Abruzzo may be Italy’s best kept secret
I grew up hearing the word – Abruzzo – but had no idea what it meant. The older generation, whose parents were born in Italy, often spoke words that I did not understand. Emphatic words, eating words, sometimes whispering words. As I get older, it becomes clear that Abruzzo is a place, and not just anywhere, but the most beautiful place in Italy.
The first time I looked it up, I found it on the map. Italy has 20 regions; some like Tuscany and Sicily are well known. Other places like Abruzzo, which lies between the sea to the east and Lazio (home of the city of Rome) to the west, are still unfamiliar to most visitors. In a country with UNESCO-listed monuments and iconic cities, Abruzzo has none. However, it is the lack of traditional tourist infrastructure that is why Abruzzo is so appealing to me — and what makes it so ideal as the newest choice in the industry. our series on underrated destinations, It’s still a big world.
I longed to travel to Abruzzo as far as I could remember. When my mother retired, there was only one place we both wanted to go to mark the milestone. We found a cooking school, Abruzzo Cibus, located in a medieval hilltop village called Carunchio, population 600. A vision quickly formed: a week at a hilltop palazzo in our family’s hometown, breaking eggs flour to make fresh flour, taste our way through a local cheese shop and learn the traditional recipes of our ancestors. As soon as we imagined this mother/daughter cooking getaway, it became irresistible: we booked immediately.
In May, we flew to Rome, giggling in excitement like schoolgirls as the plane took off. A driver from the cooking school met us at the airport and we embarked on our three-hour journey to Abruzzo. Carunchio first appeared in the distance, sitting on top of a hill. It is a village with stone walls, red terracotta roofs and a charming church with a tall bell tower at the highest point on the hill. As the truck began to climb back up, all came into view: the wildflowers, the winding roads, the stone steps and the ancient wooden doors of the village. Carunchio is a far cry from the Italy of t-shirts and jewelry; It was church bells and laundry hanging from strings and a simple wooden table in the shade of a truss.
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Massimo Criscio, host and owner of Abruzzo Cibus, who met us on arrival in his 12-room building. “Abruzzo was hidden in Italy, and Carunchio was hidden in hiding. For certain visitors, that can be very tempting. “As we stepped out of the truck around dusk, we were greeted by a sweeping view of the grassy hillsides of the valley. “In Carunchio, locals don’t even expect tourists. They are surprised to see tourists,” Massimo told me. “This is a very different experience compared to other regions of Italy.”
Within an hour of our arrival, we were settled in our cozy room at Visit the Palazzo d’Eaus, a large house dating from 1730, and step out onto the terrace for a pre-dinner drink. Are we just falling behind the jets, or is the spritz, sipped on a swing to watch the sunset, the best spritz I’ve ever tasted? After a welcome dinner of pasta, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo let loose, and chatted with fellow cooks at school, we fell into a deep sleep that not even the morning church bell could disturb. .
The next day, before breakfast and cooking class, I wanted to go for a walk in the village, so my mom and I put on our sneakers. We walked along steep stone steps and streets so narrow that we could smell the morning coffee on the kitchens, actually peering into the windows of the locals and listening to the conversations. their profound stories. At the central bar/café, we were the only customers, and the waiter took the time to steam the milk to make our morning cappuccino. We sat outside at a small table, watching the locals pass by, enjoying the cool morning breeze and the quiet and rumbling stomach knowing a delicious day was ahead.
Back at the palazzo, it’s time to cook. Entering the kitchen of the cooking school, we were greeted by a wood-burning stove with smoldering, fragrant logs and tables with knives and dish towels and eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. , herbs and fresh garlic. Of course, Italy is the country of regional cuisines, and Abruzzese Fare has its own style and taste. With a history of poverty, the region is known for its rustic dishes. Massimo Criscio says: “Our cuisine has no fuss, it’s all about taste. “We use a very small amount of ingredients, but each ingredient must be of the highest quality. If we use a tomato, it has to be the best tomato.”
Throughout the week, we cooked up a menu of rustic dishes, including some vegetarian dishes like pallotte cacio e uova, or bread and cheese dumplings with chili, tomato, and onion sauce. We tasted a local hot spice mix called pepe tritto, toss over spaghetti, that’s both wonderfully simple and surprising. (“It has to be simple, it has to be flavorful,” says Massimo.) We rolled the cavatelli by hand and found new life in stale bread and commented on the density of flavor in a red chili — how How can one chili contain so much life? I looked at my mother with the brightest smile on her face I had ever seen; she even fell asleep at night with a smile on her face.
This 7-day cooking getaway offers plenty of time for macaroni kneading and macaroons baking, as well as learning about local DOC wines in a wine class led by an expert chef , but the trip also includes some excursions to Abruzzo. We strolled through an olive grove, approached a traditional olive press and sampled virgin oil at the source. We visited a cheese maker, to witness the process caciocavallo Cheese is made from start to finish. We tasted our way through regional flavors that our ancestors would miss so much when they left Abruzzo for America.
The most prominent excursions were to the Adriatic Coast and the town of Vasto, where my maternal grandmother’s family came from. This stretch of coastline is home to the region’s traditions trabocchi, or fishing houses. These scrawny wooden stilts, once used for fishing, have now been repurposed into casual restaurants. Step onto the pier to get out trabocco on a sunny afternoon, we were surrounded by various colors of Adriatic, the sound of the sea breeze and the melodies of the local dialect.
At these fishing houses, the outdoor deck is where seafood lunches are served. Where our ancestors fished for sardines and sea bass, we enjoy crudo with olive oil and lemon; the tiny fish are smashed and fried into crispy pieces; and seafood pasta. There are too few truly perfect afternoons in life, but this is one of them, and in addition to the joy of cold food and white wine and company, those hours provide a sense of education and connection to the roots. our source.
Travelers want to explore trabocchi Further coastlines can be done by bicycle; One new bike trail recently opened after an old train line along the coast. The trail extends from Vasto north to Pescara, a 42-kilometer stretch with views of the sea, beach and trabocchi. Back in the Palazzo, guests of Abruzzo Cibus can recuperate after a long bike ride at the new on-site spa, which features three outdoor hot tubs, a steam bath and an all-glass sauna. hilltop with panoramic views (massages and spa treatments including facials available).
On our last night in Carunchio, we put on our aprons one last time to roll the pizza dough into the wood-burning oven. I’ve spent more quality time with my mom – talking about hopes, happy memories and hardships – than I did last year. Around the table, we gather to enjoy pizza hot from the oven, glasses of wine always overflowing, accordion music and laughter. There’s a reason people dream of Italy, why it’s always at the top of travelers’ wish lists. The pleasures are simple, and perhaps even more so if you choose to explore areas that tourists sometimes overlook. I went to bed that night to be grateful to our ancestors for guiding us there.
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