The Sorrento blonde orange (Citrus × sinensis), or arancia bionda sorrentina, is one of the traditional fruits of the Sorrento peninsula, having been cultivated there since about 1300. Citrus farming has traditionally been an important source of income in Sorrento; in the past, much of the citrus harvest went to important European markets. Over the centuries, many farmers have abandoned the Sorrento blonde orange in favor of other citrus varieties, including lemons.
The Sorrento blonde orange is cultivated using pergolas, wooden scaffolding typically made from chestnut wood from Cilento. The orange trees grow below these structures, which are 7 meters tall, covered with straw mats, and flanked by nets and windbreaks. The pergolas protect the orange groves in the Sorrento peninsula from both wind and cold and delay the ripening of the fruits. The harvest begins in May and lasts until the beginning of August.
The Sorrento blonde orange is large and has fairly thick skin, numerous seeds, and very juicy pulp. The juice of this orange has been sold for centuries as a drink at typical Neapolitan waterfront kiosks. The maceration of the Sorrento blonde orange yields a richly aromatic syrup. The oranges are used to make candied fruit and follovielli, Sorrento’s traditional Christmas sweet of raisins and candied oranges wrapped in citrus leaves.
Until the 1950s, the Sorrento blonde orange was consistently present even in foreign markets. Sorrento blonde orange groves have declined with the growth of the tourism sector, which has absorbed both the labor and land needed for the fruit’s cultivation.