The Magic of Abruzzo Blog
"We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us." Anonymous
"We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us." Anonymous
Ours is such a unique region in Italy and in homage to this fact, Domenico has rounded up his favorite ‘Only in Abruzzo’ experiences.
1. Zip-Line through a huge gorge in the Majella National Park in full view of “one of the world's most beautiful villages in Italy - Pacentro”.
2. Explore nature and beautiful landscapes while hiking the wild canyons of Monte Morrone – the sacred mountain of the hermitage of Celestine V – the mountain enchanted by legends of fairies and witches.
3. Watch the sunset, feel the sea breeze and dine on a seafood feast in a traditional fisherman’s trabocchi on the Adriatic Sea.
4. Do sundowners in the Castel De Sanctis castle overlooking Roccacasale and the Peligna Valley.
5. Marvel at the Roman ruins in the town of Corfinio (the first capital of Italy) and browse its museum where you can see the first coin minted with the word Italia on it.
6. Dine at a traditional shepherd’s table – with true farm to table service.
7. Kayak or canoe on the crystal clear waters of the Tirino River then stop for a fresh grilled trout lunch.
8. Hunt for Truffles with the dogs as they joyfully run around in an oak tree grove sniffing for their precious treat.
"Margaret emailed us beforehand to see what we were interested in, coming up with a suggested but flexible itinerary for everyone - much appreciated. We enjoyed intriguing castles, churches and unspoilt villages in the mountains, kayaking, paddle boating, swimming in the river/local pool, picnicking, festivals, winery, sugared almond factory, markets, relaxing and of course eating, drinking and talking - we quickly learnt that wherever we went, someone would stop and chat with Margaret or Domenico. But the highlight had to be meeting their family and friends and cooking with them (and my hubby getting down and dirty with an apron in the kitchen - a sight never before seen)." Lisa L. an Australian living in Qatar
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Easter in Abruzzo is a special time of year. It runs a close second to Christmas in terms of importance.
Solemn religious processions are held in Italian cities and towns on the Friday or Saturday before Easter. Parade participants are often dressed in traditional ancient hooded costumes, and olive branches are often used along with palm fronds in the processions and to decorate churches. The procession starts at the church with participants carrying the statue of Jesus swaying rhythmically to solemn funeral music and a sort of crying type singing in Latin. These processions are used to remember Jesus' life through the stations of the cross.
The oldest Good Friday procession in Italy is in Chieti right here in Abruzzo. The procession, with Secchi's Miserere played by 100 violins, is very moving.
Sulmona (a small town near us) celebrates Easter Sunday with La Madonna Che Scappa in Piazza. On Easter Sunday people dress in green and white, colors of peace, hope, and resurrection, and gather in Piazza Garibaldi. The statue of the Virgin Mary is dressed in black. As she moves toward the fountain (carried by citizens in green), doves are released and the statue is suddenly dressed in green. Music and feasting follow.
Italian children wake up on Easter morning to a boiled egg and sweet bread breakfast then it's off to church in a specially chosen elegant dress. After church, they attend the village parade (procession) and spend the day with their families. After a big lunch, the children are presented with their Easter treat. In years gone by, their grandparents or parents would give them a sweet cookie treat (made by hand) called Cavallo (horse) for the boys and Pupa (doll) for the girls. It looks like a sugar cookie in the shape of a horse or a doll, decorated with colored icing with an egg in the middle Nowadays, many children are given a commercially produced hollow chocolate eggs with a prize inside.
Traditional Easter lunch across Abruzzo includes timballo, (an Abruzzi lasagna made with white sauce, ground beef, artichokes, and zucchini), slowly cooked lamb or goat with artichokes and a special Easter bread called 'Pizza di Pasqua' and for dessert - Colomba, a dove-shaped sweet bread. 'Faidoni' is another sweet cookie made and shaped by hand that would be served to visitors during Easter week.
Easter Monday is a public holiday throughout Italy so most families set out on a family hike up to the nearest mountain and then sit down for a (hopefully) sunny afternoon picnic consisting of arrosticini or sausage on the grill, cheese, and Pizza di Pasqua. Some cities hold dances, free concerts, or unusual games, often involving eggs. There is always a band in the piazza and of course, wine.
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I've been in Italy for almost 10 Christmas seasons now and enjoying them more and more.
The holiday season doesn't start until just before Christmas day, though decorating the house can start after Dec. 8th (the Immaculate Conception) and lasts until the Epiphany which is Jan 6th, hence ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. The Epiphany is celebrated on the 12th day of Christmas. It is the time when Christians remember the visit of the three wise kings. In Italy, the Epiphany is also when the children wait for “La Befana” (a kind of good witch) to drop off sweets, chocolate to the well-behaved children, or a lump of coal for those who have been naughty.
There are no huge displays of outdoor decorations or lights on houses or reindeer in the yard in Abruzzo. There’s no Santa or elves or snowmen. There is the birth of Jesus which is what it’s all about. Italians get excited about going out to see the different nativity scenes. People take great pride in crafting the perfect nativity either in their homes, churches or even in the piazza. There are contests in many towns to see ‘who has the most beautiful nativity scene’
December 24th and 25th is a time to stay at home or visit family and eat! Christmas Eve is celebrated with a feast of seven fishes where some type of fish is served at each course and then everyone attends midnight mass.
On Christmas Day, family and friends gather for a large lunch that usually goes on all day, serving up traditional dishes like pasta in brodo (pasta in broth), timballo (a type of meatless lasagna) grilled meats and traditional desserts. After lunch, it’s time to brindare (make a toast) with a glass of spumante, have a slice of panettone and play tombola (a game similar to bingo played with small amounts of money). Then the eating starts all over again with dinner.
Presents are not important except for small gifts for the children. Gifts for adults come from the heart and are made by hand such as homemade jams, sausages, cakes and cookies.
Christmas markets and the merry bagpipers are common to see in the local piazza, where you can enjoy roasted chestnuts and mulled wine and watch the various renditions of a live nativity or an outdoor type theatre that reenacts the story of Christ’s birth. In Pratola (Domenico’s home town), there is a contest in the village square to see who can bake the best Cecio Ripieno (a sweet chickpea and chocolate dessert).
I love the Christmas season here, but I do miss the American way of celebrating too. I try to add a little of what I'm used to such as decorating the house and hanging stockings with Michael Buble’s ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ playing in the background but I think Domenico thinks I've gone mad with all the stuff so I've narrowed it down to the essentials: a holiday tree, some garland and a few jingling bells. We bake cookies, both American and Italian with friends and I usually try to do some sort of holiday craft (last year it was wreaths made from our vines right out of the vineyard).
I miss my side of the family but I don’t miss the hectic running out to the store to find the perfect gift usually spending way too much time and money, especially when we start in October!
If you are looking for that simple, authentic Italian Christmas - consider booking with La Rocca Mia House B&B in Roccacasale, Italy and we will show you how the locals do Natale!
Book now for Christmas 2020! Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you ever heard of the Slow Food Movement?
Slow Food began in Italy with the founding of - Arcigola in 1986 as a consequence of the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Hence the name Slow Food instead of fast food. In 1989, the founding manifesto of the international Slow Food movement was signed in Paris, France by delegates from 15 countries. The Arcigola has now expanded to include over 100,000 members with branches in over 150 countries.
Slow Food is an international organization with local chapters all over the world. Check out slowfood.com to see if there is a chapter in your area! The aim of this non-profit organization is to promote local foods, traditional cooking and especially food production. This means an opposition to fast food, industrial food production and the sharing of agricultural and production practices across borders.
You also may know the term ‘Farm to Table’. Farm to Table is a phrase that can mean different things to different people depending on the area. At its heart, Farm to Table means that the food on the table came directly from a specific farm, most likely is organic, without going through a store, market, or distributor along the way.
In Abruzzo there are numerous Farm to Table restaurants. Our favorite of all time is Sapori Di Campagna (Country Flavors) in the hillside of Ofena.
There is also a tourist railway journey that connects a local village here in Abruzzo, Sulmona to Isernia, which is located in the adjacent region of Molise. This journey is named the Transiberiana d’ Italia. It crosses the Appenines, exposing the vivid and remote scenery of the region. There are various themed journeys one of which is the Slow Food train.
The Slow Food trip begins at 9am departing from the Sulmona Station. There are five station stops along the way. At each stop, there is a tasting of various artisan products such as cheese from cow, goat or sheep milk, flavored honey, traditional homemade salami, peperoni dolci - sweet peppers, truffles, artisanal beer, porchetta - slow roasted pork freshly seasoned, wines of the Peligna Valley, genziana - a locally made bitter liqueur from the gentiana root (Domenico’s favorite) and various local sweet treats.
If you are planning a trip to visit us here in the beautiful Abruzzo region, check with us and we will schedule an amazing journey for you. Each train ride is different, and station stops vary according to the theme. A sampling of the various themed train journeys include: artisan beer, local wine, or Christmas to name just a few.
Every year during the first weekend of August the antique cantine (wine cellars) of Pratola Peligna open their doors for the local community to taste their wines. This event is now in its fourteenth season.
The town comes alive during this weekend-long event. To start the evening, you buy your glass and its carrier along with tickets or a bracelet that shows that you’ve paid to visit all the wineries. You are given a map so that you can explore on your own or a local experienced wine guide will accompany you to explain the wines and the cantine to you.
You will be guided through the town by painted footprints, candlelight, painted arrows or whatever the group has in store for us this year. Each cantina will serve their wine (either white, red or both) and will always give some sort of food at each stop (because Italians never drink wine without some sort of food).
At the end of your tour, a local band will play into the night in the piazza with dancing and socializing with the community. Artists will often display their work inside their chosen cantina.
14 local and regional producers: Cascina del Colle, Tenuta Oderisio, Bosco, Azienda Agricola Tocco, Marchesi de Cordano, Cantina Blancodini, Di Bacco, Margiotta, Bove, Pietrantonj, Valpeligna, Jasci and Marchesani, Legonziano heirs and Piquini Wines participate, along with a little art, music, and culture.
Come to taste the regions most popular wines such as the Montepulciano, Trebbiano and Pecorino wines as well as the Cerasuolo and Passerina varieties.
About the author
This blog is curated by Margaret Gigliotti, B&B owner, teacher, explorer, wine drinker and creative writer.
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