When I am asked to describe Abruzzo and its people with one word, I often choose authentic or genuine. Defined as “unaltered in the original constituent elements, coming from a sure source and therefore corresponding to the truth”, these words describe very well what Abruzzo is about. But also what Abruzzo produces…
As everywhere in the world right now, many people are struggling. Farmers, vendors, artisans, the list is long.
As Christmas approaches, we decided to write about some of the products that immediately come to mind when thinking of Abruzzo. We hope to inspire you to treat yourself or someone dear to you with an authentic gift, buying products that can support this splendid Italian region and its genuine population.
[Disclaimer: we do not have any commercial affiliation with the producers mentioned in this article. As a matter of fact, they don’t even know they are mentioned here, many don’t even know us, while some are friends or even family. However, our interest is to simply get you to know what the region has to offer].
We will keep on updating this article from time to time, so save it somewhere so you can use it when you need ideas…
An artisanal product gives us the opportunity to get closer to history, tradition, and someone’s soul. Each artisan employs technical and artistic skills, in addition to his personal language. Therefore, each piece can express something unique, and at the same time tied to history.
Keep warm and cool with wool
Do you know you can find a very special and typical wool blanket in Abruzzo? Chiara wrote about it in our article about Christmas in Abruzzo. It’s the traditional wool blanket made in Taranta Peligna. A unique product that Gaetano Merlino is trying to keep alive. He is combining the production of the blanket with the promotion of the local area of Taranta Peligna, where the blanket is designed and produced. We have two blankets, a lovely present to the kids to the grandparents!
Another wool paradise is Lana Aquilana, they raise sheep and produce wool which is sold in their Bottega in Santo Stefano di Sessanio. Just looking at their pictures makes one want to start knitting!
Ceramics and visual art
Castelli is the most famous centre producing ceramics and majolica. In this small and picturesque town, ceramic production dates back to the 15th century. Today, generations of artisans still create the famous ceramics, and the choice of stores is very large.
One of our favourite ceramists and artists is Aruru, who we interviewed in this article. This is my first choice for presents to myself and others. Aruru was so generous to mention other two talented ceramists, Fabio Amoroso, and Maurizio Righetti.
Talking about art, Michela di Lanzo is another artist you should check out. She has a unique independent micro-publishing project called MDL, that includes fine art prints as well as puppets. We have one of her prints in our house and love it!
Shaped and precious metals: goldsmiths and blacksmiths
Abruzzo is also famous for its jewellery, which is strongly tied to tradition and symbolism. Scanno is one of the centres for traditional jewellery making, Francesca speaks about it in her article (in Italian). Walking around the centre you find several shops with beautiful precious objects, we would like to signal the ancient goldsmith workshop Di Rienzo, in Scanno since 1850. In 2010 they even made pieces for the pope, and now have an online shop.
Another peculiar jewellery shop is in Casoli, and is called Di Florio Gioielleria. They use tradition and architectural peculiarity of the town, by mixing the traditional Presentosa, with the rosette of Santa Reparata church. We mention those two, but the list could be lengthy…
Guardiagrele, is another town to visit when it comes to craft and artisanal work, I explain here my three reasons to visit Guardiagrele. But here I will briefly mention three that are only related to craft:
The goldsmiths making beautiful jewels, such as earrings called sciacquajje, circeje or caravelle, which look like magic objects, coming from far away.
The blacksmith shops, where you can find artistic objects and tools related to tradition, including irons to make pizzelle, ferratelle and other delicious local waffles.
And finally the pastry shops making the Sise delle Monache (nuns’ breasts), as Palmerio’s pastry shop, in Via Roma 70, or at Lullo’s, founded in 1889, at the civic 105. Definitely a sweet gift.
Another place to order even custom-made waffle irons with traditional Abruzzese patterns is Aveia Ars from the village of Fossa, which was largely devastated by the earthquake in 2009. Think how gorgeous it would be to offer a presentosa-waffle to your guests…
Who doesn’t love a good book? Well, you can support Abruzzo in two ways.
You can buy books made by authors from Abruzzo, for example. We interviewed some of them, and we plan on interviewing more, so just look around in Abruzzo.no for a start… and then buy them from a local bookstore. Many now deliver at home, or send books to you. As our friend Stefano from MU in Lanciano, but there are many offering this service now.
The other thing is to buy books from a local publisher. Francesca mentioned two of them in our article on Christmas in Abruzzo, where you find also other gift tips…
As a passionate traveller, I believe that much of a place’s culture is transmitted through food: produces, recipes, flavours, scents… Abruzzo is no exception, possibly the opposite: food is what binds us to each other, and to our land.
Where to start? The list of fantastic produces and products from Abruzzo is virtually limitless. I will start from the first thing that comes to my mind, and so continue randomly and a bit daydreaming, knowing that the list will never be complete.
L’olio d’oliva: Abruzzo’s liquid gold
I’ll not dwell on the many memories around its production, instead I will go straight to signal, among many many good producers, Ursini from Fossacesia. On their website we read “Ursini is a family before being a company”, and I like it as it is often the truth about local companies. They not only have olive oil, but propose many other tasty products that I even find in Norway sometime!
Another is the Trappeto di Caprafico (can you say it?), from Casoli, another family with a relationship to olives that dates back to 1874!
However, the choice is large, and if you are in Abruzzo I am sure you can find one near you.
Abruzzo’s red gold: Zafferano
L’Aquila saffron, for instance, produced in the Navelli valley is an Italian product with a protected designation of origin (DOP).
This precious spice is obtained from the saffron flower which is harvested and processed by hand, at high altitudes, then toasted according to an ancient tradition with almond and oak wood. Zafferano can be bought in several physical and online shops as Zafferano degli Abruzzi, based in Caporciano (AQ), or Cooperativa Altopiano di Navelli, from Navelli, and even as cosmetics, from Tindora Cosmetics in L’Aquila.
Santo Stefano di Sessanio Lentils
Remaining in the slopes of the Gran Sasso, we find the famous Santo Stefano di Sessanio Lentils, Slow Food presidium. They are cultivated at altitudes over 1,000mt, because of their small size they do not require soaking before cooking, according to Slow food: “They are extraordinarily flavorful”.They can be found in most local stores, or in the online shops listed at the end of this article.
Abruzzo’s secret weapon: gli arrosticini, and ventricina
A true delicacy, they are sheep meat-based skewers. The meat is cut into small cubes of max 1 cm, and mixed with small fat pieces, is strung on wooden skewers. The arrosticini must be grilled with skills in a “canaletta” filled with embers. They are best eaten with bruschetta and a good Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. You can find arrosticini in many places, especially around Pescara, warm and ready to eat. You can buy them in many local stores, for instance C.I.C. Carni,online and in San Giovanni Teatino.
Ventricina is a marvel, and you can read about this very peculiar and typical salami in our article, where you can find info on the Ventricina Academy.
We could name many other sausages and cured meats, and maybe we will do it in the future.
We could write an infinite amount about local cheeses and local producers. I will keep it short and name just those that already appeared in Abruzzo.no:
Bioagriturismo Valle Scannese, in Scanno.
Colle del Nibbio, in Civitaluparella.
La Casetta bianca, in Lettopalena.
Another liquid gold: honey
Honey is produced a bit everywhere in the region, but Tornareccio is somehow considered a capital of honey making. Among the many producers in the region, we can mention Apicoltura Luca Finocchio producing honey and honey based products.
My own family has been involved in honey production and beekeeping, so honey will definitely be in my shopping list!
After all this food, a sweet end is needed. Then we suggest a torrone, Nurzia dating back between 1700 e 1800, my favourite.
Otherwise a typical Parrozzo, from Luigi d’Amico, one of D’Annunzio favourites who gave the name to this local cake.
Finally, a festive speciality: confetti (no, the word is not the same in english)! The finely sugar covered almonds: Pelino from Sulmona, of course.
We cannot write about italian food, and not mention pasta. Abruzzo is no exception. Typical formats are “la chitarra”, “rintrocilo”, le “sagne”, le “sagne pezzate” among others. Abruzzo is famous for pasta production, especially in Fara San Martino, hosting world renowned brands as De Cecco and Delverde.
But I would like to mention to others smaller brands, all very good:
Cav. Giuseppe Cocco, tasty and with elegant packing, with expertise dating back to 1916, also from Fara San Martino. They also started to make coffee: Officina Cinque Caffè.
I would like to mention our friends from Mercato scoperto (their story here). They are normally selling in San Vito Chietino, but due to COVID it hasn’t always been doable. They posted price lists from some producers who have decided to take action and start home deliveries (where possible) and shipments. They are small scale producers, proposing truffles, wines, mushrooms, cheeses, preserves and pickles, etc…
We recommend their products and invite you to support them.
There is also a small shop called La Bottega di Gaia, selling 100% made in Abruzzo products, from food and wine to ceramics, passing through textile art and goldsmithing, in Atessa.
Finally, why not, a dinner or a gift card to one of your favourite restaurants in Abruzzo, or one you want to try…
A drink to celebrate, to digest a consistent abruzzo meal, or “to give you strength” as the previous hard workers generations used to say.
Winemaking traditions in Abruzzo date back to the sixth century BC.
There are many small and big producers, some famous as Emidio Pepe, Valentini or Masciarelli. So, I invite you to look a bit around, taste if you can, and buy from small producers.
I can name a few:
Feudo D’Ugni of passionate producer Cristiana Galasso in San Valentino in Abruzzo Citeriore;
Torre Dei Beati, organic vineyard in Loreto Aprutino;
Ciavolich, “wool merchants who arrived in Miglianico in 1500 and in 1853 built the family’s first cellar, one of the oldest winemaking structures in Abruzzo”;
Olivastri, from San Vito Chietino;
Pasetti, in the heart of the National Park of Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga;
Il Feuduccio di Santa Maria d’Orni, located in Orsogna. Gaetano, son of emigrants, came back to Abruzzo and founded Il Feuduccio: a legacy among generations, today his son Camillo and his grandson Gaetano manage the estate. They also make very good olive oil.
“One hundred herbs”, a very typical and strooong liqueur (75%) is made by aromatic herbs commonly found on Mount Majella. Is produced by Liquori Toro, from Tocco da Casauria, started by a pharmacist in 1817.
It is a distillate obtained from the roots of the gentian plant (Gentiana lutea), collected in the pastures between 1000 and 2.500 mt of altitude. It can be quite bitter and is typically served at the end of a good meal, especially in the mountainous areas and in L’Aquila.
Gentian is a protected plant and therefore cannot be freely harvested; but it can be bought in several liquor stores and producers, or in the online shops listed at the end of this article.
Who doesn’t love gin? A good gin&tonic and I am already on vacation… Then I must share a little treasure I found while researching this article: the first artisan distillery in the city of L’Aquila: 67cento. They produce two lines of London Dry Gin, using local plants, selected with the collaboration with the Majella National Park. I am heading to their shop…
Not in Abruzzo?
Many of the mentioned artists, artisans, vendors, shops, producers, have online stores or possibility to order. However, you can also use online markets as for example:
the Co-operative Abruzzo-centric Marketplace launched by our friend Sam Dunham, read her interview here, from the blog Life in Abruzzo;
the Cooperativa ASCA – Bioagriturismo la porta dei parchi, che si trova ad Anversa degli Abruzzi; Broozy, a startup entirely dedicated to Abruzzo and based in Avezzano; Abruzzo Natural; to name a few…
Finally, I must mention the book (in italian) we made in collaboration with other travel bloggers. It is not only about Abruzzo, but about 300 destinations in Italy, through 700 pages and more than 500 photographs: “Destinazione Italia”.
Have you made your list?
We hope this article helped to get to know some hidden gems, or brought back to mind all the beautiful products and products the region and the people have to offer. We hope you got some gift ideas for the people you care about.
Finally, we hope it will somehow help all those creative, dedicated and hard workers of Abruzzo, to get through a challenging period.
Oslo, December 2020
Other photos as mentioned under each photo.
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