Although it has many attractions, Abruzzo is traditionally one of the least touristic regions of Italy. This can be a blessing as it remains one of the greenest, most authentic and unspoilt regions in the country, a region with unique attractions for food and wine lovers.
Genny Nevoso is the Executive Director of the Italy-America Western Chamber of Commerce (IACCW), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that promotes commerce between the United States and Italy. Under his leadership, one of the Chamber’s most ambitious projects has been to work hand-in-hand with the Italian government to promote the “true Italian taste”, the unique regional food and wine products that have made Italian cuisine Italian a favorite. around the world.
Born and raised in Tortoreto Lido, Abruzzo (and having lived in the United States for 18 years), Nevoso recently had the pleasure of introducing the food and wine specialties of her native region to an American audience.
Forbes.com asked Genny to share his thoughts on Abruzzo gastronomy based on his intimate experience and professional expertise.
What are the not-to-be-missed regional culinary specialties/dishes associated with Abruzzo?
Genny Nevoso: The cuisine of Abruzzo reflects the varied landscapes of the region: from coastal dishes based on fish to the heartier dishes of mountain towns. Traditional recipes tell the story of resilient people who managed to protect nature while harnessing its bountiful gifts to survive.
Some specialty foods are Navelli PDO saffron, Pecorino d’Abruzzo cheese, Campotosto mortadella, Farindola Pecorino cheese, pork sausages preserved in oil, Ventricina to name a few.
Spaghetti alla chitarra is probably the most famous pasta in the region. It is traditionally made by hand using a tool resembling a stringed instrument, commonly called build in the local dialect.
In the province of Teramo, this pasta is usually served with a tomato sauce topped with miniature meatballs. As a kid, it was the ubiquitous party dish that my family loved and still makes to this day!
Of course, a trip to Abruzzo is not complete without tasting the timbale, the brodetto di pesce, the tacchino alla Canzanese, the pallotte cace e ove and especially the mutton skewers called arrosticini, a recipe that draws on tradition deeply rooted sheep farming in the region.
During the transhumance, shepherds drove their flocks to neighboring regions such as Puglia. Their herds were their security, providing them with meat, milk and wool.
Growing up in a family restaurant in the seaside town of Tortoreto Lido, regional cuisine has always been served with great pride. I still dream of the intoxicating aroma wafting from a grill full of arrosticini!
What types of wines are produced in Abruzzo?
LARP: The main appellations of Abruzzo are Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, which alone accounts for around 80% of the region’s wine, followed by Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Pecorino and Cerasuolo, the rosé of Abruzzo.
Additionally, there are small productions of native white grape varieties such as Cococciola, Passerina and Montonico in the Abruzzo DOC zone, and the sparkling Villamagna, a relatively new DOC.
Although Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is readily available in the United States, wines from smaller producers are probably best enjoyed at the source.
The Chamber recently held a series of events to educate buyers and consumers about the “renaissance of the Pecorino grape variety.” Is it a new variety?
LARP: In fact, I only recently discovered this grape myself, through a partnership with the Consorzio di Tutela dei Vini d’Abruzzo and its manager, Davide Acerra.
Pecorino is a white grape of ancient origin, native to the middle Adriatic in the foothills areas. The grape dates back to the 2nd century BC when it was brought to southern Italy during the Greek migrations.
It is a very sweet variety, which gives wines with a high alcohol content, good structure and marked acidity.
However, due to its early ripening and low production, it all but disappeared by the 1950s, being overtaken by grapes like Trebbiano. Then it was rediscovered in the 80s and 90s and is now produced in all of Abruzzo.
For food or wine lovers planning to visit Abruzzo, what are the main towns and villages not to miss?
LARP: Here are some of my favorites:
Santo Stefano de Sessanio
Best known for Sextantio, the elegant albergo diffuso– a dispersed hotel with rooms located in individual houses within the village – Santo Stefano di Sessanio is one of the most beautiful medieval hamlets in Italy. It is located in the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, about an hour and a half drive from Rome. Local lentils are one of the region’s 18 Slow Food Presidia.
Castel del Monte
Another notable medieval mountain hamlet is Castel del Monte. Nestled in the center of the Gran Sasso National Park, it offers breathtaking views of the Gran Sasso, Majella and Sirente-Velino massifs as well as the fairy-tale castle of Rocca di Calascio.
This area is full of traditional bites: try calcioni, culatello di maiale nero, Pecorino Canestrato di Castel del Monte (a local raw sheep’s milk cheese that’s also a Slow Food Presidio). Arrosticini (here known as “rustell”) is even more delicious with a view of the heavenly plateau of Campo Imperatore known as the Little Tibet of Abruzzo.
For a three-star Michelin dining experience and impeccable hospitality, Chef Niko Romito’s Restaurant Reale is a must-visit. The ever-evolving self-taught chef explores the intersection of haute cuisine and local produce.
A micro-zone known for its excellent wines and EVOO. Check out Cantina Ciavolich and Masseria Ciavolich for an immersive hospitality experience.
From Tortoreto Lido to Torano Nuovo
I may be biased as I was born and raised here, but I highly recommend spending a day relaxing at Tortoreto Lido. Enjoy fine golden sand beaches, palm tree lined bike paths and tranquil Adriatic waters.
A short drive away is Torano Nuovo, a small hilltop town where Agriturismo Emidio Pepe is located. Once the birthplace of the legendary winemaker, it offers an extraordinary, eco-friendly escape for food and wine lovers with accommodation, wine tastings and a farm-to-fork restaurant.
Costa dei TrabocchI
As you head south along the legendary Adriatic coast, expect to be mesmerized by the stunning stretch of coastline between San Salvo and Ortona. It offers an exceptional opportunity to discover the Trabocchi, wooden constructions once used by fishermen.
Soak up the views from the Punta Aderci Nature Reserve and Punta Penna Lighthouse. Plan to dine in one of the restaurants on the Trabocchi coast, lulled by the sea while enjoying the cotton candy sky.
Why is Abruzzo still “undiscovered” by most tourists?
As a native who promotes Italy for a living, I have often asked myself this same question. The answer is complex.
Based on April 2022 statistics from the Italian Ministry of Tourism and the Italian Tourist Board, Abruzzo was the tenth most searched Italian region on Google, also ranking third in searches in the hotel and accommodation category . We are therefore optimistic.
But Abruzzo’s worldwide fame and tourism development have been hampered by historical and geographical reasons. International trade and an enriching historical period, like the Renaissance, for example, had a transformative effect on places like Florence.
Those looking to experience Italy through an adventure off the beaten path should look no further. Known as the “green heart” of Europe for its three national parks, Abruzzo is exceptional. It is an unknown but spectacular region where simple traditions in harmony with nature become extraordinary.
From parks and protected areas to world-class ski resorts and a 130km coastline dotted with sandy beaches, Abruzzo will captivate you and keep you coming back.
Abruzzo offers a multitude of evocative trekking, cycling and horse-riding routes retracing the lives of historical and religious figures such as Pope Celestine V and San Francis. For those fascinated by the coastline, the Costa dei Trabocchi is a must visit with breathtaking views of the Adriatic and exciting dining experiences for seafood lovers.
What is the best time of year to visit? How can I get there?
LARP: For me the best times to visit are between April and June or between September (to catch the grape harvest) or early October.
Abruzzo is easily accessible from international airports such as Fiumicino in Rome or Guglielmo Marconi in Bologna. Some connections are also offered via Pescara airport, especially in summer.
For those who prefer to take the train, the Adriatic coast is well served by high-speed rail services; the journey from Bologna Centrale to Pescara Central in Abruzzo takes just over three hours.
To roam and explore freely, rent a car and drive (or hire someone to do it for you!). Plan your trip well in advance. The regional tourist site is an excellent starting point to discover the region, its hidden treasures and find itineraries that correspond to your interests.
Note: This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.