Archive for the Benevento Category

Campania – historical flavours in Benevento

Posted in Benevento, Campania, Italy with tags , , , on March 1, 2019 by gannet39

Benevento has many fascinating ancient food traditions, and this first is a great place to experience some of them …

My Google map is here.

Trattoria Nunzia (Intermediate A), 152 Via Annunziata

Benevento’s most venerated restaurant, specialising in local dishes and ingredients.

I first came in 2005 and had a fantastic meal (see below) so I was very happy to return twelve years later. Nothing much has changed, it’s still very good (although I am perhaps more critical), but the old lady’s son Antonio, a good English speaker, is now working alongside her.

I began with the Bruschettina con Fagioli; a variety of white beans, which Antonio told me had no name, on good toasted bread, drizzled with olive oil and given a light sprinkling of oregano (B+).

To drink I tried a glass of a local Aglianico blended with Sciascinoso and Cabernet Sauvignon by I Pentri which was fine but nothing special (B). Nice label though.

Next the restaurant’s famous signature dish; Scarpariello (A); a square spaghetti tossed in tomatoes, Parma ham, pepperoncino and chopped basil, the exact proportions of which are a closely kept secret.

I also received an unordered bowl of Tagliatelle e Melanzana ‘just to taste it’. Sadly I found the artichokes to be quite bland and the pasta a bit overcooked but it was still okay (B).

After this Salsiccia rossa di Castelpoto (A); a wonderfully dense, spicy sausage which Antonio told me utilised the better cuts of the pig as well as the usual offal content. He also said that it was the only Slow Food Association protected-food in the area.

As usual my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I also ordered the Polpette al Sugo, a very dense meatball containing whole cloves of garlic (A) served in a perfectly flavouted tomato sauce (A).

With these a big plate of Contorno Misto Grande which included grilled courgettes, courgettes in vinegar, a local broccoli, chicoria, fried aubergine (all B+), and some grilled aubergine (A).

This nearly finished me off but I still found room for a large scoop of Mela Stregata, an ice cream made using Strega the local liqueur (see below), a local apple and a small piece of Baba sponge cake. Of course a shot of Strega on the side was the best thing to accompany it.

All this cost €64.50 which included water, cover, four glasses of wine and two shots. Pretty good value given the quality I’d say.

After a walk (more of a waddle really) and a snooze, I made it back a few hours later for dinner. I was still pretty full but I managed their Moscardini Affogati, a type of small squid stewed in a tomato sauce which was delicious (A).

To drink a glass or two of a very good Fiano from Sannio; one of my favourite wines (B+).

I also had a plate of fresh and crispy salad leaves (A) with this and followed with a small plate of Formaggi, all quite young. The Cachiocavallo and Provolone were very good but the Cabrito, goats’ cheese, was the star (A).

With this a glass of Piedirosso, also from I Pentri, but which failed to impress (B).

I had a final dessert of Semi-freddo al Torrone drizzled with a chocolate sauce containing Strega which was excellent (A).

With a double limoncello this took the bill to another €40. I was happy to pay this and more.

From 2005:

This is a fantastic place. Nunzia is the wonderful old lady who runs it; she’s very friendly and helpful. There’s no menu, she just comes and sits with you to discuss what you’d like to eat.

To start the marinated sardines are delicious. For a pasta course, try the Scarpariello (square spaghetti with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil) or the Cavatelli with cherry tomatoes and parsley. For a secondo the veal is good or the baby squid with cherry tomatoes and parsley. A great red is Aglianico del Taburno, and a good white, Fiano d’Avellino. For dessert choose between Macedonia with wild strawberries and a Passito wine or vanilla ice cream made with Strega, the famous local herbal liquer.

Back in 2005, three courses with wine cost me about €20 here, an absolute steal. Long may Nunzia reign.

On my last day in 2017, the teachers I was working with took me to this place:

Gino e Pina (Intermediate B+), 23 Viale dell’Università,

This place is a restaurant, pizzeria and wine bar, founded in 1940 and frequented wholly by locals as it’s a fair way from the touristy areas at the top of the hill.

We shared the biggest Mozzarella I’ve ever seen (B+). Three of us only managed about half of it!

We also had a plate of antipasti each which were okay but nothing amazing (B-). The most visually spectacular were these stuffed peppers which I’m told are a local delicacy.

At the owners insistence I had a slice of his wife’s homemade Pasteira, a local tart traditionally made at Easter, which was very nice (B+).

And for a spot of food shopping…

Benevento is very famous for its Torrone (nougat) which is typically made from honey, sugar and egg white. Traditional Torrone di Benevento is sometimes called by its historic name Cupedia, which is a crumblier version made with hazelnuts. Softer versions are made with almonds. The history of Torrone pre-dates the Roman era and goes back to the times of the Samnites. Although well-liked by the Romans, the historian Tito Livio mentions it, torrone only became popular in Europe during the 17th century, when the Beneventan candy makers created today’s varieties, which have been dipped in dark chocolate or given a lemon, orange, or coffee flavoured icing.

I visited two confectioners. At the seemingly very traditional Russo Umberto at 17 Via Gaetano Rummo, I got some modern chocolate-covered torrone and a bottle of Strega.

At the bigger Euroliquori (formerly Alberico Ambrosino Confectioners) at 111 Corso Garibaldi I got some plain bars of traditional torrone and a bottle of Strega Crema.

As mentioned above, another famous local product is Strega liqueur whose 17th century recipe uses a secret mixture of seventy herbs and spices. It looks a bit like Galliano, due to the inclusion of saffron, and has a bittersweet taste with hints of fennel and mint. It’s probably best used in coffees and confections rather than being drunk straight. You can also get a crema version which is more drinkable. The word strega means “witch”, a reference to the ancient legend that Benevento is the city of witches.

So, lots of nice things to eat and drink in Benevento! Wish I’d had more time but no doubt I’ll be back at some point. Off to Naples next…


Campania – things to see in Benevento

Posted in Benevento, Campania, Italy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2019 by gannet39

I got to see a little more of Benevento in a couple of days in 2017 than I did during my even shorter stay in 2005 but please don’t consider this a guide, it’s just a quick round up of some of the things I saw in a very short space of time. My Google map is here.

The Arco di Traiano on Via Traiano is probably Benevento’s most famous monument as it is the best-preserved ancient Roman arch still in existence.

It was built in honour of the Emperor Trajan. It sits over the Via Appia, at the point where it enters the city, which during the Lombard era was known as Port’Aurea.

The bas-relief panels depict various imperial activities.

Over the road is Complesso Monumentale di Sant’Ilario a Port’Aurea; an unimpressive but very ancient church dating from around the beginning of the 7th century. The building is presumably of Lombard origin but was built on previous ruins.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is also of Lombard origin, dating from the 9th century.

It was rebuilt in the 1960s after it was destroyed by Allied aircraft in WW2. The façade takes inspiration from the Pisan Gothic style.

You can see a small exhibition of in the crypt and there are various other artefacts dotted about the place. The bas-relief of a pig wearing a stole has become a symbol of the city.

There’s a nice fountain next to the cathedral.

From here it’s a short walk to the Roman area. I think these supporting arches date from the Lombard period.

The Teatro Romano was built in the second century.

Although abandoned by the Lombards it has remained intact and is occasionally used for performances today.

My videos are here and here. Entrance was €2 in 2017.

Nearby is the Arco del Sacramento, a Roman arch dating to the beginning of the second century.

For a slightly longer walk, go through the Port’Arsa…

…and down to the Fiume Sabato where you can see the roman bridge, the Ponte Leproso.

Back on Corso Garibaldi at #139 is the Obelisco Neoegizio; an Egyptian obelisk, one of two erected, between 88 and 89 AD that stood on either side of the entrance to the temple of Isis, as described by the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the four sides.

Further up Corso Garibaldi is Chiesa di Santa Sofia, a hexagon-shaped church of Lombard origin dating to around 760. In 2011 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The castle of Benevento, known as the Rocca dei Rettori or Rocca di Manfredi, is also on Corso Garibaldi at the highest point of the town.

The Samnites and Romans had already used the site but in the Middle Ages, it became the seat of the Papal governors, the Rettori. Perhaps some of the purloined building blocks in the wall date from earlier times.

It has two parts; the Torrione (Big Tower), built by the Lombards starting from 871, and the Palazzo dei Governatori, built by the Popes from 1320.

The Palazzo Paolo V at 145 Corso Garibaldi, was the municipal seat during the papal control of Benevento. The facade is classical Mannerist. Construction began in the late sixteenth century, under the pontificate of Paul V from whom it takes its name.

I only looked inside briefly, but it was long enough to get another pic of the symbol of the city.

On the continuation of Corso Garibaldi at Viale Atlantici is the local park Villa Comunale, laid out in the late 19th century.

Nearby is this attractive building from a similar period.

On both my visits in 2005 and 2017 I stayed at the Hotel Villa Traiano. The staff are very helpful and the breakfast is great. It’s also well-placed for the Arco di Traiano which is just over the road and Corso Garibaldi is just a five-minute walk.

It’s a nice old former private residence that has been converted into a hotel and so the rooms are all different shapes and sizes. On my last visit in 2017 the room I had was large and spacious, although being in the basement meant the WiFi wasn’t great. In 2005 my room was much smaller with only a narrow gap around the wall. A good tip for all hotels in Italy is to look at the fire department diagrams on the walls to get an idea of they have should you want to change your room for a bigger one.

So, this beautiful hilltop town has heaps of history. I only had a short stay so I didn’t learn as much as I’d like to about the things I saw, but it’s always good to leave something for next time.

Please see my next post for Food in Benevento.

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