A friend from Santa Barbara, Marilyn Acquistapace, has been in Sulmona, Italy, this year for a month and also spent much time there last year. She loves this city in Abruzzo and has written many e-mails to me singing its glories, particularly of the people and the food. She inspires me to write about Sulmona and its many attractions. I will also quote her on her culinary discoveries.
Sulmona is located in the heart of the Abruzzo region in central Italy, 45 minutes inland from the beaches of Pescara and 90 minutes from Rome. It is a vibrant city of about 25,000. Sulmona is best known as the birthplace of the poet Ovid, who frequently wrote of its beauty. There is a bronze statue of Ovid in Piazza XX Settembre.
Sulmona is the home of the Italian confectionery known as confetti. They are sugar-coated almonds and are traditionally given to friends and relatives at weddings and on other special occasions. Confetti can be eaten or used as decoration. Local artisans also color these candies and craft them into flowers and other creations.
Piazza Garibaldi is the largest piazza in the city with a large baroque fountain. It is the site of many annual events, such as the medieval festival and horse race known as Giostra Cavalleresca, which is held in the summer. At Easter, crowds gather to witness the Madonna Che Scappa. This ceremony involves the procession of a statue of the Madonna which is carried across the square while the bearers run to encounter a statue of the resurrected Christ on the other side of the square. On the south side of the piazza is a 12th century Gothic aqueduct.
Piazza Garibaldi also hosts a large farmers’ market every Wednesday and Saturday. Marilyn, who is an excellent cook, writes about it:
“The square is filled with vendors of all kinds—selling cheese, fish, meat, and produce, as well as clothing, purses, shoes, and kitchen ware. Vendors come from as far as Naples to join the smaller, local farmers. People even come from Pescara to shop.
“Sulmona is known for its sheep products (cheeses and meat) and for its pork products. I love the salami with truffles. Supposedly Abruzzo supplies about 90% of all the black truffles in Italy. Sulmona is also known for its red garlic, unique in Italy for its color as well as its intense (not bitter) flavor.
“After the market, I often explore the nearby shops and restaurants. I often go to the local Paneficio for the pizza from nearby Pratola Peligna that has bits of crispy pork throughout. Pratola Peligna is where the parents of another Santa Barbara friend, Silvio DiLoreto, came from. Sulmona also has a great Slow Food Restaurant called “Clemente’s,” where I had a delicious tagliatelle rosa con cavolfiore (cauliflower) e ventricina (a spicy salami).
“If you come to Sulmona, you must meet Novelia, who has rented rooms to me. She is an excellent cook, and loves to show people the highlights of Abruzzo. The name of her house is Casa del Cuore, which you can check out on Air BnB. While Sulmona is the heart of Abruzzo, Novelia is the heart of Sulmona.”