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Postcard - Campania Wine Country Tour
Ann Jacobs (Auntie Tutu)
A Tour of Campania Wine Country with Barbara and Federico of Savour the Sannio
When Barbara Goldfield popped up on the Slow Travel Message Board, I couldn't contain my excitement. We would be visiting our son-in-law's relatives in Bucciano, and I was thrilled to find someone who knew about Campania inland, not just the Campania of Naples and the Amalfi Coast. After a spirited email correspondence, I arranged for a one-day wine tour for the five of us plus the Italian cousin. We spent a very full and delightful day with Barbara and Federico. They live in Sant'Agata dei Goti (Saint Agatha of the Goths) a picturesque medieval town in the hills about 45 kilometers from Naples.
Barbara and Federico picked us up at our hotel in Paolisi at 9:30am in a very comfortable mini-bus. Our first stop was the town of Sant'Agata. An early Christian martyr, Agatha was the remarkably beautiful daughter of a distinguished family. She spurned the proposals of the Roman Senator Quintianus, vowing to dedicate her life to Christ. He promptly subjected her to torture, including cutting off her breasts. She was miraculously healed by St. Peter that night, but then was further tortured and eventually succumbed.
Gruesome as the story is, the town is lovely. We walked all over, Federico relating the history and legends, Barbara stopping to chat with the various townspeople who all welcomed us warmly.
The town is built on a rocky outcrop of volcanic stone. It has wonderful views over the surrounding countryside from the battlements all round, and its narrow streets are crammed with churches and historical sites with NO TOURISTS! The bridge over a small river provided an incredible view of the "apartment" houses. Each floor added as a family grew.
The countryside is stunning with 3,000 to 4,000 foot mountains, some terraced hillsides, and many vineyards with olive and grape vineyards. It's green, lush, and with small towns with clustered homes and Byzantine towered churches. The climate was sunny with a good breeze, a welcome relief from the 100+ (F) degrees in Florence. We toured a cheese factory - too late for the daily making of the cheese, but we saw the finished product and all the equipment, and Federico translated the process as related by the owner's teen-age daughter.
Before lunch at L'Antro di Alarico, we visited the restaurant's cellar, dug deep into the tufa rock, full of old wine-making implements.
Lunch was delicious and even included humus since the restaurateur is Jordanian. We posed for a group picture in front of the statue of Sant'Alfonso de' Liguori, and then on to the wine!
Our driver got a little bit lost on the way to our first vineyard, Corte Normanna, but Federico had a talking GPS and the scenery was drop dead gorgeous so we didn't mind. The vineyard is about 20 hectares and the tour was unlike anything we've experienced in California. First of all, the grapes are ancient; this is what the Romans drank! The owner, Alfredo Falluto took us out to the grapes and spent almost an hour explaining how the grapes were grown; one bunch per vine, rows far apart with no cross rows, harvested by hand, then gently pressed, and the rest of the process. From vine to grape refrigeration in three hours. Federico did a marvelous job translating for us, and it was obvious Alfredo was extremely proud of the work he was doing. Then a wine tasting of two Falanghinas and two Aglianicos. We had promised ourselves that we wouldn't buy any wine this trip as we didn't want to schlep it home, but oh, the wine! Couldn't resist, both the wine and wanting to help this young man make a go of his endeavor.
Then on to a second vineyard, bigger and more professionally run, Masseria Venditti. It has been in the owner's family since 1595 except for a few years around the turn of the 20th century when they sold the vineyard and went to the States for a few years, but then returned and bought the farm back.
Later we asked Federico why so many Italians left at the turn of the 20th century. His explanation, which sounds reasonable: before the Unification of Italy, the local nobility cared for the land/people because it was in their own best interest to have the land self-sustaining. After unification in 1868, the south came under control of the House of Savoia who imposed such incredibly high taxes that the population became pauperized and the social structure annihilated. Many people emigrated, others rebelled and became "freedom fighters" or "brigands" as they were labeled by the nobles of the north.
Back to the wine. This owner gave a tasting lecture, describing the characteristics that made his vintage unique. Again, obviously a man who was passionate about his work. So of course, we bought some more wine.
We returned to our hotel, happy that we had a chance to appreciate local culture and discover some REALLY good wines. Barbara and Federico were extremely gracious and knowledgable; we couldn't have had a better tour.
www.savourthesannio.com: Savour the Sannio
Slow Travel Classified Listing: Savour the Sannio, cooking classes, wine tours, travel consultants for you trip to the area between Rome and Naples
© Ann Jacobs, 2006
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