Tag Archives: Arrosticini

A weekend in Sulmona

A weekend in Sulmona is not enough. But I reckon even a short time spent there is better than none.

I’d been to Sulmona once before and enjoyed its refined, historic centre and relaxed vibe. Nestled in the Peligna Valley and surrounded by mountains, Sulmona is a destination in itself as well as a great jumping off point for day trips in all directions.

Most of the points of interest in the town are on or near the main street, Corso Ovidio, which runs roughly north-south. Narrow streets and parking restrictions in the centre make walking the best way to get around.

My recent trip was last-minute and finding accommodation was problematic. There must have been some event on in town because the seven or so places I tried were fully booked for at least one of my desired nights. I contacted Katy of Welcome to Sulmona to see if she had any suggestions. As it turns out, the Welcome to Sulmona site has a list of accommodation possibilities to suit various tastes and budgets.

Although not affiliated with any official city or regional travel body, the site authored by local residents Katy and Susanna (both of whom I met through the Abruzzo Blogger Community) is a storehouse of information. Welcome to Sulmona is my go-to place for things to do and see in the Vale Peligna.

Fortunately, I had luck with one of the places listed, B & B Il Marchese del Grillo. My room was beautiful and the breakfast was fresh, varied and plentiful (a highlight was the lemony yoghurt cheesecake).

My room

A corner of my very comfy room

 

The cheesecake

The cheesecake

Between proprietress Marta’s broken English and my more-broken Italian, we managed the business end of the weekend and had a chat about Sulmona’s dining scene.

One evening, wanting an early night and a light meal, I ate at La Cantina di Biffi, on via Barbato, just off the main street of Sulmona. Biffi is a relaxed restaurant that’s a cross between a wine-bar and a bistro and has an excellent choice of wines, many of which you can taste before deciding. There is no printed menu rather a boar of what’s on today.

I chose a crisp white wine, a ‘Pecorino’ to accompany the soup of the day, Farro and Chickpea Soup (Zuppa di Farro e Ceci) which was almost a stew. The staff were friendly and generous with their time in answering questions about the menu, which changes daily. Along with a generous basket of assorted breads plus some complementary small-bite appetisers, I left feeling just the right amount full.

Biffi

Biffi

 

Zuppa di Farro

Zuppa di Farro e Ceci

Another evening I ventured to the southern end of town to Il Vecchio Muro on via M. d’Erato.  I had eaten pizza here on a visit a few years ago, and had thoroughly enjoyed it. This evening, I decided to try Il Vecchio Muro’s ‘Arrosticini’ and a big ole’ mixed green salad. Arrosticini are skewers of lamb (ok, a castrated male sheep, or ‘wether’ in sheep talk) cooked over charcoals; they aren’t marinated or seasoned with anything but salt. When done well, as these were, they’re a real Abruzzo treat. And all washed down with a glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo…hard to take.

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On my last visit to Sulmona, parts of the Museo Civico e Archeologico (Civic and Archeological Museum) were closed. This time some of the archeology rooms were still closed but I took the opportunity to visit the open rooms plus the fabulous display of traditional women’s costumes from the various parts of Abruzzo. (As an aside, read this interesting article on traditional costumes that just popped up in my feed!)

The Museo is housed in the stunning Annunziata Complex, comprised of the museum building and the attached church. The complex has been rebuilt over many years and there are both gothic and renaissance features still visible.  

Below are photos of some of the costumes and artefacts. Click any picture to enlarge and view as a slide show.

In the Piazza XX Settembre you’ll find a statue commemorating local poet Ovidius, a Roman poet in the time of Augustus who was a contemporary of Virgil and Horace.

Ovid, Roman Poet

Ovid, Roman Poet

Without leaving town you can do any or all of the following: stroll the charming narrow lanes, visit the medieval aqueduct (1256), people-watch from one of the cafes along Corso Ovidio, ponder the fate of Ovid, plus admire the beautiful shop windows and confetti (sugared almond) displays  – I even managed a load of washing at a self-serve laundromat! –  and that’s your weekend.

You could base yourself in Sulmona for weeks, explore the city and surrounding area, do lunch at the family run Gino’s (which I missed out on this time) and still only scratch the surface. But even if you only have a day or a weekend, I highly recommend you visit Sulmona.

I’ll be going back… 

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A few weeks in Lanciano and beyond

Athena International Italian Language School

Athena Scuola Internazionale di Lingua Italiana – International Italian Language School

In this age of technology you should be able to have an electronic postcard within seconds of the writer completing the text. However, I am actually some kilometres from Lanciano, where I recently spent three weeks studying Italian and exploring the region around Lanciano with fellow students and the staff of Athena International Italian Language School. Just like a real postcard, this one has been written in one place and read some days or weeks later in another.

My primary motive for going to Lanciano was to attend Athena. I chose this school because it is in Abruzzo, a region with which I have a family connection, and because I had heard good reports of the school and its quality teachers.

Learning a language is never just about the words and the grammar. It’s a mix of words, culture, history, current events and daily life in a country where the language is spoken. I was fortunate to be in classes with students who were committed to learning and who had an interest in the local culture and history. It was a privilege to be in the care of Palma, Virginia, Marina and Paola, our teachers. Palma is a font of knowledge about local history and she encouraged us to join excursions with her and the Athena family. 

Together, we visited the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery in the nearby town of Ortona. The battle against the German defensive line, known as the Gustaf Line, cost the Canadians dearly. However Ortona was taken after eight days of fighting. The Canadian War Cemetery contains the graves of 1615 Commonwealth soldiers, with 50 remaining unidentified and 1375 of them being Canadian.

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The composer Francesco Paolo Tosti was an Ortona native and we were given a tour of National Tosti Institute by the husband of one of our teachers, who happens to be a librarian at the Institute. One room in the Institute recreated Tosti’s London music salon and study. One of our students, a violinist, treated us to two Tosti songs to complete our visit.

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A recreation of Tosti’s London music salon and study

After the business end of the visit, we strolled the remains of the Aragonese castle then enjoyed on a seafood lunch at a local beach restaurant.

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Aragonese castle at Ortona

My time in Lanciano coincided with the Feste di Settembre (celebration of September) which includes various events, traditions, foods and public celebrations like rides for the kids and fireworks for all!

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Arrosticini time

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Porchetta panino

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Fireworks – Fuochi d’artificio

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Illuminations

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Beer and Arrosticini

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Everyone out on a hot, end-of-summer night

Lanciano’s Basilica (the church of Madonna del Ponte)is the focus of an annual tradition of ‘Il Dono’ or the gift. This is an important tradition whereby the local parishes in the Lanciano-Ortona diocese provide gifts of food and other items to the church for distribution to families in need. The celebration takes the form of a procession led by bullock-drawn carts, down the main street leading to the Piazza followed by locals of all ages, representing different communities. There are men, women and children in traditional costumes on the backs of carts and truck and on foot, carrying gifts to be donated. There are bands playing. Traditional breads and sweets plus plastic cups of wine are handed out to the crowd. It’s a real spectacle and a family event.

Another memorable excursion took us to the Abbazia di San Giovanni in Venere. Tradition tells us the Abbey was built over the remains of a Roman temple dedicated to Venus. Possibly built around 540 AD, the buildings we see now were reconstructed in 1165 for Benedictine monks. The church and grounds are stunning as are the views from the lookout across the Adriatic. Click any photo to enlarge and view as a slide show.

So much happened during my three weeks in Lanciano and I can’t possibly fit it all in one post. I hope you enjoy the photos I’ve included and keep following for more (there will be more food of course).