Piedimonte the Market Town You’ll Never Want to Leave

The drive from Piedimonte to Matese is stunning rivalling the beauty of the Amalfi Coast which in case you didn’t know is completely astounding as a key area of Italy’s finest natural wonder. The views there are breathtakingly beautiful an explosion of natural goodness and Italian culture. It’s one of the best places to enjoy your holiday in Southern Italy.  Piedimonte is based at the bottom of a mountain and is a bustling town bursting with life and culture it’s practically a culture explosion with markets and shops to spend hours drifting through. You’re eyes will never tire of rows of Italian boutique culture with every glance a new idea of the depth of Italy’s sophisticated undertones.

The market in Piedimonte is also extraordinary – a truly must see in the area. If you don’t see it I can honestly say there will be a hole in your Southern Italian experience.  Life, noise and heart flows through the town’s market. However it also has a range of boutique designer stores adding sophistication to the Piedimonte experience whether it’s shopping or exploration. That’s the great the thing about the town even though it may appear quaint it has layers of the different aspects of Italian town life. Personally I love markets. The hustle and bustle of avid buyers and sellers of fantastic wares interests me because it’s a huge interaction with the local people and an example of cultural exchange. There’s almost too much to look at, it’s amazing to experience the kind of excitement discovering new things at a market brings. You’ll never be bored or want to leave. 

 

 

Exploring Matese The Italian Rural Idyll Town

When you think of the rural idyll, do you think of Matese? Well you should. A landscape like this is so beautiful it’s a gift just to look at it because of its mountainous glory and wildlife. Places like this are hard to come by especially if you live in a place like me in rainy England where the sunshine is rare and the wildest animal is a fox. So for a little slice of where the grass is actually greener I recommend a relaxing day in Matese. Of course the area is versatile and tourist friendly but Matese has a more natural hue to it with wild horses, hiking and open spaces to enjoy picnics and other fun activities.

Let’s explore the national park of Matese. I know from previous posts you could probably tell that I love a good hiking trail or rural walk even more so against the rustic backdrop of Italian scenery. I know hiking boots aren’t exactly the Gucci sexy we all picture when we think ‘Italian’ but it’s one of the best experiences to be had from this local area. The views really are something special. However if hiking isn’t your cup of tea Matese is also a wonderful relaxation spot.  Mountains in the background with a sunny breeze on an Italian day hands down beats rainy England and  can really relax a person and take them back to a calm place before all the deadlines and crowded tube stations. Let’s face it sometimes we all need some downtime so I recommend you enjoy this fantastic area. 

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REGGIA DI CASERTA

Reggia di Caserta, or the Caserta Region, is a province in Campania in south western Italy. Mostly rural and on the flat Plain of Volturno beneath the Campanian Sub-apennine mountain range, this twenty square mile area is famed for its magnificent and breathtaking Versailles-like Palace of Caserta, home of the Bourbon Kings of Naples and Sicily in the 18th century. This supreme example of Baroque extravagance is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a must see on any visit to the area for its stunning Honour Guard Staircase (one of thirty four staircases) and the gilded and frescoed Throne Room, as well as its theatre and library. The lush and verdant manicured gardens are two miles long and have stunning waterfalls, lakes and five intricately carved fountains, as well as an area set out as an English garden. Also part of the Heritage Site is San Leucio, which housed the Royal Silk Workshops.

The town of Caserta lies just twenty five miles north of Naples and has a population of only 80,000 inhabitants. Besides the Palace of Caserta, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli is worth seeing. It is so named as it was designed and built in the 18th century by the architect Luigi Vanvitelli, who also designed the Palace. Two other historical buildings of interest are the Palazzo Vecchio which dates back to the 14th century; and the 19th century cathedral. A five minute drive from the town centre will take the tourist to medieval Casertavecchia, or Old Caserta, well worth visiting as one can leave the 21st century behind and revel in a place where time seems to have stood still for centuries. As Casertavecchia is located in the foothills of the Tifatini Mountains, the visitor has glorious panoramic views for miles around from any of its trattorias or pizzerias.

Reggia di Caserta has a variety of hotels, as well as numerous restaurants in and around the town. Two important industries in the modern era are glassmaking and the silk industry and lovely examples of these two ancient crafts are sold in the town’s shops, many of which are located in the heart of the town on Piazza Vanvitelli, which is named after Luigi Vanvitelli, Reggia’s most famous citizen. Also surrounding this piazza are a luxury four star hotel, a theatre, restaurants, and gelaterias and anything that happens at night, happens there. The outdoor market in Caserta sells a wide variety of goods and is where one can practice ones bargaining skills. It is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Mostly rural, the verdant hills surrounding Caserta are a great place to relax and unwind and to take to the hills for long walks to enjoy the fresh country air. There are a number of agriturismo, or country lodgings, in the area. This great accommodation option is great for families, as they are comfortable and many have restaurants serving traditional food, swimming pools, gift shops, bike and horse riding and all modern conveniences.

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SPECIFIC FOODS RELATING TO CAMPANIA

The Campania region in the south western region of Italy has a 217 mile coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea and rich and fertile farmland inland, sloping up to a mountainous interior. This entire area produces superb quality cheeses and wines, fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, as well as a magnificent bounty from the sea. Naples, the capital of the region, is where pizza originated and it is now probably the world’s most favourite and well known food. Mozzarella di Bufala, or buffalo mozzarella cheese, is made in Caserta and Salerno and is exported worldwide.

The cuisine of Campania is colourful and rich, thanks to the wonderful produce grown in its lava rich soil. Best known are its lush Sorrento Ovale lemons, which are not only used in a variety of recipes, but which are also made into Limoncello liqueur; its tiny pomodoro di San Marzano, the juicy red cherry tomatoes eaten raw in salads and incorporated into a host of cooked dishes and sauces; amazing olives and olive oils; and grapes, which are made into many excellent wines, both red and white.

Mozzarella di Bufala is not the only cheese made in Campania. The region also produces a mozzarella from cow’s milk, wonderful ricottas from both buffalo and sheep milk, cow’s milk provolone and a goat’s milk caciotta from high in the mountains – where one of the region’s most interesting meat supplier is found – the wild boar. Smoked hams and salamis are served everywhere.

Gourmets and gourmands alike will enjoy the bounty of the ocean. The freshest of fish and even usually underrated species like sardines, anchovies and eel, as well as squid, octopus, clams and mussels, are commonly found on restaurant menus. Octopus are cooked for hours in sealed clay pots, squid is baked, stuffed and grilled, deep fried or served in salads, while clams and mussels form the base of seafood Marinara Pasta or are used in salads. The most popular sauces for these delicacies of the sea are made from tomatoes, olive oil, white wine, olives, capers, chilli and garlic.

Durum wheat is widely grown, as it is produces the strong flour needed for the host of pizza and pasta dishes for which the region is so renowned. The most authentic pizza is the Neapolitan Pizza, a simple crusty base with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves, representing the colours of the Italian flag, which is baked in a wood fire oven. Calzone is a folded pizza which looks similar to a Cornish pasty and can be bought with a variety of fillings; and a Marinara pizza has a topping of mixed fresh seafood. Spaghetti Puttanesca, or the strumpet’s spaghetti, is a simple dish of pasta, tomato sauce, capers, anchovies, black olives garlic and chilli, while Scialatielli, found all along the Amalfi coast, is a thick spaghetti made with Parmigiano cheese, eggs and parsley, is generally served with tomatoes and mixed seafood.

Desserts are usually unforgettable handmade gelatos, a shot of Grappa or Limoncello and some of the world’s best coffee.

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IF I WENT ON A COOKING HOLIDAY WHAT COULD I EXPECT?

Experiencing the cuisine of a country is an important part of learning about its history, culture and traditions, as well as meeting the locals and gaining an insight into their everyday lives. The entire Campania region of south western Italy is a joy for food lovers from around the world, who come in droves to explore the rich and interesting food culture this area has to offer. Many will incorporate cookery lesson into their itinerary, as Campania has many culinary schools, individual chefs and private home cooks who organise classes to pass on their knowledge and expertise to those who wish to learn the secrets of southern Italian cuisine.

Classes are generally held in English and Italian, with many culinary schools offering basic Italian language lessons, most commonly related to food and its preparation, as part of the curriculum of their courses. Even those students with no knowledge of Italian will be able to follow the hands on instruction given and after just a few hours will have a working knowledge of the names of the various foods being used. There is every variation of tuition available, from just a few hours or a single day to long courses of a week or more. These culinary tutors range from a two Michelin starred chef who has built a custom designed kitchen and has the help of his own staff to tutor the more advanced student, to typical Italian mamas who invite students into their home kitchens to impart their knowledge of the superb local ingredients and ages old techniques handed down from generation to generation.

These schools and private homes often have their own vegetable patches and herb gardens where students pick garden fresh ingredients for the menu of the day that they are to learn. Most of the teachers will take their students to local markets and speciality cheese, meat and wines shops to purchase the products to be used in that day’s food preparation. In most cases instruction will also be given on the wines produced in the region, with emphasis on pairing such wines with the dishes being taught. Students on a cooking holiday in Campania will be instructed on the special utensils needed, for example those needed for pasta making, as well as the specific techniques needed to replicate excellent examples of the culinary delights of the region. At the end of each preparation segment, the students and teachers generally sit down together to eat and discuss the prepared meal; and where all questions are answered.

We offer two types of cooking holidays in Campania – Rustic Regional Cooking or Restaurant Style Italian Cuisine. Rustic Regional Cooking puts an emphasis on home grown food from Southern Italy. You will be taught how to make local dishes from Nicolina and Pepe such as parmigiana (aubergine layered with cheese and tomato sauce), gnocchi (dumplings made with potatoes), pizza and more. Restaurant Style Italian Cuisine focuses on teaching the secrets of a restaurant style taste that you can prepare wherever you are. On the last day a special gala dinner will be prepared and held at the castle, and a fireworks finale will wrap up your extravagant week.

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