Carpineto Sinello’s Museo del Maiale (Pig Museum) is almost worth visiting just for the rolling vistas and technicolour fields on a Spring drive up to this small but beautiful Chieti town, just 40 minutes outside of Vasto.
The first written documents that mention Carpineto date back to the C12th, but as always there’s evidence to suggest humans in the area long before that. Carpineto Sinello’s main street that winds you up to its the museum does leave you feeling that you are walking in a thousand foot-, hoof- & trotter-steps as you take its steep incline, admiring beautiful views out across & down into the vines of the Sinello Valley; the burning calves is worth it! Do park your car at the first car park sign at the bottom of the town on the right as you wind up to the town and the Museum of the Pig, and just remember that it’s only 1/100th of what people used to walk in a day!
“Nothing Should be Thrown Away from a Pig, Every Part is Useful and from Every Part Comes Learning”
The Museo del Maiale, one of Abruzzo’s smaller museums, employs a three pronged pitchfork on Abruzzo heritage: rural society, the relationship of culture & traditions on society, and historic agri-food traditions. The first level of the museum is devoted exclusively to piggies which formed one part of the protein so vital in these small farming communities historically. What could be done from head to trotter so to speak with from the sacrifice of the pig was regarded as an art form and one which was handed down generation by generation: UK Chef, Fergus Henderson of St John’s, would feel very much at home here in the Pig Museum in Abruzzo with his belief of nose to tail eating – it being disingenuous to the animal not to make the most of the whole beast.
This ‘sacrifice’ is very much what is spoken about in affect the taking of the pig’s life to help prosper the many. In the video there is a scene whilst you watch a pig awaiting its fate, its owner rubbing its snout as it is passes, you don’t see the actual killing for those that are squeamish. But rather ironically it did remind me of the rituals of Muslim Bismillah with prayers said over the animals as they are slaughtered. It’s not for the squeamish, but this is a museum that is a popular centre for local children to attend, and its stress does seem to lay on making you think about what you eat and your relationship with it, rather than just perceiving it as the sterile pre-packed supermarket packet.
One interesting fact it explains is about how before St Anthony Abate, the pig was regarded as an instrument of the devil, but his bringing the pig in from the cold so to speak, heralded the way for a far more celebratory tradition of porcine appreciation that is with us still today, in the pink and cuddly form seen in books & films such as Babe or Charlotte’s Web. Saint Anthony’s significance for pigs stems from his magical Christian healing powers on skin diseases, previously treated with varying degrees of success by a good dollop of pork fat; thus he become the patron saint of swine herdsmen, and what were previously perceived as the animals associated with tapeworms evolved into one of intelligence and economic prosperity.
The video also gives a mini-video lesson on how to make Vasto’s acclaimed, rich peperoncini & fennel salami “ventricina”, Campotosto mortadella & ‘nduja, which is on the walls if you want to take a photograph for a recipe to try at home. On the remaining two levels there are the associated tools of the land, including pig farming, as well as some interesting photographs. Expect to spend up to an hour here.
The museum sits underneath a former castle that was turned into a palace in the C17th. Currently it is undergoing restoration so at this time you will only see its breadth and scaffolding as you scoot up the town’s alleyways.
Tuesday is market day in Carpineto Sinello, worth a visit for trying some of the local ventricina & local cheeses at its one food stall. The town’s daily bread van arrives between 10.30-11.00 (makes several stops up the hill) and it had some very very good looking stuffed focaccia perhaps a elevenses treat or late breakfast treat for those that walk up the hill!
Make an appointment to visit the museum by email or telephone, as we said it is small & its curator does have another day job.
- Once you walk up from the piazza you will see a door next to a B&B for the museum, this is not the museum you need to walk one level up and its entrance is just below the castle, to the right of the small church.
Address: Via Madonna dell’Asilo, 66030 Carpineto Sinello CH, Italy
Opening Hours: On Request