Ciociaria: the truly Wild Heart of Italy
Follow us off the beaten track to the undiscovered food and wine region of Ciociaria: the Wild Heart of Italy.
It’s been called ‘the secret region of Italy’, and while it doesn’t officially exist on any maps, Ciociaria [pronounced in local dialect as cho-sha-ria ] in Central Italy has its own distinctive dialect, cuisine and customs. Unknown even to most Italians, it’s a perfect time to discover this unspoilt and hidden food and wine region, away from the hordes of mass tourism. Just one hour south from Rome, it’s a whole world away…
We have carefully curated an immersive food and wine cultural itinerary, aimed at introducing our guests to the unique people and places of Ciociaria. Vines have been cultivated here since Etruscan times, and Ciociaria encompasses the Atina DOC and Piglio DOCG wine regions. The local Cesanese red wine from Piglio is said to be the antique variety drunk by Roman Emperors, and is “poised to become one of the hottest rediscovered red grapes in central Italy.” [Wine Enthusiast ]. It’s also one of Italy’s most renowned truffle regions, with truffles growing wild in the forests. Read more about the food and wine of Ciociaria here >>
Photo Credit (above) @horseman82. Photo Credit (below): CNN Travel.
A NEW REVIVAL
Ciociaria is abundant with artisans, cooks, musicians, shepherds, cheese-makers, bakers and pasticceri (pastry makers) – and there is a distinct feeling in the Ciociarian air of a new Risorgimento (revival), where everything old is new again and young people are being drawn to revive their ancient traditions in food, wine and song which can be dated back to the Roman and Etruscan eras.
Photo Credit (below): CNN Travel
A JOURNEY TO THE WILD HEART OF ITALY
We have found the PERFECT mountaintop medieval Ciociarian village for our Wild Heart of Italy guests to have the opportunity of truly feeling like they are living as a local. It’s one of the friendliest and most charming villages we have been to in Italy – many of its inhabitants emigrated to Scotland in the early 1900s and their descendants are returning to breathe new life into the mountains. So everyone speaks English (some with Scottish accents!) and they are delighted to welcome travellers and share the abundance of their land and their stories.
This is the village where DH Lawrence spent some time in the early 1920s, completing his novel ‘The Lost Girl’. The 19th Century English villa where he stayed is now a restaurant serving traditional Ciociarian cuisine and a cheese-house – making what is probably the best Pecorino in all of Italy.
A ‘DIFFUSED’ HOTEL
We are staying in the medieval mountaintop village of Picinisco [in local dialect: pizz-in-iss-ko ], which celebrated its 1,000 year anniversary in 2017 and borders a National Wildlife Park in the Apennines.
Our accommodation is in a 5-star ‘diffused hotel’ – a lovingly restored former Bishop’s palace which forms part of the village’s 1,000 year old castle. Guests will have their own luxury apartment with double bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette and there is a shared terrace overlooking the Ciociarian valleys – perfect for afternoon aperitivos. It’s just a step out into the piazza for prosecco and gelato, and the locals are all incredibly friendly.
Our gorgeous medieval village is replete with a castle and palace, built in the 11th Century. Restoration works are underway, and first to be completed is our five-star accommodation in the former Bishop’s palace within the castle. With only five separate apartments within the complex, this is what is known in Italy as a ‘diffused hotel’ – the reception is in the arch of the old carriageway. Each room has been restored to showcase its 900+ year old stone walls, with chic modern appointments and amenities. It’s the best of both worlds!
We will be staying in the one venue for our entire Wild Heart of Italy experience, and journeying out to the different medieval towns and villages to explore the distinctive food and wine of the Ciociaria region.
We have curated some incredible food and wine and cultural experiences for our guests, with our locals as your guides and storytellers, including:
>> visits to biodynamic and organic vineyards and local cellar doors to meet vignerons marrying 21st Century technology with Roman and Etruscan techniques;
>> a degustation lunch in a 16th Century Noble’s villa, using fresh produce and wine sourced from the restaurant’s own farm and vineyard;
>> a pecorino cheese-making class, with a lunch in the 19th Century English villa where DH Lawrence once lived;
>> a foraging expedition in the mountains to gather wild herbs for liqueurs;
>> market day in the medieval hilltop town of Anagni ‘The City of Popes’ – fresh produce, street food and fashion, and seeped in history;
>> dinner at a local trattoria reviving traditional Ciociarian recipes using all-local produce and with the young Chef cooking on a wood-fired stove; and
>> a medieval banquet in an ancient tavern underneath a castle.
Our carefully curated itinerary also includes day trips to a 1,000 year old Benedictine monastery built into a cliff on top of the ruins of Emperor Nero’s summer palace; a visit to the remains of Emperor Trajan’s hunting villa in the region; and a trip to the ancient Roman seaside resort of Terracina on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea to see its Roman temple ruins.
Places are limited to small group tours of maximum 6-12 guests, to ensure our packaged tours are intimate and enjoyable experiences – for people who wouldn’t normally go on group tours. Our itineraries have been designed to embrace the ethos of ‘slow travel’, with plenty of time for rest and relaxation. We will be savouring our experiences to the gentle beat of regional Italy’s heart, which means morning and early evening adventures, with a pause in the middle of the day.
Our next Wild Heart of Italy packaged and hosted travel experience is running from 9-16 September 2018. This is Autumn in Italy and harvest-time, so lots of the little villages have their own Sagra (food festivals) to showcase their specialties. We will be spontaneously incorporating these into our itinerary as they happen, it’s impossible to know the exact dates!
Photo credit (above) @horseman82
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