Rocca Calascio – The sheep would graze in summer

Rocca Calsascio
Rocca Calsascio – Photo ©
The Transumanza

Rocca Calascio: In the first half of the 15th century, there were more than three million sheep in Abruzzo. Today, there are about 450000. In summer, they graze in the mountain pastures; in winter, they move to the grassy lowlands of Puglia. This seasonal movement of flocks up and down the mountains (called the transumanza) defined the landscape of Abruzzo. The sheep would graze their way along with a network of broad tracks (a hundred meters wide in places) in spring and autumn. Covering hundreds of kilometers, the shepherds paid for the use of the paths along the way and thus supporting local economies.

Walking From Rocca Calascio to Puglia

But gradually, over the first decades of the 20th century, it became more economical to move the sheep by truck and train, and for local people to use the paths for crops. The sheep economy started to flounder; people abandoned the hill villages.

Rocca Calascio
From the name of the Rose – Filmed @ Rocca Calascio
Rocca Calascio: The rebirth

Until a few years ago, the collection of houses at the foot of Rocca Calascio had been uninhabited for many decades. But an enterprising couple reclaimed two for a bar and restaurant, hoping to entice trade up the hill. It worked. They expanded, recovering more houses to provide accommodation for walkers and cross-country skiers, some basic and cheap, some more luxurious. Now a few families have returned, and there’s a small shop, but the village remains un-manicured and authentic.

Since it lies within a regional park, it may even stay that way.

Rolando, trim and tanned, with iron-grey hair, has a mission to foster Abruzzo culture. He looks like an art impresario, but his day job is cooking, and for the restaurant’s Saturday dinner, he was doing an Abruzzo special: Pecora (sheep, not lamb) with mountain herbs and potatoes. It’s a secret recipe, he said, but I’m going to reveal it.

Rocca Calascio: cooking the old sheep

This is what you need: a 35-kilo sheep; two crates of flat-leaved parsley; a container of rosemary branches; a few armfuls of just- gathered mountain herbs (various thymes, sage, some bitter leaves and some variety of mint); 40 or so carrots; a similar number of onions; a dozen or so garlic bulbs; a few celery heads with leaves; a liter of oil and more than a liter of white wine. You’ll also need potatoes (same volume as the lamb when boned). Boil the beast for two hours in water. Get rid of large quantities of fat. Boil for another five hours. Remove big bones.

And here’s the clever bit. Take the table, herbs, and vegetables outside and engage some passers-by in conversation about your struggle to revive Abruzzo theatre. Hand each a knife without comment. Do it while telling the story of the freezing night in the mountains when you staged an open-air performance of an obscure play. While the actress wore a diaphanous dress, and the fur-wrapped audience remained to shiver in their seats out of solidarity or lust.

Rocca Calascio
Rocca Calascio in winter – Photo © Federico Colaiacomo

Subtly, without talking, demonstrate how you want the rosemary stripped, the sage and parsley stalks removed, the carrots peeled. Keep your story going, through digressions, personal histories and tales of meals enjoyed or prepared for well-known writers and artists, for the three hours it takes your helpers to reduce all the vegetable matter to several kilos of finely chopped herb flavoring.

Do not be distracted by the fact that they are roasting in the sun and now have green hands and watering eyes. In a giant pan, arrange boned sheep and an equal volume of potatoes in layers with herbs, dousing of oil and sprinklings of salt. Pour over a liter or so of white wine. Simmer for two hours.

Where to stay in Calascio

Hotels, guesthouses, country houses, and B&Bs in Calascio: search and reserve here.

Other destinations in Abruzzo

A few items from Abruzzo

La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy
Fifty years ago, a group of Italian scholars gathered to discuss a problem: how to preserve traditional Italian cooking. They formed the Italian Academy of Cuisine to document classic recipes from every region. The academy’s more than seven thousand associates spread out to villages everywhere, interviewing grandmothers and farmers at their stoves, transcribing their recipes—many of which had never been documented before. This is the culmination of that research, an astounding feat—2,000 recipes that represent the patrimony of Italian country cooking. Each recipe is labeled with its region of origin, and it’s not just the ingredients but also the techniques that change with the geography. Sprinkled throughout are historical recipes that provide fascinating views into the folk culture of the past. There are no fancy flourishes here, and no shortcuts; this is true salt-of-the-earth cooking. The book is an excellent everyday source for easily achievable recipes, with such simple dishes as White Bean and Escarole Soup, Polenta with Tomato Sauce, and Chicken with Lemon and Capers. For ease of use there are four different indexes. La Cucina is an essential reference for every cook’s library.

Grazing In Abruzzo
Bruce Franchini (Director), Lidia Bastianich (Actor)
Lidia loves the region of Abruzzo! She describes the people there as welcoming, giving and jovial, and the hearty food of the region has left her with such fond memories. In the Abruzzese kitchens, Farro, a kind of wheat berry, is cooked as a whole grain and is manufactured in many shapes-both by small artisanal pasta makers and larger pasta companies. She makes this pasta with arugula and ricotta. Following her main course of Lamb with Olives, she creates the deliciously fun Scrippelle-which look like fettuccine-and tosses them in a hot caramel, citrus and apricot sauce for dessert.

Abruzzo. History and art guide
by Latini M. L. (Author)
Although it is a bit too synthetic, to the detriment of the overall readability of the text, the work provides an exhaustive description of the artistic heritage of Abruzzo, inserting points for observation not always recognized. Recommended.

Abruzzo 1st Edition
by Michael Kenna
Abruzzo, located in southern Italy, is known as the green region of Europe because of the system of parks and nature reserves covering more than one-third of its territory. In Abruzzo, Michael Kenna found a cultural identity that elsewhere, for the most part, has been lost to globalization and instant communication. Kenna photographed medieval ruins, ancient villages and a countryside rich in traditional cultivation. As curator Vincenzo de Pompeis writes in the book s introduction, 'Abruzzo's heritage, together with its impressive natural scenery, brings to mind romantic connotations that have historically attracted many international landscape artists, particularly in the 19th century. Michael Kenna fits perfectly into this rich historical vein of celebrated landscape artists who have worked in Abruzzo. Kenna's work often evokes the influences of Romanticism. In his photographs of historic rural landscapes, for example, there is an air of melancholy, which accompanies memories from the past. His images of ruins stir up feelings of passing time, of the constantly evolving ties between history and nature.' This gorgeous new monograph by renowned landscape photographer Michael Kenna is published to coincide with a major museum exhibition in Loreto Aprutino, Italy. Richly printed in duotone on matt art paper, and presented in an olive-green cloth slipcase with black debossed text on one side and a tipped-in image on the other, Abruzzo presents 65 images from the series, published here for the first time.

Michelin Map Italy: Abruzzo, Molise 361 (Maps/Local (Michelin))
Michelin created its first travel guide over 100 years ago to promote road travel and inspire driving confidence. Today, Michelin Travel & Lifestyle offers travelers an extensive range of travel guides, maps and online travel resources. These products deliver the same Michelin promise of quality and consistency consumers expect from one of the world's most trusted brands.
Publisher of travel guides, maps and atlases, Michelin Travel & Lifestyle offers a complete travel portfolio. Where to go, how to get there, where to eat & stay, and what to see & do ... all in one collection with extensive international & domestic coverage, especially for Europe. Our series includes Michelin (Red) Guides, Green Guides, Must Sees and Michelin maps and atlases.

Canti Della Terra D'Abruzzo
Ettore Montanaro
Buy MP3: all 51 at the same time, or each one individually.

Italian Folk Songs from Abruzzo 1927-1930
CD and MP3 reissue of the freat italian folk duo. Comes with rich notes and photos of the couple as well. Pasquale and Clara Sciascia immigrated to the U. S. from the Abruzzo region of Italy, settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From 1927 to 1933 they recorded 44 songs fro the Victor, Columbia and Brunswick record companies. The Sciascias were the first to record a number of Italian and Abruzzese folk songs, 14 of which are reissued here for the first time in 90 years. The songs feature wonderful duet singing and exquisite string band accompaniment. Also included are notes on the couple and their music, photos, and the transcribed and translated lyrics. Includes 20 page booklet.