Last year i came with Molly so she could understand why I wanted so much to organise a tour around here, one of my favourite Regions of Italy, Abruzzo.
A Region very close to my heart for so many different reasons as my Father was born here and part of his family still live in Abruzzo, fond memories of holidays and week ends where I came accustomed to the wonderful culinary tradition of this Region.
At the same time you don't hear much about Abruzzo and for all these reasons I have decided that it was time that I convinced a few people in following me to discover some of the best secrets of Abruzzo.
I am glad to say that all the people who were with me on this trip had an absolutely fantastic time and expectations were exceeded.
We arrived on Thursday 5th December at Pescara Airport on a nice clear sunny day and waiting for us was Vanessa and the bus driver and after about 45 minutes driving along the coast road called La Costa dei Trabocchi we arrived at Villaggio Miramare Resort (stunning complex of appartments overlooking the sea)in Torino di Sangro where we had our first glimpse and taste of the Abruzzo famous hospitality and food traditions "Chitarrina allo Scoglio" (Traditional thin spaghetti made with an instrument similar to a guitar) with a sumptuos fish lunch at the restaurant and where I met again with Enrico and his Father Gino.
This is an area still unspoiled and where you can have some fantastic times.
After our light lunch (3 hours) we headed towards Atessa a medieval village about 600mt above sea level at the foothills of The Majella Mountains all covered in snow and with sun setting behind it was a spectacular scenary... We stayed at the 3* Hotel Al Duca, all in all a very nice Hotel indeed.
In the evening we had dinner (rather a struggle as we were still quite full from lunch) in the hotel Restaurant but still managed to taste another traditional recipe like the "Rintrocilli alla pecorara" another traditional pasta of Abruzzo with vegetable sauce and sheep milk ricotta.
On Friday Morning we went to meet Gigino e Gemma (Enrico's in law's) who live in Scerni a little hamlet of a few houses right on one of the many of the hilltop roofs that form this rugged part of Abruzzo. During our journey were all wondering looking at how steep the fields are how on earth people work them and grow some of the most amazing produce that make Abruzzo's Culinary Traditions world wide renown.
at our arrival at Gigino and Gemma's house we straightaway got the feeling of how welcoming and comfortable they made us feel and how proud they were to show us around their farm where you could see something for the table either growing or hanging drying whether vegetables or fruit and then behind the main house the little stables where turkeys, chickens, goats, lambs and pigs were kept until the time came.
Gemma laid the table ready for the Traditional Pig Festival Breakfast with home made pizza and focaccia, the biggest olives i have ever seen from their olive trees, gerkins, spicy salame and poached and fried eggs served with the pig's liver sausage and of course homemade rose and red wine.We enjoyed the heat coming from the fireplace and the woodburning stove all listening to their stories like when Gemma told us of her Aunt who had moved to the UK who used to bring her chocolate and she went all shy and red in her face and we all laughed or the secrets of how everything was made.
We discovered the "Dispensa" (their food larder) shelves with beer bottles and jars full of homemade tomato passata, chutneys, jams, fruit and veg preserves, and the famous "Chitarra"a wooden frame with thin metal strings pulled from one side to the other (hence guitar) used to make the famous "Spaghetti alla Chitarra" (thin egg spaghetti). Afterwards we all participated at the pig bonanza learning the names of the cuts and making sausages and salami.
In the afternoon and after another light lunch!! Enrico drove us to Chieti one of the anciest cities in Italy walking along the cobbled streets with palaces and buildings dating back centuries; it was a good excercise as well in the view of the dinner that was waiting for us at the Restaurant "Trattoria Teate" and what an excellent dinner indeed it was!
Journey back to the Hotel Al Duca still thinking what a wonderful time we had and how full we were...........
Saturday morning after breakfast (got lots of stick as i arrived very late) we went for a walk with Vanessa e Chantelle up and down the narrow streets of Atessa this stunning little medieval village with 14 churches all different architecture amongst which there is the Cathedral of Saint Leucio where bones belonging to a dragoon are kept (leggend says) absolutely beautiful....Then Vanessa mentioned the word Torrone Artigianale and Liquore Centerba and took us into this very little shop Piretti, wahooo it was unbieleavable, like an Aladdin's cave full of little delicious trasures homemade chocolates, torrone (nougat), "Cent'erba" 100 herbs liqueor just didn,t want to come away... but...
A much awaited trip to Guardiagrele was lined up for us; famous all over the world for its centuries old iron and precious metal craftmanship and probably my alltime favourite pastry "Le Sisse delle Monache" (translates "Nun's Titts) Guardiagrele has been nominated as one of the most beautiful historycal villages in Italy hence protected which attracts visitors from all over the world lies right below the imposing Majella Mountains with breath taking views towards the coast (about 40km) we arrived at "La Grotta dei Raselli" Restaurant, built in what use to be the caves where the people stored charcoal they made in the woods nearby, the only mean for heating, cooking and of course for the blacksmith and goldsmith in the village. The chef prepared a sumptuos meal for us.
Chickpea and spelt soup, pappardelle with wild boar sauce, roast veal with mustard seeds and wild herbs and to finish when we were all waiting for the dessert something special came out of the kitchen, "Le Sisse delle Monache" so now everyone could understand exactly what i meant and what they meant for me, some of my fondest childhood memories...
After the meal we had a long walk in the village (and Goodness me we needed it)
Late afternoon left Gurdiagrele and had a quick stop in Lanciano where the Traditional Christmas Market ws in full display; we wondered around the stalls and enjoyed a quick espresso...
in the evening the Good Bye Dinner (yes as we didn't had enough to eat...) at Miramare Village Restaurant with Enrico's Family, Gino (Enrico's Father), Vanessa and Simona with their husbands, Gigino e Gemma and someone else very dear and special to me, my Uncle Paolo (my Dad's youngest brother) with cousins Claudia and Stefano whom haven't seen for almost 20 years and it was so emotional....all the stories about holidays, places we have been together and the times when with my Dad use to come to visit Grandad and relatives and as i use to say "Diet the week before and Diet the week after"...
After thanking everyone for the wonderful time and hospitality Enrico drove us back to the Hotel Al Duca for our last night.
Sunday with bright sunshine, blue sky we headed back to Pescara airport to catch our flight back...
We never stopped talking how beautiful it was, how great time we had and how all of us wanted to come back for more soon (Paul Russell wants to come back and live with Gigino and Gemma to help for the harvest!!!)
So from Me, Lynn Sammonds and Graham...., Peter and Sarah Giles, Alan and Brenda, jim Miller, Paul Russell, Catherine Mayhew a big Thank You to you all and to Abruzzo for a fantastic trip.