The Italian peninsula is crossed from the Alps to Sicily by mighty Appenini mountains towering up to 3000 meters, a true joyride along scenic valleys and gorges, daring roads and ancient villages. The consequent geographic fragmentation is one more piece of the puzzle to understand the incredible variety of folk traditions, dialects, habits, look of the people and of course the bewildering array of Italian food specialities.
The magnificent medieval fortress Rocca Calascio perched atop an impregnable cliff reminds us of “The name of the Rose”, and while we explore the village we come across a board covered with the posters of the many movies shot there, actually including Jean-Jacques Annaud´s masterpiece together with “Lady Hawke”, “Francesco” with Mickey Rourke, Richard Gere´s “King David”, “The American” an many more.
The local attraction in this magnificent corner of Abruzzo aptly nicknamed “Little Tibet” is a small, low wooden building where we buy a generous batch of 14 “arrosticini”, the mini-skewers made of perfectly cubic pieces of lamb meat, a traditional food among farmers and shepherds.
What makes this small butcher shop unique, is the possibility to roast the meat yourself on the grill they prepared for us, while chatting with the owner and sipping cold beer.
The views and the emotions are hard to describe with words.
It became famous in September 1943, when Benito Mussolini was kept prisoner in this building following the coup of the 25th July, when he was ousted by the Gran Consiglio of Fascismo in the dramatic days following the Allied invasion of Sicily. "Il Duce" was set free by a German paratrooper commando let by SS jackass Otto Skorzeny, which boldly landed with 4 gliders right on the hotel´s doorstep, in one of the most obscure and controversial operations of WW2.
The descent from Campo Imperatore is possibly even more scenic, we stop endless times to listen to the hypnotic carpet of sound of hundreds of bells played by the placid cows, admire rounded hills side by side to sharp triangular rocks and alpine lakes, definitely a place deserving a week of magnificent hiking, relax and more arrosticini.
Follow us on the next episode of Cook & Meet Italian adventures: “THE QUEST FOR THE HOLY HAM”