“Southern Italy offers something different!”
Often, when people think of visiting mainland Italy, it is the northern and central regions…however, for me, Southern Italy offers something different!
I reminisce about the yummy taste of the best pizza and limoncello, the sunny cliffs of Costiera Amalfitana – and for those who love geography – the volcano of Mount Vesuvius in the Gulf of Campania.
Well it’s not limited to these specific memories, but you get the picture.
Irpinia, Avellino Provence of Campania
A few days ago, I experienced a different Campania and had a great time. Forgetting I was a few miles away from the ocean. I visited a small sub-region called Irpinia.
This hilly, inland area, completely surrounded by mountains and protected from the sea breeze, is a hidden jewel of the region, at only 80 kilometres East from Naples.
The reason for my trip there, was to discover the food and wine from Italy’s hidden gastronomic villages, and I was delighted with my discoveries.
Wine of Irpinia
Irpinia is home to the very first 3 DOCG wines from South Italy. Due to its geography, it is dotted by vineyards, on the slopes of hills of various altitudes and shaped by rivers crossing the region.
Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo and Taurasi are the grapes you will find,which produce wonderful local wines, available throughout the region and in every wine bar. Believe it or not, but more than 200 wineries are in this small part of Italy, and all concentrated within a few Kilometres.
One winery I visited and find extremely interesting is, Antica Hirpinia, in Taurasi, home to the homonymous wine. Well-known as the first producer of Taurasi, I really enjoyed what this winery had to offer: beautiful underground cellar and yummy dishes paired with their wines. I thoroughly enjoyed tasting the wines, whilst overlooking the vineyards.
Wine tours are easily arranged and by getting in touch with the winery, despite the lack of a wine map or local area website for tourists. Nevertheless, I experienced a warm welcome and superb, friendly hospitality in the “Irpini” tradition.
Food of Irpinia
As Irpinia is so far from the sea, the main diet and cuisine is based on delicious mushrooms (porcini), meat – especially salami & prosciutto; and some artisanal product such as Carmasciano cheese. What makes Carmasciano so special is, it is made from sheep’s milk, grazing locally at Rocca San Felice (definitely worth of a visit). The land here is rich in sulphur and gives the milk an extraordinary intense aroma.
I sampled some Carmasciano from the cheese factory Carmasciando, which has a herd of 450 sheep, and is the leading producer of some specialty cheeses, including a blue sheep’s milk cheese.
Oh and before I forget…Irpinia comes from the Greek ‘hyrpos’ – which means wolves. So, it seems the place was populated by wolves many decades ago. But today, rather than wolves, what ‘scares’ the locals are the wild boar roaming the many fields and vineyards, annoying the wine producers. Who from time to time find their precious bunches of grapes half eaten by wild boars.
No matter if you are travelling for business or leisure, should you find yourself in Campania and want to experience some escapism, try something different. Discover Irpinia, the land of wolves!
Campania Expert & Contributor: Alessia Canarino. Alessia has worked for a number of Campania-based wineries, namely Mastroberardino and Villa Raiano; is a qualified Sommelier having studied at the Italian Sommelier Association (formerly AIS) and took the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 3 Certificate. She is an active member of the association Donne del Vino (Women of Wine) and today works as a consultant for some wineries and wine tour operators. She lives in her beloved Irpinia, and is one of its most active ambassadors. (Editor: Jeremy Angelis)
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