Monday, January 16, 2012

Winter visit to Civitella del Tronto

16 Gennaio
OK, I promise this is the last blog posting for a while, but I was wayyyy behind!  Those who have followed the blog from its beginnings know how much I love this place with its 360 degree views of Abruzzo and the southern Marche.  This was the last fort to fall during the italian war of unification and was located at the border of the Papal state and the 2 Sicilys.  The western flank of the fort is right at the edge of a 100+ foot cliff with views to the Piselli mountains.  To the south lie beautiful hills, Gran Sasso, the tallest mountain in southern Italy and the Camicia mountains to the east of Gran Sasso.  To the north you can see all the way to my town of Offida and the Adriatic sea and the coastal towns are visible to the east.  The fort is large and wonderfully restored with a nice museum and gift shop and the little town of Civitella below the fort is cute with a nice plaza and a fine restaurant in the plaza's hotel, Zunica. It is about a 45 minute drive from Nascondiglio di Bacco.  This trip I shared the place with Fabio and Maggie.
Master photographer Maggie, taking pix to the south before the entrance.

The outer wall, just opened to the public, this walkway goes all the way to the western end of the southern wall, now with an entrance further down into the upper fort.

Olive grove and abandoned, crumbling farmhouse to the south

Bacco is well trained!

The old captain's quarters

The recent renovation has opened up many more of the internal rooms.

Gran Sasso

Looking west from the eastern part of the fort towards Mt. Piselli

A place for summer concerts

There's a 50 foot drop here.

Southern view from the fort
Finally, here is the info from my new friend Anne for those who are interested in great Umbrian tours and keeping up on italian sites in general at her blogsite:
And do sign up for Italian Notebook, a great website for Italophiles - she contributes regularly.

Celebrating the new year with a pig rendering: PG 13

The next stop on the tour of south central Italy was Abruzzo, where Fabio's sister's in-laws reside.  A tradition in the italian countryside, and I am sure in the countryside of many countries, is the slaughtering of a pig or two.  The farmers usually buy a baby pig early in the year and fatten them up until late December/early January when they are killed and then rendered into every imaginable product with nothing wasted.  As our host didn't want to watch the actual killin', we arrived after the carcass had been cleaned and sawn in two halves.

Here, the fellow who raised the pig for our host, is cutting off most of the head.

Removing the brain, a delicacy?

Fabio having a ball cutting up the  meat and preparing for the sausage making.

Cooking up Cif Ciaf, sort of the small pieces which wouldn't be easy to use otherwise.  The cooking and heating in the house was accomplished by this wood burning fireplace; even the water was heated this way.

I hate to have a blog post without a picture of a pretty girl!  Here is Nisha, Fabio's sister, and her husband Franco, whose family was our host in Abruzzo.  Franco's dad was the "General" who guided us through our various tasks of pig rendering out on the farm in the middle of nowhere.

Franco's grandmother, cutting up the pieces for their various uses, including the skin for crackle, the fat for lard or use in the sausage, etc.

Bucket of lean meat which will be weighed below, to ascertain how much salt and spices to add with fat above which will be added to add a bit of flavor and moisture to the sausage.  We never got close to the 50% fat in most US industrial sausages, more like 15%, I would guess.

The electric grinder, thank goodness for some modernity!

The "General" and his brother, a colonel, I am guessing.

Starting the sausage making and trying to overwhelm those tying the sausages with our speed and dexterity.

The maestra!  Fabio after finishing tying up all the sausage below, told her he thought he had tied them all pretty precisely, to which she responded: "They aren't precise at all!" Really burst his balloon, hehe.

A mountain of sausage to tie into individual links.

Hanging up to dry.

Starting the cleanup and smiling, because after 2 days out here in the middle of nowhere, I was planning my escape!

Amazing Pompeii!

I finally go to Pompeii after 6 years in Italy.  I was surprised by all of the misconceptions I needed to correct about the place.  First of all, I thought it was a small place with a few buildings they had uncovered, but it was, in reality a city of 20K spread over 160+ acres of land. It was a popular vacationing spot for the rich, decadent Romans of the 1st century.  In November of 79 AD, 700 years after its founding, it was buried for 1700 years by 25 meters of ash from the huge eruption of neighboring Vesuvius.  It was probably rediscovered in the 1500's, but the archeologist was embarrassed by all the risqué frescoes, etc and supposedly re-buried his discovery, where it waited for a less prudish explorer in the 1700's.  
It is in major need of repairs which have been estimated at 1/3 of a billion dollars +/- and much of the site has been closed to the public.  (Wikipedia: Pompeii)  
That said, there is a lot to see and it needs a half day for an american tourist (who will be seeing 6 sites in 6 days and needs to rush).  I also thought it was a port town, but it is quite a ways inland in this day and age and also much closer to Napoli than I thought.  This was part of "The Grand Tour, which was the voyage all educated, well to do folks were expected to take back in the day.
If you are planning a trip to Italy, remember how long the country is and don't try to do everything in a one week visit.  a week will let you do Napoli, Pompeii, Caserta for the Reggia, Capri and the Amalfi coast and then do another trip to see other parts, so you don't get stressed out trying to do too much.  From Napoli, it is easy to take a train to the ruins and for the adventuresome spirit, you can take a train which takes you all around Vesuvius.
Matteo and Fabio near the Basilica

Matteo admiring one of the statues.  I found out from a local via fb, the statues on display are copies, with the originals many times to be seen in the Museum at Napoli.

One of the "casts" of a local caught under 25 meters of raining ash.

A pettirosso in the ruins; made me wonder if they were around 1950 years ago after seeing the mosaics below.

They rotate which buildings they open daily to decrease the impact of the tourists.  This is the gladiator house, which has undergone extensive reconstruction after a collapse years ago.

The paintings are very well preserved, amazing considering the passage of time

The Grand Theater, which sat 5,000 people at 40cm of space per person (the where they must have had great concerts and plays.

My 2 friends in questionable poses
A good view of the culprit, Vesuvius, which is well past due for another eruption

A view of a part of the forum

The amphitheater where Pink Floyd played in 1971 (Wikipedia: Pompeii)

Two celebrations, a KC wine tasting at Jasper's and an italian wedding in Caserta Vecchia

16 January, 2012
Sorry about the lateness of these posts, but I have a nice snow day to catch up, as pruning is problematic in this weather.  My wonderful time in the states was full of activities, dinner at Casa Somerset, this wine tasting at Jasper's and Christmas celebrations with my family in St. Louis.  My visits to MO would not be complete without the traditional dinner at Jasper's with friends, but thanks to the simpatico custom's dept. in Chicago, I was able to bring in, duty free, more than a case of my bottled wine and 10 liters of the fun bulk wine which I had in bag in box.  I had a grand group of friends who attended and the tasting part was topped off by a sumptuous dinner courtesy of Jasper and his talented chefs.  These wines are not going to be available in the states, but plans are to bottle the Reserve Pecorino and the bordeaux blend in the next 3 months and after they have become used to their new glass homes, they will hopefully available in MO and CO, we will see.  Fingers crossed!
The IGT red-75% Montepulciano and 25% Syrah with the red label and the DOC Pecorino in the green label 
Old friends above and below

Old roommates, and I mean OLD!

Dinner after
Thanks everyone for attending and making it a memorable occasion for me!
And now the italian wedding of my friends Giorgio and Gaia in the beautiful town of Caserta Vecchia, not far from Napoli
3 of my former classmates from the Slow Food master's program (where we met Giorgio):  Matteo, Silvia and Fabio

The groom greeting all the guests when they arrive at the church

The beautiful bride escorted by her father

It's official!  Way to go Gaia and Giorgio.

At the reception responding to one of the myriad brindisi (toasts) to the newly married couple

8 of our class of 21 were present for the ceremony

Mother, sister and bride

The beautiful and humorous wedding cake.  See the different couples with the woman chasing or dragging the man to the altar.

Throwing the garter.   I never saw the bouquet thrown.  
I hope everyone gets to attend an italian wedding some time.  It is a wonderfully warm event, full of good humor fun, and serious at the same time.  Good luck to the new Farina family!