Alessia Odoardi is an Italian Canadian who was born in Abruzzo and lived in Castelnuovo Vomano in Teramo province for 29 years. She’s just moved to Canada where she lives with her husband. A foodie and a traveller she has 2 blogs with her husband; Maple&Saffron is about Abruzzo & their new life in Canada.
What’s your association with Abruzzo?
I was born, I grew up and lived in Abruzzo for 29 years, in a small village called Castelnuovo Vomano, near Teramo. I’m half Italian and half Canadian, because my grandparents moved to Canada during the fifties and my mother was born there. Then they moved back to Italy where I was born and grew up. I’m living in Canada now with my husband.
What’s the best thing about Abruzzo?
I’ll answer with a question: how can you pick one thing that is the best? The places are breathtaking, people are friendly and the food is genuine and delicious!
If I were to pick something though, I would say the peaceful and relaxed life Abruzzo rewards you with if you live there.
What’s the worst thing about Abruzzo?
Maybe its lack of self-confidence; Abruzzo has a very big potential but somehow it’s not convinced to have it; and of course the unemployment rate, which forces many young people to leave.
What’s the most underrated thing about Abruzzo?
I think the whole region is still underrated. Some people are starting to appreciate Abruzzo as a place for their holidays only now. I’ll give you an example: If you ask Italian people where Teramo is, the majority of them won’t know it or they will mistake it for Termoli or Terni!
Where would be your favourite place to live in Abruzzo?
Very difficult…I feel home when I’m in Teramo, because I went to school there; I also like Roseto degli Abruzzi, I go to the beach there in the summer and it has several good place to eat out, and Atri, which is a cute village with a beautiful theatre, famous for its liquorice and calanchi , erosion of soil that produces very characteristic hills; but I’d probably miss the hills surrounding my village, so I have to say I’d live exactly where I lived over the last 30 years!
Where would you not live in Abruzzo?
There are some places in Abruzzo that are very isolated, like tiny little towns up in the mountains; maybe I wouldn’t live there, too far from the sea.
What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in Abruzzo?
The greatest time for me in Abruzzo is summertime, when all friends come back and there’s plenty of sagre everywhere! So, I would say my perfect weekend would be spending time in the mountains with my friends, cooking sausages and arrosticini, then visit a local village for a typical sagra.
What’s your favourite Abruzzo vineyard and why?
We have very good wines in Abruzzo and many of them are well-known all around Italy. Among my favourites I would mention Marramiero, near Bolognano, and Lepore in Colonnella. Many people still have vineyards and make their own wine at home around my area. I’m a red wine person and my favourite grape variety is absolutely Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
Where’s the best place to eat in your area and why? What would you do for a special occasion?
I love eating and cooking and I eat out when I have time and post my experience in our blog. It’s hard for me to pick just one place…I’d suggest ristorante Duomo in Teramo, ristorante Arca in Alba Adriatica and if you want a delicious pizza Don Franchino in Castelnuovo Vomano.
What’s your favourite view in Abruzzo?
I’ve travelled a lot and seen many places, but no other views will ever take the place of the view of the Gran Sasso chain dominating the valleys in my heart.
What would be your favourite Abruzzo dish?
What are your favourite festas and sagras across the seasons?
Here again I’d need an entire piece of paper! I never missed Sant’Antonio feast in Cermignano in January, when the whole village celebrates Saint Anthony Abbot, with bands singing traditional songs dedicated to the saint and everybody eating the typical “uccelletti” di Sant’Antonio (“bird-shaped” cookies filled with jam); or San martino celebrations on the 11th of November, called the feast of “cornuti” (betrayed people), when everybody cooks chestnuts and drinks wine and vin brulé (hot red wine made with spices and sugar) and Prosciutto feast in Basciano in August, a celebration of Abruzzo prosciutto and salumi, with performances of songs played with accordion, a typical instrument with an old tradition in Abruzzo.
What outdoor activities or sports would you recommend locally in Abruzzo and why?
If you’re a winter person, you can come to ski; if you want to appreciate the mountains during the summer, we have many paths for horse riding; if you want to do some activity whatever season you come to Abruzzo Nordic walking and hiking are the best.
Have you a favourite Abruzzo walk?
There’s a hill between Notaresco and Guardia Vomano, where time stood still; the best time of the year to go is spring: dirt roads, old farmhouses, olive tree groves, peach trees in bloom…taking a walk there is magical!
What’s your favourite Abruzzo village and why?
I have many favourite villages; Scanno is very beautiful and it’s also been nominated “one of the most beautiful villages of Italy”; Vasto is also incredibly nice, with its little squares, tiny streets and a breathtaking belvedere.
What piece of advice you would give to someone new to Abruzzo?
I would simply say “take the car and drive. Wherever you stop is a unique experience”.
Which ‘must see’ event or activity best sums up Abruzzo?
In my area the Prosciutto feast in Basciano in August. Making prosciutto is still part of our tradition and many people still do it at home; my family makes it every year in December, together with sausages, lonza, salamini and ribs: a great moment to stay together.
Which book would you recommend people to read to understand Abruzzo?
What I’ve learned from my experience of living in between two cultures and my travels is that no books can give you a good idea of a place like staying there and experiencing it with your own eyes, ears, heart.
What attitude best sums up the Abruzzesi?
New generations are more “globalized” now and I don’t think they keep an attitude which is typical of Abruzzo; what I like though is the still strong use of dialect among young people and their awareness of the traditions that belong to our culture.
What local artists and writers to your village/city would you recommend and why?
There are several. Gabriele D’Annunzio is one of the most famous writers coming from Abruzzo; Ivan Graziani is a famous singer from Teramo.
If you lived outside Abruzzo what would you take to remind you of Abruzzo?
To Canada I brought with me a bit of sand and some shells from Roseto degli Abruzzi, but if I could, I’d have also brought some prosciutto and arrosticini!