After nearly 24 hours of travelling, I finally made it to Abruzzo. Arriving in Rome, and being greeted by the last rays of a gorgeous sunny Saturday felt like a celebration- a homecoming of sorts, as well as the start to a new adventure. Rocco Masciarelli was also there to greet me- a kind, handsome fellow who knows more about Abruzzo, and Italian Football than most anyone. He happily grabbed my suitcase and whisked us off into the mountains to cross the Appenines as the sun was setting over the snow-capped peaks.
Ancients towns whizzed by at lightening speed, while Rocco expertly guided the speeding car over steep mountain passes and through long, dark tunnels as we crossed the mountains. Gesticulating excitedly, and narrating, “Yes, that town over there is home to the ancestral family of Pope Celestino” or “this is where Garry Marshall is from”… Garry Marshall? “Si… you know, Pretty Woman!” Really? “Yes! He was once a Masciarelli too- you know they had to Americanize the name… Masciarelli, Marshall. They are born in America, but they are all Italians.”
I also learned a colorful story about the post-World-War-II Germans who called this ridgeline “La Bella Addormentata” or “Sleeping Beauty” because of its resemblance to the outline of a (well-endowed) sleeping woman. Needless to say, Rocco is the perfect tour guide. Absolutely perfect.
Upon being asked about the local food traditions, Rocco had a violent, knee-jerk reaction that had him pulling quickly off the autostrada to stop at a local roadside shop where the proprietress had prepared a slew of house-cured salumi (pork liver, culatello, lonza, you name it!), as well as a freshly roasted porchetta.
Crispy-golden pig skin, lusciously creamy meat, perfectly seasoned and sandwiched between two hearty slices of focaccia. Rocco inhaled his pannino on the spot, smiling all the while. We lamented the fact that due to his having to drive, there would be no glass of Trebbiano until we reached the Castello di Semivicoli where I am staying. Rocco was right- that cold, perky glass of Abruzzese sunshine sure would have been the perfect match.
Nothing says “Welcome to Abruzzo” quite like porchetta. Grazie, Rocco.