EXPERIENCE FOOD + NATURE IN ABRUZZO

WITH MAJELLA HOME COOKING

tour-cover-photo

Join me in Abruzzo and experience this magnificent, unspoiled region of Italy the way that I do every summer.

This trip has been ten years in the making – ten summers of exploring, savoring, meandering, hiking, cooking and dreaming. I’ve spent the past 10 years cultivating relationships with people in Abruzzo who have dedicated their lives and livelihoods to preserving and honoring the culinary traditions and natural beauty of the region. Now I’m inviting you to experience Abruzzo with me.

Abruzzo is unlike any other region is Italy. It is a region of national parks, “la terra di mare e monti”, where you can get from the sea to the mountaintop in an hour’s time. It’s the unexplored last frontier of Italy where you hike through mountains and valleys only to stumble upon medieval villages and hidden hermitages carved into stone. Abruzzo’s cuisine is rustic and pure – you can literally taste the land’s aura in its cheese, salumi, lamb and ancient legumes and grains. It is a region with a proud pastoral tradition that has seen hardship and poverty due to wars and an isolated geographic position, but whose people have emerged with an indomitable spirit of survival and loyalty to their territory. It is my father’s homeland and the place that I love most in the world.

Spaghetti alla chitarra, handcut on an

Spaghetti alla chitarra, made with a special pasta tool called a “guitar”

tour-centurione

Farm-to-table cooking at my friend Giulia’s country house

For years, friends and clients have been telling me they wish they could come to Italy with me. Here’s your chance! In order to make this trip happen, we need a minimum of 6 people (maximum of 12). Since it’s our first trip, we’re offering it to you at a discounted introductory rate – take advantage before rates go up.  Solo travelers, couples, groups of friends and families with children over 8 years old are welcome.

Together with my dear friend Roberta, a proud and adventurous Abruzzo native, I’ve created a fantastic itinerary that highlights majestic mountains, serene coastlines, historic towns and artisanal foods.

We are incredibly excited to partner with Majellando, a local tour operator that specializes in hiking and trekking within the Parco Nazionale della Majella and elsewhere in Abruzzo. Marcello, the company’s founder, is dedicated to responsible ecotourism in the territory, a principle I’ve witnessed firsthand in his guides. Majellando’s guides are experienced hikers who are 100% committed to the safety and well-being of their guests. With the help of Majellando’s Daniela, we’ve planned excursions that are suitable for all travelers provided they’re in good physical health and have proper shoes and clothing. For more information about Majellando, visit http://www.majellando.it/

tour-majellando

A photo from an excursion my family went on with Majellando last summer

 We have chosen Agriturismo Pietrantica as your home for the week, a farm-stay/inn owned by the lovely Sanelli family. Pietrantica is located in Decontra, a tiny village at 900 meters above sea level, in the heart of the Majella National Park. The complex is composed of old barns carefully restored using local stones, wood and terracotta. The farm has partnered with the Parco Nazionale della Majella to promote sustainable tourism and agriculture within the territory. You will experience family-style homemade breakfasts and farm-to-table dinners using organic ingredients from the farm and from other local producers. Marisa’s cooking matches her personality – filled with warmth, nurturing and humor. But be warned – she might make you sing for your supper!  Visit http://www.agripietrantica.com/ for photos and information about the property.

The “cortile” (courtyard) at Agriturismo Pietrantica

We are collaborating with our friends at Welcome to Sulmona, Country House Casale Centurione and Cantinarte to provide you with unique culinary experiences including a market tour, cooking class and olive oil tasting.

We’ll also visit other farms, eateries, artisans, wineries and friends to provide you with authentic and uniquely Abruzzesi experiences (and also leave time for spontaneous adventures along the way). In the coming months, we’ll continue to fine-tune our itinerary – sharing Abruzzo with you will be a privilege and a thrill.

 


 

PROGRAM  DATES:  JUNE 25 – JULY 2   and   JULY 2 -9, 2017*

DAY 1

We’ll pick you up in Rome at noon (location to be announced) and drive you through the mountains to Abruzzo.  Unpack and unwind at your home for the week, Agriturismo La Pietrantica in the picturesque mountain hamlet of Decontra. We’ll take a panoramic drive of the surrounding area and then have a welcome drink in the garden of Michelle’s family home in Salle. We’ll return to Pietrantica for a communal farm-to-table dinner featuring the farm’s prized Solina wheat and other specialties.

tour-majella

View of the Majella and the village of Caramanico Terme from the garden of my family’s home in Salle

DAY 2

Our Majellando guide will lead us on a hike to the lush and magical Orfento river valley (what I call, “the Land of the Fairles”). We’ll cool our heels in the river before heading to the town of Sant’Eufemia, known as a gateway to the Majella National Park and lauded for its exemplary artisanal bread and scamorza cheese.  We’ll stop at a “caseificio” (“cheese store”) and pick up provisions for lunch and proceed to the quaint hamlet of Roccacaramanico, where we’ll enjoy lunch in the picturesque piazzetta. From Roccacaramanico, we’ll take a leisurely hike to Passa San Leonardo to soak in the larger-than-life views of the Majella and wander through the enchanted forests of Lama Bianca. Later that evening, we’ll enjoy a family-style farm-to-table dinner.

The magical Valle dell'Orfento

The magical Valle dell’Orfento

 

DAY 3

tour-rocca-calascio

Rocca Calascio with my family

Today we’ll explore the ancient villages and wild landscapes of the Gran Sasso mountain range. Our Majellando guide will lead us on a trek up to Rocca Calascio, a medieval fortress dramatically positioned at 1460m above sea level, the highest in all of Italy. We’ll explore the nearby medieval hill town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, known for both the sustainable agricultural practices of its tiny lentils and the influential restoration initiatives of the formerly-abandoned village. For lunch, we’ll enjoy an al fresco barbecue (it is the Fourth of July, after all!) of Abruzzo’s iconic arrosticini (grilled lamb skewers), at Campo Imperatore, the highest and largest alpine meadow in Abruzzo. You’ll have time to relax on a picnic blanket or wander around to explore the flora, fauna and sweeping views. Later, we’ll visit the Castle of Bominaco and the stunningly frescoed Oratory of San Pellegrino. For dinner, we’ll taste traditional dishes based on the highly prized saffron of Navelli and learn about the cultivation of this refined spice at a Slow Food agriturismo.

 

roccacalasciofb

Santa Maria della Pietà seen from Rocca Calascio

 

DAY 4

Sulmona’s Piazza Garibaldi

We’ll visit pretty and colorful Sulmona, a city of Roman, Medieval and Baroque architecture, the birthplace of the Latin poet Ovid and perhaps my favorite small city in all of Italy. Our friends at Welcome to Sulmona will lead us on a feast for the senses as we tour the city’s lively “mercato” (market). We’ll taste local specialties including zolle sott’olio (ramps), porchetta, confetti and honey. After the tour, you’ll have free time to shop and explore Sulmona on your own or to sip coffee at one of the bars dotting the Corso. Later that afternoon, we’ll visit the town of Pacentro, named one of “i borghi piú belli d’Italia” (one of the prettiest towns in Italy). That evening, we’ll enjoy a family-style dinner at Pietrantica before embarking on a Majellando-guided nighttime hike under the stars where we’ll use telescopes to gaze at constellations under the vast sky of the Majella, “la Montagna Madre” or Mother Mountain.

tour-sulmona-mercato

Colorful Wednesday morning “mercato” in Sulmona

 

DAY 5

tour-trabocco-pathWe’ll head to the countryside and the coast today starting with a stroll through charming Guardiagrele, known as much for its traditional jewelry-making as for its suggestive “nun’s breasts” pastries. We’ll visit an old stone “frantoio” (olive oil mill) and participate in an olive oil tasting led by my friend Francesca of Cantinarte, a certified olive oil sommelier.  We’ll stop for a drink at the famous “Fontana di Vino” at the Dora Sarchese winery, a free red wine fountain for travelers on the Cammino di San Tommaso, a popular pilgrimage route between Rome and the Adriatic coast.

We’ll spend time on the unique Costa dei Trabocchi, where we’ll unwind on the “trabocco” – a wooden stationary platform once used by fishermen – of my dear friends Claudio and Marisa. You’ll have time to swim in the turquoise Adriatic Sea, lounge on a hammock and watch the brilliant sunset as we sip local wines on the trabocco. (Note, this is one of the only remaining trabocchi on the coast that hasn’t been converted into a restaurant – it is a truly unique experience not readily available to even native Abruzzesi.) That evening, we’ll visit a local seaside eatery for some on Italian seafood street food.

 

DAY 6

 

The stone town of Pennapiedimonte

Today, Majellando will lead us on a hike of the eastern side of the Majella from which you can see the Adriatic from nearly every vantage point. Depending on the level of hiking experience of our group, we’ll follow trails that take us to mountain villages such as Pretoro and Pennapiedimonte, rich in pastoral history and artisanal traditions. We’ll have lunch at a craft brewery that uses wheat indigenous to the mountains in its beers. After lunch, we’ll drive to our vivacious friend Giulia’s beautiful country house where we’ll take pick vegetables from her bountiful garden for a farm-to-table cooking class.  We’ll feast on the fruits of our labor for dinner that evening.

 

DAY 7

Eremo di San Bartolemeo

Today, Majellando will lead us on a hike through the Valle di Giumentina to visit two medieval hermitages carved into the mountains by Pope Celestino V and his followers. These “Celestiani” monks chose isolated locations in the Majella to build these sacred refuges as a way to be closer to God in Nature. For lunch, we’ll visit Agriturismo Tholos, part of a network of “custodian farmers” created by the Majella National Park to protect the territory’s agricultural biodiversity.  We’ll dine on unique dishes prepared with the farm’s own grains and legumes served inside a “tholos”, a stone hut built by shepherds to protect their flock from the elements, an emblem of the territory’s pastoral tradition. Later that afternoon, you may opt to do some souvenir shopping in the lovely town of Caramanico Terme before our farewell dinner at Pietrantica.

After breakfast the following morning, our driver will accompany you to a central location in Rome.

Arriverderci Abruzzo!

 

 Scroll down for additional information about the program including rates and terms and conditions.


FOOD GALLERY

PLACES GALLERY


INTRODUCTORY PROGRAM RATE: $1675.00 per person – since this is our first tour, we are offering the program at a deeply discounted rate so take advantage and be our first guests in Abruzzo!  Rates will go up next year. Contact Michelle at majellacooking@gmail.com or 917.583.8132 for information and to reserve your place!

RATE INCLUDES:

  • Double occupancy room with private bath for seven (7) nights at Agriturismo Pietrantica**
  • Breakfast daily
  • Five lunches
  • All dinners (wine included)
  • All ground transportation via private coach and drivers
  • All hiking excursions with Majellando
  • Any entrance fees, tours and local guides
  • A hands-on cooking class
  • Transfers between Agriturismo La Pietrantica and Rome (Exact pickup and drop-off location to be announced.)
  • Taxes and service charges
  • Gratuities (however, at the conclusion of the tour, if you are pleased with the hospitality and service of our local driver/guides, additional recognition at your discretion is appreciated)

NOT INCLUDED IN RATE:

  • Airfare
  • Trip insurance
  • Gifts and personal purchases including refreshments during “free time” or during spontaneous stops along the way

**Single supplement is $150.00. Two-bedroom mini-apartments that sleep four (4) people are also available (a great choice for families with children – see below) – pricing may vary.

Number of Participants &Reservation Deadline: A minimum of six (6) participants is required for the program to occur. The maximum number of participants for the program is twelve (12). In order to participate in the program, you must complete the required reservation information and pay your deposit (see below) by March 1, 2017.

We strongly advise you NOT to purchase your airline tickets until you have received confirmation in writing that we have a sufficient number of participants for the program to occur. Under no circumstances shall we be responsible for the reimbursement of any travel-related expenses or cancellation fees related thereto, including but not limited to, airfare or travel insurance. See “Terms & Conditions” below for information regarding payment schedule, deposits and cancellations.

Children & Families – Families with children are welcome on the tour for the week of June 25th – July 2nd – my own boys hike these trails and sample these foods every summer. Abruzzo is a region of open spaces where kids are free to be kids – in my opinion, it’s probably the Italian region most suited for traveling as a family. Discounts may be available for children between the ages of 8 and 12 years old and special activities will be planned. Due to the extensive walking involved in this trip, children under 8 years old are not permitted.

Getting To & From – The tour begins and ends in Rome (less than a 2.5 hour drive from Agriturismo Pietrantica). Consider spending a few days in the Eternal City before or after your stay in Abruzzo – I’d be happy to suggest a few of my favorite things to do and places to eat! Please plan to meet us at an assigned place in Rome’s center (to be announced) at Noon on Sunday (DAY 1). The tour ends the following Sunday after breakfast. Our private bus will depart for Rome (about a 2.5 hour drive) at 10 am. Any alternative travel arrangements will be at your own additional expense and will not decrease the price of the program.

Health– Please be advised that Abruzzo is a very mountainous region.  All participants must be in good physical health as there will be extensive walking involved in our contemplated touring activities. Although the planned excursions for the program are considered to be of an easy level of difficulty, we will necessarily be hiking over uneven surfaces and mountainous terrain. Any condition of a participant that may require physical assistance or special medical attention should be reported to us at the time of your reservation.  Appropriate attire, such as hiking shoes and clothing, are required and participants are required to properly outfit themselves for the contemplated touring activities. In addition, Abruzzo has many winding roads and our touring will sometimes require long drives. We have attempted to design the itinerary to break up the length of drives as much as possible, but if you suffer from motion sickness, please bring motion-sickness medication with you. Finally, any food allergies or intolerances must be reported to us at the time of your reservation.

TERMS & CONDITIONS

Payment Schedule & Deposits – A deposit of $837.50 per person (the “Deposit”), payable to Three Little Guys LLC (D/B/A Majella Home Cooking) (hereinafter, “MHC”), of which $250 is non-refundable for administrative fees, is required at the time of the reservation of the program (hereinafter, “the Program”) for each participant (“Participant”). Final payment, by check, wire transfer or Google Wallet, must be received by MHC no later than April 15, 2017. In the event that there are insufficient Participants who have reserved participation in the Program by March 1, 2017, your Deposit (including the otherwise nonrefundable $250 deposit) will be refunded.

Changes in Itinerary & Costs – MHC and its partners are committed to creating an enjoyable Program itinerary.  If improvements can be made prior to the commencement of or even during the Program, or if unforeseen conditions make changes necessary, MHC reserves the right to vary the Program itinerary and/or substitute hotels or accommodations of a reasonably equivalent quality and will not be held responsible for any of these types of changes or occurrences. Individual deviations or additions to or from the scheduled Program itinerary are at the sole expense of the individual Participant. All prices are subject to change without prior notice due to currency fluctuation, fuel prices and/or unforeseen economic circumstances.

Photography – Photographs or, in some cases, videos, of Participants taken during the program may be used for promotional purposes by MHC and its partners and each of the Participants expressly consents to this manner of promotional use when reservations are completed.

Trip Insurance–Though MHC does not provide insurance coverage, MHC  strongly urges Participants to purchase insurance to cover trip cancellation (including cancellation of the Program at the discretion  of MHC), emergency medical evacuation, lost or damaged baggage, accidents, sickness or otherwise.

Responsibility Clause – In no event will MHC assume responsibility or liability for any act, error, or omission, or for any injury, loss, accident, delay, or irregularity including death which may occur to a Participant or a Participant’s property during or in relation to the Program, including any injury, loss, accident, delay, or irregularity including death that may result from the act, error, omission, default or even negligence of any subcontractor or other third party. In no event will MHC be liable or responsible for loss, injury, damages, or expenses to the person or property of a Participant, including, without limitation, any indirect, incidental, consequential, special or punitive damages.  The limitation of liability of MHC shall be regardless of cause or reason for any asserted loss of Participant, including for loss to Participant due to illness, weather, strikes, local laws, hostilities, wars, terrorist acts, acts of nature, or other such causes in connection with the Program. MHC is not responsible for transportation delays or Program delays and changes, nor for additional expenses or loss of time that may be incurred in connection therewith. In the event it becomes necessary or advisable for the comfort or well-being of the Participants, or for any reason whatsoever, to alter the Program itinerary at any time, without notice to the Participants, MHC reserves the right to carry out such alterations and will not be held responsible for said alterations. Baggage and personal effects of any Participant shall at all times remain the sole and exclusive responsibility of such Participant. MHC reserves the right to accept or decline any person as a Participant at any time, or to require any Participant to withdraw from the Program at the expense of said Participant when such an action is determined by MHC to be in the best interest of the Participant’s health and safety, or the general welfare of the other Participants within the Program.

Cancellation Policy – MHC must strictly adhere to its cancellation policy to offset costs incurred prior to the commencement of the Program, which may include but are not limited to: advance payments to tour operators, hotels and drivers, communication expenses; development/promotional expenses; and the loss of time that might have permitted resale of reserved space. To be effective, any cancellation must be made in writing to majellacooking@gmail.com and will be subject to a $250 non-refundable administrative fee.  In the event that there are an insufficient number of Participants  reserved for the Program by March 1, 2017, your Deposit (including the otherwise nonrefundable $250 deposit) will be refunded. All refunds are limited to amounts actually received by MHC. At the time MHC receives written notification of cancellation, the following cancellation charges will apply: cancellations received between 120 and 91 days prior to departure, 80 percent of the Program cost per Participant shall be refunded; those received between 90 and 61 days before departure, 50 percent of the Program cost per Participant shall be refunded; no refunds will be given for cancellations received within 60 days of departure. No partial refunds shall be given for individual deviations from the scheduled Program itinerary, including, but not limited to, missed excursions, tours, meals, transportation or lodging,  for any reason.  In the case of a cancellation due to insufficient number of Participants after March 1, 2017, MHC will attempt to notify all Participants at least 45 days prior to departure. However, MHC reserves the right to cancel the Program prior to departure for any reason and, in such case, reimbursement of refundable costs of the Program by MHC shall constitute full settlement with the Participant. MHC shall not be liable for any airline fees or cancellation penalties incurred by the purchase of a non-refundable ticket.  In the unlikely event that a dispute arises between a Participant and MHC, the following conditions will apply: (a) the dispute will be settled by binding arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association in New York, NY; (b) the dispute will be governed by New York Law; (c) the maximum amount of recovery to which a Participant shall be entitled under any and all circumstances will be the sum of all monies actually received from the Participant by MHC. The Participant agrees that this is a fair and reasonable limitation on the damages, of any sort whatsoever, that a Participant may suffer. Upon payment of the Deposit to MHC, the Participant agrees to be bound by the above terms and conditions.