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Abruzzo- a quick guide to my favorite spots-in the mountains

Posted in Abruzzo, Caro Diario.(dear diary..), cucina, Features, recipes, and Tagliacozzo

pallotte_cacio_e_uova.jpgtagliacozzo-02.jpgtagliacozzo-1.jpg So hopefully you are following me along on this trip to Abruzzo..and now to the mountains. My favorite little ‘citta d’arte’ in the mountains is Tagliacozzo.  It is neatly tucked away in the mountains of Abruzzo. Big enough to have a main piazza with some great coffee bars and ristorante and even a few boutiques but small enough not to have any fast food resturants or shopping malls or any franchises. It is a well known resort and refuge for many Romans.. it is not far from Rome, not too expensive, quiet..not touristy except for the locals…-the perfect spot.

And,  it is really a little city filled with art from the monasery of St. Francis that has old frescoes on the wall that date back to the middle ages, to the convent and church of St Cosmas & Damian. The cloistered nuns there make these wonderful pastries for sale on Sundays.But you have to know the proper procedure to buy them. Cloistered nuns can not be seen by anyone in the outside world, it is a bit of an experience. And when you have completed your purchase, you feel like you have accomplished a great feat.

Walking up the high hill in the old part of Tagliacozzo to the convent, ringing the old bell outside the door to find a lazy susan that opens up with just a peep hole and a voice asks what you want (in Italian of course). You must tell her that  you want ‘dolce’ sweets. She will ask “how many” and you will then tell her an even amount (10,12,24). She will tell you the cost. You put your money on the lazy susan and turn it around so the nun receives it. Out comes a beautifully wrapped package with your little cookies and cakes and your change. You have just made a business transaction without seeing the cloistered nun. A heavenly experience awaits when you bite into the tasty morsel!

But there is more to Tagliacozzo then the churches. The summer’s film festival provides some interesting entertainment.  And now to the food, of course, I told you I get hungry    on these trips to the mountains- If you walk along the main street in the little town there is a little ‘forno’ or pizza oven. it is just marked FORNO.,.. ah  my favorite pizza..thin not too doughy just right especially if you time your arrival for when the pizza is coming out of the oven.

Then there is the beautiful view and the crisp air. Whether you choose to stay down into the center of the town or go up to the top known as ‘piccolo svizzera’  (little Switzerland) for how much it resembles Switzerland-green rolling hills high up in the mountains.

My family originated from this town and I can’t help but being brought back to a time when all I knew of Tagliacozzo were the pictures that were passed around the Sunday dinner table. My grandfather would always end Sunday dinner with memories of Tagliacozzo and he would always have the photo of the sign with the town’s name on it. The sign is still there, it still looks the same as when my grandfather first showed it to me from a photo.

This magical little kingdom, or at least from my eyes as a 4 yr old, it always looked like that-castles and mountains and beautiful art. Could that be my fascination with this beautiful town or is it that wide eyed wonder of a little 4 yr old who still remembers the  stories of her grandfather telling  (what seemed like)strange tales of a far away land. Oh how that intrigued me so much so that I knew in my heart one day I was going to get there and get there I did ..

Pecorino D’Abruzzo is one of the specialty cheese made by the farmers there from  sheep  We used to make this at our family’s vineyard in Tagliacozzo. Here is a traditional recipe from Abruzzo.  Although you won’t be able to find this specific type of Pecorino from Abruzzo unless you are there, you can find Pecorino almost anywhere now.

Palotto Cacio e Uova

For 4 people

8 ounces of plain bread crumbs

2 tsps of freshly chopped parsley

2 chopped garlic cloves

5 eggs

2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

Place bread crumbs, pecorino cheese, and eggs in a bowl. Blend with wooden spoon. Add in chopped garlic and parsley, blend well. heat olive oil in saute pan. Roll  mixture into the size of small meatballs and fry till crispy. Place on paper towels to drain. Serve with a tomato sugo (sauce) or plain.

Here is a link to the podcast  you might enjoy from my  latest radio interview  on my travels in Italy:

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  1. Pete

    wow, is that my picture of the Piazza dell’Obelisco? I do love it there, and you describe the town well here. Complimenti Maria!

    March 17, 2011
    • Thanks Peter. Yes Tagliacozzo is a beautiful little town, one of the few places left in Italy without American fast food and shopping malls. My grandfather and his brothers used to do take their evening passeggiata in that very piazza and my great grandparents had their vineyard there in the hills of Tagliacozzo. So the town holds special memories for me.

      March 17, 2011
  2. Pete

    I never tire of the place, there is a sense of the past about it, a little magic in the air. Where did your grandfather live, near the square, or in the high town? Is there house still there? I’m going again next month, so I’ll try and buy some dolce from the sisters!

    March 18, 2011
    • My grandfather and his 13 brothers and sisters were born in a house in the old part of Tagliacozzo near the piazza. Then my great grandparents bought a large piece of ground in the hills there and had their vineyard, farm, raised sheep and pigs, made the local Pecorino cheese and baked breads there until the German troops invaded (during World War II ) the town taking away their pigs and sheep. After the war and things settled they kept up mainly the vineyard and cheeses. Have you ever seen the movie with Frank Sinatra called Von Ryan’s Express?? Some of that movie was filmed in Tagliacozzo. It is about the Second World War..really interesting film. And if you go.. yes get the sweets from the nuns. But one of my favorite places there is a bread oven that makes the most wonderful thin crust pizza in the center of town on the main street. Nothing but long beads on the door and a sign that says FORNO.

      March 18, 2011
  3. Stephen

    Hi Maria, just came by this post while looking for places to buy/stay in tagliacozzo. My family both mother and father also were born and raised in tagliacozzo and I have been there several times to visit family and love it as well. Your description of the town and buying the pastries is so accurate and brings back memories. Actually my mothers maiden name is also Liberati. Her fathers name was Vincenzo, mother Loretta, and she is one of six siblings.
    Any relation??? Although I do realize that liberate is a pretty common name there. Ciao.

    August 1, 2012
    • Tagliacozzo is a really special place, and it is hard to put exactly into words, but after living so close to it for many years I now understand why my grandfather (Giovanni) who was born there but moved to the US-used to always talk about the town so fondly and had such a love for that town.I didn’t understand that until I got to see it for myself. But, yes there are so many Liberati’s in Tagliacozzo, once the phone book of Tagliacozzo was filled mainly with that last name, now it has changed. My grandfather had 13 brothers and sisters and not one was named Vincenzo, however you may be related to my great grandfather’s brothers-since the name is Liberati, but I am not srue if he had any or how many. I just recently found out though that my great grandfather- Antonio Liberati-was born in a little town that is considered part of Tagliacozzo- called Sante Marie and then moved to Tagliacozzo when he married my great grandmother and had their children there as well.
      Last year , I met someone else who had the last name Liberati, actually they were distantly related to one of my great aunt’s by marriage- the couple both had Liberati as their last name (even before married-in other words the woman was a Liberati before married but were not related) and their daughter took them to Tagliacozzo- we met for dinner. I did find another little town near Teramo that had Liberati’s and there is a Piazza Liberati there.
      Anyway there are a few nice bed and breakfasts (agriturismi) in Tagliacozzo and soem good restaurants. My favorite pizzeria is the one in the center that just has a sign that says FORNO on top and closes when pizza is finished, it is s pizza they specifically do in Tagliacozzo-not too thick and not too thin-really great ( If you need any recommendatons just let me know..hope you get to visit again soon!

      August 2, 2012
  4. Karen Nielson
    Karen Nielson

    Maria, Thank you for your comments. I will be visiting Tagliacozzo in May to visit te place where my gradfather Guarino Moretti was born. I would love to find the family vineyard that was there. Do you have any recommendations about were to stay there? Thanks, Karen

    September 18, 2012
    • karen: Tagliacozzo is still untouched by the big chain hotels and has mostly agriturismo there, which are wonderful ,most have great food. There are a few agriturismi that I know of there: Casale le Crete, Le Acacie is another. Let me know if you need their contacts. There is also a great restaurant called la Posta. And of course for an authentic experience follow my blog post to get some luscious cakes from the cloistered nuns there. Piazza Obelisco was just about redone so the fountain looks great. If you go to the middle of the town there is a little ‘forno’ that makes the most delicious pizza. They have beads hanging down for a door when they are open in doorway and there is a little sign above that says ‘Forno. If you need any other recommendations let me know. I have not stayed in these hotels since I live there, but have always heard great things about them. There is a beautiful mountain resort about 20 minutes from Tagliacozzo that I do cooking programs at and you can actually stay there, the little town is it’s own resort it is between Abruzzo and Lazio..if you want info on that I can let you know as well. Let me know and let me know how your trip goes, I am not there right now, so please send some pix of Tagliacozzo to put on my blog!

      September 18, 2012
    • Karen: also to find the family vineyard go to city hall (‘ municipio’) and see if they have any records. I know someone with that last name but they live in Teramo which is not that far.

      September 18, 2012

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