Before you could swim to the edge of the Amalfi cliffs in the infinity pool, Hotel Santa Rosa was a convent where a nun quietly invented one of Italy's most beloved pastries.
Many of Italy's iconic pastries originated in medieval convents. Nuns would rise early and bake my candlelight, ready for the early morning customers who would purchase them hot from the oven and passed through a grilled window. Some time around the year 1700, a sister at the Santa Rosa convent in Conca dei Marini mixed together some flour and ricotta cheese and shaped it to resemble a monks hood as it would fall against his back.
The recipe for the Santa Rosa convent's signature sfogliatelle pastry may have been passed beyond the walls of the cloister by a nun to her nephew. Sfogliatelle later appeared in the the fashionable pastry shops of the Via Toledo in Naples. The shape was simply inverted to resemble a seashell, a popular design motif for Rococo Naples which was then the densest and most sophisticated capital in Europe.
Sfogliatelle can be found in Italian bakeries worldwide, but the Santa Rosa version, with a dollop of cream and a black cherry, are found in two places: the annual sfogliatelle feast on August 25th in Conca dei Marini and at Andrea Pansa, a pasticceria that first opened in 1830. Situated directly next to the Norman Arab cathedral of Amalfi, this sophisticated spot for travelers is practically a museum of local pastry.