Nestled between the Adriatic and the Apennines in south-central Italy, Molise is one of the smallest of the country’s regions. Comprised of the two provinces of Campobasso and Isernia, it shares borders with Lazio, Campania, Puglia and Abruzzo (until 1963, it was part of a region called Abruzzi and Molise).
Molise encompasses some of the oldest settlements in Italy, with origins dating back to the 6th and 7th centuries BCE. From 1880 – 1925 much of Southern Italy and Sicily depopulated; today, we are fascinated to see the sparse villages of Molise that still cling to hills and mountainsides. Residents keep their customs alive in the forms of traditional cuisine, architecture and lifestyle. Examples are particularly rich in the towns of Campobasso, Larino, Agnone and Bonefro, all of which we visit.
For the historically-minded, culinary curious, and adventurous traveler who desires to explore a lesser-known area of Italy, we offer a unique tour. With leaders Cristiano Bonino and food and history expert Jeff Roberts, you visit small farms and food artisans who produce distinct varieties of olive oil, wines, legumes, cheese, and cured meat. With family roots in Molise, Jeff will show us his ancestors’ lands on an unforgettable experience through one of Italy’s most pristine regions.
Imagine landscapes of great natural beauty with Paleolithic settlements dating back nearly 750,000 years, the oldest in Italy and perhaps Europe. Before the Roman Empire, the Samnites lived, farmed, and fought in these lands. With hewn rocks and mortar, they built over one hundred fortresses on Molisani hills and mountains; many became towns and cities that survive to the present. Shepherds since the Iron Age, they kept sheep and goats for milk, meat, and wool. Practicing transhumance (seasonal migration), they moved their animals to and from Abruzzo on tratturi (trail networks now over two thousand years old). During our tour, we will walk the grassy footpaths with local guides who share stories of this enduring nomadic way of life.
Exceptional warriors, the Samnites fought three wars against the Romans but ultimately were defeated and absorbed into the Empire. They were responsible for the first defeat of Hannibal on Italian soil in 217 B.C. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was ruled by the Lombards, the French, and Spanish before becoming part of Italy in 1861.
Molise is among the least populated regions of Italy. The number of residents are well below the national average, a result of immigration between the unification of Italy and the end of World War I; together Molise and Abruzzo lost one million residents. Given the poor life conditions at that time, the Molisani departed in droves for the promise of better lives in the United States, Canada, Australia, and South America.
Agriculture remains the most important sector of the region’s economy. The tour is perfect for intrepid travelers who want to explore a lesser-known area of Italy and experience the small farms and food makers that produce distinct varieties of olive oil, wine, cheese, and legumes such as grass peas, beans and farro. Molisani cuisine is similar to that of Abruzzo, featuring mostly meat, cheese and legumes inland and seafood and fish along the coast.
Regional cheeses (formaggi) include Caciocavallo, pecorino, ricotta, mozzarella and scamorza. Pasta dishes, especially Cavatelli, made from the local wheat are recognized staples. The Molisani speak with great pride that the Vatican’s pasta is made from region’s durum wheat. Meat dishes such as pampanella (spicy pork), torcinelli (authentic cucina povera), grilled lamb, and salumi pair wonderfully with such wines as Tintilia, Montepulciano, Aglianico and Trebbiano. Molise is famous for both black and white truffles, we will meet a local truffle hunter and learn more about this revered underground mushroom.
While in Campobasso, we stay in the historic district at a former palace (palazzo), yet thoroughly modern hotel, and during the second half of the tour, at an elegant masseria in the eastern countryside. These structures, fortified farmhouses to protect from invaders, are typical of Molise and Puglia. Today, many offer accommodations ranging from rustic to luxurious and often provides local foods as well.
Join us for an unforgettable experience through one of Italy’s least known and yet, authentic and pristine regions.
MOLISE: A CULINARY AND CULTURAL JOURNEY
October 28-November 3, 2019 Special departure with Jeff Roberts, historian and author of several books on artisan foods
TOUR DATES AND PRICES
Minimum of 6 participants, maximum of 15, with a maximum guide-to-guest ratio of 1 to 8
DATES (7 days)
October 28-November 3, 2019
For more info, other dates and availability please contact us.
Per person in double occupancy: from $3,390
(tour price will vary and contingent upon availability of cozy agriturismi and 3-star hotels or more elegant 4-star hotels)
Single Supplement: $490
In addition, we pledge to donate more than 1% of your trip price to food literacy and environmental non profit organizations
- Visits and tastings of wine, olive oil, cheese, pastries and cured meat makers
- Delve daily into history, traditions and cuisine in this unique area in south of Italy with food and history expert Jeff Roberts
- Discover Campobasso, the provincial capital, the old-world town of Termoli on the Adriatic Coast, and the villages of Sepino, Agnone, Larino and Bonefro
- Relax in unique, cozy masserie and 3- or 4-star hotels distinctively representing the local culture
- Experience an intangible UNESCO Cultural Heritage, the Mediterranean Diet with delicious meals and a cooking demonstration
- Explore the Molise region and learn about ancient Samnites, Roman, Lombard and Swabian civilizations
- Learn more about local recipes, savor the cuisine of Molise, and meet local chefs and artisan food makers
- Travel with professional tour leader Cristiano Bonino and discover the cultural regional differences that make Italy so unique and worth-exploring
This tour is perfect for those who desire to explore a lesser-known area of Italy and experience the small farms and food makers that produce distinct varieties of olive oil, wines, legumes, cheese, and cured meat, accompanied by tour leader Cristiano Bonino and food and history expert Jeff Roberts. He is proud of his family’s roots in Molise and will show us his ancestors’ lands on an unforgettable experience through one of Italy’s least touristy and most pristine regions.
Upon arriving at Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, you rendezvous with the tour leaders and then embark on a 3 hour drive to Campobasso; lunch on own is en route. After checking into our hotel, we walk some of Campobasso’s cobblestoned streets. The capital began in the 8th century city as a fortified hill town. Its architecture includes the 11th century churches of Chiesa della Madonna del Monte and the Romanesque San Bartolomeo. Castello Monforte, c1450, was built on the remnants of earlier structures, most likely destroyed by earthquakes.
An early dinner is in a local trattoria, a casual and typical restaurant serving traditional Molisana cuisine and wine.
We drive into the mountains northwest of Campobasso to the tiny village of Agnone, where we visit a caseificio, a 350 year old cheese company and its museum; the company is the official cheese supplier to the Pope.Then we’ll stop by a local pastry maker to learn more about the local sweets and have a sample of their edible art.
After lunch on your own, we visit the Pontifical Foundry, dating back to the 11th century, makers of bells for the Pope and Leaning Tower of Pisa! We return to Campobasso by late afternoon with dinner, including tartufi (truffles) at a local ristorante.
We travel to Sepino, uno dei Borghi piú Belli d’Italia (in English, one of the Most Beautiful Villages of Italy in English). This is a project that promotes the great heritage of history, art, culture, environment and traditions found in small Italian towns off the beaten paths. Here we explore an ancient Roman Village featuring a well preserved amphitheater, ancient walls, gates and parts of a Basilica and forum.
Lunch will be spent with a local young couple of farmers who decided to settle down in the countryside and with them we’ll enjoy a cooking demo featuring ancient recipes, in addition of learning more about Molisane traditions. In the afternoon we meet a local maestro of tartufi who takes us into the countryside and show us how this revere underground mushroom is hunted with his loyal dog.
We return to Campobasso for more downtime followed by dinner on your own. Ask, we have many recommendations.
Saying good-bye to Campobasso, we visit the Samnite Museum with its exhibits of the region’s Neolithic past before our trip to Bonefro, a 1000 year-old village. Guided by a former mayor, we visit the Castello Santa Marie delle Rose and Il Convento Santa Maria delle Grazie. Our walk through Città Vecchia (old city) ends with lunch in a typical restaurant.
If time allows we stop by the local museum dedicated to the Bonefrano and American photographer Tony Vaccaro who became famous for his pictures taken during WWII while serving in the army. After lunch, we travel to our masseria (farm stay) outside of Larino, where you have time to relax before a dinner on site.
After breakfast, we travel south into the Fortore River Valley towards the border with Puglia. We arrive at an agriturismo where the owner introduces transhumance, the ancient practice of moving animals into seasonal pastures to graze. This is a family-run “farm stay” combining agriculture and tourism. Typically, agriturismi feature room and board in a farmhouse, which has been partially or totally transformed to provide accommodation and, in our case, also meals.
Lunch is with the owner and we enjoy his formaggi, salumi, and pasta. After our return to the masseria, we drive to Larino to explore the city; a few important highlights include a Roman amphitheater, Palazzo Ducale and the Duomo and Fontana Nuova. Dinner is on your own.
After breakfast, driving east towards the Adriatic Coast, we travel to Termoli, whose walled old city (Borgo Vecchio) overlooks the Adriatic and features the 13th century Swabian Castle. After a nice coffee or gelato we visit an award-winning olive oil producer, in San Martino in Pensilis. Here we enjoy an olive oil tasting and lunch and then return to the masseria to relax.
Before our last evening together, we transfer to an agriturismo and winery to learn more about the local indigenous grapes and taste their wines over a delectable dinner.
After an early breakfast, we leave at 8am for the 3.5 hour drive to Leonardo da Vinci International Airport. We say our goodbyes and thank you for your attention and enthusiasm for Molise. On behalf of the Molisani, grazie mille!
- 6 nights of accommodation in 3- or 4-star hotels and masserie (farm stay)
- 6 breakfasts and 3 lunches
- 4 dinners with either a 3- or 4-course menu (1 with truffles)
- Entry fees to the Samnitic museum, a Swabian castle and visit to a bell foundry
- Daily exposure to history, culture and cuisine of Molise and Italy with expert Jeffrey Roberts and tour leader Cristiano Bonino
- 1 visit and tasting to olive oil maker and 1 to a cured meat producer and Slow Food presidium
- Walks on a UNESCO Biosphere and tratturi (grassy trail)
- 1 cooking demo with a local chef and 1 truffle hunting demo
- 1 visit and tasting to a local winery and 1 to a cheesemaker
- Comfortable transportation by 9-seat van for all travel as cited in the itinerary
- Bilingual, professional Tour Leaders
- Group transfers from/to Rome airport to beginning and end of the tour
- Local taxes and gratuities for luggage porters and restaurant servers during tour
- 3 lunches and 2 dinners on your own
- Alcoholic beverages at group dinners (including wine and spirits)
- Round-trip airfare and expenses to/from the tour
- Trip cancellation, baggage loss or travel delay insurance (this optional coverage is highly recommended and is not provided by Food.Stories.Travel.)
- Gratuities for your Tour Leader
- Personal expenses, such as, but not limited to, phone calls, laundry, emails, snacks, gifts
Cristiano Bonino has led tours for North Americans all over Italy for more than thirteen years. Currently, he resides in the Boston area with his American wife. Cristiano likes to say that he has been “hybridizing” over the past three years in the U.S. He mixes the best of the both American and Italian cultures, which he loves, but never forgets his native roots in Turin.
Jeff Roberts lives in Montpelier, Vermont, and is very proud of his roots in Molise. He works in the areas of agriculture and food policy, conservation, and the environment and co-founded the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese at the University of Vermont. Currently he is an Adjunct Faculty at New England Culinary Institute and a Visiting Faculty at the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences. During his career, Jeff was a meteorologist, historian, museum curator and author of several books on artisan food.
Your itinerary has been meticulously hand-designed by Food.Stories.Travel. and Jeff Roberts. This journey is based on their favorite flavors and unforgettable past experiences. Every establishment you will visit has been personally vetted, tested and enjoyed by Cristiano himself and his team of experienced Tour Leaders.
In some cases we’ll take you to places you could not find by yourself or in a guidebook.
Upon request we can organize a 2-or 3-night post tour extension after your tour in Molise to visit Northern Puglia and Matera. Contact us for more info and availability
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