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Abruzzo - Family, Food and Wine


10+ Posts
By avvocato from New Jersey, Fall 2004
Trip to Abruzzo and a little of Umbria between September 23 and October 11, 2004

This trip report was originally posted on SlowTrav.

Day 1 - Philadelphia to Rome to Pescara

The overnight flight was quite nice. The airplane was packed despite this being September 23 and not high season. I was in some anticipation of this trip to meet my cousins and then others to venture to some vineyards, olive farms, cheese plants and regional Abruzzesi restaurants. After being reunited with my baggage in Rome, I meet some friends from Abruzzo who pick me up and drive off with them to L'Aquila to pick up my car, which was an excellent deal and then on to Pescara. It takes about three hours to reach Pescara but it is a nice day (partly cloudy, warm) and the driving is easy taking the A24 and A25 to Pescara's Il Centro. I check into the Hotel Salus on the Lungomare Adriatica.

Pescara is the largest city in Abruzzo (over 200,000 population). The Lungomare is a “boardwalk” essentially running the length of the beach in Pescara. In September it was very deserted as the summer tourists (primarily Italians and other Europeans) had already left the City.

Pescara is the base for my first week of the trip. In this first week I had planned to meet relatives, some of whom I met in 2003 and others from the maternal side of the family who I am meeting for the first time. My 2nd cousin met me late in the afternoon on Friday September 24, my first day in town and we conduct a passiegata or evening walk in Montesilvano (town just north of Pescara and with another beautiful beach) meeting his friends and neighbors. We walk to a bar and stop for drinks and appetizers – olives, peanuts, salamis, finger sandwiches, prosciutto, shrimp and espresso.

On the way back to my hotel (I am very tired after the flight) we stop and meet another cousin at his apartment in Pescara for a beer. We are all pretty excited about meeting.

Day 2/3 – Pescara and re-uniting the family

It is raining and cold. The newspapers indicate that it will be snowing in the Gran Sasso mountains as early as in recent memory. The weather prevents the fantastic views that exist of the mountains from Pescara.

Pescara today is a city formed from what was essentially two smaller cities in the past – Pescara (used to be a sleepy fishing village south of the river) and Castellamare Adriatico (used to be a coastal resort town when it was the hometown of my great-grandfather and north of the river). Old Castellamare Adriatico is today Il Centro or the retail center of the city of Pescara.

Pescara, despite its status as the largest city in Abruzzo, retains a smaller town charm as it consists of neighborhoods where people know each other and each other’s business. My cousin demonstrated this when we did a walking tour through through Il Centro – Viale Regina Margherita, Corso Umberto and Corso Vittorio Emmanuele. Every five minutes he met someone he grew up with, and conversed for 5-15 minutes on what was happening in each others lives - people on the street, cops in the train station, his good friend at the haberdashery, vendors in the indoor market (mercato), which is open daily except Sunday.

At the mercato we buy some delicious pecorino di Atri (on my recommendation). We drive around other parts of Pescara including Porto Nuovo which is a wholesale commercial center, the tourist port, the stadium, and the government centers. Pranzo is at my cousin’s place where he lives with his wife, daughter and mother in law. This is the first of some magnificent home cooking - rigatoni pomidoro, salcicci, sun dried tomatoes, olives, cheese including the pecorino di Atri we bought in the morning, prosciutto, ham, salad, homemade wine, caffè limoncello, limoncello with creme.

On Sunday September 26, I meet my cousin again. Then I meet his sister and her husband (who works for De Cecco) and our cousin from Pescara (again) and his wife. We are off on our way to a tasty Sunday lunch at a wonderful restaurant called La Bilancia, located in Collecorvino near Loreto Aprutino in the hills beyond Pescara. The restaurant is packed with local families enjoying Sunday pranzo and in some instances a special occassion, such as the party at the next table.

Pranzo at La Bilancia consists of wonderful traditional Abruzzese cuisine:

Antepasta – mixed meats and cheeses and fritatta (fried dough) with olive oil. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine (from the Valentini vineyard) Primo piatto – Small portions each of Chittara con Funghi and Spaghetti con Piselli Secondo piatto – Mixed grill of sausages and lamb, potatoes, mixed cooked field greens with white beans, salad Dolce - rum cake with archeme instead of rum Caffè & limoncello

After lunch, back to my cousins where we have a discussion on family, genealogy and they trace their family tree forward to the present. One uncle lived in France (Normandy) after WW2 and had eight children (our cousins). It should be noted that until this summer we (me and my cousin from Montesilvano) had not known about each other. I had contacted my cousin (not knowing our relationship and based solely on the name) on the hope that we were related. He had not known about his relatives in America although in the 1960’s my mother's brother had returned to Italy to meet up with his cousins. But time passed and that knowledge was real hazy until we revived it. We are very much alike in the pursuit of family because out of the blue many years ago he had ventured to Normandy to find his Uncle. Kind of like what I am doing here.


La Balancia - Loreto Aprutino (PE)
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Day 4 – Atri, Mutignano and paternal cousins

On Monday I awake again to another day of rain and drizzle. I drive along the coast from Pescara to Montesilvano to Città Sant’Angelo to Silvi and up the hills to Atri to meet my 1st cousins. This is a beautiful drive and the drive into the hills, especially. Silvi sits like a crown above the coast with its characteristic stone abutments. Atri itself is the beautiful, ancient (from Roman times) town of Hatria from which the Adriatic Sea derives its name. Monday is the open air market day and competition for parking is fierce.

My (paternal) cousin’s father was the youngest child of my grandfather’s second wife and he was the baby of the family at two years old when my father left Italy for the USA in 1921. She lives with her husband and family near Podere San Domenico (agriturismo in the making) on the road between Atri and Silvi. Also there to meet me was her sister and her husband who live in Silvi. Another magnificent home cooked meal is served at lunch which includes: Spaghetti with polpettini, chicken, pork, grilled cold eggplant, salad, homemade Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wine, caffè and (of all things) Jagermeister.

After lunch, we three cousins take a trip to Mutignano the “hometown” of us all. We visit the cemetery there to visit the grave of their father and see their grandmother’s grave. It is too modern of a cemetery to still have the remains of my grandfather, but I look around and see many names I recognize from my genealogy research. It is quite an emotional moment.

Then a walk through the town as well as a visit to the place they grew up which is near Aunt Elisa’s house where I visited last year. They pass and meet some friends they grew up with. This village was once the administrative center for the region. It sits on a hill near Atri high above the coast and the current center of the area since 1927, the town of Pineto. The main street in Mutignano is Corso Umberto. The church of San Silvestro in in the center of town. This ancient church from the XIIIth century contains a beautiful fresco by Andrea De Litio Abruzzo’s most famous artist. It is quite moving to enter this church where generations of my family were baptized, married and honored in death.

I learn that Mutignano had a Protestent church and today houses an auditorium where concerts and plays are held in the summer.

On some outside walls of buildings, there are recent murals painted signifying past life in the town. Some of the living units today are being purchased by people from Rome or elsewhere and are being restored. Surrounding Mutignano are the fields where my father probably lived in a farmhouse and worked and also where some of the traditions of this area arise.

After this trip through the village, we went back to the house for a dinner which consisted of leftovers from lunch and added food, such as olives, tomatoes, roasted peppers, grapes, roasted chestnuts and of course wine and caffè and whiskey.


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Day 5 – More About Pescara

Tuesday, I am staying in Pescara for a day walking around Il Centro on my own. Since Pescara was severely bombed in World War II, today it consists of more modern structures. But here are some Pescara highlights:
  • Chiesa Sacro Cuore
  • Pescara River and the bridges such as Ponte Capacchietti and Ponte Risorgimento
  • The fishing boats and market
  • Home of Pescara native Gabriele D’Annunzio
  • The Port
  • Palazzo del Governo, the Regional Government building,
  • The Piazza 1° Miaggio
  • Via Umberto, the stores and very good gelato in the pasticerria located in the building on the corner at the Lungomare
  • Museo della Gente d’Abruzzo.
After walking all morning lunch was at Ristorante Marechiaro da Vittorio right on the boardwalk and consisted of fine Pescarse seafood:

Fettucine ai frutti a mare, Insalata Misto, Vino Bianco & Caffe,

My maternal grandfather had returned with his family to Castellamare Adriatico in about 1920. My mother was 9 years old and lived here for 3-4 years. I searched out the street where the family lived at that time – Via Solferino. Solferino is the name of a great Battle from Northern Italy that took place in 1858 during the unification of the country. Via Solferino is not much more than an alley sized street (vicolo). The street today is in a quiet residential area and there are some very nice properties there as well as a mix of more average residences.

This part of Pescara is adjacent south of Montesilvano another beach resort along the Adriatic Sea and the site of the birthplace of my grandfather and my grandmother. However, modern Montesilvano is located on the beach whereas older Montesilvano today called Montesilvano Colle is located on hills above the coast. So it is likely that when my grandparents were born Montesilvano was the sleepy hill town today known as Montesilvano Colle.

There is an open air market in Pescara on Wednesdays at Castellamare (produce, cheese, meats, houshold goods, clothes). The market moves to four different locations throughout the city on specified days. On Wednesday it is here in Il Centro near the Parco Villa di Sabucchi. On other days it is at the Stadium, Pescara Colle and then Montesilvano.


Wednesday's Outdoor Market
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Day 6 – Ortona a Mare and more cousins

Wednesday September 29 means I am off to Ortona a Mare to visit my maternal grandfather’s relatives. This town is a coastal town of about 20,000 and the site of a famous World War II Battle (Moro River) where Canadians fought and died and to this day come back for memorials.

The town sits on the top of a hill and has this balcony overlooking the Adriatic. The balcony is called the Via Orientale. Some other highlights of the town:
  • Piazza
  • Corso Vittorio Emmanuele
  • Chiese Santa Maria and San Tommaso
  • The port
  • The Castello Aragonese.
My cousins live on the outskirts of the town in Santa Lucia and Cimino. There are 12 people there for una grande cena. My cousin cooks the meal which consists of rotalini with ricotta and spinach, homemade wine (white using pergolone (regina) grapes and of course Montepulciano), pork with carrots and green beans, salad, fruit, and a cream and biscotti cake. Another magnificent home cooked meal. I learn that at least one other cousin now lives and works in Germany.

Day 7 - Cousins in Pineto

Thursday September 30 finds me in Pineto where I spent some time last year. I am meeting my late cousin’s wife and another first cousin again. Pineto is named for the stands of pineta trees which tower behind the white sandy beach. Pineto is a modern tourist town which makes its mark in the summer as the destination for numerous German, Italian and other European tourists. In late September and October, it stands somewhat deserted.

My cousin’s wife cooks a magnificent Abruzzese style pranzo:

Antepasta of shrimp, 1° piatto of gnocchini di frutti a mare, secondo of spigola (small sea bass) with olives and potatoes and coniglio (rabbit) with olives, grilled cold eggplant and zucchini, green salad, homemade wine, peaches and fruit.

After the lunch, I go to the Torre Cerrano at the border of Silvi and Pineto with them. The tower is a 14th century structure that today houses a marine laboratory. It originally served the purpose of a lookout over the Adriatic Sea.


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Day 8 – On the road to L’Aquila

Friday October 1, I check out of the Hotel Salus in Pescara and head to L’Aquila. I take the A25 out of Pescara and then to SS17. On the way you are in the Plain of Navelli which is the center of saffron production in Italy. If you stop off in Civitaretenga, there is an outlet for the saffron co-operative where you can buy saffron in all its permutations such as powdered, in stems, in a liquore as well as some other sapori. The place has irregular hours however.

I arrive to L’Aquila in time for lunch and meet three friends for pizza at Pazzi di Pizza (crazy for pizza) at the Piazza del Duomo.

L’Aquila is the capital city of the Abruzzo region and was built on a high plateau surrounded by mountains. Frederick II founded the town in 1240 as a barrier against the encroaching papal territories (current provinces of Umbria and Le Marche). The city is known for the curious fact of having many things numbering ninety-nine: 99 churches, 99 piazzas, 99 fountains. The basis of this was the 99 towns or paesi that consolidated to form the city. Today less than 99 of the various things exist because they have been destroyed by earthquakes, wars and the passage of time.

I check into the Hotel San Michele located 5 minutes from the Piazza del Duomo and 5 minutes from the Collemaggio. This is a well run modern hotel.

This evening I go to Cantina del Boss on the Piazza Margherita. This is a wine bar run by Pirro Luigi. I get to sample three of the famous Abruzzese wines: Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (Villa Gemma from San Martino sulla Maracina – Masciarelli, PE ), Cerasuolo (Luigi Cataldi Madona – Ofena AQ), Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1998 (Villa Medoro Adrano Colline Teramini – Atri TE). Most people are familiar with the Trebbiano and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo but the cerasuolo is something rarely seen or heard in the USA. It is made of the Montepuciano grapes but the skins are removed after masceration, leaving a fruity pink wine that I love (despite the fact I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking things like white zinfindel, etc. in the USA). In between tastings I dine on panini of prosciutto, mortadella, pecorino, tomatoes, greens.


99 Spouts
Day 9 – Pecorino and more pecorino

After a good night's sleep, the next morning I am off to the Porta dei Parchi, a bioagriturisimo (organic farm / lodgings) to see pecorino cheese made up close and personal by Nunzio Marcello the proprietor. The farm has about 1300 sheep and a variety of nut (mostly noce) and fig trees. Nunzio has the famous Maremmo Abruzzese sheep dogs helping him and some other animals. The dogs are wonderful sheep dogs because as was explained, their nature is to consider the sheep as their territory and not the land.

The cheese plant is called the “cacio-ufficio” where it is explained that the sheep’s milk produces pecorino cheese, then from the remains, ricotta (re-cooked) cheese and finally sugo (siripo). The farm is located in a beautiful location near Sulmona and Scanno. In the background are the snow capped Maiella from all the rain of the last weekend.

When lunch is served it is a cheese fest. Antipasta consists of 4 types of cheese to sample; Smoked ricotta, Oregano pecorino, Caciocavallo (cow’s milk cheese), “Brigando” pecorino, which was Nunzio’s recreation of an ancient, aged (14 months) cheese, discovered in a nearby cave in a terra cotta pot and with a burned out candle (to remove air from the container).

The balance of the antipasta was liver sausage, mutton salami with honey and pork salami. 1° piatto was a chittara pasta with an agnello tomato sauce and also a magnificent risotto with porcini mushrooms, zucchini and saffron. There was Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine. 2° piatto was a mixed grill of lamb, pork and sausages with pan roasted potatoes and a wonderful tomato salad Fruit and then caffè.

The town of Anversa degli Abruzzi is an ancient village where the farm is located and is worth a stop as well. This is a town free of all the tourists and hubbub of Scanno nearby.

However, not one to want to miss hubbub, that afternoon I am off to Scanno further into the mountains and over 3000m elevation. I was here last year but this is such a picturesque village where the older women dress in the traditional black wool dresses, and the fountain in Scanno where the right side is for humans and the left side for animals.

On the way from Scanno, stop at the Lago di Scanno, a beautiful mountain lake. The beauty and tranquility are unmatched and in the summer it is so cool even on the hottest days.


Porta dei Parchi
Day 10 – Festa di San Francesco - Assisi

Sunday October 3 in Assisi … this is the start of the Festa di San Francesco. This year Abruzzo is supplying the lamp oil that will light the Crypt of Saint Francis at the Basilica. The streets are full of people, priests and tourists. Having seen the Basilica last year I head down to Santa Chiara the other major church in old town. On the way to Santa Chiara you will see the Piazza del Comune and the Church at the Temple of Minerva (from Roman times).

Due to Abruzzo’s special status this year, many folklore groups are performing traditional songs and dances in traditional dress. There are six groups at the Basilica Inferiore icluding the one I listened to and watched - Associazione Coro Sant’Andrea from Pescara, director, P. Fiore Paglione. There are seven groups at the Piazza including several I enjoyed - the Rocca di Vivi – Coro Folk Rio from the Aquilan village of Roccavivi, director, Antonella Troiani; Associazione Chorale Musicale Ricretiva “G. Spitelli” from Silvi , director, Vinicio d’Agostino; and, Coro Luigi Venturini from Tagliacozzo, director, Maria Rosaria Legnini.

Pranzo in Assisi is at the Ristorante Taverna dell’Arco da Bino between the Basilica S Francesco and Sa. Chiara. This is a wonderful Sunday meal consisting of the following:
  • Antipasta is a mixed bruschetta – black truffle (Umbriam specialty), tomato and oil & salt
  • Wine is an excellent Sangiovese.
  • 1° piatto – Penne with panna, salcicci and funghi & tartufo and also a strigoli (flour & water pasta) with tomato sauce
  • 2° piatto – Prosciutto di maile picchettati al forno
  • Dolce – Torta ciccolato con marscapone cotto


Arche di Bino
Day 11 – Loreto Aprutino and extra virgin olive oil

Monday October 4 means going to Loreto Aprutino for olive oil tasting at the Agriturisimo “La Casina Rosa”. They have their own brand of extra virgin olive oil. The tasting includes generous helpings of cerasuolo wine, pizza fritta, fruit, prosciutto, cheese.

After a slow walk around the beautiful property, pranzo is served:

Antipasta – White beans in a pumpkin sauce with melo cogtona (quince), and fried zucchini, mixed cooked field greens with white beans (specialty dish in this area near the La Bilancia which also served it) Plenty of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Trebbiano wines 1° piatto – Gnocchi with saffron and zucchini 2° piatto – Tagliatelle with porcini muchrooms and extra virgine olive oil in wine Dolci – Mixed fruit (macedonia) with cream and sweet crust

After pranzo off to Sulmona home of confetti (sugar coated almonds and sugar coated anything candies – chocolate, other nuts, etc). I still can’t look except in amazement at the confetti in the form of a floral bouquets, grapes etc. – each flower is about €0.60.

The other distinguishing feature of the town is the medievel aquaduct that frames one end of the Piazza Garabaldi. The Aquaduct is still functional and at its termination is a structure in the form of a fountain.


Loreto Aprutino Farmland
Day 12 - More About L'Aquila

Tuesday October 5, 2004 is a tour around L’Aquila. When the house of Aragon (Spain) tried to sieze the throne of Naples from the house of Anjou (France), the city loyal to Joan II of Anjou, was besieged, a situation which lasted for 13 months. The siege was the work of Andrea Braccio Fortebraccio, Count of Montone, under the orders of Alonso of Aragon. The city resisted and when the Aragons were finally defeated, Queen Joan II to thank L'Aquila for its loyality, conceded a series of privilegies destined to augment the town's economic and social development.

Very quickly, L'Aquila became the second most important city in the Kingdom of Naples and prospered by commercial and cultural exchange with the most influential cities in Italy and abroad.

In the 15th century L'Aquila was permitted to mint coins, the University was established and a printing house was opened in 1482 by A. di Rotwill, a pupil of Gutenberg. The city spirit of independence was crushed during successive struggles between the French and the Spanish for the throne of Naples. The Spanish Charles V ordered Philip of Orange to besiege and destroy L'Aquila to punish it for having favoured Francis II; thus in 1532, the Castle was erected by Don Pedro of Toledo.

In addition to walking through the open air market at the Piazza del Duomo, walk through the Piazza Margherita to the park at the Castello (Spanish Castle). The Castle was begun in 1530 and designed by Pirro Luigi Scivà. The enormous pentagon fortress is buttressed with diamond-shaped outposts and surrounded by a deep and dry moat. Today it contains the National Museum of Abruzzo.

La fontana delle 99 cannelle …which was begun in 1272 commemorating, so the legend goes, the 99 villages that united to become L'Aquila. It was built at the request of the Tuscan Governor, Lucchesino Aleta, by Tancredi da Pentima. Its originality is found not only in the trapezoid shape and on the stone masques, each one different from the other, but also in the fact that the source of the water supplying the fountain is unknown. Today the water is not potable. The grand wall which surrounds it, built in rose and white stone was quarried at Genzano di Sassa, like that of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, was probably added at the beginning of the XV century. The old section of the town is reached through portals. There is at the Fontane della 99 Cannelle. There is one at SS17.

Later in the evening dinner I have dinner at Il Rigoletto with two friends. This restaurant is recommended by a man about town, who shall remain nameless. I eat ravioli di baccala in a tomato sauce and an insalata misto. Wine is “Perla Nera” a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 1998 Azienda Agricola Chiusa, Contrada Casali, Nocciano (Pescara). Dolci is frutti di bosco with cream.


Castello Gate
Day 13 – Winemaking in Chieti Province

On Wednesday, October 6, 2004 I am off to the Azienda Agriverde, a vineyard and spa on the outkirts of Ortona. Ortona is a wine-making hotbed in today's Abruzzo. This winery is a sleek, modern operation using the age-old techniques. They brand 60,000 bottles of Montepulciano, Trebbiano and Cerasuolo every year, and the operation includes grappa.

Some of the brands bottled here are Natum, Piano di Maggio, Vini Reseis, Sol’Rea, and Plateo (their signature wine). This is a biologic winery. The wine tasting room is below grade level.

Lunch is also at the winery taking advantage of the trebbiano and montepulciano wines they produce there. Here is today’s menu: Lasagna, roast pork, roasted potatoes, mixed green salad, caffè, and a pizza dolci (rum cake).

The day finishes at Pescara (on the way back) for a panna cotta gelato. Yum!!

Day 14 – Ceramiche and Montagna

On October 7, 2004 Castelli is in the plans initially. Castelli is the artisan center for majolica ceramics in Abruzzo. It is easy to be inspired here in the lovely town nestled at the foot of the Gran Sasso. There is a museum there that shows the history and techniques for this art and trade. The museum is housed in an old convent. The view of the Gran Sasso from the town Piazza is stunning. There are some unusual carvings over some of the house door entrances. I would love to know the story behind them.

I am leave for the village of Isola di Gran Sasso for lunch. Lunch is at the Insula Ristorante which is part of a hotel. Here is the pranzo today:
  • 1° piatto: Lasagnola in sugo di funghi & gnocchi in a white pumpkin sauce with herbs
  • 2° piatto: Stuffed veal shoulder and stuffed chicken (marisa) with potatoes and salad.
  • Montepulciano and trebbiano Caffè and Pizza Dolci (the sponge rum cake with cream). The traditional liquore used is archeme.
Later that afternoon I stop at the old sanctuary of San Gabriele in the town. There is a modern and massive new sanctuary but this is so much nicer. One last fairly close up look of the Gran Sasso – Corno Grande and Corno Piccolo is possible from the sanctuary.


San Gabriele
Day 15 - Even More L'Aquila

The next day is another in L’Aquila. This time to see the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio and later the Basilica of San Bernardino of Siena.

The largest basilica in Abruzzo, Collemaggio rises out of a green lawn on a hill south-west of L'Aquila with an pretty facade in pink and white stones, three portals and three rose-windows.

The church dates back to the XIII century: according to the tradition, in 1274 hermit Peter from Morrone, who later became a Pope under the name of Celestine V, while walking back from Lyon (France) stopped on Colle di Maggio (May Hill) to spend the night. There he dreamt of the Virgin Mary, who asked him to build a church in her honour on that very place. In a few years the hermit fulfilled the task, and on 29 August 1294 he was crowned Pope there under the name of Celestine V. After the hermit pope was made a saint under the name of Saint Peter Celestine (1313), his relics were brought to the church (1327) and pilgrims from all over Christianity came for the annual Perdonanza, a general pardon from the sins which was dispensed to pilgrims every year since 1294.

The recently restored interior is divided in three aisles by ogival arches wich are supported by octagonal pillars. Inside a wonderful collection of statues, frescoes and paintings can be admired. During World War II, the Collemaggio was Nazi Headquarters during the German occupation. Many Italian partisans were executed here.

The other Basilica is located within the town itself. That church was commenced in 1454 a the request of St. John of Capestrano, disciple of St. Bernardine of Siena. The original building contained three confluent aisles which met in a large polygonal area a dome and four chapels beneath it. After 1461 earthquake, the body of S.Bernardino was carried here on the 17th May 1472. The facade was begun in 1525 by Cola of Amatrice. It rises above 15 steps and is divided by cornices which are supported by twin columns. It has been mentioned that the plan of the church is anlogous to the Brunelleschian Sta. Maria del Fiore (Florence); the facade also resembles those of Giuliano da Sangallo and Michelangelo's Church of St. Lawrence in Florence.

Completely reconstructed after the 1703 earthquake, it is now decoreted in Baroque style. The interior, 96 metres long, is majestic. Both the 18th century ceiling of pure gold and wood and the organ were designed by Ferdinando Mosca of Pescocostanzo. The Bernardinian monogram is in the center while the rest of the ceiling contains works on canvas by Neopolitan Girolamo Cenatempo which date back to 1720. In the second chapel in the right aisle is the altar-place of Andrea della Robbia, grandson of renowed Luca. In the Chapel of S.Bernardino, at the center of the aisle, you find the mausoleum containing the saint's body, build by Silvester of L'Aquila dated 1488.


Which way to L'Aquila Centro?
Day 16 - Scrippelle Teramese And Silvi

On October 10, 2004 off to the Podere San Domenico, an agriturisimo in the ancient town of Atri. Atri is famous for a geologic formation called calanchi or erosion furrows. They are especially noteworthy on the road between L’Aquila and Atri.

There was a short cooking lesson by Lidia the owner of the Podere on how to make “scrippelle” which is the Abruzzese version of crepes. Here is the batter preparation: 1 egg per 1 heaping tablespoon of flour and add water to thin out batter so it coats a ladle. Then cook over a high heat. Roll into a tube with pecorino cheese in the middle and serve in chicken broth. There you have it … Scrippelle M’Busse

Pranzo at the Podere San Domenico was an elaborate affair of traditional Abruzzese cuisine:
  • antipasta of little pizzas, eggplant, cheese spread, pork spread (ventricina), pancetta, sausage and cheese.
  • 1° piatto: a seafood soup with cece over maltaglia pasta (Vongole-clams, Cozze-mussels, and scampi – shrimp) and ravioli with sugo di carne, peperincino,
  • 2° piatto: sheep meat (castrado) and coniglio (rabbit) Pizza
  • dolce teremane and ciligia liquore.
The kitchen is complete at The Podere San Domenico but the accomodations are still a work in progress.

After lunch off to the town of Silvi Alta which overlooks the Adriatic Sea. One of my cousins lives here and I meet her to stay overnight in this town. Silvi like the other coastal towns in southern Teramo has an old and a modern component. Today the emphasis is on the beachtowns whereas yesterday in was in the hills. Silvi Alti is the hill town and is famous for the “Balcony” which overlooks the shore below. Perched high on hill, the old medieval village of Castrum Silvi dominates the landscape with its breast walls with arches, that surround it like a crown. The smell of the salty sea wafts up into this old town into its little streets, alleyways and colored houses. Although it was not visible this day, on a clear day you can see the faint outline of the Balkan coast in the distance.

Silvi dates back to the Middle Ages and it became the fief of the Abbey of San Giovanni in Venere in the 14th-century only to subsequently fall under the rule of the Aquaviva family, dukes of nearby Atri, who at the time ruled a wide swath of the province of Teramo and were chiefly responsible for its growth. The unique location of Silvi Paese or Alta (called Castelbelfiore until the 19th century) led to the town's unusual spindle-shaped acropolis layout with single main street, from which a network of narrow streets branch off. The Cerrano and Concio gullies run along the sides of the hill down towards the sea. With its numerous late 19th-century villas and long sandy beach, Silvi Marina (the new town) is situated on the border between the Provinces of Teramo and Pescara.

One of its most famous products of Silvi is licorice, known throughout Italy and even Europe. Liquorice has been popular in the Abruzzo region for centuries. It was a enjoyable product which cost nothing and people chewed on the juicy roots.

Regarding the gullies (calanchi) around Silvi Paese, Fosso (ditch) Concio , which was known as "Concio della Liquirizia" (from the word "acconciare" which means prepare in dialect) because it was here where the roots of the plant, which grew wild and copiously along the clayey hillsides of the Piomba and the Volmano Rivers, were harvested.

My cousin’s husband’s mother lives off the Balcony and we stop in for caffè and grappa. When at my cousin’s we have a dinner consisting of the above described scrippelle m’busse, dried cece, salad, pork, mushrooms, gelato, black cherries, whiskey and limoncello.


Podere San Domenico - Atri
Day 17 – Pregos e Pranzos - All Good Things Come to an End

On the next day I go to Abbazia di San Giovanni in Venere near Fossacesia. The abbey was founded in the 8th century and rebuilt in the 12th century on the site of a pagan temple to Venus ('Venere'), hence the name. It stands on a cliff edge, commanding a great view of uninterrupted coastline. The view from that vantage point of "Belvedere dell'Abbazia" stretches as far as the eye can see to Punta Penna. The Fossacesia seaside is one of the most popular of the frentana coastline, due to its clear sea and the high standard of its tourist facilities. An ancient (well over 200 years old) still-living olive tree exists at the site of the abbey. The tradition of a particular olive oil processing still exists in Fossacesia. This process consists of adding lemon and oranges while the olives are being pressed in the stone mills. The results of this ancient method is a oil which is unique and characteristic to the Mediterranean.

There was a wedding at the abbey after the 11 am mass. A 1939 Citreon was the bride’s ride to the abbey. The interior crypt area in the abbey is made with Roman era columns taken from the old temple.

Then I am off to the Sangro Valley to the Villa Santa Maria where there is the world famous Culinary and Hotel Management School. Today they hold the “Festival of the Cooks”.

On the way to Villa Santa Maria is Lago di Bomba, a large man-made lake.

Lunch is at the Hotel Santa Maria in town. Although it is a little late I start off with a great antipasta of prosciutto crudo, artichokes, olives, cheese and sausage. The primo piatto is chittarina pasta in tomato sauce with “cacio e uova” (cheese and egg balls). The secondo piatto is lamb (agnello) “pork”-style with potatoes. Then a salad. Much Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and trebbiano wine. The dessert is a cream pie with meringue and caffè.

Villa Santa Maria is built into the side of a mountain. The vertical rock in the center of the town is called “La Penna”. It extends to the Sangro River flowing through town. Students to the culinary school come not only from Italy but from throughout the world. The cooks have been White House chefs as well as chefs for Hitler, among others.

Day 18 – Rome Airport and Philadelphia

With an early wake up call and a long trip to Rome, my friends drive to Fumincino. The terminal is "pazzo" (as usual). I barely make the flight but I do and think about the long, wonderful trip that it’s been – cousins, pecorino, scrippelle, coniglio, cerasuolo, saffron - Abruzzesi tutti. ... Family. Food and Wine.


Festa Di Cuoco

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