Food Festival in Villa Celiera, Abruzzo
It’s amusing, how two bloggers can simultaneously publish posts about the same places without any prior arrangements. Recently, we have been keeping step with Bodach of AboutAbruzzo blog. When I wrote about Via Crucis in Giulanova, Bodach immediately sent me a message that he was going to write about Giulanova, too. He published a very interesting post with beautiful photos and generous references to my post. When I was writing the next post about Cappelle sul Tavo and “Palio delle Pupe” which takes place in the town every Ferragosto, I stumbled upon links to Bodach’s posts about “Palio delle Pupe. I clicked a link to his blog and saw his fresh post about a restaurant in Villa Celiera. I was going to write about an annual food festival in Villa Celiera, some day. I wrote comment mentioning that and Bodach reacted straight away encouraging me to go forward. And here I am writing about Villa Celiera.
Bodach wrote in his post about Giulanova, “The great thing about blogging is that it’s rare that two bloggers have close to same experience at the same place or event …”. Yes, our styles of blogging are pretty different. His style is very masculine but at the same time rather personal. He writes about his emotions, feelings and perceptions. As for me, I try to dive deeper into culture, arts and history. He defines himself as “a one-church-a-day man”, and I am fond of Italian churches, especially Gothic ones.
It isn’t very surprising that we blog about the same places because we use to live part-time in the same zone, in the north of Pescara Province. Bodach owns a house in fabulous Loreto Aprutino and I have got an apartment in the modern city of Montesilvano Marina. The two towns are situated very close to each other and Cappelle sul Tavo sits between them. Still, this geographic factor doesn’t play the crucial role in this triple coincidence. In my opinion, the main thing is that we are both passionate about Abruzzo, the land of tranquility and non-glamorous beauty.
Last Ferragosto, my friends Tatiana and Marco invited us to eat out in Villa Celiera. Marco is a great expert in Abruzzian cuisine and restaurants of the Pescara Nord. He drove his Fiat higher and higher inland along a deserted road. I wondered why should we go so far in order to eat, while we had already passed by at least four or five restaurants which boasted “Gambero Rosso” signs?! Meanwhile, it became very dark and still no other cars on the track. I asked Marco, if we would be the only visitors in the place. He grinned and said nothing. After just another turn, I saw that many cars were parked along both sides of the road. Quite a few people were going on foot up the road. Marco brought us to the main entrance to the village and then drove down in order to find a place to park. He told us to stand in a queue to order meals. We joined a rather long line which stretched from the foot of the staircase to the top of the hill. Near the cathedral, there were few kiosks where people ordered meals. When we reached a pay desk, Tatiana and Marco arrived and helped us to order the meals. We paid for food and got a sheet of paper where our order was written by hand. There were three main places where people could get their meals depending on what they wished to eat. Our destination was a school building, to say exactly, the school yard. When we got there, the yard was buzzing as a beehive. Simple long tables and benches were already occupied by eaters. We had difficulties to find a place to sit down. Finally, a big company invited us to share a table with them. Tatiana and Marco went to make an order. There were several gazebos near the school building, where orders were accepted. They got another sheet of paper with a number of our order.
Frankly speaking, I was a little bit skeptic about the whole thing. The atmosphere reminded me a halt after a hike, or a summer scout camp. I didn’t believe that the food could be of high quality. I suggested that folks came there just to communicate and relax. My friend and I observed the place with curiosity. We liked that people arrived in big companies. There were families consisting of at least three generations, including grandparents and grandchildren. Some of them were sleeping peacefully in baby carriages.
While waiting the meals, Marco told us a little bit about the place. Every Ferragosto, the tiny village hosts “la sagra” (feast) which lasts for a week. All citizens, in fact there are only one thousand of them, are engaged in preparations. Even those living in Rome or other big cities come home in order to participate in the feast. Indeed, there are lots of things to do. First of all, to cook for hundreds of people during seven days. Non less important duties are delivery of foodstuffs, clearing away tables, decorating the village, keeping order and entertaining the public. There were several folk groups playing on very unusual instruments. The villagers use to save money which they receive from the feast in order to make food stocks for the next year.
At last, a boy from the kitchen called out loudly our number and we rushed to get it. We ordered my favorite ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach and tons of arrosticini. The latter resemble of favorite Russian food of Caucasian origin – shashlicks. Both of them are made from pieces of meat threaded on a stick and cooked over smoldering coal. Shashlicks are made from big peaces of marinated mutton, pork or even chicken which are stuck on huge iron pikes. On the contrary, arrosticini are made from very fresh lamb stuck on thin wooden sticks which the Chinese use to eat with. The Russians are fond to prepare and eat shashlicks outdoors – in summer cottages, forests and even city parks. The Abruzzesi usually cook arrosticini in special stoves which are kept in yards and even balconies.
I have to admit that the arrosticini I ate in Villa Celiera were the best meat course I ever tasted. They were very delicate and gently juicy, and melted in the mouth. Marco said that Villa Celiera is the Motherland of arrosticini. Homemade red wine perfectly accompanied arrosticini.
After supper, Marco showed us the village. There was only one street beautifully decorated with lights and garlands. All the houses were situated on different levels and it was a little bit difficult to climb the steps after such a plentiful supper. I liked very much elegant houses tinted in light colors with beautiful balconies framed by wrought railings. The street was crowded with very satisfied and merry folks. Amateur musicians played folk melodies. A very pretty little church was brightly lit. It hosted a charity bazaar. There were plenty of lovely handmade articles.
Everything went well until we stumbled upon a buffet which generously distributed free spirits. Marco recommended us to taste famous Abruzzian liquors – Genziana and Rattaffia. At first, we couldn’t decide which of them was better. Indeed, both liquors were excellent, very flavored and mild. At last, we agreed that Rattaffia was the best and we should concentrate on it. Surprisingly enough, they were very light notwithstanding the strength of 45 degrees. When we decided to move further, we suddenly realized that the street became very steep and the stairs seemed to be very high and uneven. We reached Marco’s car with great difficulties because it was parked very far from the village. In fact, half-way to Montesilvano. Marco proved to be an excellent driver. Though he had certain difficulties while walking, he drove very confidently in the absolute darkness. Moreover, the road became a tricky one and every now and then made sudden flip-flops. We breathed with relief, when Marco braked in front of my gate.