Great picnic spots in Abruzzo

It’s not spring yet, but the Abruzzo sun is already warm, the air is not chilly anymore and a soft breeze brings the scent of flowers.

We’ve decided to take andvantage of this sunny day and we’ve gone to have lunch break open-air!
Is there any other way to better enjoy this wonderful weather than organizing a picnic??

There are two fundamental things needed for the perfect picnic: a place with a suggestive view and some yummy and easy food. Well, in Abruzzo we do not miss both!

Here below three of our favorite picnic locations that are just few minutes away from each other  and all around Vasto. 

…and at the end, there’s our suggestion for a tasty picnic lunch Italian style!

1. For those who like classic..

Majella Mountains

Just outside the city center of Vasto, there are many fields where to lay the blanket on the green grass and enjoy a picnic. Besides the relaxing and a little bucolic atmosphere, what it’s extraordinary here is the view with the snow-capped Majella mountains that raise majestically from the valley.

2. For those who love to feel sea breeze on their face…

Punta Aderci Natural Reserve

The Punta Aderci Natural Reserve is the perfect place to enjoy a day or just few hours in an unspoilt natural environment where the only noise is bird song. The Reserve covers an area of approximately 285 hectares and there are two great and different scenarios to delight in: the beach of Punta Penna close to Vasto harbor, a unique marine amphitheatre, and the promontory of Punta Aderci (26 meters above sea level). Climbing over it gives a breathtaking view of the Majella National Park, the Gransasso and, of course, the blue Adriatic sea. It’s also one of the best preserved environments of the entire Adriatic coast and beyond doubt one of the most charming, rugged coastal areas of the region. The Reserve includes several walking and mountain bike trails.

3. For those who like historic atmospheres

Vasto_old_town

The legend says that Vasto was founded by Diomedes, a hero in Greek mythology, who stopped here and founded his own village. In its history, Vasto has seen pass many cultures and populations like the Etruscan and the RomansLater on, Histonium – the ancient name of Vasto – was conquered by a Frenchman named Aymone. He built a fortified village upon the ruins of Histonium and called it Guast d’Aymone. During the Medieval times, Vasto was domintaed by the Spanish noble family D’Avalos, who built the Palazzo d’Avalos, and the Caldora family who built the Caldora castel. Palazzo d’Avalos is open to the public.

Find a park bench in front in one of the many spots of Vasto overlooking the beautiful Gold gulf. Relax and enjoy the sun.

‎Once you decide the best location for you… you need to organize a special lunch!

Here our suggestions: freshly baked Italian bread, Ventricina (spicy salami from Abruzzo), tarallucci and of course, pizza!

Picnic lunch - pizza, Ventricina, Tarallucci and pizza

All these delights are easy to find. For fresh bread and pizza look for a ‘panificio’ or ‘panetteria’ and for the Ventricina search a salumeria. But don’t worry many of the local small stores are well-stocked and it’s easy to find everything you need in just one shop.

Which picnic spost would you choose?

Meet ItaliaSweetItalia people: Michela

Michela,  Creta Rossa Pottery Laboratory


Today, we’ll tell you something about MICHELA, ceramist at Creta Rossa Lab
Michela is our ceramic artist and together with Giuseppe have founded in 2001 the Cretarossa pottery workshop, in Vasto.
Cretarossa is a realbottega (the Italian name to identify the artisans workshops in the past) where Michela and Giuseppe guide their guest and “students” in the practice of the different modelling and decoration techniques of ceramic.

Have you ever wanted use your hands, your fingers and your minds to give expression to your imagination?

If you want to seek your creativity come to visit Michela with the Italia Sweet Italia Pottery Holiday Experience, you will experience your artistic side while relaxing in the green and blue surroundings of Abruzzo landscapes and tasting delicious and homemade Italian food. A true Italian Experience!


Favorite food

Michela’s favorite food: Risotto with Mushrooms

dessert

               

 

Michela’s favorite dessert: Gelato (Italian ice-cream)

               

 

Michela’s favorite wine: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Why is it worth visiting Abruzzo?
“For the stunning beauty of its many different lanscapes”

Discover more about Cretarossa, check out their website ..or learn more about the a four day Pottery Holiday Experience with Italia Sweet Italia!

5 ways to have fun with your kids in Abruzzo

Abruzzo is definitely a place for kids!
There are tons of things to do in Abruzzo and the best ones must be enjoyed open air, in touch with Nature among green fields, sandy beaches, crystalline sea and some of the best fairy tales animals like deers, bears and wolves.

Overall Italy is a definitely a child-friendly country and you’ll find that kids are welcome almost anywhere and it’s hard to find a place where they won’t welcome you with a smile if you have kids with you.

Here 5 places and experiences that the whole family can enjoy together and kids will love!


Abruzzo, Molise and Lazio National Park
http://www.parcoabruzzo.it

The park has 150,000-acre of protected area crossed by only one paved road and countless unpaved roads and trails. Two-thirds of the park’s surface is covered with huge forests of beech, pine, fir, oak, yew, ash, maple, wild oak and it’s home of some of the most exceptional animals: Abruzzi Chamois, the Marsican Brown Bear, the Wolf, the Deer, and the Golden Eagle.In some seasons of the year and in particular circumstances – peacefulness, silence, and respect of the environment – it is possible to see this spectacular animals free in their habitat.

Once inside we suggest to stop off one of the 15 visitors centers to take some maps and information about the 150 walking itineraries of various length and difficulty. No matter what your tastes, you’ll find plenty of fascinating walks to discover, all clearly marked with numbers on the ground.

The Park Authority also organize many events (http://www.parcoabruzzo.it/events.php) and tours during all seasons. As example, few days ago there was a suggestive night tour: The Wolf Tracks – Wolf Howling to listen to the howling of this wonderful animal. Many other thematic events can regard astronomy, geology, Nordic walking, snow shoes walking, gastronomy and local products, history, ecology and environmental education.

You can enter the park from many gates, the main one is Pescasseroli (L’Aquila) which is just a couple of hours driving from Rome

Entrance free


Majella Adventure Park
http://www.parconaturalemajella.it

The Majella Adventure Park is an acrobatic park hanging in the air among the pine trees of Piana delle Mele (Chieti). The activities involve 130 games, installed cables and wooden and roped air platforms. The Park allows all visitors – also the youngest – to undertake an exciting route among trees in full safety.

There are specific trail for children from 2 years old with the dedicated Baby Adventure Park, for kids from 4 to 7 years old there are 4 specific trails: Gnomes, Elfs, Ogres and Dragons, and finally there are many other different trails for for kids more than 8 years old. The children are all the time followed by a qualified instructor and they wear harnesses and helmets.

The Adventure Park makes,adults, young people and children reconnect with nature, feel the sense of adventure and happiness of spending time with friends and the family.There are also many other activities to enjoy like biking, orienteering, nordica walking, free climbing and family trek.

…and if it’s time for lunch, nothing better than a pic-nic in the green surroundings of the Abruzzo majestic mountains.

The park is open from April to October, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm, July and August form 10 am to 8 pm.
Tickets: adults 16 € – children 10 €.


Aqualand del Vasto – Water Park
Vasto, Chieti
http://www.aqualandvasto.com/
info@aqualandvasto.com

The Aqualand is the biggest water park in South-Central Italy.It features many water play areas as well as a green relaxing area and also a teaching farm.This amusement mark has more than one kilometer of water slides, splash pads, lazy rivers and more than 50.000 mq of green for sunbathing and relax.

The park has an area dedicated for the youngest kids with baby swimming pool, baby slides, bumper boats, water playgrounds, and mini cars.For those who love animals there is a teaching farm with more than thirty species of animals: pony, donkeys, parrots, goats, rabbits, coks, ..

And finally there is the Aqualand Theatre, with daily stage shows like story telling for the youngest, musicals and group dancing.

The water park is open from June to September, from 10 am to 6 pm
Tickets: adults 20 €, children 16 € (free for children under 105 cm)


Abruzzo Zoo
Castel di Sangro (L’Aquila)
http://www.abruzzozoo.com/
info@abruzzozoo.com

The “Bioparco Faunistico Abruzzo” Zoo is a half zoo and half playground. It is an unspoilt oasis, located in the centre of Brionna wetland.

In the zoological garden you can see: black and white swans, mouflons, lamas, jacklas, geese, zebras, wolves, deers, boars, emu and many more. The park offers many others activities to enjoy: go fishing, rent a bike and go biking around the park, ride horses or rent mini-motorbikes for kids.

The playground area is well geared with basketball, football and volleyball grounds and also a table tennis area. There’s also a rental service of balls for different sports, frisbee, playing cards.The park has also a big pic-nic and barbecue area.

The park is perfect to spend a day of peacefulness and happiness in touch with Nature.

The park is open every day from 9 am till dusk.
Tickets: adults 15 € – children 5 €.


And if you search for a touch of originality, why don’t make your child go milking a sheep with a real Italian sheperd?

Milking a sheep

Italia Sweet Italia offers the possibility to spend a full day grazing and milking sheep and then go making ricotta cheese. In the morning Colombina and Liberato will reveal the secrets of farming, how to graze sheeps in the hills and how to milk a real sheep. After a snack of cheese in the green pastures, the day will continue with the preparations of ricotta cheese in their cheese factory.

We’re sure, your kids would love it and probably nerver forget this unusual day!

We suggest pizza and gelato (Italian ice-cream)… the perfect way for your kids to end a busy day!

Gelato Italiano

Cooking with Mamma Anna Maria: Ravioli with Sugar

This recipe is an alternative recipe of the classic Ravioli with Spinach and Ricotta cheese. The Ravioli with Sugar is a traditional plate of the Abruzzo cuisine during Carnival time, but it’s worth trying it all year round. The add of sugar in the filling gives to this classic dish a touch of originality… for those who like rich strong tastes.

Ingredients:

for the ravioli dough:

  • 600 gr Durum wheat
  • 4 eggs

for the filling:

  • 400 gr spinach
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • 700 gr Ricotta cheese (from Abruzzo farms)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar

for the sauce:

  • 4 pork ribs
  • 2 pork rolls
  • 2 sausages
  • extra virgin olie oil
  • nutmeg
  • 500 gr. tomato sauce (possibly homemade)

                   …Don’t be intimidated by the large list of ingredients, it is well worth it!

Preparation:

We start with the meat sauce.
Take a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the pork ribs, the pork rolls, the sausages and a pinch of salt, some spices if you like it. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the meat is golden brown.
When the meat is browned add the homemade tomato sauce.
Cook  on very low heat for about two hours. Stir occasionally and if it looks like drying out, add some hot stock.

Meanwhile make the ravioli pasta dough.
Put the flour on your working surface and make a well in the center. Break the eggs in the center and beat them inside. Add a pinch of salt. Mix all together and knead to form a dough.
Sometimes wet your hands with some water in order to help you knead the dough. Let the dough rest for a while.

Now, prepare the ravioli filling.
In a pot of boiling water, cook the spinach until tender. Squeeze out the water from the spinach and chop it up roughly. In a bowl mix all together spinach, ricotta, two eggs, the Parmesan cheese and grated nutmeg.

At the end add two tablespoons of sugar.

Take the dough cut small pieces and roll out the pasta dough into thin sheets.
To assemble the ravioli drop the filling mixture on the dough sheets by teaspoonfuls about one inch apart. Fold the dough and press firmly around the filling to seal. Cut into individual ravioli with a knife or pizza cutter.

Cook the ravioli in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water.

Take the pieces of meat out from the red sauce.
Pour some red sauce into a serving plate and add the ravioli. Add some more sauce on top and finally, sprinkle with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Ravioli con lo zuccero - Ravioli with sugar 

Buon Appetito!
by Mamma Anna Maria

Subscribe on Italia Sweet Italia Youtube channel to keep updated on the new video recipes!

Cooking with Mamma Anna Maria: Cicerchiata

Cicerchiata is a wreath of little fried balls of sweet dough stuck together with honey and almonds .It’s a traditional Carnival dessert found in almost every home around Abruzzo, the time of Carnival or Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras).

In the past this dessert was made with special beans similar to sweet beans called “cicerchi”, similar to chickpeas. The name of this dessert derives from the fact that the little fried balls resemble to this small beans.

Some recipes contain candied fruit, some contain liqueur, some contain sugar in the syrup, some contain coloured sprinkles on top or chocolate. Other varieties are sure to be found.

Ingredients:

800 g Flour
7 eggs
7 tablespoons of sugar
7 tablespoons of Extra virgin olive oil

(for each eggs one tablespoon of oil and one of sugar) 

Almonds
500 g Abruzzo’s acacia honey
Coloured sprinkles for decoration
Vanilla powder

Cooking time: about 45 minutes

Preparation:

Put flour on your working surface and make a well in the center. After, break the eggs in the center and add a tablespoon of sugar for each egg and some vanilla powder.

Mix all the ingredients until a elastic dough forms. Add more flour if the dough is not compact.

Divide dough into smaller parts, then take each piece and roll it out slightly until you form long round strips. Then cut each strip into equal pieces about 1 centimeter long. Sprinkle them with some flour to avoid them to stick together.

Heat the oil in large pot or deep fryer and fry the small dough pieces until golden. Lay the dough bits on absorbent paper towel to get rid of oil in excess, then place them in a bowl.

Heat up the honey in a very large pot and add one spoon of sugar. Simmer for about 5 minutes on low heat until gets red. Then add the almonds.

Add the dough balls to the honey and stir for 10 more minutes.

Quickly turn the mixture onto your working surface (board or table) with water on it.  Helping with a spoon try to shape the mixture into a round wreath, or the shape you like.

If you want to add a touch of color, sprinkle the wreath with some colored sprinkles.

Cicerchiata

Happy Carnival, everyone!

Buon Appetito!
by Mamma Anna Maria

Subscribe on Italia Sweet Italia Youtube channel to keep updated on the new video recipes!

Meet ItaliaSweetItalia people: Liberato

Liberato_farmer and cheese producer

Today, we’ll tell you something about LIBERATO, farmer at the D’Andrea cheese factory

Liberato lives in the green hills around Palmoli and he’s the owner of the D’Andrea cheese factory. He knows all the secrets of farming and the makes the best fresh ricotta cheese we’ve ever taste.
He’s also our special guide for the Milking sheep and cheese making Experience, he accompanies our guests to his cheese factory and make them them try to milk sheep and to prepare fresh ricotta cheese.

Favorite food

Liberato’s favorite food: Arrosticini

dessert

               

 

Francesca’s favorite dessert: Fiadone (a cake made with ricotta cheese and eggs inside a pastry)

               

 

Francesca’s favorite wine: Molise DOC Falanghina

Why is it worth visiting Abruzzo?
“Because it’s an incredibly green region and it’s perfect for breeding sheep and consequently to make a delicious ricotta cheese!”

 

5 most romantic places where to kiss in Abruzzo

1. THE FORTRESS OF ROCCA CALASCIO

an ancient castles with a magical atmosphere

Rocca Calascio

From the top of Rocca Calascio – 1460 meters above the sea – there are breathtaking views. With clear weather you can see miles away:  Campo Imperatore, the Navelli plain and the majestic Gran Sasso Mountains. The absolute silence, the immensity of the surroundings and the mountains create a magical atmosphere between reality, fantasy and imagination.

2. NATURAL RESERVE OF PUNTA ADERCI

A wild paradise for those who love Nature.

Punta Aderci Natural Park at dusk

We suggest a kiss at dusk from the top of the sheer cliff rising majestically above the Adriatic sea.
Punta Aderci Regional Nature Reserve in Vasto has some of the most beautiful and interesting coasts in Abruzzo with gold sandy beaches, high reefs and cliffs, dune barriers and maquis shrubland. The sunset light reveal the the mountain ridges of the three national parks: the la Majella, the Gran Sasso-Laga and the Monti Sibillini. And from beach of Punta Aderci sometimes it may happen to see Stenella dolphins in the distance.

3. SCANNO LAKE

a breathtaking heart-shape lake with deep blue waters

Scanno Lake 

Close to the lake there is Scanno, a suggestive ancient stone town in the middle of the green lush Sagittarius Valley, inside the Abruzzo National Park. According to the legend, Scanno and its lake were created by the fight between a white witch, Signora Angiolina, and a wizard who lived in the Valley. (To know more about this legend  visit http://www.lifeinabruzzo.com/skirting-scanno/ )


4. LOGGIA AMBLING

a promenade overlooking the magnificent Gold gulf of Vasto

loggia Ambligh, Vasto

Vasto is an unspoilt corner of the Adriatic coast in southern Abruzzo. According to the tradition, the town was founded by Diomedes, the Greek hero . The earliest archaeological relics date back to 1300 BC.

The town has numerous attractions including St. Joseph’s Cathedral, which dates from the Xlll century, the church of Maria Santissima del Carmine, the D’Avalos palace and its attractive Neapolitan-style garden, the Caldoresco Castle that dominates the coastline, all surrounded by long sandy beaches and vineyards.

5.  THE TRABOCCHI COAST

intriguing fishing huts suspended between land and water

Trabocco

The first Trabocchi were built more than 200 years old and originally were used as a unique method of fishing from the land. The trabocchi have become a symbol of the history and culture of Abruzzo. The famous Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio describe a trabocco like ‘A strange fishing machine all made of boards and beams, like a giant spider.’
Some of the Trabocchi along the Chieti coastline are now fish restaurants, perfect for a dinner by candlelight!

Buon San Valentino!  Happy Valentine’s day!  

Meet ItaliaSweetItalia people: Francesca

Francesca, Cantinarte, Olive Oil Somelier

Today, we’ll tell you something about FRANCESCA, olive oil sommelier at Cantinarte.

Francesca is an expert olive oil sommelier. She’s also our special guide during the visit at the olive oil museum of Bucchianico . She knows all the secrets of the olive oil production and she conducts her visitors through the olive oil mill built in 18th century and which belongs to her family. Visit the CantinArte olive oil musesum is a fun experience because guests learn to use all their senses to discover all the qualities of real olive oil.

Favorite food

Francesca’s favorite food: Timballo

dessert

               

 

Francesca’s favorite dessert: Parrozzo (a typical Abruzzo cake made with almond flour and covered with dark chocolate)

               

 

Francesca’s favorite wine: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Why is it worth visiting Abruzzo?
“For the diversity of its landscapes and for the sublime Abruzzo extra virgin olive oil!”

Discover more about Cantinarte, check out their website ..or plan a visit with Italia Sweet Italia!

Cooking with Mamma Anna Maria: Polenta with pork ribs and sausage sauce

Ingredients:

  • pork ribs or bacon
  • sausages
  • homemade tomato sauce
  • 1 onion
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fennel seeds
  • corn flour
  • salt

Cooking time: about 40 minutes for “polenta” and 45 minutes for the meat sauce (It takes time but the outcome is sensational!)

Preparation:

In a large saucepan brown the pork ribs or the bacon together with the chopped onion.
Add the fennel seeds and a pinch of salt.

Meanwhile, remove the skin of the sausage and crumble it over a saucepan. Then add the extravirgin olive oil and put over fire. When the sausage is browned, add it in the pan where the pork ribs/bacon are cooking.Then add the homemade tomato sauce and stir well.

The cooking time is around one hour. Stir occasionally.

The polenta preparation

Take a large pan full of  warm water.
Grab a fistful of flour and let it drop slowly. Repeat it until you’ve finished up all the corn flour. Add some salt.
Cook on low heat and keep stirring very often.

Halfway through cooking time, take some sausage sauce and add it to the polenta. Keep stirring. Cook the polenta for about 40 minutes.

When the polenta is cooked, take a large wood board and pour the polenta over it.
Then add on top the sausage and ribs sauce and sprinkle with some grated Parmesan cheese.

And the dish is ready. Place the wooden board in the middle of the table and enjoy the polenta all together with your family and friends!

Polenta with sausages and pork ribs sauce

The polenta with sausages and ribs sauce is perfect with a glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Buon Appetito!
by Mamma Anna Maria

Subscribe on Italia Sweet Italia Youtube channel to keep updated on the new video recipes!

Discover Abruzzo: The Carnival of Schiavi d’Abruzzo

During this time of the year, there are many famous Carnivals celebrated all over the world, there are big and famous Carnivals like the one in Rio de Janero but there are also small and as musch as colorful carnivals spread in small towns, like in Schiavi d’Abruzzo.

carnevale Schiavi d'Abruzzo

In this tiny Italian town the tradition of carnival is celebrated with a touch of originality. On “Mardi gras” (Shrove day – the day before Ash Wednesday) the young boys of the town get dressed with amusing costumes and they put on their head the “Cimiero”, a curious headgear made with colorful paper flowers and ribbons – in dialect zagarelle.  Oh yes they look bizzare, but it’s fun!

The mazzaroun go around the streets of Schiavi singing, dancing and playing music with an accordion. The group is headed by Pulcinella (one of the classic characters of the Italian Carnival) who holds in his hands a kind of wood bat called sagliocca, which is the symbol of power, of divine nature and of the rebirth of plants life.

During their show the mazzaroun perform a special dance called the ‘spallata’ which consists in pushing each other shoulder against shoulder. The noisy and cheerful group goes door by door in the nine streets of the town asking for sweets, or better wine and salami in exchange of songs and dances.

And remember …. A Carnevale Ogni Scherzo Vale

(in english sounds like “every joke is allowed at Carnival”)

…so never lose lose your smile!

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