Picinisco - A World Hidden in the Mists of Time
D. H. Lawrence called Picinisco ‘staggeringly primitive’ when he sojourned her whilst writing ‘The Lost Girl’. We prefer to say ‘stubbornly independent’. Located at the gateway to the National Park of Abruzzo, at times Picinisco definitely has the feel of a frontier town.
It's the perfect example of a small Apennine mountain village. Its hidden charms are comprised of cobbled streets, ancient alleyways, an abandoned castle, emerald waters, abundant woodlands, towering mountains and a dazzling array of vegetation and wildlife.
There are no fixed boundaries between nature and the village. You are unlikely to come across wolves, but bears have very occasionally been spotted entering the village. The wild boar in the photo were seen wandering past the house when we first moved in and sheep and goats are regularly driven through the streets as they are moved from one pasture to another.
Nature hasn't been tamed. Following the paths around Picinsico is an adventure, but hidden away is some truly spectacular scenery. You may also find old drover bridges and caves which have sheltered bandits and refugees alike in times gone by...
On arrival at Prato di Mezzo the scenery opens up into a vast expanse of meadow which, in the summer months, is alive with animals grazing and roaming freely, generally accompanied by beautiful white maremma guardians as protection from bears and wolves...
To my mind this is Italy at its very best. The farmers, shepherds and growers of the Valle di Comino understand that you can't cheat the earth. This is an uncontaminated land with some of the most amazing produce you can find and a really strong culinary tradition.
Picinsico is already a strong 'slow food' destination. There is the wonderful classic mountain osteria, La Locanda di Arturo, renowned for the quality of its pasture fed meat, run by our close friend Annamaria Tamburini and Emmanule di Santis' highly acclaimed pizzeria 'Bellavista', whose pizzas are topped by the flavours of the mountain. Both of these establishments have slow food 'snails'. The caciOsteria, a wine and cheese pizzicheria is owned by the shepherd and cheesemaker Loretto Pacitti and opens in the main square during the towns festas otherwise you can head down the hill to 'Casa Lawrence' to try his traditional shepherd's recipes. We also have of course the Berenice gelataria, the ice cream parlour in the piazza which sells only one spectacularly delicious flavour - crema! In the Alimentari you can find everything you could possibly need as well as some of the best produce of the valley and don't forget the two great bars with outside terraces - Bar Centrale and Kiss Kiss.
I would like Villa Inglese to become the fine dining restaurant that completes the circle, creating the perfect food destination. What drew me to Italy twenty five years ago and now to the Valle di Comino and the little village of Picinisco is la Terra Italiana. The food which this land produces, the people who produce it and how it is magically transformed into something so wonderful - La cucina Italiana. My dream is that Villa Inglese becomes a gourmet ambassador for the Valle di Comino, celebrating everything the mountain has to offer.
(photos above left to right) Foraging is abundant, porcini mushrooms gathered in the woods around Picinsico, Villa Inglese's interpretation of the most sacred of dishes from the Valle di Comino 'pasta e fagioli' made with cannellini beans from Atina, Martina Gargaro making ravioli at La Locanda di Arturo, chillies hanging out to dry at Villa Inglese.
(photos above left to right) Foraging is abundant, porcini mushrooms gathered in the woods around Picinsico, Villa Inglese's interpretation of the most sacred of dishes from the Valle di Comino 'pasta e fagioli' made with cannellini beans from Atina, Martina Gargaro making ravioli at La Locanda di Arturo, chilies hanging out to dry at Villa Inglese.
(photos below left to right) A small wine cantina in the hamlet of Antica on the road to Settefrati, aperitivi at CaciOsteria with the owner, shepherd and highly talented cheesemaker Loretto Pacitto, Luigi .........., forager and mountian expert with myself in the background. Pecorino di Picinsico and Marzolina, Picinisco's two most famous cheeses.
In Picinisco events are organised throughout the year, often finishing in a festa in the beautiful town square attended by almost everyone!!. The organisation 'Pro Loco' organise a Spring festival dedicated to spring fauna and in particular the wild mountain spinach 'Orapi' which is the central theme of the food served at the party in the evening. In Autumn they hold a Mushroom Festival. Both festas involve excursions in small organised groups with knowledgeable local experts to forage in the nearby woods and hills.
The biggest festival of the Valle di Comino is Pastorizia in festival, which tales place at the beginning of August to celebrate the pastoral traditions of the mountain, the culture of shepherding and the transhumance, the ancient tradition and cultures of Picinisco.
'Festa della Storie', where the story of the Valley is told 'in Piazza', leads the cultural events that take place in different towns throughout the Valley, including Picinsico. This festival, music festivals and the religious ceremonies, in particular the annual pilgrimage across to Settefrati and the Sanctuary at Canneto, make for a rich and colourful itinerary.
Picinisco, Valle di Comino