They say pictures can tell a thousand words. So here through photos, I'll let you experience the journey too.
In October 2014 I eagerly joined my tour guests as we shared 11 days of adventure in Abruzzo. We enjoyed convivial company, gastronomic delights, breathtaking scenery, quaint villages, hospitable locals and a lovely holiday.
They say pictures can tell a thousand words. So here through photos, I'll let you experience the journey too.
Paton Books is proud to present Angela Di Sciascio, author of Finding Valentino: Four Seasons in my Father's Italy for an evening celebrating all things Italian.
Thursday 6 March 6.30pm
Angela will talk about her book, her love of Italy and the upcoming Finding Valentino Tour of Abruzzo. She will be joined by Luciana Masci of Touring Abruzzo.
Luciana will present on the rugged and relatively unknown region of Abruzzo and entice you to join her and Angela on their exclusive 11 day tour.
Catherine from Paton Books, Angela and Luciana look forward to seeing you and sharing a glass of wine and some Italian delicacies. Ci vediamo!
Paton Books Shop 3/329 Pakington St (Geelong)
RSVP Ph 5229 6622
Just read this great article from the Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) about Abruzzo, its food and Luciana Masci - tour operator for the Finding Valentino Abruzzo tour in October this year. Click here to read it.
Italians like to party - it seems that every village has a festival to honour its patron saint, the harvest or a religious event. Often these festivals occur in summer when families can enjoy time together celebrating in warm weather and late into the night. In my father's area of Casoli in Abruzzo, it is autumn that heralds the arrival of grape picking season, the olive harvest and the Festa di Santa Reparata on 7,8 and 9 October every year.
Throughout the festival the streets of Casoli are bejewelled with ornate street lights. Every evening locals congregate to dance, eat together and enjoy each other's company.The main event of any festival is its parade. In Casoli on 8 October the whole municipality converges on the main street to participate in the grand parade. Each district is represented by a tractor decorated colourfully and laden with donations and many locals dress in traditional costume. The most interesting part of the dress for me are the shoes - simple handcrafted shoes made of pigskin called chiochie. The tractors are stocked with all sorts of delicacies from cakes, cheeses and salumi to whole roasted pigs, giant provolone cheeses, grape stomping and women hand-making pasta. Participants proudly march down the cobblestoned road, carrying large baskets or copper pots filled with food, flowers or produce. All of these donations are presented to the priest at Santa Reparata church who blesses them before they are sold off auction-style to the eager crowd. All proceeds go to the festival and the Church - raising thousands of Euros. The festival ends with a bang with a chest-thumping firework display that illuminates to night sky for all to see.
What is so magical for me about this festival is the way that all generations embrace the history of their area and demonstrate pride in their culture and traditions. It is a time to show respect for the past yet embrace the future with children eagerly carrying on the traditions and participating in every aspect of the festivities.
So when you visit Italy, research which festivals are on and aim to experience one - it will be a feast for all your senses and a true way to immerse yourself in local culture.
The Finding Valentino Tour of Abruzzo in October 2014 begins with the Festa di Santa Reparata. I can't wait to share this cultural event with my guests.
Today I had a day dedicated to my favorite cooking ingredient - olive oil. My day started with a visit to an Olive Oil museum in Loreto Aprutino, in the Pescara province of Abruzzo, Italy. I saw an amazing array of antique olive pressing machines that have contributed to this part of Italy's wonderful olive oil tradition. I was amazed at the engineering wonder of the minds of clever people in the past who created olive oil production techniques using stone, timber, animal and man. All to produce what we know now to be the healthiest fat source we can consume.
I then ate an Abbuzzese degustation meal which included five savory dishes. Each one relied on lashings of olive oil for texture, flavour, fat and shine. I then slid back through the cobble stoned streets of the old hill top area of Loreto Aprutino and headed out of town passing countless olive trees, bursting with fruit and ready for harvest in late autumn.
I am staying at a tranquil agritourism olive farm just near Loreto Aprutino. The old farm house has been converted into a friendly and relaxed accommodation option for people who enjoy immersing themselves in local life. My hosts Mario, Gabriella and her mother Olga are welcoming, superb cooks and most importantly olive oil masters.
Tonight I was invited by Luciana Masci, an Abruzzo expert and Finding Valentino Tour of Abruzzo tour operator to join an olive oil master class with Gabriella. She explained the properties of olive oil, the process of production and the definition of what makes a good olive oil good. We learnt how to taste olive oil using special blue or amber coloured tasting glasses that help focus the user on the two crucial senses for olive oil - smell and taste. Gabriella's olive oil sells out every year and is award winning....and trust me, it is amazing. Peppery, smooth, clean and full of depth.
Following our tasting session we proceeded to do what many women here in Italy did out of necessity in the past....make olive oil soap. Good olive oil makes good soap. We added fresh rosemary from the garden to the soap mixture to add flex of colour and a sweet scent. I can't wait to see the results of our efforts tomorrow evening when it should be set enough to cut.
Now that I know how to taste olive oil, I'll do some taste testing at home with our Australian olive oils. I'll carry a little can of Gabriella's award winning oil home with me to measure against!
You too can experience olive oil tasting in my Finding Valentino Tour of Abruzzo in October 2014. Click on the Tours tab of angeladisciascio.com for details.
It's autumn here in Abruzzo and every household has collected chillies from their kitchen gardens, strung them together and hung them in patios, back doors, sides of houses....anywhere that will get enough sun and air to help dry them ready for using all year round.
One ingredient that typifies Abruzzo cooking is il diavolino, the little devil - chilli. It is used in many of the traditional dishes of Abruzzo, along with its milder, sweeter sister, peperoncino dolce. Fresh, dried, preserved in oil, ground, chopped....it is an essential part to the colour and flavour of Abruzzese dishes.
On many tables in Abruzzo, you may be presented with a whole chilli and a small knife or scissors to chop tiny morsels over your pasta or add to your plate to add depth and of course, fire. Above you can see a photo of a tray of chilli presented to me at an Abruzzese restaurant, each method of preparing the chilli having a different purpose. I was sweating just looking at them!
There are a few dishes that stand out for me as wonderful examples of using the capsicum family in simple, yet flavoursome Abruzzese cooking.
1. Abruzzo lamb ragu usually has some chilli as well as chopped capisicum
2. Pasta with oil, garlic and chilli. Simple perfection, especially late at night!
3. Roasted capsicums drizzled in lashings of olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs
4. Pasta with olive oil and chunks of dried sweet capsicums
5. Roasted capsicums pan fried with a beaten egg
6. Ventricina salami, peppered with the fiery backdrop of dried chilli
7. Leafy green vegetables, boiled then sautéed with oil, boiled potato, garlic and dried chilli
And the list could go on....
So add some fire (and sweetness) to your life and do like the Abruzzese - add a touch of chilli to everything. You'll be surprised just how good it is!
The first time I tried truffle, I was astounded at the effect it had on my senses. The musky scent is so unique and powerful. When that is combined with its deep earthy flavour, truffles are indeed an explosion of taste and aroma that envelopes your mouth and nasal passage. It is quite an amazing gastronomic experience.
Nearly ten years ago I had my first truffle - a pasta laced with shaved chocolate brown slivers that melted on my tongue. That pasta was in Pescocostanzo, a quaint mountain village high in the Maiella National Park in Abruzzo, Italy.
Today I returned to the same restaurant and went straight for the tagliolini con tartufo. It lived up to my memories. My senses were ignited again and I was transported to food heaven.
When you think of truffle production in Italy, most likely northern Italy and Umbria come to mind. But, did you know that Abruzzo is Italy's major truffle producer? Truffles from Abruzzo get transported to all the major truffle markets in the north of Italy and there are many specialist truffle hunters.
In my Finding Valentino Tour of Abruzzo in 2014 I have included a private truffle hunting excursion and a truffle degustation. You too can experience these gourmet delights, in the land where they are sourced. I'm sure you and your taste buds will be transported to food heaven with me!!
For information on the Finding Valentino Tour of Abruzzo 2014 click on the 'tours' tab at my website:
Today I met with Luciana Masci to put the final touches on the program for next year's Finding Valentino Tour of Abruzzo 2014.
Luciana is an Abruzzo expert and like me, is an Australian girl with Abruzzese heritage. She shares my passion for this magical part of the world. She has planned a wonderful itinerary.
Book and pay your deposit before October 31 and receive a free signed copy of my book Finding Valentino and a beautiful Abruzzo 2014 calendar. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Fara San Martino is known as the village of water and pasta. Pretty strange bedfellows you may think, but not really when you understand how important water is to the production of pasta.
This town tucked in the entrance to the Maiella mountain is where fresh, pure, clean, and crisp mountain water is the key ingredient that makes pasta produced here taste so good. In Fara San Martino you can find three of the most renowned pasta factories - De Cecco, Cocco, and Del Verde. Hundreds of people are employed to produce millions of kilos of pasta, not only for Italy, but the world. The pasta factories source their water direct from the centre of the mountain.
My pasta of choice in Australia is De Cecco and I recommend it to you too. Look for the initial F stamped near the best before date. Then you too can enjoy pasta made from the mountain water of Fara San Martino!
First day in Italy and what do I do? Go straight to my favorite street food market, Campo Di Fiori in Rome. Leaving Australia on the first day if Spring, it was great to time warp to a land with late summer seasonal fruit and veg. So what did I see? Juicy stone fruit of all varieties, rich in colour and juice. Holding a peach in my hand, it is weighed down by its juicy flesh. Melons are another treat, their perfume overwhelming even as you hold one. Served with prosciutto, what could be better than this sweet and salty combination? Tomatoes are abundant, especially cherry sized and on the vine. These clusters are just calling out to be eaten on bruschetta with some fresh mozzarella!
In Italy, the market stall holders often prepare veggies ready to eat. You might see a beautiful mix if salad leaves or artichokes trimmed and soaking in lemon water, or green veggies trimmed and chopped ready for the pot. Today I was drawn to the minestrone mix . Veggies selected for soup were washed, chopped and dotted with marble speckled borlotti beans. Ready to go in your pot! Now this is fast food with a slow food mentality. And I love it!