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.

Explore more posts:

Ettore Marinelli – From precocious talent to Master Craftsmen

Emerging young artist of the Marinelli family, Ettore shared his work with us at the Bell Foundry this summer   The tradition of metalworking in Molise goes began three thousand years, when the Samnite tribe, once Rome’s fiercest rivals, were casting statues for...

La ‘ndocciata, Agnone’s most famous event

La 'ndocciata 2018On the 8th of December I finally saw l‘ndocciata, Angone’s most famous annual event. Believe it or not, I’d never witnessed it. High time then…It’s the biggest ‘festival of fire’ in the world, ‘una scia di fuoco’, and allegedly the oldest – though...

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Joy Nash – Italian language vacations

Reflections on Summer 2018 The Live and Learn Italian immersion ‘experience’ was created completely organically, and continues to grow organically. Each year I discover new local characters and regional opportunities, and so the programme develops. It’s a language and...

Our Italian language teachers receive high praise from participants

Learning Italian with vibrant and passionate teachers We are so lucky to have a wonderful team of teachers and praise from our guests this summer has been so strong, I wanted to dedicate a page to them. Over time we will add more and include their thoughts and...

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Barbara Gentile – Italian language vacations

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...

Not Quite Beginner Holidays

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...

Immerse yourself in Italy

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

 

EnquirePrices

A morning of truffle hunting in Molise, the second biggest producer of truffles in Italy!

A morning of truffle hunting in Molise, the second biggest producer of truffles in Italy!

Molise is the second biggest producer of truffles in Italy! Ottavio is from the contrada of Carovili, near Angone. When you mention his name the Agnonese say, ‘who?”. “The guy that hunts truffles,” I say, “Oh him, Ottavio, from Carovill”. Ottavio has lived in Agnone for at least a generation but he will always be from Carovilli, and so will his children. That’s the way it is here. (The master cheese makers, the family Di Nucci have lived in Agnone for 3 Generations, but they’re from Capracotta).

With his very well trained dogs, Eva and Kira, and a special licence in his back pocket, Ottavio goes out every day in the season, May to the end of August and then mid October till the end of January. The dogs have regular checks and are pristinely healthy – they take the truffles in their mouths, so they can’t be sick or ailing. Eva is a springer spaniel, her baby, Kira is mixed breed.

With loads of experience, Eva did most of the hunting, Kira is still learning. It takes 4-5 months to train a dog and practise is key. We went out at 6am when the dawn was just breaking, but Ottavio had already been out earlier with a head-lamp and had a fair haul. Truffles are found in patches, close to large trees, but with little or no ground cover. It was a beautiful day once the early chill wore off and lovely to get deep into the woods. One or two of Ottavio’s favourite spots had been ‘done’ when we got there, probably not by another professional, but someone out to find a private stash for his pasta.

Molise is the second biggest producer of truffles in Italy and these are prized. The most common type is scorzone, which grows both in winter and summer. The bianchetto grows between January and March. The two most prized varieties are Nero preggiato and Bianco, which grow between October and February.

The dogs know just where to find them, their sense is very keen and although the Scorzone sit just below the surface of the soil, the bianco are deep and can take some digging; sometimes so deep it’s incredible they find them at all.

There has been a lot of tree felling in the region, not good for truffles, and Ottavio now has to go deep into the woods. Scorzone fetch about €1000 per kilo, but they don’t weigh much, so that can take a while. The bianco, much rarer, fetch more like €4000 per kilo, but that’s not to say the scorzone are inferior, most chefs prefer them.

Ottavio’s truffles get sold to restaurants mostly – there is quite tight regulation on this too, and you can’t just sell them anywhere. Most of Molise’s truffles get made into crema or olio di tartufo, and other types of pasta sauces. But there is nothing lovelier than taking a fresh truffle, wiping it gently clean and then shaving over a bowl of fresh home-made pasta!

Explore more posts:

Ettore Marinelli – From precocious talent to Master Craftsmen

Emerging young artist of the Marinelli family, Ettore shared his work with us at the Bell Foundry this summer   The tradition of metalworking in Molise goes began three thousand years, when the Samnite tribe, once Rome’s fiercest rivals, were casting statues for...

La ‘ndocciata, Agnone’s most famous event

La 'ndocciata 2018On the 8th of December I finally saw l‘ndocciata, Angone’s most famous annual event. Believe it or not, I’d never witnessed it. High time then…It’s the biggest ‘festival of fire’ in the world, ‘una scia di fuoco’, and allegedly the oldest – though...

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Joy Nash – Italian language vacations

Reflections on Summer 2018 The Live and Learn Italian immersion ‘experience’ was created completely organically, and continues to grow organically. Each year I discover new local characters and regional opportunities, and so the programme develops. It’s a language and...

Our Italian language teachers receive high praise from participants

Learning Italian with vibrant and passionate teachers We are so lucky to have a wonderful team of teachers and praise from our guests this summer has been so strong, I wanted to dedicate a page to them. Over time we will add more and include their thoughts and...

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Barbara Gentile – Italian language vacations

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...

Not Quite Beginner Holidays

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...

Immerse yourself in Italy

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

 

EnquirePrices

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’.

Explore more posts:

Ettore Marinelli – From precocious talent to Master Craftsmen

Emerging young artist of the Marinelli family, Ettore shared his work with us at the Bell Foundry this summer   The tradition of metalworking in Molise goes began three thousand years, when the Samnite tribe, once Rome’s fiercest rivals, were casting statues for...

La ‘ndocciata, Agnone’s most famous event

La 'ndocciata 2018On the 8th of December I finally saw l‘ndocciata, Angone’s most famous annual event. Believe it or not, I’d never witnessed it. High time then…It’s the biggest ‘festival of fire’ in the world, ‘una scia di fuoco’, and allegedly the oldest – though...

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Joy Nash – Italian language vacations

Reflections on Summer 2018 The Live and Learn Italian immersion ‘experience’ was created completely organically, and continues to grow organically. Each year I discover new local characters and regional opportunities, and so the programme develops. It’s a language and...

Our Italian language teachers receive high praise from participants

Learning Italian with vibrant and passionate teachers We are so lucky to have a wonderful team of teachers and praise from our guests this summer has been so strong, I wanted to dedicate a page to them. Over time we will add more and include their thoughts and...

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Barbara Gentile – Italian language vacations

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...

Not Quite Beginner Holidays

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...

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

 

Explore more posts:

Ettore Marinelli – From precocious talent to Master Craftsmen

Emerging young artist of the Marinelli family, Ettore shared his work with us at the Bell Foundry this summer   The tradition of metalworking in Molise goes began three thousand years, when the Samnite tribe, once Rome’s fiercest rivals, were casting statues for...

La ‘ndocciata, Agnone’s most famous event

La 'ndocciata 2018On the 8th of December I finally saw l‘ndocciata, Angone’s most famous annual event. Believe it or not, I’d never witnessed it. High time then…It’s the biggest ‘festival of fire’ in the world, ‘una scia di fuoco’, and allegedly the oldest – though...

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Joy Nash – Italian language vacations

Reflections on Summer 2018 The Live and Learn Italian immersion ‘experience’ was created completely organically, and continues to grow organically. Each year I discover new local characters and regional opportunities, and so the programme develops. It’s a language and...

Our Italian language teachers receive high praise from participants

Learning Italian with vibrant and passionate teachers We are so lucky to have a wonderful team of teachers and praise from our guests this summer has been so strong, I wanted to dedicate a page to them. Over time we will add more and include their thoughts and...

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Barbara Gentile – Italian language vacations

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...

Not Quite Beginner Holidays

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...

Immerse yourself in Italy

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

 

EnquirePrices

Caseificio Di Nucci, Agnone: Cheese in the Apennine hills

Caseificio Di Nucci, Agnone: Cheese in the Apennine hills

A visit to Di Nucci

In 1662 Leonardo Di Nucci was a shepherd moving his herds along the traturra. the wide tracks that weave through Abruzzo and Molise down to the plains of Puglia. The Di Nucci family have been making award-winning artisan cheese here in the Apennine hills, in Alto Molise, ever since.

Today, the 11th generation of the family use the same methods and ingredients of their forebears – a whey starter and raw milk, avoiding the use of any preservatives or milk enzymes. Their milk is sourced from carefully chosen local producers resulting in an amazing product in which you can actually taste the grasses and herbs of the seasons. No two cheeses are the same.

Franco Di Nucci took us around the small factory where the hand-made cheese is formed by a dedicated team of craftsmen.

The visit was unforgettable – incredible smells and tastes. Franco is a superb speaker, giving us the family story in slow and very clear Italian and explaining carefully when we got a bit lost. He is passionate about his family history and the rich artisan culture of this region. The love and attention that is poured into his produce is evident.

Caseificio Di Nucci continues to win international recognition, in 2013 gaining the ‘Supergold’ of the World Cheese Awards. Ricotta, Stracciata, scamorza and caciocavallo are the most distinctive cheeses of this region. The Stracciata also won 1st place in the Italian Cheese of the Year Awards 2017. Congratulations!

As a surprise bonus to the visit we discovered that our driver, Fernando, is one of Franco’s valued milk suppliers!

Explore more posts:

Ettore Marinelli – From precocious talent to Master Craftsmen

Emerging young artist of the Marinelli family, Ettore shared his work with us at the Bell Foundry this summer   The tradition of metalworking in Molise goes began three thousand years, when the Samnite tribe, once Rome’s fiercest rivals, were casting statues for...

La ‘ndocciata, Agnone’s most famous event

La 'ndocciata 2018On the 8th of December I finally saw l‘ndocciata, Angone’s most famous annual event. Believe it or not, I’d never witnessed it. High time then…It’s the biggest ‘festival of fire’ in the world, ‘una scia di fuoco’, and allegedly the oldest – though...

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Joy Nash – Italian language vacations

Reflections on Summer 2018 The Live and Learn Italian immersion ‘experience’ was created completely organically, and continues to grow organically. Each year I discover new local characters and regional opportunities, and so the programme develops. It’s a language and...

Our Italian language teachers receive high praise from participants

Learning Italian with vibrant and passionate teachers We are so lucky to have a wonderful team of teachers and praise from our guests this summer has been so strong, I wanted to dedicate a page to them. Over time we will add more and include their thoughts and...

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Barbara Gentile – Italian language vacations

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...

Not Quite Beginner Holidays

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...

Immerse yourself in Italy

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

 

EnquirePrices

Learn all about our trips:

Stay in touch with the Live and Learn Italian community, subscribe to our FREE monthly newsletter now!

 

Fo more details about how the trips can suit your needs, just click here:

[email protected]

You have Successfully Subscribed!