Saturday, 8 December 2012

SABINA TRAVELOGUE PART 8 - March 27 - Fara In Sabina & Canneto

March 27

OUR DAY with MARIA SABINA (our Rent-a-Car's G.P.S.) 

Fara In Sabina main piazza courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
Today we had two main goals as far as our touring. We wanted to visit the Archeological Museum of Fara in Sabina and go back to Farfa Abbey so that Richard could buy some linens. The last time that we visited we found a textile shop, but it was closed while we were there.

Museo Civico Archeologico di Fara in Sabina - Photo from Museum Website
The Archeological Museum of Fara in Sabina displays some of the most important archeological finds of the region relating to the pre-Roman Sabine culture that flourished in this region up until the time when the Sabines were absorbed by an expanding Rome.

Map showing Sabine Territory bordering Latium and Etruria courtesy of Fara in Sabina Archeological Museum
This morning we decided to bring our GPS Maria Sabina along. We had had some troubles with her on the way out of Roma and had to shut her off after we found the Via Salaria. If I can find the Via Salaria I can make it to Casperia or most other larger centres on the Sabina without a map.

But this morning we turned Maria Sabina on (sorry, there is no other way to say that... ; ) before we left the house. It was quite funny. Every ten metres or so Maria Sabina would pipe up out of my shoulder bag advising us to "Do a U-turn" or "Go straight..." She surprised a couple of people on the way.

After the hiccups of our start in Roma I wasn't 100% trusting of Maria, but except for a one lane mountain road she took us on to teach us some respect, she behaved admirably, guiding us along beautiful winding roads through the Sabine hills to Fara in Sabina, a truly beautiful town on the top of a very tall hill behind Farfa Abbey. 

Farfa Abbey in the valley below Fara in Sabina at right courtesy ofGiorgio Clementi
The idea was that we would visit the museum then descend on Farfa to visit the shop before the siesta closing time, then have lunch at the Trattoria da Lupi across from the Abbey.

After a long uphill drive we finally parked the car outside the centro storico, walked through an old stone gate 

and wandered the very beautiful streets of Fara...

Oranges growing against a stone wall in Fara in Sabina
Ancient Roman stone flour mill used as a planter holder in Fara in Sabina
until we found the museum on the main square opposite a beautiful church, a well built in the 1500s, and a venerable bread bakery.

Entrance to the centuries-old town bakery which is still in business today.
Inside, we were greeted by the most gracious host, Teresa Esposito. For you Italians who are reading this, Esposito is an Italian surname very well known in Canada. 

Phil Esposito is undoubtedly the most famous person of that name. He scored a number of very key goals in the first Canada/USSR hockey series in September of 1972, and is thus a Canadian national hero. Here in Italy, the proper pronunciation of Esposito has the stress on the second syllable, but in Canada it is on the third.

Signora Esposito very patiently explained the main exhibits of the museum to us, giving us pamphlets... We even came away with about a dozen free postcards. Inside we were totally blown away by the richness of the exhibits, mostly from the excavated necropolises of two Sabine cities, Cures, and Eretum

 The display progressed from prehistoric to the sixth and fifth centuries BC. The pottery (always my passion) was amazing but there was also ancient multicoloured glass, bronze, terracotta, and other materials on display. 

(Note: All interior shots of the museum are from the Museo Archeologico's website).


The multi-media display in the second gallery above the bread bakery (you have to go up double wide stairs that horses carrying grain had to climb in medieval times) was totally world class.  

This is a museum well worth visiting and one that the people of this region should be very proud of. You could not ask for a better ambassatrice than Signora Esposito: professional, knowledgeable, gracious… the perfect person for the job she is in. 

We had noticed what we thought to be the ruin of a castle or church on the Monte Acuziano, the hill opposite where we were parked. We were surprised to learn that this was not a ruin but an unfinished abbey church.
La Basilica di Berardo II a.k.a. La Chiesa Nuova on Monte Acuziano courtesy of Giorgio Pace/Go Sabina
 Signora Esposito explained that during the time of the incastellamento, a period of great political turmoil, the population of the Tiber valley was forced to move up to the top of the hills, and that the "ruin" we saw was actually called "Chiesa Nuova" or new church of Farfa, but things changed for the region in a way that the building of a new church in a safer place was no longer necessary so it was abandoned unfinished...

Cover of  a 1944 La Donna Fascista found online
I would have loved to have taken a look inside the bakery, it smelled heavenly, but the clock was ticking. We headed out of town, down the winding roads we earlier came up heading for Farfa Abbey and the textile shop. The name of the shop is Tessil Art di Gustavo Scipioni, and the young lady who works in the shop is the third generation of the Scipioni family which was invited to set upshop at the abbey at the behest of the Abbot more than 70 years ago. There is a great newspaper article about the grandmother in what must have been the 1930s Italian version of Chatelaine Magazine, called "La Donna Fascista".

Richard around linen shops is a sight to behold... Talk about a kid in a candy shop! He ended up buying a set of sheets, a set of eight napkins and a large number of hand towels... I think he will have to buy a large bag to get it all home. I am not saying I did not buy anything. I did, but I was more concerned about lunch.

The Trattoria da Lupi must do a booming business in the summer during tourist season, but it was quiete when we were there. The host, a very personable Milanese-born fellow of Sabina parents, was very welcoming. We had the antipasto plate, which had young pecorino cheese, three types of salami and some prosciuto, as well as some grilled eggplant and zucchini and the most delicious little black Sabina olives. There was a little tin of the D.O.P. Sabina extra virgin olive oil on each table. 

Richard had gnocchi with lamb ragù, while I had truffled fettucine. I was in heaven. After lunch we had an espresso each. We were presented with our Caffe Mocha espresso glasses that our host washed out for us with a splash of Grappa

We then walked around the grounds of the Abbey, and out into the olive groves that surrounded it, taking pictures... 

of some sheep in a farm across the valley. Even at a distance, the sheepdogs guarding these sheep were alerted to our presence... Maybe Canadian tourists have a particular smell or odor... but our perfect picture moment was ruined when the dogs started barking and scared the sheep away... 

We had better luck making some friends with some of the local cats...

...and even had time for a bit of a nap on a bench before heading to the herbalist shop in the Abbey for some more "monk's soap."


We had been interested in going to the town of Canneto Sabino to see the Ulivone, reputedly the oldest olive tree in Europe. We had some time left, so we decided to programme Maria Sabina and have her guide us on the road to Canneto, and off we went.

Check out this video by the Sabina D.O.P. Consortium. It shows the magnificent Ulivone near the end. 

Even though we had the help of Maria Sabina to find Canneto, once we were there, it took a while to find the tree, but it was so very worth the search. 

The Ulivone might as well be a venerable Ent from the Lord of the Rings, it is so huge and gnarled. According to the experts, the Ulivone has been around for about 2700 years!

It isn't every day that you get to touch the oldest tree in Europe (Giorgio, don't laugh!!) but we did today in Canneto Sabino, and we have the pictures to prove it!

After our visit with the Ulivone I programmed Maria Sabina for one last destination before our return to Casperia—Poggio Mirteto Scalo. Why, you may ask, did I want to visit the town with the train station we had visited a number of times before? The answer is the Ecofattorie Sabine, an organic cheese cooperative just 400 meters south of the station.


Various flavoured semi-ripe Pecorino Cheeses courtesy of Ecofattorie Sabine
This place is a cheese lover's heaven. Marco, the affable owner of the shop, immediately started plying us with samples, starting with a honey cake, then heading into various flights of sheep milk cheese ending with a small slab of the most heavenly Ricotta al Forno, or baked ricotta.

Fresh Pecorino - When you bake this in a wood fire oven you get Pecorino al Forno, courtesy Ecofattorie Sabine
Imagine the most delicious purest, most perfectly balanced unsweetened cheese cake. Add grilled eggplant, you have a decadent antipasto, add a dab of marmalade, quince jam or even nutella, and you have a dessert made in heaven. 

Ricotta al Forno - Delish! courtesy
We ended up buying four slabs of cheese. Then he started plying us with salami samples.

From the Ecofattorie Sabine website
They sell links of oxblood-coloured small sausages. Marco was cutting open the casing and getting ready to hand us a slice on some fresh baked rye bread, when Richard, said, that's not Fegato, is it? Richard is no liver fan. Marco said, indeed it was, and that when people see it sliced on a sample platter they scarf it down and proclaim it delicious. When they are told it is liver, they are startled, but it is too late. They are hooked. 

Richard sampled it and did indeed pronounce it "delicious." Marco already knew I liked liver sausage so he gave me two large slices and we ended up ordering four links, and buying the last of the rye bread. And it did not stop there. We bought a bottle of Pecorino wine, and two packages of artisanal pasta made with an ancient form of high altitude durum wheat. 

How you get there from Rome
If you are in the Sabina or if you are even just in Rome, I strongly recommend a visit to Poggio Mirteto Scalo so you can load up on these local delicacies. We left with a full bag of cheese and other Sabina delicacies and paid only €37,00. In Canada, first of all you could never buy real ricotta cheese, but a purchase like this would have cost us over $100.

Though we are parting with our rent-a-car on Thursday, I know that we will be visiting Marco and the Ecofattorie Sabine again. It is a short bus ride from Casperia, and well worth the trip.

Thus loaded down with cheese, wine, liver sausage, pasta, linen, cotton and other bounty of the Sabina we made our way back him to Casperia.

I made us some Negronis and made an impromptu meal of boiled farro, lentils cooked in porcini broth, chopped raw zucchini, diced sundried tomatoes, some crushed garlic, the last of the wild asparagus, diced, all slathered with some olive oil from the Sabina and a bit of balsamic reduction. 

It was not the most beautiful meal, but it sure tasted good... High in fibre and taste, low in calories... Just the kind of meal we need if we are going to start eating all that cheese sometime soon.

You can only imagine just how good the cheese bread and saussages were!
Tomorrow we plan to go to Santa Maria in Vescovio, a place we visited three years ago, to try the L'OasiRestaurant, and then perhaps visit the little town of Rochette before we head to our last car adventure to meet Signor Fiorenzo Franciolli who is the Proloco or Tourism Officer for the town of Montebuono, and go with him to visit the little hilltown of Fianello near the Umbrian border and see the Church of Santa Maria Dell'Assunta with its magnificent frescoes.
Souvenirs from Farfa Abbey

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