A guide to Molise, Italy’s smallest province punching above its weight

A guide to Molise, Italy’s smallest province punching above its weight

One of Italy’s smallest, and certainly its youngest province, Molise was once part of Abruzzo. Just above Puglia with 35 kilometres of Adriatic coast, ancient Apennine hill towns, and a wealth of natural beauty, it’s still pretty undiscovered. Those who do come are charmed, so here’s a guide to Molise, when you visit, I know you’ll be charmed too!

For centuries shepherds herded their animals along the ancient tratturi from the Apennine hills to the plains of Puglia during the harsh winter months – La Transumanza. It’s a rough and beautiful landscape, where traditional customs and the slow life can be enjoyed, far from tourism. And visitors can practise their Italian – no waiters showing off in English here! The Molisani are proud of their customs, festivals, and natural, seasonal food; artisan cheeses, local truffles, excellent olive oil, unusual wine varieties, grilled meats and the many simple dishes of their cucina povera.

Agnone is a town of artisans. There were once 36 different guilds, a place of wealth and influence. The best copper vessels in all of Italy were forged in 5 foundries along the Verrino river, then hand finished by the master coppersmiths in 171 family workshops. Learn more in our blog post ‘The Master Coppersmiths of Agnone’. The Museo del Rame recounts their story: Museo del Rame

My grandfather’s cousins have been making bells here for over 1000 years. Fonderia Pontificia Marinelli Campane Marinelli is Europe’s oldest family business, the oldest bell foundry in the world, and the only one by papal appointment.

Bells are made by methods unchanged since the middle-ages. 

Gold and silver work is also very important to Agnone’s history, the museum in Isernia has a stunning collection of Agnonese jewellery, together with beautiful Molisani costumes, telling a fascinating social history. Visit Musec.is.it.

Nearby are the ancient Sannite (Samnite) ruins of Pietrabbondante, (meaning ‘plenty of stones’), a sacred site with two temples and an amphitheatre. With views reaching to Campobasso and the sea, we almost always get to explore all by ourselves. This Italic tribe, ancient Rome’s fiercest rival, was eventually defeated, becoming the empire’s bravest warriors. The centrepiece is Pietrabbondante Teatro. There’s a small but exceptional museum telling the Sannite story, and that of the origins of Italy – Museo Sannitico di Campobasso.

One of the best things about Molise is that there are very, very, few foreign tourists so here it is possible to live Italian, speak Italian and eat authentic, simple, and true Italian.

For keen travellers to Italy who have seen the famous sites and cities, a chance to discover this little known region and its continuing traditions, and to practise some Italian, is a delight.

 

Live and Learn Italian offers you study with qualified teachers, while living and engaging with a small community.

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A guide to Molise, Italy’s smallest province punching above its weight

One of Italy’s smallest, and certainly its youngest province, Molise was once part of Abruzzo. Just above Puglia with 35 kilometres of Adriatic coast, ancient Apennine hill towns, and a wealth of natural beauty, it’s still pretty undiscovered. Those who do come are...

Baking bread with Mercedes

In the hills of Alto Molise, Mercedes rises at 3.30 to prepare her loaves for the wood-fired oven, using logs from her woods, and grain from her fields. Traditional bread baking for Mercedes, is all about the grain. The 'pane casaerecio' of her childhood was nothing...

Immerse yourself in Italy

Let's discuss what works best for you...

 

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Baking bread with Mercedes

Baking bread with Mercedes

In the hills of Alto Molise, Mercedes rises at 3.30 to prepare her loaves for the wood-fired oven, using logs from her woods, and grain from her fields. Traditional bread baking for Mercedes, is all about the grain. The ‘pane casaerecio’ of her childhood was nothing like modern bread, even from the best local bakers. Using methods that had been traditional in her family, alternating crops, using only animal ‘stecco’ (manure, no chemicals) and keeping part of their 15 hectares fallow, she was able to produce a high-quality wheat, with only a small amount of gluten. Before long Mercedes was supplying her extended family, then neighbours. She soon found herself with a small group of clients and began to sell in artisan food markets and fairs.

30 kilos of bread are made daily in this little oven and once that is done, Mercedes makes delicious trays of pizza and a traditional breakfast cake, ‘pagnottini’, sweetened with a little local honey. She uses a small quantity of potato in the dough, which keep the bread softer for longer – a very old recipe from a time when bread needed to last weeks. And hers does, in fact, it’s better after a few days.

There’s no sign right now that her children will take up the mantle. It’s a hard day. After a long morning, Mercedes cleans and shuts the bakery, and tends to the vegetable garden and the grain fields – although all the family help with this. Then the house needs cleaning, and there are all the other chores. When the family’s 25 goats are giving milk, Mercedes also makes cheese. Once a year they slaughter a pig to provide the family meat.

Her son would like to continue this work and expand the small holding to make his livelihood and despite being very capable and entrepreneurial – he has been forced to find a job in a factory. This kind of rural livelihood is dying out because laws and heavy taxes make the work pretty much impossible for the younger generation.

Baking was traditionally a womans job – the men tended the land. But today with taxes and laws really working against small farmers, the women are keeping the land all by themselves while the men go out and get jobs in factories, or run their own enterprises. Like our driver, Fernando, who’s really a cattle farmer but has a 9-seater vehicle and a thriving taxi service, while his wife is left to look after and milk their 50 cows. Fernando manages to keep his land going, but needs to supplement their livelihood by driving.

Mercedes is the most engaging and amusing woman, full of insights and observations. It is an incredible pleasure to spend time in the bakery as she works, tasting the crusty pizza with tomatoes and herbs from her garden, and hearing stories of her family and her life. She is cautious about the future, but resourceful.

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One of Italy’s smallest, and certainly its youngest province, Molise was once part of Abruzzo. Just above Puglia with 35 kilometres of Adriatic coast, ancient Apennine hill towns, and a wealth of natural beauty, it’s still pretty undiscovered. Those who do come are...

Baking bread with Mercedes

In the hills of Alto Molise, Mercedes rises at 3.30 to prepare her loaves for the wood-fired oven, using logs from her woods, and grain from her fields. Traditional bread baking for Mercedes, is all about the grain. The 'pane casaerecio' of her childhood was nothing...

Immerse yourself in Italy

Let's discuss what works best for you...

 

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La Madonna di Loreto

La Madonna di Loreto

La Madonna di Loreto

 

Read my guest blog post about this tri-annual festival in the extraordinary town of Capracotta - featured by the National Italian American Foundation.

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What to expect on our 5 night Italian cultural and culinary programme

5 nights of Italian food and culture AWAY from the tourist trail. Be immersed in an authentic community, live the slow life, discover ancient traditions.

A guide to Molise, Italy’s smallest province punching above its weight

One of Italy’s smallest, and certainly its youngest province, Molise was once part of Abruzzo. Just above Puglia with 35 kilometres of Adriatic coast, ancient Apennine hill towns, and a wealth of natural beauty, it’s still pretty undiscovered. Those who do come are...

Baking bread with Mercedes

In the hills of Alto Molise, Mercedes rises at 3.30 to prepare her loaves for the wood-fired oven, using logs from her woods, and grain from her fields. Traditional bread baking for Mercedes, is all about the grain. The 'pane casaerecio' of her childhood was nothing...

Immerse yourself in Italy!

Book your experience now
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The Master Coppersmiths of Agnone

The Master Coppersmiths of Agnone

My guest blog post for the National Italian American Foundation 20.03.2017

Copper has a long and important history in Agnone. At one time it brought great wealth to the town. Read about this tradition in my article for NIAF, Remembering the Coppersmiths of Agnone

You can see an interview with Franco himself on our Live and Learn Italian You Tube channel, and practice your Italian at the same time!

Credit: Reposted with permission from The National Italian American Foundation ‘Remembering The Coppersmiths of Agnone’

And you can find more of my guest blog posts on the National Italian American Foundation blog. For further reading about the bell foundry, let me point you to a brilliant article on Google Arts & Culture also titled ‘The Bells of Agnone’.

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Welcome to our programme. Not so much a language school, but an experience. When I went to Agnone, no one spoke to me in English, yet everyone was willing and ready to communicate. So I had to speak Italian! It’s not so easy to meet locals in Italy and even harder to...

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A guide to Molise, Italy’s smallest province punching above its weight

One of Italy’s smallest, and certainly its youngest province, Molise was once part of Abruzzo. Just above Puglia with 35 kilometres of Adriatic coast, ancient Apennine hill towns, and a wealth of natural beauty, it’s still pretty undiscovered. Those who do come are...

Baking bread with Mercedes

In the hills of Alto Molise, Mercedes rises at 3.30 to prepare her loaves for the wood-fired oven, using logs from her woods, and grain from her fields. Traditional bread baking for Mercedes, is all about the grain. The 'pane casaerecio' of her childhood was nothing...

Immerse yourself in Italy

Let's discuss what works best for you...

 

EnquirePrices

Tumbr Fest

Tumbr Fest

Tumbr fest - Cann’lora and the return of light: secular rites and peasant calendar

 

Tumbr fest takes its name from the old unit used during the reign of the two Sicilies and set off in 1861, following the unity of Italy. The festival was born with the intention of bringing back ancient ways to preserve them from the ‘oblivion to which they are destined’. Uses, customs and traditions are almost completely lost. This winter will be a kind of pill to the summer appendage of the festival.

“With the fire comes the spark of light of humanity and with the cooked food the relief from the need that prevents reasoning. With the temporary armistice of hunger, with the fulfilment of digestion, with the sense of prolonging life comes the story and the story lifting the head to heaven. Man becomes a man with the spark of the story seized in hell.”

From the presentation of Jesus to the temple through the purification of Mary until we arrive at the ancient Pagan tradition of Lupercali, we will try to bring together ancient knowledge and stories in the presence of the fireworks and candles of tradition. Starting from two straw-hammers with a fireplace, which has preserved their burden of minor historical heritage, and gathering people around some fires, in the ancient nucleus around which our little country was born, we will try to fight the monotony of winter and turn on the country for one night. The Colle della Lama with its spiraling roads that circulate in a circular way that extends to the original religious structure of which remains a sketch of the name of a street (Via Chiesa Vecchia) will be the theater of this event, which has the main purpose of breaking the monotony given by the rigors of winter, fighting it with conviviality and culture. February, whose name derives from the Latin February, which means “purifying” since in the Roman calendar in February it was the time of purification rituals, it is not known to be one of the best, with its rigours and snow, and has always been beloved, despite the s party. Antonio Abbot, the entry of the carnival, the killing of the pig. Waiting for better times in the past they spent the days closed in the house to spy, occasionally, the possible “moves” of time. The white reigned as today unconventional and often came out of the windows or passed under white and unspoiled galleries, without the tv in the house to fuel the discomfort in a population hardened by adversity like war and poverty. Candlestick in this falls to the brush, indicating to the grower the predictions of the “v’rnata” and its effective duration, according to which to organize with the new seeds and the remaining stocks. The lunar calendar is among the things we have forgotten along with respect for the nature that the peasant, the big shoe and the brain up, never stopped listening and watching.

How many things have we buried under the ashes? Many, among which many proverbs. So be prepared to suffer a little bit of the bug and pull out the ashes of childhood memories and potatoes, just as grandma did once. We offer culture, music, theatre, poetry, fire, food and wine to fight the impotence that has taken over countries like ours. A country wants it.

Cannellora, chieara aprilə and majjə come é jennearə, if it is solə or sulariélləsò n’andrə 40 juornə də ‘nviérnə.”

***

I attach the poster, characterized by an original monologue divided into two parts (Christianity and Paganism), written for the occasion of the Roman theatre author Valeria Belardelli and interpreted by Manuel D’Amario, Abruzzo actor emerging in the panorama Italian.

The opening debate will be attended by Franco Valente, & include a concert of the folk-rock blues singer Adriano Tarullo, originally from Scanno (AQ). And a reading of Franco Arminio’s “Dreamy Mouse and Other Animals of the Country” by Manuel D’Amario followed by the poetry of Eugenio Cirese and Gustavo Tempesta Petresine.

Then traditional food such as cazzariell and beans and impressive potatoes accompanying a few (a few) potatoes to ash and pizza d grandign cooked to the cup, prepared in the fireplaces of the strawberries made available.

The frame is the charming hill of the Lama, home to the country’s first living nucleus.

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Studying with Live and Learn Italian

Welcome to our programme. Not so much a language school, but an experience. When I went to Agnone, no one spoke to me in English, yet everyone was willing and ready to communicate. So I had to speak Italian! It’s not so easy to meet locals in Italy and even harder to...

What to expect on our 5 night Italian cultural and culinary programme

5 nights of Italian food and culture AWAY from the tourist trail. Be immersed in an authentic community, live the slow life, discover ancient traditions.

A guide to Molise, Italy’s smallest province punching above its weight

One of Italy’s smallest, and certainly its youngest province, Molise was once part of Abruzzo. Just above Puglia with 35 kilometres of Adriatic coast, ancient Apennine hill towns, and a wealth of natural beauty, it’s still pretty undiscovered. Those who do come are...

Baking bread with Mercedes

In the hills of Alto Molise, Mercedes rises at 3.30 to prepare her loaves for the wood-fired oven, using logs from her woods, and grain from her fields. Traditional bread baking for Mercedes, is all about the grain. The 'pane casaerecio' of her childhood was nothing...

Immerse yourself in Italy

Let's discuss what works best for you...

 

EnquirePrices

La Mia Strada

La Mia Strada

La Mia Strada - a feature film from Michael DiLauro

 

“And they go down the ancient traturro to the plain. Almost down a silent grassy river following the footprints of ancient fathers… Gabriele D’Annunzio

In the words of the director, Michael DiLauro (biography):

“This feature-length documentary explores the fragile bonds that connect a family from generation to generation, from country to countryit is a filmmaker’s personal journey along the iconic trails that Italian shepherds have used since ancient times. The focal point of La Mia Strada is the shepherd’s trail—the “ancient traturro” referred to by D’Annunzio. It has its origins in the Bronze Age (1800-700 BC), when during seasonal migrations in search of better grazing, shepherds led their flocks along the trail, often through narrow and treacherous terrain. This network of trails, covering more than 250 kilometers, starts in the Abruzzo region of central Italy, extends to Molise and Puglia, and down into the Province of Foggia—the paese of my grandparents.

With family members and friends on both sides of the Atlantic, DiLauro seeks to make a connection between these ancient trails and the one that led to a new world. La Mia Strada is a search for identity; both the filmmaker and those connected by common threads of ethnicity. It explores the experiences and traditions associated with the trattura— the hardships and simple pleasures of the shepherds, the natural beauty of the landscape, the food, the folk art, the music, and the culture of the regions through which the trails pass. During their long months away from home, the shepherds left their cultural mark; creating poems, etchings and songs depicting their harsh and lonely way of life. On the other side of the Atlantic, the shepherd’s stories have little relevance for modern Italian-Americans, yet they speak of a simple, uncomplicated life that so many yearn for. The filmmaker’s journey is a quest to find the bond between yesterday and today, between the ancient and modern.

Over a period of years, DiLauro has conducted dozens of interviews, explored historical sites, sifted through archaeological artefacts, dug through family photographs, and immersed himself in the music, poetry, and oral histories of the Abruzzi, Molise and Puglia regions. His journey has also taken him to many Little Italy’s of The America’s. The film is a link between the ancient and contemporary histories of families divided by an ocean, yet united by an indelible genetic bond.

Read our full biography of Michael Angelo Di Lauro

 

Discover more about La Mia Strada, and di Lauro's other films on iMDb

 

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This review is by our guest Barbara Gentile (USA)   'The Live and Learn Italian program really lived up to its name' Having spent two weeks in Agnone in June (2018), I can say that the “Live and Learn Italian” program really lived up to its name. Weekday mornings...

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Join a group to kick start your ItalianWhen we first introduced Beginner's groups, it was obvious that participants with a bit of Italian under their belts had a much better time and got a lot more out of their stay than those who didn’t know a word. So we created Not...

Live and Learn Italian selected by Tutorful as ‘best Italian resource’

We are thrilled to have been selected by Tutorful as one of the best places to learn Italian in Italy. This carefully researched article - How to become fluent in Italian - Top tools to learn Italian fast - highlights helpful tools such as Best Apps, Best Websites...

Studying with Live and Learn Italian

Welcome to our programme. Not so much a language school, but an experience. When I went to Agnone, no one spoke to me in English, yet everyone was willing and ready to communicate. So I had to speak Italian! It’s not so easy to meet locals in Italy and even harder to...

What to expect on our 5 night Italian cultural and culinary programme

5 nights of Italian food and culture AWAY from the tourist trail. Be immersed in an authentic community, live the slow life, discover ancient traditions.

A guide to Molise, Italy’s smallest province punching above its weight

One of Italy’s smallest, and certainly its youngest province, Molise was once part of Abruzzo. Just above Puglia with 35 kilometres of Adriatic coast, ancient Apennine hill towns, and a wealth of natural beauty, it’s still pretty undiscovered. Those who do come are...

Baking bread with Mercedes

In the hills of Alto Molise, Mercedes rises at 3.30 to prepare her loaves for the wood-fired oven, using logs from her woods, and grain from her fields. Traditional bread baking for Mercedes, is all about the grain. The 'pane casaerecio' of her childhood was nothing...

Immerse yourself in Italy

Let's discuss what works best for you...

 

EnquirePrices

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