The Abruzzo region of Italy
Ventricina is a typical Abruzzesi salami which varies across the region, and even into neighboring Molise, in terms of shape, consistency and flavor. It is one of the most traditional creations of Abruzzo cuisine. Fine grained and mildly spicy, the Ventricina of Teramo or Crognaleto is characterized by a mixture of finely ground pork parts, which cannot be used otherwise, mixed with pieces of prosciutto and richly spiced. Other ingredients include salt, white and black pepper, sweet hot pepper and spicy hot pepper, garlic, paste made from peppers, fennel seeds, rosemary, orange peels.
Ariccia in the Roman hills of Lazio is well known for its pork or porchetta. But this Italian roasted pork delicacy can be found across central Italy, not least in Campli in Abruzzo in the province of Teramo. Head there in mid August for their porchetta ham festival or 'sagra della porchetta italica'. It is, in effect, an annual competition when the best local pork is judged in the main square of Campli. The event attracts many people from around the region as well as curious holiday makers. It is the summer gourmet happening for this delightful town.
The modern history of porchetta production in Campli dates the XVI century. It was when Margherita d'Austria settled in the territory following her second marriage with the Duke of Parma and Piacenza, Ottavio Farnese. The tradition for pork ham in the native land of the Duke of Parma created a sort of gastronomic cultural fusion and pig breeding took off in this corner of Abruzzo. The weekly market in Campli drew customers from near and far and contributed greatly to the reputation of the local pork and porchetta.
The porchetta of Campli is made with a little garlic, salt, rosemary, pepper and a touch of chilli pepper. As the basic ingredients of all porchetta are more or less the same, it is the the preparation and skills of cooking the dish in a wood burning oven which gives each porchetta its local flavour.
Although the event is recent, “porcus maialis” has been venerated as a beast who communicated with man from ancient times. Bones have been found in Bronze Age tombs in the Necropolis of Campovalano just a few kilometrers from Campli. The modern term 'porchetta italica' was coined for the porchetta of Campli thanks to this discovery.
We recently visted the small Abruzzo mountain village of Villa Santa Maria in the Val di Sangro, province of Chieti. Just past Lago di Bomba as the valley starts to really climb, the amazing location is world famous for being the 'Home of Italian Chefs'. In fact, the very first professional culinary school was founded here as long ago as the 16th century by Prince Ferrante Caracciolo of the Kingdom of Naples. The Caracciolos came here to govern the territory and they wanted the kitchens of their palace to become a laboratory for local young people.And it still is after almost 500 years with the Istituto Alberghiero Villa Santa Maria still going strong.
Visitors to Sulmona on Easter Sunday can witness an evocative procession 'La Madonna che Scappa' which celebrates Christ's resurrection. It is celebrated on Easter day in Piazza Garibaldi, after the mass. A huge statue of the Madonna, carried by a group of Sulmonesi part of Confraternities, is run through the square towards her resurrected Son.
It is a traditional folk commemoration that goes back to the Middle Ages with a parade of believers, the liberation of doves and the pealing of church bells which ends the ceremony. A little before midday the representatives of St Peter and St John announce the resurrection of Jesus to Mary by knocking on the door of the Church of San Filippo.
We had the good fortune to find a rare old bottle of Corfinio liqueur in our local enoteca. Made with 42 herbs of the Maiella Mountains and Abruzzese saffron, which gives the liqueur its typical gold yellow color, it was an absolute treat. The flavour can be paragoned to the people of Abruzzo - forte e gentile.
Corfinio liqueur was actually trademarked in 1858 and was invented by Giulio Barattucci. He also gave us some of the many famous liqueurs from the region which we still drink today, such as Amaro Majella and Aternum.
In the official classification of Italian DOC wines, Montepulciano D'Abruzzo is up there with Chianti Classico, Asti, Oltrepò Pavese, Soave and Valpolicella. It has recently become the third most popular wine in Italy; it used be sixth when we started this website in 2000. As a first indication, we believe that around 65% of the Abruzzo wines production is sold across Italy, while 25% remains in the region. The final 10% is exported. What is for sure is the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo represents 80% of all the DOC wines in Abruzzo.
The Majella mountains in Abruzzo have always had a mystical atmosphere. They are not particularly high, not particularly extensive but the soul of Abruzzo can be found there. In ancient times this was the territory of the Goddess Maia. Through the medieval period it became a place of prayer and retreat. There were so many hermitages hidden away, poet Francesco Petrarca called the Majella 'Domus Christi'. Most can be visited today but do take care.