Historians agree that saffron has been grown in the province of L’Aquila since the 13th and 14th Centuries and that this precious spice took a paramount role in the local economy from the beginning. For centuries the ups and downs of L’Aquila’s economy were related directly to the success of this crop. Saffron provided a means of survival at many critical times in the town’s history, and the residents nicknamed it the “Vermillion gold.”
International trade in saffron became so crucial that foreign traders moved to L’Aquila to live, to better profit from that business. It led to a thriving economy and also to social, cultural, and political relations between the local population and those of Central and Northern Europe.
Because L’Aquila saffron can be propagated only by cloning, its characteristics have remained unaltered through time. In other words, L’Aquila saffron is like a living fossil, whose botanical characteristics and cultivation methods have remained the same over the past 600 years.
Saffron plants that are grown in L’Aquila rank as cultivars or biotypes based on invisible biological attributes that differentiate them from others. They and which are caused by the micro-climatic and environmental conditions found only in the territory of L’Aquila.
In a nation of myriad appellations, Abruzzi offers wine drinkers refreshing simplicity. The long-standing regionwide DOCs for Montepulciano and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo have been complemented by an appellation for Controguerra, which takes in 12 types of wine.
Abruzzi, which is two-thirds mountains and one-third hills, boasts highly favorable natural conditions for grapevines. Growers favor the predominant Montepulciano and Trebbiano while growing some highly productive vines (the region has Italy’s highest average yields) for bulk wines and table grapes, and experimenting in an increasingly convincing way with outside varieties.
Despite the outward simplicity of Abruzzi’s DOC system, certain details of Abruzzi’s wine production are worth pointing out. The native Montepulciano (not to be confused with the town of that name in Tuscany where Vino Nobile is made) is a vine of convincing character that has been winning admirers abroad.
In parts of the Abruzzi, notably in the low hills of the northern province of Teramo, Montepulciano becomes a red of irresistible character – full-bodied, even robust, with a capacity to age but with a supple smoothness that can make it eminently drinkable even when young. The red and riserva from the Teramo area have been distinguished under the DOCG of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane.
The rest of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is DOC, applying to both the red wine and the cherry hued rosé of Cerasuolo. Two other subzones are noted: Casauria or Terre di Casauria and Terre dei Vestini.
Much Trebbiano is based on the prolific Tuscan variety, which makes light, crisp whites of subtle aroma and flavor. Some growers work with the “true” Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (which may or may not be related to the Bombino Bianco of Apulia). A choice few have managed to make Trebbiano of remarkable depth and texture, with a propensity to develop complexity over four or five years, sometimes even more, of aging. Those wines are relatively rare.
The Abruzzo DOCG Wine is:
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane
The Abruzzo DOC Wines are:
The Abruzzo IGT Wines are:
Colli del Sangro
Del Vastese or Histonium
Terre di Chieti
I Love Italian Wine and Food – The Abruzzo Region
An article by Levi Reiss
If you are looking for fine Italian wine and food, consider the Abruzzo region of central Italy. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour.
Abruzzo is located in the central-eastern part of Italy on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The area is 2/3 mountains and 1/3 hills. Over time Abruzzo has belonged to the Romans, the Lombards, and the kingdom of Naples. While this area was once very poor, its income is now growing. Abruzzo and Molise were a single region from 1948 to 1965. Its population is 1, 275 million.
Agricultural products include grapes, olives, wheat, sugar beets, tobacco, saffron, pigs, and sheep. The Adriatic Sea and inland lakes and streams provide a wide variety of fish and shellfish. If I remember correctly, the first time that I heard of this region was decades ago, when I learned that according to Craig Claiborne, at the time Food Editor of the New York Times, Italy’s best food was found in Abruzzo.
Abruzzo has no large cities. Its administrative center L’Aquila has a population of about 70 thousand. But big cities are hardly a requirement for good wine. Few would ever claim that Italy’s best wines come from Rome or the surrounding area.
Abruzzo devotes about eighty-two thousand acres to grapevines, it ranks 10th among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is about 110 million gallons, giving it the 5th place. About 90% of the wine production is red or rose’ (not very much rose’), leaving 10% for white. The region produces 3 DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine and 1 DOCG red wine, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane. The G in DOCG stands for Garantita, but there is, in fact, no guarantee that such wines are truly superior. About 17% of Abruzzo wine carries the DOC or DOCG designation. Abruzzo is home to about two dozen major and secondary grape varieties, a few more white and than red.
Widely grown international white grape varieties include Trebbiano and Chardonnay. Sauvignon Blanc. The best known strictly Italian white variety is Trebbiano d’Abbruzzi, felt by some to be Bombino Bianco.
The best known Italian red variety is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC is the most widely exported Italian DOC wine.
Before we reviewing the Abruzzo wine and cheese that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with local wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with a Pizza Rustica, Cinnamon-Scented Pie Stuffed with Proscuitto, Cheese, and Eggs. Then move on to Polenta sulla Spianatora, Polenta (Cornbread) Topped with Sausage in Spicy Tomato Sauce. For dessert enjoy a Crostata di Ricotta, a Ricotta Tart.
The marketing materials state that this wine has hints of an Amarone (a much more expensive wine) or a Ripasso ( a more expensive wine). There are raisings, currants, and tar on the nose whilst the taste profile is ripe, mellow fruit flavors of raspberry jam and ocha. It doesn’t contain a lot of acidities so drink it within a year. Pair it with pizza, burgers, or any meat dish that you tend to eat during the week.
This wine is said to complement pasta, red meats, and savory cheeses.
I found the Riparosso to be somewhat robust, with cherry and plum flavors. I didn’t have the feeling that I was drinking a regular Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, but instead almost a Ripasso, a wine that I prefer. This wine managed to feel full-bodied even with its light tannins. It balanced nicely the tanginess of barbecued eggplant loaded with garlic, and demonstrated notable spiciness when paired with a meatball and vegetable stew. Its acidity was pleasant. I did not discern all the flavors listed above. For me, the dominant flavor was black cherry. The final meat dish that accompanied this wine was a barbecued boneless rib steak with a spicy curry and cumin sauce. The wine seemed to pick up the strength to accompany this meat, which by the way, we don’t eat on a regular basis during the week.
I tasted this wine with two related kinds of cheese. Pecorino Toscano is a soft, nutty cheese. Interestingly enough, I found that the wine was no longer robust, it seemed to soften to accompany this mild cheese. In the presence of a Pecorino Fiore Sardo, a balsamic sheep’s milk cheese with a stronger flavor and coarser consistency than its Tuscan cousin, the wine almost magically picked up flavor to meet the challenge.
Final verdict, as you can tell this wine is a definite keeper.
Extra note. Several months ago, on a whim, I bought a $6 bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Given the realities of the marketplace, I doubt that any producer can come up with a decent bottle at that price. At first, the wine was acidic. I held out, finished the bottle, and the last glass was almost OK. Yes, there are bargains, such as this Riparosso, but few in the $6 range.
About the Author
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet. He would instead drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gran Sasso ParkAbruzzo is generally disregarded by mass tourists when visiting Italy for the initial time, even so, this area of Italy has so substantially more to offer. Right here is a listing of the leading five things to do when you are in Abruzzo.
Find and examine Medieval Towns
Abruzzo is residence to Italy’s most gorgeous historical hill cities rivaling towns and regions in Italy. Abruzzo has won 19 “Borghi Piu Belli d’Italia” awards (The Most Stunning Villages in Italy) doing Abruzzo owns the second most amount of these awards in Italy soon after Umbria which has 22 awards.
Go Skiing… then go to the seaside
Skiing in Abruzzo is one particular of the ideal destinations for skiers. Abruzzo has 368 km of runs in 172 different ski tracks, and due to the fact of their proximity to the Adriatic Sea and winter season precipitation designs, they generally have much more snow than the Alps.
Pescara is the finest put for purchasing in Abruzzo and has many outlet shops where you could acquire brands and heavily discounted charges. Notably, 1 of the most significant purchasing outlet villages is known as Citta Santangelo Browsing Outlet Village exactly where above 60 makes are offered including CK Jeans, CK underwear Guess, Murphy & Nye, Kenwood, De Longhi, and VFG (Valentino, Marlboro Traditional, M Missoni) to name just a several.
Abruzzo is regarded for it’s exceptional red Montepulciano D’Abruzzo and white Trebbiano wines. Seem out for the DOC symbol (Di Origine Controllato), which represents that they have been excellent controlled wines.
Go for a hike
Abruzzo is identified as the “Green Region of Europe,” and Abruzzo’s pure reserve park, Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, is a natural model reserve for the world. The ongoing improvement in the morphology of Abruzzo finds its most excellent illustration in the most vital mountain teams. The Gran Sasso d’Italia has the tallest peak in the Apennines, the Corno Grande at 2912 m. It is all steep and significant to appear, which characterizes this mountain group. The variation in peak in between the hills of the Abruzzo subapennine group can be divided into two sections. The fist to the north has the organic boundary of the upper training course of the Vomarno river. It is characterized by the increased severity and mass of the mountains, with an additional Alpine morphology which would justify the expression ‘massif.’ The second working south-east as far as the upper study course of the Pescara river, which recalls a chain of mountains quickly.
About the Author
by Glen West: The True Religion Jeans Cheap has the reasonable boundary of the higher program of the ED Hardy Jeans Cheap and is characterized by the better severity and mass of the True Religion Jeans Sale, with a additional Alpine morphology which would justify the term ‘massif’ The second jogging south-east as far as the higher program of the Pescara river which recalls quickly a chain of mountains.
There are regular flights by Ryanair from Stansted to Pescara in Italy (we recommend you sit on the right-hand side of the plane for the best mountain views), which brings you to within an hour’s drive of the magnificent Majella National Park. Collect your hire car, turn inland, and head for the hills.
After a smooth 20 minutes on one of Italy’s least crowded and most civilized stretches of motorway, you begin to climb steadily, passing villages and vineyards, until you round a corner to be greeted by the striking view of Caramanico Terme, sprawling at the foot of the mountain.
From here wind steeply up for ten more minutes, along the rim of the Orfento Gorge, through the wild upland pasture, dotted with pines and scented broom, to Decontra. At 810m altitude, this little mountain village is in a superb position, with stunning south-facing views over the gorge to Monte Amaro (2793m), Monte Morrone (2061m), and the lush Orta valley in between.
The Majella is one of Italy’s newest National Parks, established in 1995. A vast dome of limestone, the massif peaks at Monte Amaro, the second-highest summit in the Apennine chain. Locally the mountain is known as the Montagna Madre – Mother Mountain; some say it is the slumbering body of Maia, goddess of spring and fertility. The Majella is set apart from other segments of the Apennine chain. Specialists know it well because of its broad crest of almost desert-like high altitude plateau, combined with the deep, wild valleys that cut into the heart of the mountain.
Some unique human-made features of the Park are its medieval rock hermitages. In the 11th Century, these mountains became famous as a haven for monks fleeing the corruption of Rome to live as hermits or in isolated communities deep in the valleys. Today the secluded sanctuaries and cave churches can still be found, built into the cliff-sides. Some are simple dwellings roughly hewn out of the rock, while others have been restored and are now protected as National Monuments.
The most exciting inhabitant of the Park is the native brown bear. Numbers are just six animals, and sightings are scarce, even by the park wardens. Wolves are present in more significant amounts, but again rarely seen. The Apennine chamois has been reintroduced relatively recently and frequents the highest, rocky areas of the massif, while deer and wild boar are abundant. You can find otters in the Orfento and Orta rivers – the breeding program at the center in Caramanico is helping to boost numbers. In woods after rain, you might see the remarkable black and gold coloring of a salamander. Golden eagles soar above the Park, as do buzzards and numerous smaller raptors.
Over 1800 hundred species of plant have been documented in the park, 1/3 of the native Italian range. At the lowest levels, you will walk in classic Mediterranean woodland and open maquis.
Higher up, the beech woods dominate, and above them, the low growing Mountain Pine gives way finally to the open grass, limestone, and shale on which alpines thrive, including gentians and the Apennine Edelweiss. A wide range of orchids flourishes throughout the park.
Decontra is ideal for walking, with many routes setting out from the village itself. You can embark on challenging full-day summit bids, a potter for an hour to a glorious picnic spot, or anything in between. Choose between high mountains, upland meadows, or deep gorges. Here are three sample walks to whet your appetite.
Valle Giumentina and Hermitage of San Bartolomeo
It’s a half-day circular walk that starts and ends at the door of your room in Decontra. Follow a broad gravel track on la level ground out of the village and past meadows and cultivated fields. Cross the plateau of the Valle Giumentina, once a lake, and keep an eye out in the cultivated fields for fossils and flints from stone-age tools. The track rises gently at the far side of the plateau, where a grassy path leads to a curious collection of conical stone shelters. These were built by shepherds over the last two hundred years, using the stone cleared from the fields around.
The Majella is traditionally an area of transhumance: shepherds from low-lying Puglia further south drove their flocks to mountain pastures here in the summer months. These conical shelters are similar to the distinctive “Trulli” for which Puglia is famous. Another gravel track, with spectacular views across the plateau to the Majella massif, leads to the lip of a deep gorge. Far below is the trickle of the Santo Spirito stream, and on the far side, disguised amongst the cliff walls of the canyon is the hermitage of San Bartolomeo.
A steep footpath leads down to where smooth flat rocks beside the stream provide a perfect picnic spot. Steps carved out of the cliff lead up to the hermitage above, built in the 13th Century by the man destined to be Pope Celestine V. An ancient fresco survives over the door, and inside the effigy of the saint keeps watch over a trickle of miraculous water – guaranteed to cure any ailment, even blisters!
After retracing your steps to the lip of the gorge, a grassy mule-path leads back through the wild pastureland towards the village.
The Orfento Gorge
Many walks are exploring this extraordinary gorge. This option is a half-day excursion starting and ending in Decontra, though both longer and shorter variations are possible. Follow the road out of the village and take a well cobbled mule-path dropping left on a traverse through cypresses and broom; there are beautiful views across the gorge and down to the town of Caramanico Terme. Walk for a few meters along the road at the bottom of this track then descend steeply on a well-maintained footpath.
For a short walk, you could park a car here and take this footpath to explore the gorge below, returning the same way. The gorge bottom is a magical world of lush greenery, cool shade, and the crystal clear Orfento river. The footpath crosses and re-crosses the river on wooden footbridges beneath tall cliffs.
Upstream the way forks and you take a slightly higher path which climbs above the river and provides magnificent views of the gorge, its cliffs, and of Decontra perched on the rim. Eventually, a rocky footpath leads away from the river, climbing steeply around grassy bluffs. Just before arriving back at Decontra, a wild meadow promontory juts out over the gorge to a magnificent viewpoint. As a short walk from the village, this is a perfect place to relax at sunset.
A spectacular drive brings you high onto the shoulder of the massif (2100m). The car park is known as the ‘Blockhaus’ because of the ruin on the ridge above. It was built in the late 19th Century as a base from which to combat the brigand bands that hid in these mountains – later; the Germans made use of it in the Second World War. The walk begins by undulating along a ridge, past the carved rocks known as the ‘Brigands’ Table,’ before a climbing traverse – which in two places has a short cable handrail – rounds a spur into the dramatic cirque of Le Murelle. The path skirts beneath cliffs, above tremendous views into the deep western valleys, and often as late as July cuts across lingering snowfields. It is a steep climb out of one side of the vast natural theatre, onto the Cima (summit) delle Murelle. Then pick your way along the cox-comb of rocks on the lip of the cirque, a narrow spur climbing onto a weird desert landscape and the day’s highest altitudes. At 2600 meters, the summit plateaus of the Majella are a strangely smooth table-land of flat stones, dotted here and there.
The Italian region of Abruzzo has a higher percentage of protected landscape within its boundaries than any other area of Europe. There are no fewer than three National Parks – the Abruzzo National Park, the Gran Sasso, and the Majella.
You can explore each can by car, and a few days ago, it seemed a good idea to take advantage of one of October’s truly glorious days and take a long drive to enjoy the Majella’s magnificent scenery.
There’s only one road running north-south through the Majella, from Scafa down to Pescocostanzo via Caramanico Terme, Passo San Leonardo, and Pacentro.
It’s a route studded with gems.
Just north of Caramanico is a short and well-signposted detour to the 12th-century church of San Tommaso, named after St Thomas a’ Becket.
Above the main door is a beautiful frieze depicting Christ and the Twelve Apostles. Twelve rather grumpy-looking Apostles, it has to be said. Astonishing proof that the basics of caricature – albeit respectful – were apparent 800 years ago.
Contrast these with a handful of sumptuous and much more traditional medieval wall-paintings inside the church.
Who says Tuscany has all Italy’s art treasures?
Head further south. The spa town of Caramanico Terme, where you can bathe in the waters, is an excellent place to stop for lunch.
Plenty of choices. We followed signs leading out of town to the Locanda del Barone. An act of faith, as there’s no way of knowing how far away it is, or whether it’ll be open when you arrive.
A 15-minute drive later, we were rewarded with a delightful setting; perhaps the best antipasti we’ve yet eaten in Abruzzo; a hugely generous bowl of home-made chitarra pasta in a creamy tomato sauce studded with little nuggets of sausage; a right house Montepulciano d’Abruzzo served refreshingly chilled; and a bill under €¬40. Very much recommended.
After lunch, a gentle amble south, passing through Sant’Eufemia a Majella, with the road gently climbing up to Passo San Leonardo at 1285m/4216ft.
It’s a road that fools you, winding through alpine meadows against a spectacularly mountainous backdrop, and giving you no real indication of altitude until your ears start popping.
There’s a bar/cafe at Passo San Leonardo should you feel you need to reward your ascent.
It’s then literally downhill until Pacentro, unspoiled and walkable, and famed for the iconic ‘twin towers’ of Cantelmo Castle, begun in the 9th century.
Between Caramanico and Pacentro – about 20 miles (32km) – we met four cars. Nice to have the place pretty much to yourself and dawdle along at your own pace.
After Pacentro, you can make a detour west to Sulmona, or carry on down through the Majella to Pescocostanzo. A popular village of ours with a couple of excellent restaurants and the rather smart American Bar, which has an incredible selection of single malt whiskeys.
Once the snows set in, the road from Scafa to Pescocostanzo is efficiently and regularly snow-plowed. But in winter, it’s mandatory (and sensible anyway) to carry a set of snow chains. Just in case…
We’ve yet to do the drive in winter. It should be equally spectacular and scenic.
But a drive on a matchless October afternoon will be a tough act to follow.
About the Author
David is English, (hence the funny spelling of many words in this blog), but now lives in the central Italian region of Abruzzo, where he co-owns http://www.villasfor2.com holiday rental business.
Italian food is known for its rich flavors and aromas, and many home cooks use Italian peppers as an ingredient for soups or salads, pasta, or pizza toppings. The use of chilies in cooking has given different variations and depths of flavor, depending on what kind you need to extract. It ranges from extremely sweet to extremely spicy. Peppers make a recipe more tasty and appealing. The vibrant colors that it has and the flavor that oozes from it makes the dish more tempting. Be sure to add some to your menu, either an appetizer or to the main dish, and your meal will become more enjoyable.
There are different types of peppers and the most commonly used with Italian cooking:
Pepperoncini is known as peperoncino de Cayenna, the most common a kind of chili pepper grown. The younger pepper is green while the fully ripe ones are red. It has wrinkly skin and is crunchy. It is spicy and slightly bitter. The Scoville scale says that this type of pepper is in the middle when it comes to measurement of €heat€. Pepperoncini is also called Tuscany pepper because it has initially grown in Tuscany. This kind of pepper grows from two to four inches long. It can be served pickled or dried and is famous as an appetizer.
In southern Italy, you would often see pieces of this type of pepper strung together and hanging out to dry during the summer, especially in Calabria. The little red peppers are referred to as diavoletti or little devils in Calabria and Molise Regions. They are called diabulillu, and in the Basilicata region, they are called diavulicchui. You would sometimes see ground chili peppers added to cheeses and salami; it is preserved in oil to produce spicy, flavorful oil. Those who love tasty food add it to almost everything, fish and vegetable, pasta sauce, stews, egg dishes. We don’t recommend it for creamy preparations.
This variant is also called Italian sweet pepper or Italian sweet Relleno pepper. From the name itself, you can expect that the pepper has a sweet taste. It is often added to salads, pizzas and pasta and meat dishes. This type of Italian pepper is green when young and red when more matured, the length is between six to eight inches when used for cooking.
Italian food uses black pepper as a spice extensively. It is made by grounding peppercorns. Peppercorns are the dried fruit of the pepper plant. It has a pungent, potent, and spicy smell when freshly ground. Before serving, the pepper is crumbled onto the food to maximize its flavor. It’s a final step in the seasoning process. The whole peppercorns, on the other hand, are removed before serving, which is used to slow-cooking dishes such as soup based recipes.
Another hot pepper, which is not spicy but large and sweet, is found in Italian cuisine and is used in various ways. It can be roasted to have its natural sugar caramelized and make it even sweeter, you can use it as an appetizer by marinating in olive oil and spices, or you can stuff it with nuts, meat or cheeses.
About the Author
by David C. Henry: A variety of ready to eat Italian Food ranging from appetizer, main course, and an Italian Peppers.
If you are searching for a European tourist destination, you should consider visiting Campobasso, the capital and largest town (only about fifty thousand) of Molise. Located in central Italy, Molise is one of the smallest regions of Italy and only gained regional status in 1963. Campobasso is geographically near Rome, except for the intervening Apennines Mountains. But if you want to visit the real Italy and feel that you are a million miles from Rome culturally, consider touring Campobasso. Be sure that you read the companion article describing other sites in Molise.
Let me state one reason that might, but should not keep you from attending, before I begin telling you why you should visit Campobasso: it’s the weather. This city is nearly one-half mile (700 meters) high, making it one of the coolest towns, weather-wise, in the southern half of Italy. It snows a lot in the winter, the summer has an average temperature of approximately 22 degrees C (72 degrees F), and the fall is rainy. The first two may be quite positive. But the rain is still rain.
You really will want to see the Castello Monforte, located atop of the Sant’Antonio Mountain. This castle was built during the mid-fifteenth century and rebuilt after earthquakes; the first one happened only six years later. It is perched on the hilltop that dominates the town. Traces remain of ancient settlements, including Samnite walls, built before the Christian era. Next to the castle, you will find the Eleventh Century Chiesa della Madonna del Monte (Santa Maria Maggiore Church). Make sure that you don’t miss the Cathedral, also called the Chiesa della Santissima Trinita (Church of the Holy Trinity). It was first built after the turn of the Sixteenth Century. It was rebuilt in a Neoclassical style after an earthquake destroyed it three centuries later. The city includes many other classical churches.
The Museo Provinciale Sannitico (Archeology Museum ) was relatively recently opened in the Palazzo Mazzarotta. It boasts an excellent collection of art and artifacts that are associated with those pre-Roman Samnites. The newly restored Villa de Capoa boasts a lovely garden with statues and quite a wide variety of plant species. This town is also home to the University of Molise, which serves ten thousand students, some of whom are at satellite campuses. And remember, wherever you go, whatever you do, be sure to taste some of the excellent local wines.
About the Author
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but prefers Italian travel and drinking fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods and people. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his Italian travel website http://www.travelitalytravel.com which includes an expanded version of this article and lots more.
Tucked down in the southern part of Italy, right above the spur and boot, is the coastal region of Molise. It is the youngest region in the country, as it only split away from its neighbor in 1963. Italian villas in this area are perfect for exploring the Adriatic Coast, with its beautiful blue waters and Mediterranean vegetation just a stone throw away.
Although the region is not one of the most popular ones, this benefits the independent traveler. Here, you can still feel like you are discovering something new, exciting, and authentically Italian. Villas near the sea make a great base to explore the coast, while those nearer the Apennine Ridge will take you into the heart of the Italian countryside. While you are in the region, there are some places that you must visit, including Campobasso, Isernia, and the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise.
Campobasso is thought to have been founded before the 8th century as a fortified village where the castle now stands. It still provides an outstanding and imposing city that you can visit while staying in one of the excellently located Italian villas around Molise. The old town is home to the Castle Monforte, which was rebuilt in the 16th century by Count Nicholas II Monteforte, after the epic earthquake. The massive castle is an impressive symbol of the city, with its square ramparts and panoramic views. Besides the castle, the town also boasts a cathedral, built in 1504 and reconstructed in 1805; the Romanesque Church of Saint Bartholomew; and the 12th-century Gothic church of San Giorgio. You should also stop into the Museo del Presepe, in the old town, to learn more about the antique recreations of the nativity scene.
Still reflecting the layout of an ancient Roman town, Isernia is a must-see if you are interested in history. The city was founded some 700,000 years ago, and in fact, is home to some of the oldest human remains ever found. Though the city has faced a lot of destruction over the centuries – with earthquakes and wars – it was and is resilient. While there, be sure to stroll along the streets, taking note of their distinct layout, then head out to see the Fraterna Fountain, which was built in the 13th century out of Roman ruins.
The National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise
Often still just called Abruzzo National Park, the national park that covers these three regions is vast and filled with an exciting variety of flora and fauna. Staying in Italian villas near the park gives you the perfect excuse to enjoy some of the most unspoiled natural preserves in the country. The park was founded in 1922. It now plays a vital role in the conservation of animals like the bear and wolf. The best way to explore the park is by a horseback ride or cycling tour, which will allow you to experience the wild spaces.
About the Author
Jonathan Magoni is Senior Manager of Cottages to Castles, a family-owned company specializing in high-quality holiday villas, apartments, and cottages in Italy. For spectacular Italian villas in Tuscany, Sicily, the Italian lakes, ski resorts or city centers, we offer only the very best. Discover Italy at your own pace and without time restrictions in our hand-picked villas and cottages.
The often overlooked region of Molise, which was once an appendix of Abruzzi, gained official status in wine in the 1980s with the DOCs of Biferno and Pentro di Isernia. The undeniable aptitude for vines on the sunny hillsides between the Apennines and the Adriatic indicates that with a little more effort Molise’s wine producers could match on a small scale the quality of their neighbors in Abruzzi, Apulia or Campania.
The DOC of Molise applies to a mix of native Italian and international varieties, creating new possibilities for producers who have been striving to establish an identity with wine beyond the region. The rolling hills and the mild Adriatic climate of Molise favor wines of class, though the evidence in bottle is not as widespread as it might be.
The IGT category of Osco or Terre degli Osci refers to the Oscan people who inhabited Molise in prehistoric times. The other IGT category is Rotae.
If you are looking for fine Italian wine and food, consider the Molise region of central Italy. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour.
Molise is a small region of central eastern Italy on the Adriatic Sea. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy, about 90% hills and mountains. Its total population is less than a third of a million people, which makes it the second least populous region of Italy after the Valle d’Aosta. Molise was associated with Abruzzo until 1963.
Agricultural products include livestock, pigs, sheep, and goats, wheat and a variety of vegetables including giant celery. The coast furnishes seafood and fish. Polenta (cornbread) is as popular as pasta.
Isernia is the largest city with a population somewhat less than ninety thousand. This area was first settled about 700,000 years ago (not a typographical error) and is of archeological interest. The regional capital, Campobasso, was the site of major battles during World War II. If you love old European cities consider visiting Larino, even if it is not mentioned in major tourist guides. (I’m not naming names.)
Molise devotes about nineteen thousand acres to grapevines, it ranks 18th among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is about nine and a half million gallons, also giving it an 18th place. The region produces 3 DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine. Less than 4% of Molise wine carries the DOC designation. Molise is home to almost two dozen major and secondary grape varieties, about half white and half red.
Widely grown international white grape varieties include Chardonnay and Trebbiano (in particular the Italian Trebbiano Toscano subvariety). The best known Italian white variety is Falanghina, the main component in the wine reviewed below.
The best known strictly Italian red varieties are Montepulciano, Agliacano, and Tintilia.
Before reviewing the Molise wine and cheese that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Taccozze alla Crema a’Asparagi, Hand-Cut Pasta Squares in Asparagus Cream. Then move on to Zuppa di Pesce alla Termolese, Seafood Pot from Termoli, a resort on the Adriatic Sea. For dessert indulge yourself with Calcuini del Molise, Sweet Chestnut Fritters.
Wine Reviewed Rami Di Majo Norante Falanghina Del Molise 2005 12.5% alcohol about $11.50
I’ll start by quoting the marketing materials. “Made from the well-known Falanghina grape (with a little help from the ubiquitous Fiano variety), this delivers fresh peach and apricot flavors with a good citrus spine. It’s crisp and refreshing. And goes well with slightly spicy seafood or chicken, or makes an excellent sipping wine.”
I first tasted this wine with fried chicken cutlets, rice, and corn on the cob. I found it smooth with apricot but no peach flavors. It had more of a citrus smell than taste. I added a cayenne pepper sauce to the meat, and the wine rose to the challenge.
I then tried Talapia filets cooked in an onion sauce with a side of green beans in tomato sauce. I added too much cayenne pepper sauce, which was too harsh for the wine and for the fish itself. However, even with a deadened palate the wine was pleasant.
In the presence of a commercial chicken pot pie with a chili and lime hot sauce (but not too much) the wine was citrusy and refreshingly acidic. On the down side, the wine was short.
Kube, also known as kibbe, is a Middle-Eastern specialty of balls of ground rice filled with ground meat that cooks slowly. The wine was an excellent companion, its acidity cutting the grease nicely. The word gossamer came to mind.
Sometimes we have to make compromises. As you can guess from the name, Pecorino Toscano is not a cheese from the Molise region. It is a sheep’s milk cheese that has been made in Tuscany and neighboring Umbria for thousands of years. Soft Pecorino Toscano is white with a tinge of yellow, while semi-hard Pecorino Toscano is pale yellow. It is moderately strong smelling and has a complex nutty flavor. In the presence of this cheese, our was crisp and yet unctuous.
Final verdict. This wine is a winner. When making notes on this wine I mistakenly identified it as a DOC wine but I double-checked the label. It is not a DOC wine, but in my opinion is better than many DOC wines that I’ve tasted.
About the Author
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com. You can reach him at email@example.com.