Cantine al Borgo
This one-day event is a brief introduction to the marvellous red and white wines of the Sannio. Guests will visit local producers who open their cellars during Cantine al Borgo, a wine exhibition which is held the last weekend of every month. Lunch will be a Rabelaisian country feast lasting 2-3 hours which includes discussion of local cuisine and its best wine combinations. Guests will also visit the medieval town of Guardia Sanframondi and the master potters of Cerreto Sannita.
Spirits of the Sannio
From dark beginnings around the 7th century A.D. the Sannio was famous for its historical connection with witches and witchcraft. It is no coincidence that the famous liquore Strega (or witch’s liqueur) was invented in Benevento (which was known as Maleventum or ‘ill-wind’) where witches’ covens were held throughout the Longobard occupation. In reality these witches or ‘janare’, were women who understood the virtues of herbs and practiced medicine amidst the farm population, and who passed their knowledge from mother to daughter. The local inhabitants came to consider them as possessing magical powers. They eventually came into direct conflict with the Church and were condemned as partners of the Devil. Guests following this itinerary will be guided farther a field to taste the finest wines being produced in the region: Mustilli, Fattoria La Rivolta, Fontanavecchia, Corte Normanna, Masseria Venditti and Terra di Briganti.
We will also be introduced to the lesser known varieties of red and white wines including Piedirosso and Coda di Volpe. We will take a guided tour of Benevento where relics of ancient Egyptian religious rites denote the introduction of alternative religious practices as far back as the Roman Empire. While in the city we will also visit the Strega liqueur factory. This tour also includes a visit to the medieval town of S. Agata dei Goti and master pottery artisans. Unforgettable meals at local restaurants will be structured into our visits.
‘Pressing Matters’ Olive Oil Tour
Olive oil is at the heart of Italian cooking and a joy to the palate: the aroma and complexity of freshly pressed oil is akin to those of fine wines. Great oil requires a combination of climate, variety of olives, careful picking and immediate cold pressing. The Sannio is graced with ancient agricultural traditions, rich land and temperate climate and has been producing fine oils since time immemorial. Olives are harvested in the autumn making this itinerary available only from mid-October to early December.
Professional oil tasters will give us the benefit of their expertise in a brief seminar after which we will visit an olive producer to watch the crops being gathered and the olives pressed at the local frantoio. Lunch will be served at chef Berardino Lombardo’s 18th century country manor and will be based on local recipes using his newly-pressed oil.
“Red, White & Green”: Wines and Oils of the Sannio
A three-day combination wine and oil-tasting tour de force. This itinerary will combine visits to historical sites of interest and/or nature walks en route to the scheduled wine and oil producers laced with the best food the Sannio has to offer.
The Sannio “Sweet Tooth Tour”
Being graced with fertile land and a temperate climate, the Sannio is rich in fruits and flowers and is therefore one of Italy’s largest producers of honey. It should come as no surprise that the country’s finest nougat or torrone is produced here. These sweets date back to the time of the Caesars and are made with egg-whites, honey, almonds, hazel nuts and chocolate.
For those blessed with low blood sugar, this itinerary will take us to visit local honey producers as well as the world leaders of torrone in Benevento, S. Lorenzello and S. Marco dei Cavoti. At meals we will taste cakes made with ricotta produced from cow and buffalo milk, the famous Neopolitan pastiera and the exquisite mele annurche elisir that is served as a digestivo.
The ‘Milky Way’ Tour
The region’s fertile low-lands and high pastures have endowed it with the ability to sustain a considerable amount of grazing area. Buffalo, cows, sheep and goats all produce milk that is high in flavour and is transformed into some of Italy’s best-know and well-loved cheeses: Mozzarella di Bufala, Fior di Latte and Ricotta, are fresh and must be consumed the same day whereas Caciocavallo, Provolone and Pecorino del Fortore are, on the other hand, brought to market only after at least three months of aging. This tour begins with a walk along one of the immense tratturi (cattle roads) where we will visit the extraordinary remains of an ancient Samnite temple and theatre. For those early birds willing to rise before the sun, the making (and tasting) of fresh mozzarella and ricotta is well worth the sacrifice!
At Carnival time we make a special visit to Pontelandolfo to watch La Ruzzola del Formaggi. This is a traditional event where two teams compete by ‘launching’ a large round form of sheep’s milk cheese with a string tied around their wrists (something like a top) and rolling them along the streets of the town. The winning team is the one which manages to finish the course with the least number of throws.