Vietri ceramics, Tyrrhenian Sea shallows blues and whites décor,  the praline chocolate spheres, the private beach accessible by elevator, and the 2220-3100 Euros a day (including a bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut Reserve Imperiale) Princess Valeri  14m private yacht at your disposal, you cannot possibly bungle La Dolce Vita or a proper pizza.

Arturo Mediterraneo with the Vento in Poppa Cocktail at hand.
Arturo Iaccarino with the Vento in Poppa Cocktail at Hotel Mediterraneo in Sorrento. Photo courtesy of Hotel Mediterraneo Sorrento

Vento In Poppa Cocktail

(“Tailwind” or “Wind In Your Sails” cocktail)

By Arturo Iaccarino | Hotel Meditarraneo Sorrento

  • 30ml Tequila Altos Plata
  • 10ml Mezcal de Maguey “Vidal”
  • 20ml Amara
  • 10ml fresh lemon juice
  • 40ml Minerva orange craft beer