Avellino

Sandra and I took the express train from Rome to Naples. What a nice way to travel! Just show up at the station 10 minutes before it is due in, buy your tickets or order them before hand if you plan on first class, and then get on and find your seat. In a little over an hour you are in the centre of Naples. No security, no throwing out your water, no surly flight staff, no waiting for luggage to – hopefully arrive on a carousel – which is ALWAYs furthest from the exit. The price is way better than flying so as you may have guessed I am a convert. We were met at the station by a driver named Sal, who had lived in Brooklyn for the past 35 years until his wife passed away and then he returned home to Mama. I kid you not! Nice guy with a New York accent you could cut with a knife.
Our hotel is a bit odd; the rooms don’t quite appear complete. The bathroom has the most high-tech shower unit I have ever seen. I had to put on my glasses in order to figure out how it worked – there are at least 6 or 7 different shower heads, different colored lights (mood lights maybe?), music, steam, mirrors, water pressure differences and undoubtably a few other things I haven’t figured out yet. The bathroom itself however doesn’t have a single towel rack or hook anywhere, so we are draping towels across the bidet!
Saturday afternoon and evening the hotel hosted six different weddings! We watched Rollers pull up with nervous brides and receptions where other brides should have stayed a little further away from the Buffett tables, grooms with big grins on their faces and families galore having a splendid time.
Sunday we drove off to a small town up in the hills which was hosting a “Festa de Fungi” and after a bit of a slow start we all settled down to have a marvelous afternoon. We had impromptu lessons on foraging, ate great homemade pasta and veal rolls, drank copious quantities of homemade wines and much later limoncello. Elke and her husband Manfred, who are both in their mid seventies – at least- started off the dancing with some extremely talented polkas which got everyone else into the spirit. Things inevitably devolved into a rather enthusiastic conga line. Which is where I took enough ” blackmail photos” to last a lifetime!
We did manage to attend a serious liqueur tasting but I’m afraid I can’t actually tell you much about it! Well that’s not quite true, it is a small artisanal community effort run by a group of women who are dedicated to preserving the traditional recipes for cordials and liqueurs. All their herbs are sourced directly from the surrounding mountains and the
Today we went to the Terredora winery and had two very fine DOCG white wines, a Greco di Tufo and a Fiano di . Impressive complexity in both and lovely finishes. I preferred the Greco I think but a close call. We then had a DOCG Taurasi which is 100% Aglianico grapes. A challenging varietal for most of our palates, unfamiliar and we all seemed to take away something different. Robert assured us that most people have a hard time with this one but by the end of the week we should be in good shape.
After Terredora, we proceeded to the Strega Distillery. I was kind of dreading this visit as I am NOT a fan but the whole experience was delightful. We had lunch with the managing director who is an absolutely charming man. His wife is a professor at the National Institute for Restorations in Rome so he commutes back and forth and has done so for the past twenty years!

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