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Episode #063: Amazing Abruzzo – from Coast to Mountain Peaks

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In this episode, we are visiting a region of Italy that over the centuries has had many challenges – from earthquakes to famines to marauding invaders. Most people don’t know too much about Abruzzo and hopefully, this episode will help change that.

Show notes

Tucked away behind Rome’s Lazio region, Abruzzo is a place of ancient stories and legends, castles, beach towns, and of course, fabulous wine and food. Our guest is Luciana Masci, the founder of Touring Abruzzo, a small group tour company specializing in the region. Luciana is passionate about Abruzzo and loves exploring the small towns and villages of the region as well as helping people with Abruzzi heritage discover their family history.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  1. Abruzzo has the Adriatic coast to the West and the Apennine Mountains to the East, with Lazio on the other side
  2. People of Abruzzo are known for being ‘forte e gentile‘ –  strong and kind
  3. A Trabucco is a fishing timber pontoon found along the coast that cannot be bought but are handed down through the generations
  4. On the Trabbochi – they say ‘calalenta’ meaning ‘let the sails go down slowly’ as they lower the nets
  5. The area has been invaded by so many including the Normans, the Spanish, the French, the Goths and Visigoths
  6. The Fortress of Civitella del Tronto is the largest fortress in Italy and was the location of the last stand of that Kingdom after the Garibaldine and Piedmontese invasion of 1860, after King Francis II had already surrendered and Italy was unified as the country we know today for the first time. Civitella, however, held out a little longer and didn’t surrender until 20 March 1861
  7. Unusual for Italy, saffron and cinnamon are used throughout the region and goes back to the Spanish and Arabic influence from previous invasions. The saffron was bought from Spain by the Dominican monks in the 1400s.
  8. Pecorino is a white wine from Abruzzo which may confuse people as it has the same name as sheep cheese. There are a couple of theories why this might be – one of which is that it comes from the Transumanza, shepherds that have moved their flocks from Abruzzo down to Puglia for 3000 years and their sheep liking to nibble on the lower grapes
  9. Local hard cheeses also come for the tradition of the Transumanza as they worked well for keeping longer and the shepherds would mature them in grottos and cellars

About our guest – Luciana Masci

Luciana was born in Brisbane to Abruzzese parents, Sabatino Masci and Rosa Pizzica. Her parents migrated to Australia in the 1950’s from Ripa Teatina in the Chieti province. They were part of the large post-war migration all over the world.

 

Luciana was raised in a very traditional Abruzzese household and in contact with her large Abruzzese family in Brisbane. Her parents gave the best gift of all – a great education and she went on to University and studied physiotherapy which she still practices today.

She also worked as a tour guide in Australia since Expo 1988 in Brisbane with many incoming Italian and French delegates and tourists. She would do many meet and greets and also tour these inbound tourists in Australia. She is fluent in English of course, and in Abruzzese! She speaks Italian and French as well. Luciana has taught Italian cooking and Italian language over the years as well.

In 2004, due to many life’s challenges thrown at her, she decided to take the road less travelled and try a different course for her life. That is to return to Abruzzo after several trips in her childhood. This time in 2004 it was different as she noticed that Abruzzo had very few, if any, tourists and visitors. She decided to do extensive and thorough research into her culture and people and after 2 years of solid research, learning, networking and travelling, she was ready to put a formal tour programme together.

It is now 16 years that Luciana has been travelling to Abruzzo and sharing her passion for her people and land and has shown many travellers from Australia, New Zealand, UK and USA the wonderful sights and experiences Abruzzo has to offer.

Luciana conducts small group and private tours for those who want to experience more of Abruzzo and this undiscovered gem of Italy. There are 4, 8, 10 day tour programmes she has created. The other part of her work which is equally rewarding is helping many Italian Americans and some Australians reconnect with their Abruzzese heritage.

With thorough and extensive research prior to the clients visit she is able, with her local team there to put together a wonderful experience including locating the archives and ancestral records, finding the ancestral home and church where their forefathers and mothers were baptised… Also to walk the same streets as their ancestors is just amazing and very emotional for them. They get to be welcomed by the mayor of the village as well…and of course the icing on the cake is if she manages to find actual living relatives and long lost family.

She now also offers small group boutique tours and private tours to other central and southern Italian regions such as Puglia, Basilicata, Sardinia and Molise.

You can find Luciana on these channels:

Food & Wine

  • Arrosticini  – Abruzzese lamb skewers (arguably Abruzzo’s most iconic dish)
  • Timballo – pasta
  • Brodo – local soup
  • Pizzelle – a sweet waffle made with olive oil
  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – the regions most famous wine
  • Ferratelle – a local sweet
  • Triglie – mullet
  • Zuppa di pesce – fish soup
  • Brodetto de pesce – fish soup with crustaceans
  • Frito mixto – mixed fried fish
  • Trebbiano d’Abruzzo – Aburzzo’s mos famous white wine
  • Pecorino – a white wine becoming very popular around the world
  • Cerasuolo d’abruzzo – a rose wine. The name comes from ‘cirasce’ which is cherry in the local dialect, because of the color
  • Caciocavallo – a cows-milk pulled cheese (like mozzarella) which would be hung on the back of donkeys and horses and would stay fresh for 3 – 6 months
  • Marcetto – is the Abruzzo version of maggot (otherwise known as pitted cheese) where the fly larva’s enzymes break down to make a delicious (truly!) spreadable cheese.  It takes about a year for the Marcetto to be ready.
  • Cardoon artichoke – there is an artisan cheesemaker in Abruzzo who, rather than using rennet, uses a substance made from cardoon artichokes to make her cheese

Places mentioned in the show

  • Pescara – a lovely coastal town known for its beaches and a great base for a stay in Abruzzo
  • Civitella del Tronto – northern town in the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park
  • Santa Chiara, Sulmona – where confetti was first created. The almonds come from Sicily and the sugar originally came from Persia and was added by the nuns of Santa Chiara in the 15th century
  • Gran Sasso – ‘Great Rock of Italy’ a mountain in the Apennine Mountains
  • San Vito Chietino – the town is home to the “La Costa dei Trabocchi” Trabocchi being the wooden fisherman pontoon built since 1400 in the middle of the sea
  • Vasto – in the south of Abruzzo, a hilltop ancient Roman town overlooking the Adriatic sea
  • Molise – a mountainous Italian region below Abruzzo
  • The Isole Tremiti /Tremiti Islands – an archipelago in the Adriatic Sea, north of the Gargano Peninsula
  • Fossacesia a town located on a small hill on the left of the Sangro River’s mouth
  • Giulianovacoastal town and comune in the province of Teramo
  • Fortress of Civitella del Tronto – is the largest fortress in Italy and second largest in Europe (after the Hohensalzburg in Salzburg, Austria)
  • Rocca Calascio – an impressive mountaintop fortress/castle – the highest fortress in the Apennines which many movies have used as a film location
  • Palombaro – the village where Luciana lives, in the Province of Chieti

Resources

  • Pronto bus – a bus service with daily connections between Abruzzo and Rome
  • Latin/Roman Poet Ovid – from Sulmona (name Publius Ovidius Naso)
  • Pelino confetti factory – most famous confetti (sugared almonds) factory
  • 1915 Avezzano earthquake – a devastating earthquake that took place in 1915, destroying many properties
  • The italic people – Italici – descended from Indo-Europeans who migrated into Italy in the second millennium BC
  • Streghe D’Abruzzo – the witchey folklore of the region
  • Mal’occhio – the evil eye/evil spirits
  • Mazzamurello – little sprites, the spirit of children who have died
  • The Saraceni – pirates from Turkey
  • Crocus Sativus – known as the saffron crocus
  • LadyHawk – 1985 medieval fantasy movie
  • The Name of the Rose – 1986 movie of the famous book where an intellectually nonconformist friar investigates a series of mysterious deaths in an isolated abbey.

Resources from Untold Italy

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Transcript

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