As announced in my article “ Abruzzo an unknown jewel of Italy”, I’m presenting to you one of the most beautiful villages of Abruzzo and also the place where I live, Loreto Aprutino.
Today I want to tell you about its compelling story that inspired my passion for the extra virgin olive oil.
Loreto Aprutino is located on the beautiful hills of the province of Pescara, it is 20 km from the Adriatic coast. In the eyes of visitors coming to Loreto Aprutino, immediate is the ancient beauty of its architecture and the magnificence of its natural habitat. In this small town of about 8,000 inhabitants, the agricultural tradition has written the story and is an integral part of economic and social life today. Its identity is represented by the olive groves which have lived for thousands of years in these beautiful hills, symbols of peace and prosperity.
The olive oil producing – culture of Loreto Aprutino, has ancient roots, the evidence of that are the remains of Roman oil mills and oil amphorae dating back from the imperial era found in Fiorano; also, the Benedictine monks, understood the vocation of this habitat to olive oil production, so in the Middle Ages, they gave impetus to the planting of more olive groves of the “Dritta” variety , in much of the uncoltivated land. Just 400,000 olive trees of the Dritta also called “Lauretana” dominate the landscape view. The olive trees stand near the houses, they are so familiar for the inhabitants, as people who grew up with them. They give a sense of a warm welcome and every years give its fruits and its even more precious juice, the extra virgin olive oil.
The extra virgin olive oil produced by the Dritta variety has rich flavour with almonds and herbaceous aromas reminiscent of artichoke and dandelion; the bitter and spicy tastes well balanced complete its harmony. This complexity of aromas reminds us that the extra virgin olive oil, is not just a condiment but a fine and healthy food able to enrich every dish.
The extra virgin olive oil is the result of a combination of environmental factors and the skill of the millers who must preserve the aromatic components of the olives through the processing technique. Loreto Aprutino has always understood this essential combination, and has always produced extra virgin olive oil of excellent quality, in fact, the European Community in 1996, recognized the first Protected Designation of Origin for an extra virgin olive oil to Loreto Aprutino.
In the country there are many evidences of the fact that the oil tradition has always been at the center of social and economic life of the country. In the historical center, the Amorotti palace houses the olive oil Museum where there is an old olive mill built in 1880 by Raffaele Baldini Palladini, a land owner and oil producer that already in the nineteenth century used the latest technology and received numerous International awards. His extra virgin olive oil was appreciated throughout Italy, in America and had delighted the Tsar of Russia.
Also in the historical centre you can visit the regional olive oil display, a journey through historical exhibits on olive oil technologies, information panels and a presentation of the main productions of Abruzzo on the market.
Because of its agricultural prosperity, many noble families have concentrated their activities in Loreto Aprutino. The old town is dominated by a magnificent feudal castle dating from the second half of the ninth century that now houses a prestigious hotel.
Many noble families lived in the country, enriching it with works of art of great value. A beautiful museum houses a collection of ceramics of Baron Giacomo Acerbo who created in the first half of 10th century one of the most prestigious collection for the quality of the works.
Thanks to the proceeds of the olive oil selling a noble family commissioned the largest painting in Abruzzo called “Giudizio particolare “. You can admire this painting in the Church of Santa Maria in Piano, National Monument. It depicts the vision of the afterlife of Alberico da Settefrati a monk who lived in the 12th century in Cassino. This work opened the door to great visions that characterized the literature and art of the twelfth century, including the poem of Dante.
Celebration of the rural work is also the festival of St. Zopito. The festival is born in 1711 when an ox who had been working in the fields, knelt down during the passage of the procession of people who were bringing the mortal remains of St. Zopito to Loreto Aprutino. The festival is celebrated every year on Whit Monday in line with the harvesting of crops in the fields to attract the favor of the Saint Zopito on the fertility of the earth. The ox leads a procession through the village and repeats his kneeling down in front of the church of Saint Pietro. The procession meets the “vetturali” which evoke the knights who once were in charge of transporting the olive oil in Naples, and that on their return they went to the saint to give thanks for having protected them while travelling.
Tthe wine-making tradition of Loreto Aprutino was born in ancient Roman times. In Fiorano or “ Floranum” the Romans celebrated the wine twice a year in April and August with the name Vinalia. Since then, in these places it was cultivated Trebbiano d ‘Abruzzo with the name “Trebulanum”.
Today the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo made by “Azienda Agricola Valentini” of Loreto Aprutino, received prestigious awards. At the Best Italian Wine Awards, Valentini Trebbiano wine 2007 was the best in Italy, and in the Espresso “The wines of Italy ” Guide, edition 2015 is on the top list of the best bottles.
According to experts of the guide, “this wine boasts a record of impressive aromatic complexity and magnificent definition and can hold the comparison with the greatest achievements in the history of European oenology of recent decades”
The producer Francesco Paolo Valentini, in a pleasant conversation explained his point of view on Loreto Aprutino, his own village. He argues that agriculture will be towing the local and national economy. He said: “Farmers of Loreto should be aware that biodiversity that characterizes Loreto Aprutino is an asset, because it makes local agricultural products unique, even if out of the trends and standards. Biodiversity must be preserved as a priceless asset, but it should be valued and promoted. The strengths of Loreto Aprutino are the territory, the acclimatization of the olives and its history.
Loreto Aprutino is located in an area highly suited to olive growing and viticulture, because it is a hilly terrain, with a mild climate, where the proximity to the sea and to the mountain allows temperature changes that enhances the expression of the aromas of the fruits.
The acclimatization is the process in which, the plants as in the case of the Dritta, over hundreds of years, have adapted to theyr natural environment, enabling them to thrive. In this period of time the plant becomes an integral part of the territory itself.
The history of the village, has built the city’s identity and its traditions. Passing on traditions means to celebrate the past but does not bind us to it, and make us mindful of the commitment, ingenuity and passion that has moved our predecessors and should be an incentive for continuous improvement “.
Listening to the thoughts of Francesco Paolo Valentini, it seems that in Loreto Aprutino, the beauty of the land, the traditions, the craftsmanship, the quality of the food and wine, will combine in perfect harmony. A harmony that inspired a lot of entrepreneurs to become interpreters and storytellers of this heritage.
Examples include the “Azienda Agricola Torre Dei Beati”. Its Pecorino wine 2011 is wine of excellence for L’Espresso wine Guide 2015 . Montepulciano D’Abruzzo “Prologo” 2012 produced by “Società Agricola De Fermo” is again wine of excellence for L’Espresso wine Guide 2015. The companies, mentioned above have both received Three glasses of “Gambero Rosso”guide and the excellence of “L’Espresso” guide. Only Loreto Aprutino and two other Italian municipalities can boast three companies that have received such prestigious awards. I want to emphasize that these companies produce wine only with grapes cultivated in Loreto Aprutino.
A good example of local entrepreneurship is Jurji Ferri, one of the most talented brewers in Italy. He chose Loreto Aprutino as the seat of his own brewery “Almond ’22”, a village that he loves for its old charm, and it seems like a natural habitat for his company that works according to a green philosophy, using only excellent raw materials. Beers Almond ’22, is not only one of the most popular in Italy, but has captured Irish and American fans of beer. This big success is confirmed by numerous awards including the Slow Food Snail.
In Loreto Aprutino was founded a consortium, to protect the “ Tondino del Tavo” a local variety of bean rediscovered and cultivated by some farmers, unique for its round shape, with a scent of hazelnut and hints of herbs and flowers. With its low polysaccharide content and its thin skin, it does not alter the intestinal microbial flora making it highly digestible. (Seghetti)
Recently was founded in Loreto Aprutino the association “è Abruzzo” for the protection and promotion of all foodstuffs produced entirely in Abruzzo. These products will be recognized by a seal of approval that will boast their geographical and cultural belonging to Abruzzo .
Loreto Aprutino is an important example of how the food and wine are a real expression and celebration of the territory. Taste a dish prepared with local food means to know the cultural heritage and know through the senses of smell and taste its tradition and its history. This approach to food and wine can bring to our tables the gifts of the earth, taste authentic foods, rediscover flavours that for various reasons have been forgotten or perhaps never known, turn the meal into a moment of pleasure made of history, culture, communication, and above all of well-being.
This ability to transform a travel experience in a fascinating journey through history and flavours, is the charm and potential of Loreto Aprutino, and how each value must be preserved and shared.
Author: Catherine Russi
Acknowledgements: many thanks to the Valentini family who welcomed me with generosity and kindness and made the writing of this article a special experience.
Loreto Aprutino Le immagini e la storia- CARIPE
Loreto Aprutino i colori di una storia – CARIPE
Fronde D’Olivo di Mauro Soccio
Loreto Aprutino di Aleardo Rubini
Musei Civici di Loreto Aprutino