For those that like to time travel, Albe Vecchia, Alba Fucens medieval neighbour, with its thick castle walls, dwellings and fragments left by the 1915 earthquake is a fantastic opportunity to do a hop, skip & jump through the feudal remains of the once powerful Orsini Family. It also provides a great opportunity to have a great lunch or dinner at hotel & restaurant Borgo Medioevale, which delivers one of the best views of the area from its indoor seating looking out across the valley.
The Orsini were the perfect politicians, managing to produce 3 popes, 28 cardinals and 33 senators in 500 years. It’s hardly a surprise that Abruzzo’s most dangerous snake, the Orsini Viper is named after them. Their Rome power base grew and expanded from the C12th to the C18th, initially their inroads into power built by the ever so helpful plug they provided between weak popes and the beginnings of ‘government’. Their history in Abruzzo stems from the marriage of Napoleone Orsini to Maria de Sulliaco, who brought with her feudal lands in Chieti, Pescara, Teramo & L’Aquila, and which gave the title of Count of Tagliacozza to name just one of the titles that this marriage bestowed upon the avaricious Napoloeone. By the middle of the C14th together they owned and received taxes on 353 feudal properties across Abruzzo, which had all become lost or extinct by the time of Camillo Orsini’s death in 1553 in Rome.
It’s an odd feeling walking around the remains of Albe Vecchio, looking at the odd remaining stone staircase to nowhere imagining life here over the different centuries before the earthquake of 1915 finally put an end to this medieval town. Power bases may come & go (yes Sig Berlusconi!), but real power that decides on destinies millennium after millennium lays under the earth’s crust in Italy. Wildflowers have woven cushions around the remains which help distract from what must have been a scene of utter horror after the 1915 terremoto. For those looking to photograph Alba Fucens, Albe Vecchio really makes a great spot for getting some aerial shots.
We had lunch in the shade from the blistering heat, in Borgo Medioevale’s mini marquee, which we had all to ourselves. The owner of the restaurant/hotel is wonderful, asking how hungry you are and explaining what he can whip up for you to make the most of local ingredients. Suckers for antipasti we went for this, the local cold meats being truly excellent, the ricotta glorious and perfectly ripened honey-sweet melon being oh so good on such a hot sunny day. We both loved their little filo-pie like slices with delicious fillings, one day I will ask what these are called.
For our primi piatti, we chose the offered chitarra with a fresh tomato sauce, with very tasty and surprisingly lean chopped pig cheek. The sauce was a novelty, the first time having visible evident onion over here and which I think was cipolline borettane – this is a flat white Italian onion which is normally found pickled in balsamic vinegar and very sweet; delicious enough for me to want to try and replicate this dish at home, and just the right-sized portion to enable you to walk up to the remains of the village afterwards. Do try the excellent Bove Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Roggio Antico, alongside its big cherry notes are interspersed some very interesting chocolately tobacco notes.
The view from inside across the valley looks wonderful, so if you are visiting in the Autumn or Winter I would definitely recommend eating here if you are in the Alba Fucens neighbourhood, it’s intimate and attractive, great food, perfect sized portions and very reasonably priced.
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Albe Vecchia at Dusk reproduced with grateful thanks to Pete Austin