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Ancel Keys (1904-2004), a Minnesota physiologist, is considered a pioneer in medical research for his theories linking diet, especially fat intake, and heart disease. Although strongly criticised, his "Seven Countries Study" is the first major study to connect diet and lifestyle with cardiovascular disease. This was achieved comparing data from 7 different countries and cultures over an extended period of time.
Launched in the late 50s, the study remains active, although the main results were published in the 1970 paper. The objects of the research are different groups of middle-aged men in countries with different lifestyles and diet.
Through long-term observation different factors could be observed and considered providing valid data on risk factors and mortality. The main theory to emerge as the result was that coronary disease increased in countries with diets rich in fat. The fat composition of these diets was determined to be the origin of higher cholesterol levels, a major risk factor.
The countries where people and their diets were analysed are the USA, Finland, Holland, Italy, Greece, the former Yugoslavia and Japan.
Working with a team of researchers from all over the world, Keys collected data about demographic factors, lifestyle factors (including smoking and physical activity) and medical history. Physical examination consisting of measuring height and weight, testing blood pressure, pulse and heart rate and gathering other essential medical data were also part of the study. Diet information was collected not only through questionnaires but also by shipping samples of the same actual foods consumed by the observed people to a central laboratory in order to analyse levels of fatty acids, nitrogen and ash.
Although initially fiercely opposed by many doctors and scientists, Keys' findings are today the base for the popularity of the Mediterranean diet. Notable supporters of Keys' theories include the Umberto Veronesi Foundation, a leading institution for cancer research, which also studies the links between diet and health.
As countries such as Italy or Greece demonstrated lower levels of heart disease, this was linked to the lower levels of animal fat found in the local diet, rich in vegetables and vegetable oil and poor in red meat.
Later studies conducted in other countries in fact confirmed that people following a Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. They also suggest that following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern may help lose weight, improve blood glucose levels and reduce the risk of depression or inflammation.
Ancel Keys himself, who lived to be a hundred years old, chose the heart of the Mediterranean to spend 28 years of his life, dedicating himself to the study of the local diet and culture. In 1962 he moved to Pioppi, a village in Cilento, where he bought a house which he named Minnelea, a word created from Minnesota and the Greek colony Elea, whose ruins he could see from his home. Even after moving back to the USA he kept returning to his beloved Cilento village.
With its high number of "super-agers" (life expectancy is 92 for women and 85 for men, higher than the Italian average) Cilento is considered the cradle of the Mediterranean diet. The wide variety of genuine products and deep cultural roots strictly connect this rich territory with Mediterranean life style and its advantages.
The village of Acciaroli, for example, has one of the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world, an astonishing level of longevity, higher than that in Okinawa in Japan.
CIAO (Cilento Initiative on Aging Outcome), a recent study by La Sapienza University in Rome, aimed to identify the impact of life style and genetic factors on the longevity in the Cilento region. The study concentrated on microcirculation, the blood flow through the smallest vessels in the circulatory system, and identified a specific microcirculation bio-marker (bio-ADM), which could be the cause for such longevity.
The researchers are now planning to investigate whether certain components of the local Mediterranean diet, especially certain plants native to the area and used in the typical local cuisine, could affect the bio-ADM level.
Another idea is to bring people with high bio-ADM levels to Cilento and measure the effect of local environment on levels of the microcirculation biomarker.
But what is the Mediterranean diet? The Mediterranean is a vast area which includes countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece.
Although recipes may differ across the regions, traditional cuisine in these countries is largely based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, cereal grains, olive oil and fish. Meat was originally not readily available, as these countries were poor, so small amounts of animal fat were consumed. Starchy foods, such as bread and pasta, are an important element of the Mediterranean diet as are pulses, an essential source of fat-free protein. Sweets are based on honey, fruit and nuts rather than cream or butter and have therefore lower levels of cholesterol.
The Mediterranean diet though is not just a set of gastronomic or farming rules. It is the very core of Mediterranean cultural identity based on hospitality, family values and intense social exchange. It finds its ideal places not only in the houses of the people but in markets, fairs and other festive events.
As such it was inserted on the Representative List of the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013.
Eating as one does in the Mediterranean is not only easy, it's tasty! Mediterranean cuisine is delicious and extremely varied and everybody can find something they'll love. It's in Italy, with its immense variety of products and dishes, together with a long lasting passion for food and tradition, that the Mediterranean diet reaches the highest levels of excellence and undisputed degrees of quality.
The best way to learn about the Mediterranean diet is by visiting the Museo Vivente della Dieta Mediterranea in Pioppi, the hamlet's special tribute to its most notable resident Ancel Keys.
Located in the beautiful 17th century Palazzo Vinciprova, the "eco-museum" contains an important collection of books from Ancel Keys' library as well as interesting multimedia installations focused on the senses: taste, touch and smell. A special room is dedicated to homemade pasta and shows video-footage of Cilento women as they make pasta the traditional way.
The aim of the museum is to promote the gastronomic culture and tradition of the region. The museum organises conventions, educational workshops, cooking classes and guided walks to local vegetable gardens and wind mills. It is open all year round, every day except on Tuesdays. Opening hours vary depending on the season. In the same building is the "Museo Vivo del Mare", also recommended.Any suggestions?
Set within the National Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano, the beautiful stretch of coastline extending from the village of Camerota to the municipality of San Giovanni a Piro is a protected marine area of spectacular natural beauty.
Rightly considered one of the nicest places in the Mediterranean, it is rich in cliffs, coves and beaches. Picturesque caves can be found both underwater and above the sea level, the most famous of which, The Alabaster Cave, has wonderful stalactites, stalagmites and formations of alabaster.
The protected area extends to the sea, full of fish, posidonia oceanica (Neptune Grass) and red coral, all important elements of the local ecosystem. The best way to admire the underwater richness of the sea is by diving; Secca Piccola is a popular diving site off Punta degli Infreschi and other famous dives start from Cala Monti di Luna.
Non-divers can hike to some of the beaches following steep and beautiful hiking paths. An easier alternative are the many boat trips leaving from Palinuro or Marina di Camerota: if lucky, tourists can spot dolphins as they swim in the crystal clear water.
Small boats driven by expert guides take groups of people to the secluded beaches of Cala Monte, Cala Bianca and Spiaggia dei Francesi (also known as Spiaggia del Marcellino) to enjoy a spectacular sea and beautiful scenery.
Highlight of the trip is Punta degli Infreschi, the best preserved of all jewels in this wonderful area. It owes its name to the clear and fresh water (infreschi from Latin frigidum and Italian fresco) and is rich in marine fauna and flora.
Many of its caves have archaeological interest, as prehistoric human remains (homo camerotensis) were found in them. The cove was voted "best Italian beach" in the 2014 edition of the Legambiente contest "La più bella sei tu", an online contest were people can vote their favourite beaches.
Make sure you visit this amazing piece of paradise early in the morning or in the off season, as it can get very crowded.Any suggestions?
The menaica fishing technique dates back to the ancient Romans and was once common throughout the Mediterranean. Replaced by more modern and effective techniques, it is now used in only a few villages in the Cilento area.
Marina di Pisciotta is the centre of Menaica fishing and from March to August fishermen set out to sea to fish anchovies using this special net.
As the fish rise to feed on algae, they bump into the nets spread by the fishermen and get caught. The bigger size of the menaica’s mesh allows young anchovies to swim through, catching only the larger anchovies.
Unfortunately, some of the anchovies caught in the menaica struggle and bleed trying to escape from the net. To detach them, fishermen prefer to twist off their heads and end their struggle. This immediate bleeding is probably the cause for the anchovy’s superior flavour and much appreciated texture; although seemingly cruel, it must be said that this ancient method saves these fish the long suffering they would have otherwise undergone by asphyxiation.
Today, not all fishermen bring forth this traditional method so you could find seaside stalls selling whole anchovies.
The flesh of Menaica anchovies is pink and firm and tastes like a fine cured meat. They are much more expensive than the varieties caught using other, more intensive fishing techniques. An advantage of using the menaica is that the anchovy population remains constant and overfishing is avoided. Therefore, as the product of a sustainable fishing philosophy, they are now a Slow Food presidium.
To the residents of Marina di Pisciotta the pride of being able to offer a more genuine and better-tasting anchovy far outweighs the harder work and smaller catches. Tourists in the village are able to buy the fish directly from the fishermen as they come back to shore in the early morning.
If not eaten immediately the anchovies are preserved in salt for three months before being put into jars and sold. They can be best enjoyed with olive oil and fresh ricotta or with pasta.
Try the following recipe for a delicious treat: Alici di Menaica with Ricotta.
Serves 4: 2 salted Menaica anchovies, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, 100 g fresh ricotta, salt and freshly ground black pepper, thickly sliced country bread, lightly toasted.
Rinse the anchovies under cold running water to remove the salt, fins and collarbone. Separate into two fillets. Remove the backbone and larger bones, leaving the small edible ones.
Place the anchovies, flesh side up, on a small plate and cover with vinegar. Allow to stand for 20 seconds and pour off. Pour enough olive oil over the anchovies to cover.
On each of 4 plates, place 2 to 3 tablespoons ricotta. Drizzle with oil and season. Lay an anchovy fillet over each mound. Serve with bread and white wine.
Roscigno, a village in the national Park of Cilento, is divided into two areas: the old town, Roscigno Vecchio or Vecchia and the new town. While the new town has a population of approximately 800 inhabitants, the old village, also called the Ghost Town of Cilento, was abandoned after three landslides made it too dangerous for people to live.
The Italian government ordered villagers to leave the area at the beginning of the 20th century and the few remaining residents deserted the village in 1964, when malaria struck homes in the marshy lower quarter.
The movements which caused the landslides gave Roscigno another self-explanatory name: the town was called "the village that walks" because of the constant movement of the terrain which ultimately caused its evacuation.
Today Roscigno Vecchia is a tourist attraction and the only remaining inhabitant, Giuseppe Spagnuolo, serves both as the village caretaker and as a competent tourist guide. Giuseppe, who previously lived in Roscigno Nuova, left his wife and four children after his father-in-law moved in, "as his house had become too crowded".
The eccentric free spirited Giuseppe, with his thick beard and whiskers and a pipe constantly attached to his mouth, lives out of the products of the orchard and the donations of tourists and villagers from the new town.
His only neighbours are "the stray cats and the occasional lost sheep" but he enjoys the company of tourists and sometimes plays cards with surrounding villagers in the main square.
A visit to the old village is like a journey back in time. Strolling along the perfectly silent old streets, visitors find themselves in an open air museum.
The typical country houses stand to show how country life might have been in the old days while other buildings such as the 18th century Church of San Nicola and the town hall are what remains of the village social life and history. A beautiful fountain can also be found in the village.
Today, some restored rooms of the old rectory and the town hall host the Museum of farmers' Life, a collection of objects and photos documenting different aspects of country life sorted by the following six subjects: vines and wine, olive trees and olive oil, farm animals and cheese, work in the fields, wheat and bread.
The old town is a fascinating place and has been used as a set for several Italian films. A visit to the village is highly recommended!
Ph. Credits: antares91Any suggestions?
Cacioricotta is a tasty goat cheese made with fresh milk from a local Cilento breed called the Cilentana. Cilentana goats graze in the Mediterranean maquis shrubland and their milk acquires its distinguished flavour from the mix of shrubs and grass they feed on. The resulting cheese has a strong aromatic flavour that reflects the distinctive taste of the milk.
The name cacioricotta is derived from the mixed techniques used to produce this cheese: a combination of heating, found in the production of ricotta, and curding, used for producing cacio.
The milk is first boiled and then left to cool until it reaches about 37° C. At this stage the goat milk curd is added. The resulting mix is broken into pieces and put together again in round wickerbaskets called fuscelle. This allows the whey to pour out – a very old technique in use in the area since ancient times.
Different stages of seasoning determine the texture of cacioricotta and the intensity of its flavour: when mature the cheese is hard, darker in colour, compact and flaky and the flavour is more intense. Fresher cacioricotta is softer and lighter and more delicate in taste.
Today, cacioricotta is a Slow Food Presidium. The presidium, consisting of only six farmers and cheese-makers, aims to improve aging techniques and promote this flavoursome cheese. By creating a wider market for the cheese, the consortium helps farmers increase the size of their herds and maintain a characteristic feature of the local landscape. It is an important resource of the territory and should be favoured when choosing a local product in the stores. Seasoned forms can also be purchased outside the Cilento area and online.
Delicious eaten alone at the end of a meal or as a snack with bread, cacioricotta from Cilento can also alternatively be used to prepare tasty dishes.
Among these are orecchiette with fresh tomatoes, basil and cacioricotta or spaghetti with eggplant and cacioricotta. Better yet, use the tomato sauce mentioned above to season the traditional local pasta: handmade fusiddi. In summer, enjoy cacioricotta as a salad with fresh figs and hazelnuts!Any suggestions?
The rare, delicious Pertosa white artichoke, harvested between March and May, is grown in the towns of Pertosa, Auletta, Caggiano and Salvitelle, south of Salerno. Now a Slow Food presidium, the product had almost disappeared in the 1980s and only the passion and pride of the local growers, united in the Consorzio del Carciofo Bianco, and the philosophy of the Slow Food movement helped recover this gastronomic excellence.
Until a few years ago, in fact, farmers grew these artichokes in small plots at the edge of their fields, mostly for family consumption.
Unlike other artichokes grown in Italy, this variety is light green, almost white or silver (hence the name), extremely delicate and has no spines. The large, round and globular heads are tender and easy to trim. As a result, this artichoke is excellent when eaten raw and dipped in extra virgin olive oil.
Artichokes are not only tasty: they also provide health benefits and are used to protect the liver, help digestion and lower cholesterol levels.
The Sagra del Carciofo Bianco (white Artichoke Fair) is held every year in May in the main square of Pertosa and provides the best opportunity to taste the product in many different preparations as well as guaranteeing genuine entertainment. A similar fair, the Festa Del Carciofo Bianco, takes place in Auletta in the same period.
Once experienced, the delicious carciofo bianco cannot be forgotten so why not try the following recipe for stuffed white artichokes, as published on the Consorzio del Carciofo Bianco website:
Ingredients (serves 4): 4 large artichokes, 150g grated Pecorino cheese, 100g breadcrumbs, 4 eggs, finely chopped garlic, finely chopped parsley.
Preparation: remove a few of the outer, tougher leaves and clean the attached stem. Place into lemon water. In a bowl mix together the cheese, parsley, garlic, breadcrumbs and eggs. Mix until you have a very thick paste. Gently spread the outer artichoke leaves to make room for the stuffing and tip upside down to drain any excess water. Stuff the artichokes. Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a large pan and place the stuffed artichokes in the pan. Cook until browned on all sides. Add enough water to almost cover the artichokes and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer while occasionally turning until cooked. Enjoy!
The monumental Certosa di San Lorenzo at Padula, in the Vallo di Diano are of Cilento, is one of the largest and most impressive monastic structures in the world. Its construction began in 1306 by commission of Tommaso Sanseverino and continued until the 17th and 18th centuries, when important transformations gave its present baroque appearance.
The beautiful entrance gate dates back to 1374 and is one of the few remaining elements from the original structure. 17th century elements include the gilded decorations in the church, made by Francesco Cataldi, whereas the frescoes and most of the interior decors are from the 18th century.
The Carthusian monks left the monastery in 1807 following Napoleon's suppression of religious orders and the building remained in a state of disrepair until renovation works started in 1982.
Today the imposing Charterhouse, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1998, has been brought back to its original splendour.
The highlight of the visit is undoubtedly the 12,000 sq. metres cloister, with two levels of arcades. The 24 monk's cells lining the cloister now house a collection of avant-garde contemporary artists such as Chia, De Maria, Paladino, Lewit, Paik, Kirchhoff and many others.
A grand marble helical staircase leads to the library, which boasts magnificent majolica floors decorated by Giuseppe Massa and a beautiful 1763 painting by Giovanni Olivieri.
The single nave San Lorenzo Church has a series of chapels on one side and a beautifully decorated altar made using the scagliola technique enriched with pearls. Some of the frescoes date back to the 17th century and depict stories from the New Testament and the lives of the martyrs by Michele Ragolia. As in the library, the floor is made of decorated majolica. The church also has two finely carved wooden choirs, both from the 16th century and of stunning beauty.
Other areas worth visiting are the 15th century Cappella del Fondatore, the Chapel of the Treasury and the spaces once at the centre of the monastery's life: the kitchens, the refectory, the cellars and the stables.
The Certosa also houses the Museo Archeologico della Lucania Occidentale with its rich collection of archaeological finds, some dating back to the 10th century BC, from the excavations in Sala Consilina and Padula.Any suggestions?
As an ancient variety of legume, the maracuoccio has been grown in the hilly village of Lentiscosa for centuries. Originally from France and Spain, maracuoccio resembles a pea but has a square shape and darker colour. It can be dark green, brown or red and is typically speckled or marbled.
Although relatively rare, the plant can be found throughout the Mediterranean and in Asia. Its taste is slightly bitter, like its name implies. The word in fact has ancient roots and is a combination of the Hebrew word "mar" (bitter) and the word cuoccio derived by the Latin word for pod.
Mainly used to feed livestock and less popular than other pulses like chickpeas or lentils, the maracuoccio is nonetheless a tasty and nutritious food and an important source of protein. As such it has been a staple part of the diets of the poor for centuries.
Growing is still done following traditional methods without the use of fertilizers, weed-killers or other chemical products and production is rather limited. The complete growing cycle runs from October or November, when the soil is prepared, to harvesting at the end of June. Sowing is in January to March.
Harvesting consists of pulling the plants, laying them on sheets and beating them to extract the seeds, which can then be used to cook or to be milled to produce flour.
Maracuoccio flour is the main ingredient for popular local dish maracucciata, a sort of polenta made with maracuoccio flour mixed with wheat flour, olive oil, onion, garlic and bread croutons.
As a dried pulse maracuoccio is used for cicci maritati, a soup made of maracuoccio and other legumes served on very special occasions. This hearty soup even has its own special fair in Stio: every August the village pays tribute to this typical dish with a fun gastronomical event where the soup is offered together with local wines and other local products.
If you can't make it to the fair make sure you try maracuocci in one of the many restaurants in the area!
Ph. Credits: Kitty's Kitchen, Cilento Roots, Gambero Rosso.Any suggestions?
Roccadaspide is a village in Cilento famous for a variety of chestnuts grown in the foothills of the Alburni Mountains in an area extending for over five thousand hectares.
Roccadaspide chestnuts are a protected brand (IGP), rich in flavour and easy to preserve.
Their cultivation goes back centuries, with the first documents mentioning this chestnut in the area dating back to the 12th century. They were probably introduced to the village from neighbouring areas in the region, where chestnuts were grown already in Roman times. With the development of important monasteries with large territories of forest and farmland chestnuts became an essential product of the region.
At the end of the 19th century some of the oldest trees were cut down and replaced by a new variety which is today's Roccadaspide chestnut.
Mainly used for the production of flour and other derivatives, this chestnut is medium-large in size and has a sweet taste, a crunchy consistency and a smooth texture.
After harvesting, chestnuts are immersed in cold water and kept in wooden containers for nine days, regularly changing the water. They are later dried in an aired room and arranged in layers of dry sand so that their organoleptic properties are fully preserved.
Only 10% of the overall crop is consumed fresh while the rest is used to produce flour (an important ingredient for the production of castagnaccio cake), marron glacés (delicious sugar coated chestnut pralines), jams and rum chestnuts.
These products can be bought or tried at the annual Festa della Castagna di Roccadaspide, a fair taking place in the village at the end of October. The Chestnut Fair is the best way to enjoy the various preparations made with this tasty nut and experience a true village festivity.Any suggestions?
Visitors to Italy's Campania region have no shortage of cultural and historic gems at their disposal, yet the small fishing town of Santa Maria di Castellabate should be at the top of any guest's "must-see" list.
For lovers of natural beauty, this picturesque town of 4000 permanent residents leaves little to be desired; it boasts a strategic location within the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park and is situated along one of the most gorgeous stretches of Italy's Tyrrhenian Coast, where the sea is protected as a marine sanctuary.
Numerous cities and sites of interest, including Naples, Salerno, and Agropoli are easily reached from Santa Maria di Castellabate.
Visitors seeking an experience beyond a traditional beach vacation will not be disappointed by the town's charming local monuments. The Santa Maria a Mare Sanctuary, constructed in 1836 on the site of a chapel that had been present since the 12th century, represents the town's religious centre, and is in excellent condition thanks to a significant restoration effort completed in 1990.
The Villa Matarazzo, former residence of Count Francesco Matarazzo, with its trees, gardens and fields further contributes to Santa Maria di Castellabate's natural allure.
Finally, the 12th century structure known as Porto delle Gatte is a unique and well preserved port structure which has served innumerable purposes throughout the centuries.Any suggestions?
The Cece di Cicerale is originally native to Western Asia but found its European home long ago in the village of Cicerale (province of Salerno) in the beautiful foothills of Cilento. Not your average chickpea, the Cece di Cicerale is a small but hearty plant that does not require irrigation and thrives even in the most difficult climatic conditions.
While it is still not widely cultivated, in the past this legume was vital to the diets of the local population who alternated the chickpeas with wheat and other grains to increase the amount of protein in their diets.
Evidence of the this legumes’ importance can be seen on the village’s coat of arms from the Middle Ages: it not only bears a picture of the plant, but the phrase terra quae cicero alit – in other words, “the land that feeds the chickpeas”.
Today the area still cultivates those very same chickpeas, although today’s variety is slightly more golden-coloured, sometimes with light brown hues, than in the past.
Despite the limited number of producers that still carry out this arduous cultivation, existing producers have come together to form the Associazione Ciceralit. Together they have sworn to uphold and adhere to strict regulations as well as to promote a disciplined and sustainable production.
Since the Cece di Cicerale is not your everyday chickpea, it would seem obvious that it is an essential ingredient in one of the typical dishes of the area, lagane e ceci. A hearty Southern Italian dish traditional of the Campania and Basilicata regions, it is a delicious combination of short to medium length wide, ribbon-shaped pasta and of course, chickpeas.
The Cece di Cicerale is proof that good things will always withstand the test of time!Any suggestions?
Casalbuono is a small village in the Calore Valley hills famous for its tender and tasty beans. The presence of many natural springs and the village position on a hill, with its mild climate and perfect sun exposure, contribute to the quality of the crop. Moreover the soil, subject to floods from the Calore River, is particularly loose and fresh and provides the ideal conditions for the cultivation of these legumes.
For centuries beans have represented a cheap and easy source of protein, thus earning themselves the name of “poor man’s meat”. As such they have been one of the main ingredients in the local cuisine for a long time.
According to 19th-century Swiss botanist De Condolle, beans, normally considered as a product form the Americas, have been grown in Casalbuono since the 13th century. These pre-Columbian beans, of African origin, were different from the modern ones and were later replaced by the American varieties introduced in Europe after the discovery of the New Continent.
Of the seven types of bean plants currently grown, some are dwarf and some climbing varieties. The two most interesting are dwarf varieties: the Sant’Antere, which produces a kidney-shaped bean with red and brown streaks on a beige background, and the Panzariedda, with round seeds, half-white and half-beige.
They are both Slow Food Presidiums and, with the support of the Slow Food organisation, growers promote Casalbuono beans and their traditional cultivation, with no weed-killers and based on environmentally friendly, manual techniques.
In fact, harvesting is done manually for all varieties, as are the drying and the shelling.
A curiosity: the climbing varieties are harder to cultivate, having to be supported by wooden stakes, and are thus less popular.
Every year in August, Casalbuono residents pay tribute to this special product of their land in the Sagra dei Fasul Scucchiulariedde, the bean threshing and shelling fair.
This celebrates the time of year when all the villagers would come together to thresh and shell the beans. Over the years this social ritual became a village festival and now it is a pleasant way to savour Casalbuono beans in a rich variety of recipes such as tagliatelle with beans or soup, beans with mushrooms and pumpkin, pizza with beans and many other tasty dishes typical of the Mediterranean tradition.
Once purchased, as suggested by old Casalbuono people, the beans should be stored in a cool dry place, away from direct light and heat, preferably in glass containers with the addition of bay leaves.
It is important to soak the beans in water for at least 6 hours before cooking, done best in an earthenware pot since, like the locals say, “from the earth they come and into the earth they die”.Any suggestions?
The Pertosa-Auletta Caves are karst caves formed over thousands of years in the Alburni mountainous region at the border between Campania and Basilicata, near the village of Pertosa and the Tanagro River. Movements caused by earthquakes in the groundwater are the origin of the formation of the caves and of the underground river called Negro, from Latin niger meaning dark.
First explored by naturalist Paolo Carucci at the end of the 19th century, these caves have been opened to the public since 1932. Carlucci was also the first to discover archaeological remains in the caves and his finds were the first proof of prehistoric human presence in the caverns.
Today the caves are a popular tourist attraction and an important site for archaeological and speleological research.
The presence of the underground river makes the visit to the caves particularly fascinating. Various tours of different duration and technical difficulty are offered and the route includes walking and a boat ride on the underground waterway.
Once inside these magical caves are colourfully lit so that the stalagmites and stalactites can be admired with a beautiful display of colours. Feeling as if in a fairy-tale landscape, tourists aboard hand-towed barges can reach the impressive waterfall and enjoy the peace of this underground wonderland.
On certain dates plays are performed in the stunning natural stage offered within the rock, the most popular being "Ulysses' journey to Hades", a riveting journey of the Greek hero to the underworld. There is also a special "speleo-musical" called Cave of Spirits, which uses this spectacular natural acoustical venue to provide a fascinating show which should not be missed.
For those interested in a deeper understanding of the origin of the caves and their archaeological importance the visit can continue in the neighbouring Soil Museum, an interactive itinerary in the underground world.
By exploring different layers of the earth visitors learn about the ecosystems, the processes of soil formation and their relationship with human society.
A second museum, the Speleo-Archaeological Museum, is still being created and will provide information on the finds from the Pertosa caves through an itinerary showing archaeological finds and multimedia presentations.
The caves are open all year round with different opening times. Visits are suitable for adults and children alike and provide the ideal break from a beach holiday and the hot sun. If visiting in summer remember to bring a sweater as it can get very cold!
The miniscule town of Controne, nestled at the foot of the Alburni Mountains in the stunning Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park of Italy’s Campania region, has a population of just 873 residents.
Controne would be appear to be a sleepy and rather unremarkable locale, perhaps noteworthy only for the natural beauty of its surroundings. However the town’s inconspicuous veneer masks an important contribution to Italy’s vast culinary culture: the ‘fagiolo di Controne’ or Controne bean.
This humble culinary staple, which residents in and around Controne have cultivated and consumed for centuries, is known locally as “the meat of the poor” for its high concentration of B vitamins.
It has a very thin outer skin, making it easy to cook and digest. White, without speckles or eyes and predominantly round, this bean has exceptional qualities that are directly tied to the land in which it is grown; the carbonate rich rock and the amply available spring water of the Alburni Mountains have created a terrain that is uniquely suited to the growth of this legume.
"Many Controne residents grow beans, but few have plots over a certain size. Most tend small vegetable gardens dotted around the countryside, as the area’s geography and steep slopes do not allow extensive cultivation," claims the local Slow Food Association.
Slow Food has recently recognized the distinctive qualities of the Controne bean and since 1983 the town has organized an annual ‘sagra’ or food fair featuring the ingredient, thus increasing the diffusion of this local treasure on a national level.Any suggestions?
The white fig of Cilento DOP (Protected designation of origin) has been one of the most popular delicacies of the area around Salerno since ancient times. Highly appreciated because of its high nutritional value, it can be easily preserved, which explains its popularity throughout the centuries.
The white fig is cultivated in an area stretching along the coastline in the National Park of Cilento, which includes 68 different villages all part of the consortium created to promote this tasty product. It is here, where summers are hot and dry and winters mild and humid, that the plant thrives.
Over the years, strict rules were introduced to protect the production of white figs: The product can only be sold dried and the maximum permitted moisture content is 26%. The figs have to contain at least 21.8 grams of glucose, 23.2 grams of fructose and 0.1 grams of sucrose per 100 grams of dry matter. They can be stuffed with hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, fennel seeds and citrus peels so long as they were produced within the designated area and the percentage of these added ingredients must not exceed 10%.
The planting density cannot exceed 700 trees per hectare, with a maximum production of 19 tons of fresh figs per hectare. For these reasons white figs are so rare and precious. When ripe, they are picked and sun-dried and later baked in hot air ovens, providing their typical dark yellow colour.
Once the figs are on the table and ready to be savoured, one will forget all these technical and bureaucratic details. Their sweet and intense flavour is a delight for the palate. They are best eaten alone or with chocolate but are also delicious with cheese or ham, especially during Christmas festivities.
An interesting way to enjoy white figs is to head to one of the small producers in the Cilento area or visit the fair, Sagra del Fico Bianco del Cilento, which takes place every year in the town of Orria. In summer white fig ice-cream and sorbet are offered in the many gelaterie in the area and should be tried at all cost.
An alternative is to eat the fresh version, possibly asking one of the producers to let you pick the fruit straight from the tree. One way or the other, don't leave Cilento without having savoured this precious delight!
Legend holds that Palinuro, a seaside resort on the Cilento coast, was named after the helmsman of Aeneas's ship, who fell overboard close to the coast. In Virgil's Aeneid, Aeneas meets Palinurus in the underworld and finds out how the helmsman was washed ashore after falling into the sea and survived but was killed on the beach near Velia. Locals later found and buried him in what was then named Cape Palinuro in his honour.
Today Palinuro is one of the most popular resorts in the area, famous for the rugged coastline full of sea caves and cliffs and the crystal clear waters. Set on a hill some 20-minute walk away from the beach, it now has low-rise buildings, leafy lanes and a relaxed atmosphere.
Despite its long history the resort is relatively modern with several streets lined with restaurants and cafes and a hilly area with some beautiful villas. A delightful little museum called Antiquarium contains a collection of archaeological finds from the area.
There are beautiful beaches in either direction from the town centre and boat trips leave from the harbour to Capo Palinuro, where several impressive caves can be explored; among these, don’t miss the mesmerizing Grotta Azzurra.
The small boats depart very frequently but can still get rather crowded in summer so it's advisable to book in advance. Boat tours also allow visitors to experience some of the beautiful beaches along the coast and those wishing to spend a day at the beach can arrange to be dropped off and collected later. A 'beach shuttle' ferry service is also available in summer.
Other beaches can be reached walking down a path from the town centre: there is a pleasant beach next to Palinuro's harbour and a tiny beach just below the village. Several larger beaches, for example Le Saline or La Marinella, can be reached by car.
For enthusiastic hikers there are some amazing stretches of woodland nature walks affording fantastic views of the coast.
Tip: as the resort is very popular with Italian tourists it is advisable to avoid the busiest months of July and August when the area can get very crowded and expensive.
Calling the National Park of Cilento merely a “park” seems to be an understatement. Established in 1991, the park was created to protect the area from building speculators and destructive mass tourism.
What began as 36,000 hectares entirely within the province of Salerno is now a preserve of over 180,000 hectares and comprises 8 mountain communities and 80 municipalities.
Covering both coastal and inland zones, the park is unbelievably rich in a variety of aspects: its geological features include the 2 local types of rock known as the “Flysch del Cilento” with various layers and colours, plant life and, most notably, 1,800 different plant species as well as 254 different species of wild orchids. In addition to this wealth the park also vaunts an enormous variety of fauna such as wolves, deer, bats, birds, and amphibians, making this National Park an incredible biosphere reserve.
In 2010 the Parco Nazionale del Cilento was the first Italian park to become an internationally recognised Geopark.
If wildlife isn’t your cup of tea, fear not, the park is also the home to more than 30 tourist areas including the archaeological wonders of Paestum, Velia and Certosa di Padula. The number of archaeological treasures and museums (you’ll have 16 to choose from!) is certainly part of the reason that the National Park of Cilento was made a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The park is easily reached from different areas, but it all depends on your chosen destination so plan ahead to find the best route.
The National Park of Cilento is an example of Italian excellence not only for the park itself and everything it has to offer to tourists and holiday makers, but for the educational and environmental initiatives the park has been working hard to promote over the years.Any suggestions?
Though its origins are unknown, for centuries the Salella olive has been found exclusively in Cilento, a geographical area south of Salerno in Italy’s Campania region. Here, olive trees are an ancient acquaintance to the people of Cilento and were originally found growing naturally along the coastline.
Today’s Salella trees are no different than those found in the past and feature characteristic dark-green leaves and a relatively smooth trunk. A common sight in Cilento – a land famous for its olives and olive oil – Salella trees make this particular area of Campania a unique and fascinating panorama to drive through while exploring.
Salella trees are cherished by local inhabitants and produce a fruit of incredible organoleptic qualities, which is both pressed and stored.
Today, the Slow Food Association has officially recognized the Salella olive for its traditional and painstakingly precise methods of cultivation and production.
Olives destined to be pressed to produce oil are picked and treated differently from those which are chosen for stowing away - these are also known as ‘cracked olives’ due to the traditional process they undergo before storage. To produce cracked olives, local farmers hand-pick the olives from the trees, selecting those that have a thick pulp but are not fully ripe.
They then crush them one by one with a stone to remove the pit and soak them for several days – first in fresh water, which must be changed every day, then in a brine of water, salt, bay leaf and wild fennel.
Once the olives have tenderized they are preserved in oil, made exclusively with Salella olives, and flavoured with garlic, oregano and thyme. The olives must be packed tightly into the jar to avoid an excessive absorption of the oil that would render them mealy and unappetizing.
The resulting olive and oil is characterized by a unique flavour, slightly bitter and spicy with almond and grass undertones, that is widely enjoyed both in Italy and abroad.
Pure Salella olive oil is instead fruity and balanced. It can be used to dress salads, pasta and even desserts, although true connoisseurs prefer to taste it either on bread or by itself, in a spoonful of Mediterranean essence.
Curiosity: defined by Ancel Keys, father of the Mediterranean Diet, as a Factor of Longlife, the Salella olive oil produced in Cilento is a healthy habit that the people of this region have been adopting for centuries.Any suggestions?
The archaeological treasure of Velia is what remains of a once great ancient Greek city-state or polis. It is located in the Piana di Velia district in the province of Salerno, but more specifically, it is part of the Parco Nazionale Del Cilento.
It was the Greek historian and geographer Strabo to first speak of the city and its founders - the Phocaeans - who founded the city in the second half of the 6th century and named it Elea.
But it wasn’t until the arrival of the Romans that the city would take on the name by which we know it today: Velia. This Roman influence would also affect the names of nearby towns such as Novi Velia and Cilento Casal Velino.
The remains of the city are a living storybook that allows visitors to experience and imagine Greek and Roman daily life as well as battles, victories and defeats.
The excavations can be visited daily and visitors can see what were once the port area, Hellenistic and Roman baths, an agora and an acropolis. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most impressive facts about the area is that Velia was the home of the Eleatic school. This was a school of philosophy and boasts - just to name a few of the scholars and great thinkers who developed here we can single out Parmenides, Zeno of Elea and Melisso of Samos.
Curiosity: the area of Velia (Elea) is such of such importance that it inspired the late great Italian industrialist, Adriano Olivetti, to choose the name Elea 9003 for one of his most revolutionary inventions: the first completely transistorized computer.
When you visit Velia and walk among the treasures and ancient ruins, don’t think of it as time passed but rather, think of each step you take as retracing those of great men of the past who led us into the future.Any suggestions?
Situated in the National Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano, in itself already an oasis of nature and beauty, the Alento River Oasis is an important natural reserve of over three thousand hectares rich in local flora and fauna.
A man-made dam has created a water reservoir of approximately 1.7 square km. This artificial lake, together with several nearby ponds and the river itself have become a haven for animals and plants and helps preserve the biodiversity of the area.
Nature lovers and biological science experts alike have the opportunity to spot various species of fish, birds and other animals. Beautiful white herons, imposing cormorants or colourful kingfisher all live together in this cradle of nature.
Amongst the plants are hypericum, mallow and other typical Mediterranean species such as myrtle or lentisk.
A wide variety of outdoor activities are available to children and adults. Horse-back riding, mountain biking, birdwatching, fishing and archery can all be organised through the visitor centre. For those preferring to walk there are a number of beautiful hikes while a boat trip also makes a good outing, especially for families with children who can also enjoy a fun playground.
The Oasis cooperates with local schools and universities and offers workshops on different environmental subjects as well as summer camps for children.
Thanks to a recent project of collaboration with the Museo del Mare e della Dieta Mediterranea (the Museum of the Sea and the Mediterranean Diet) Oasi Alento is working to promote workshops focusing on the importance of water as an essential source of life and the relevance of the Mediterranean nutritional principles for a healthy and balanced diet.
The "Sosta mediterranea" (Mediterranean break) restaurant, situated within the oasis, follows the philosophy of the Mediterranean diet by offering tasty and healthy typical dishes freshly made from local produce: Cicerale chickpeas, homemade pasta, fresh vegetables or “Minestra strinta” soup just to name few. A picnic area is also available for those who prefer bringing their own meal.
The park is open from March to November with different opening hours depending on season and it's a great opportunity to spend a day out in harmony with nature and the environment.Any suggestions?
If one is looking for a place to relax on the beach, enjoy crystal clear waters while immersed in history in one of the most important archaeological sites in Southern Italy, then Paestum is the perfect place to visit.
Like the rest of the Cilento area, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1998. The town, originally named Poseidonia, was founded by the Greeks in 650 B.C. and later conquered by the Lucanians, who called it Paistos. When the Romans took over in 273 B.C. the name was finally changed to Paestum.
A visit to Paestum's archaeological site will provide a unique opportunity to go back in time: the walls, strengthened by towers, date back to the 4th century and have Roman and Lucan elements while, inside, both Greek and Roman buildings can be found.
The three temples with their altars, the main square of the Greek city (the agora) with the Tomba del Tuffatore and the circular building designed for meetings (ekklesiasterion) all date back to the Greek period. The oldest temple is the Temple of Hera, also known as the Basilica, dating back to 550 BC. The Temple of Cerere (or Temple of Athena) and the Temple of Nettuno were built a few decades later. All three are imposing yet elegant, with their symmetrical thick and tall columns rising up as to reach the sky.
The Romans did not change the Greek architecture but added new areas to the town including the forum, which was the centre of Roman political and commercial activities.
Other new structures were the amphitheatre and the campus, where the Romans engaged in sports and the pool, where women performed fertility rites. New residential areas with elegant aristocratic houses were also created.
The visit to the site continues in the nearby museum, where precious finds coming from Paestum and the neighbouring areas can be viewed. Besides ceramic artefacts and marble and bronze sculptures, visitors can admire the beautiful slabs of the famous "Tomba del Tuffatore". Next to the museum is the early-Christian Romanesque Basilica of Annunziata, built in the 5th century AD and renovated several times throughout the centuries.
Towards the end of the third century AD, Paestum began to lose its importance within the Roman Empire resulting from the loss of its harbour caused by floods of the river Salso: the city became isolated from trade routes. With the decline of the Roman Empire barbarian invasions began. In the seventh century AD the Lombards invaded the plain of Paestum before conquering Salerno. In the ninth century the city was destroyed by the Saracens and eventually abandoned by the residents who sought refuge in the higher inland areas.
Paestum seems to have "disappeared from history" until its “rediscovery” in the eighteenth century when it became one of the destinations of the Grand Tour, attracting notable visitors such as Goethe, Shelley or Nietzsche.
Curiosity: in September 1943 Paestum also played a role in the Second World War and was at the centre of the landing of the allied troops in the famous Operation Avalanche.
Today it is an important seaside resort and tourist destination full of hotels, shops and restaurants and with a bustling nightlife. It provides the right mix of culture and entertainment to guarantee an unforgettable holiday.
A beautiful road with breath-taking views leads from Marina di Camerota to Lentiscosa, a lovely hamlet full of history and picturesque sights. The name Lentiscosa comes from Lentisco, or pistacia lentiscus in Latin, a Mediterranean evergreen shrub which grows in the region.
Surrounded by hills and olive groves, Lentiscosa has beautiful narrow streets with old stone houses and stunning views of the surrounding area.
The village was founded by Basilian monks, in other words Greek Orthodox monks fleeing from religious persecution taking place during the eighth and ninth centuries in the Byzantine Empire, when religious images were banned. Their influence is clearly shown in the Santa Maria Ad Martyres Church, a small and perfectly preserved 8th century church containing a series of beautiful byzantine frescoes depicting Christ, the Holy Mary and the Evangelists.
Another important religious building is Santa Maria delle Grazie church, built before the 15th century in the Moresque style and restructured over many centuries.
The recently added and beautiful majolica cupola, with its yellow and green geometrical pattern, stands out above the roofs of the lovely village. The interior has three naves and some interesting artwork.
Santa Rosalia church, erected in 1656 during the great plague, is dedicated to the village's patron saint and contains a splendid 18th century statue of the same.
Saint Rosalia, who is also the patron saint of Palermo in Sicily, is believed to have made the plague cease after a hunter supposedly found her bones in a cave bringing them back to Palermo.
Every year at the beginning of September Lentiscosa celebrates Santa Rosalia with a fair which combines deep religious fervour with music, games and fun. In May is the more secular Sagra della Maracucciata, a fair in honour of the typical dish of the village. Visit during one of these fairs to experience local food and traditions or any other time for a quiet and peaceful break in nature and beauty.Any suggestions?
Wine has been produced and consumed in Cilento since ancient times. In fact some of the grapes are believed to have been introduced by the Greeks having found the ideal environment in the region thanks to the soil, rich in lime, and the dry warm climate.
Local grapes Fiano, Aglianico, Primitivo, Greco and Piedirosso grow in the vineyards on the green Cilento hills, not far from olive groves and fields of tomatoes or legumes. Despite the long tradition, however, it was only a few decades ago that wine producers started offering finer wines along with simpler table wines.
Excellent wines such as DOC Cilento and red IGT Paestum are now popular choices offered to complement the delicious food served in local restaurants and nationwide.
The protected names Cilento rosso, Cilento rosato, Cilento bianco, Cilento Aglianico and Cilento Fiano are the five local DOC varieties and they must all follow strict rules to maintain the prestigious denomination. For example they all have to contain a certain percentage of a given vine, be grown in well-defined areas and using a specific method. Rules for growing, harvesting, production and aging guarantee the high quality of the final product.
IGT Paestum comes in red, rose and white. Although IGT wines are less famous than DOC wines, strict rules also regulate their production, and they too can achieve high levels of quality.
Pioneers like Bruno De Conciliis and Luigi Maffini were amongst the first to make an effort to promote the wines of the area and their work has inspired a new batch of young producers whose enthusiasm and innovative ideas have helped these relatively unknown wines to reach the tables of wine lovers worldwide. A fine example of "experiment" is Montevetrano, born as a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Aglianico created by a group of friends.
Today Montevetrano is a deep and elegant wine produced in only about 30,000 bottles per year and sold all over the world.
Most wineries can be visited, normally by appointment, and we strongly recommend a trip to some of these producers, where you can enjoy breath-taking scenery, learn about production and taste and, of course, buy the delicious local nectar. Some also offer food and accommodation in picturesque typical farmhouses.Any suggestions?
The locals call it "the most beautiful sea promenade in Italy" and it may well deserve the title. Salerno's two kilometre long promenade, Lungomare Trieste, extends from the old town centre to the tourist harbour of Piazza della Concordia. Here you will find a lovely pedestrian seafront area, great for running or a nice stroll.
Known as the symbol of the town it offers wonderful views over a beautiful stretch of coastline, the city and the surrounding hills. For sunbathers it provides easy access to the beach.
While sitting on a bench one can watch the fishing boats come in or just enjoy the splendid blue waters and the sea breeze. If hot, there are shady spots where one can sit and relax with an ice cream or a nice cool drink.
The flower-filled pathways are a popular destination for residents on weekends and a great opportunity for tourists to experience the bustle of an authentic Italian town. The promenade is also the nicest and quickest way to reach the port to catch ferries to the Amalfi coast, which is only 45 minutes away.
Across the road are a series of hotels and restaurants offering delicious local food.
However, the Lungomare is not only a summer attraction. During the Christmas season artistic light installations decorate the boardwalk while a Ferris wheel and a Christmas market offer festive entertainment to children and adults alike. During other periods of the year the promenade is the site for traditional puppet theatre shows, flea markets and fairs.
Salerno is a charming town, shadowed by more famous neighbours such as Naples, Amalfi or Positano and its beautiful lungomare certainly deserves a visit.Any suggestions?
Together with the old tourist port Masuccio Salernitano and the Salerno cruise and ferry terminal, the new Marina d'Arechi makes Salerno the perfect destination for lovers of boating and navigation.
Named after Arechis, an 8th century Lombard ruler based in Benevento and later in Salerno, Marina d'Arechi was inaugurated in June 2012.
Boasting one thousand moorings accommodating boats ranging from 10 to 100 metres with a water area of over 340,000 square metres, it's one of the largest and most modern marinas in the Mediterranean. It is also a gem situated on one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Southern Italy.
The harbour was designed by Architect Santiago Calatrava and Engineer Guglielmo Migliorino following environmentally friendly principles and offers state of the art facilities in an enchanting setting close to prime destinations such as the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Capri or wonderful Unesco World Heritage site Cilento.
Alongside the usual suite of navigation oriented services this exclusive harbour and its "Port Village" also provide a wide variety of leisure activities, e.g. cycling, water sports, motorbike and helicopter rental, sailing lessons and multilingual organised tours.
The beautiful private beach is the perfect place for those wishing to relax in the sun or enjoy the many sports activities available. The marina also has a restaurant and a lounge bar which offer local food and pizza. Here you can enjoy delicious food and a nice cold drink while gazing over the beautiful seafront. In summer live music and themed events are organised in the evening.
If you are looking for beauty, top quality service and an exclusive location this is the place for you.Any suggestions?
The welcoming small village of Piaggine, in the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park, is a charming destination for everybody looking for peace and nature. Far from the sea and at an altitude of 630 metres, it enjoys a cooler climate compared to the surrounding plains and makes the perfect day trip on a hot summer day.
Surrounded by an unspoilt area of old forest, rivers and mountains, the village was founded over 1000 years ago by a community of shepherds and soon became an important religious centre due to the presence of a convent.
Its narrow streets are lined by typical old stone houses while wider ones have more imposing noble palaces with beautiful portals, gardens and courtyards. Each noble family's coats of arms can be admired on the façades - a splendid example of these buildings is Palazzo Vairo at Piazza Plebiscito. The many churches in and around the village are worth visiting, especially the 16th century Chiesa Madonna del Carmine and the 13th century Chiesa di San Pietro, which was rebuilt in 1765. The latter, made of stone with a two pitch roof, is a fine example of local Baroque.
Another beautiful building is the Capuchins Convent, built in 1615 by Friar Evangelista da Vallo and once an important centre for theology and philosophy.
Worth visiting also is the "Chiainari nel Mondo” museum. After the unification of Italy by the Savoy family in 1861 a fierce revolt took place in the south of Italy, headed by villagers who opposed the new regime. The Savoy violently repressed this uprising, giving rise to the first wave of emigration from Southern Italy.
Piaggine was one of the villages involved. Later waves of emigration occurred at the beginning of the 20th century and after WWII. The museum was recently created to pay tribute to those who left their homeland to build a new life in faraway places such as Northern Europe, the United States, Argentina or Uruguay. The multimedia exhibition contains documents, photos and testimonies about these people and their descendants and serves as a bridge between the mountain village and the wider world.
The best way to visit is by staying in one of the picturesque farmhouses in the village and then tour the area. For those interested in fully enjoying the beautiful landscape various hiking opportunities are available, while foodies will enjoy the numerous food fairs Piaggine offers throughout the summer.
Both soppressata and salsiccia from the Diano Valley are typical meat products of the area and have a long tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. In a medieval document found in the region the products are clearly mentioned: “well packaged soppressata and sausage are sold in the quantity of a rotolo (about 800 grams) at the price set by the Catapano (the person in charge of the sale of goods in the town square)”.
As a Slow Food presidium today's version of these delicious treats are not much different from the original ones.
The meat comes from local pigs fed with at least 60% natural and local feed, with no additives or GMO products. This diet, together with the specific climate conditions of this hilly area, guarantees high quality pork, the essential ingredient for both products.
Production follows an elaborate procedure consisting in manually separating the different meat cuts using a knife, as opposed to the industrial method using a machine, in order to achieve the right balance between fat and lean parts. Belly, shoulder, loin and ham are used for the sausage while lean meat and lard from the back are the main ingredients for soppressata. Pepper and spices are then added to enhance flavour.
Drying and curing takes 30 to 40 days, after which the product is preserved in oil or fat, normally in glass jars or earthenware.
Factory made versions of soppressata or sausage can be found all over Italy but this is a rare and genuine product and only the most experienced butchers are still willing to follow the original recipe and deliver a traditional version of the cured meat. By joining the Slow Food movement they are hoping to promote pig farming in the region and in this way contribute to rejuvenating the local economy that has been hurting in recent years.
The best way to help these small communities is by buying their products so make sure you visit one of the farms in the area or buy your soppressata or sausage in the local shops or restaurants.
Delicious with bread it can also be used to make tasty pasta sauces or stuffing for vegetables!
Ph. Credits: www.cilentomondo.itAny suggestions?
Soppressata di Gioi is a rather unique salame not only for its appearance, but also for its distinctive production and flavour. Made exclusively during the colder months (from September to April), this soppressata is still produced almost exclusively by local families.
It goes without saying that authentic Soppressata di Gioi must be made in Gioi or the surrounding area (Cardile, Salento, Stio, Gorga, Orria, and Piano Vetrale).
What makes this salame so particular? Certainly the fact that it is produced with only the leanest parts of the pig, which have had all the cartilage and nerves removed. And, of course, the characteristic white “vein” of lardo which runs through the centre of every soppressata.
If you don’t know lardo, it’s important to know that simply calling it “lard” would be nothing short of blasphemy since it is not simply pig fat, but an Italian excellence in and of itself.
This single strip of white gold that goes from end to end of each soppressata serves two purposes: one, to help maintain the moisture levels of the salame during the aging process and two, provides extra depth to the flavour profile of this Cilento specialty.
When you get the chance to taste it, you’ll note its long and rich flavour with subtle hints of chestnut.
Only cuts of meat from local pigs that have been raised naturally are selected. During production, these are worked by hand and seasoned only with salt and pepper. The end product is lovingly placed in a natural casing and each soppressata is typically around 260g. Aged between 40-45 days, the soppressata di Gioi is naturally gluten, dairy and allergen free, and contains no preservatives whatsoever.
The soppressata di Gioi has long been recognized by the locals and thankfully, today the Presidio Slow Food has also taken on the duty of promoting and protecting this important representative of Italian excellence.Any suggestions?
Mozzarella in Myrtle is a typical fresh cheese of Cilento. The idea of wrapping cheese in myrtle (mortella) originates from the need to preserve a fresh cheese like mozzarella, which unlike caciocavallo - the other typical cheese of the area, could not be left to age but was nonetheless very popular. In a world without fridges or preserving techniques the only way to preserve this tasty cheese was to wrap it in a plant widely available in the area, and to bring it to the markets in this natural packaging.
Myrtle, a Mediterranean shrub with a strong aroma and many medicinal properties, provides an excellent natural covering and at the same time releases a peculiar fragrance that gives the cheese its characteristic flavour.
The production of Mozzarella nella Mortella is similar to that of classic mozzarella but the curd matures in almost total absence of whey. The result is a firmer and drier cheese with a long and narrow shape.
It’s slightly more acidic than common mozzarella and has a distinct flavour of green grass and citrus which makes it unsuitable as a pizza topping or for other recipes where common mozzarella is used. In fact it is best consumed alone or in a salad with fresh tomatoes and olives, so as to bring out its full and distinctive flavour.
Tip: Serve with white sparkling wine for best results!
Today's Mozzarella nella Mortella is a Slow Food presidium and a real delicacy. For hygienic reasons the original myrtle packaging has been substituted by plastic but the cheese is still wrapped in myrtle after production and therefore maintains its characteristic pungent taste.
Because of this interesting and peculiar flavour, the only way to find out how it actually tastes is by trying it - and this is what we highly recommend!Any suggestions?
We wouldn’t be here today without our stubbornness and the support of these Italian companies and institutions.