Monday 23 December 2013

PANPEPATO SABINO - Il Gusto del Natale in Sabina.

Winter view of Catino, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
The olive harvest is over, the days are colder, the nights are longer, and snow begins to decorate the postcard-perfect hilltowns of the Sabina. It's that time again.

In the light and greenery-doecrated piazze of towns and villages throughout the Sabina, from Passo Corese to Antrodoco, from Monteleone to Montebuono, Christmas Markets are being held.  

Christmas Market in Poggio Mirteto, courtesy of Alessandra Finiti

In these stalls you can buy all sorts of wonderful gifts, from local arts and crafts, hand-made soaps, decorations and toys, local wines and cheeses, the newly harvested Sabina D.O.P. olio novello, and all sorts of delicious cakes and confections, some internationally familiar, and some not so familiar...

In this post, I would like to introduce to you a Sabine Christmas treat called Panpepato. As you can see in the poster below advertising the Sagra, or festival, held in its honour in the town of Collevecchio, this is sometimes spelled Pampepato

Panpepato, sometimes translated as gingerbread, means literally "peppered bread". Panpepato has existed in various versions throughout central Italy from as far back as the middle ages. Recipes vary from region to region, from town to town, even from family to family.  

The most internationally famous version is Panforte from Siena in Tuscany. This is exported and sold in stores in Canada and the US, and likely most parts of Europe around Christmas time.

Panforte Siennese photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The "forte" or "strong" in the name comes from the fact that the cake was heavily spiced with black pepper.  

This particular version of Panpepato Sabino comes from our friends Fiorenzo Francioli and his wife Antonella Bigi who live in the historic town of Montebuono Sabino. 

If you have followed this blog for a while, you will know that Fiorenzo works with the ProLoco of Montebuono and that he is an avid motorcyclist. Richard and I first met Fiorenzo a couple of years back when we wanted to visit the hill town of Fianello...

Fianello and its pentagonal tower courtesy of Matteo Bordini via
...and the fascinating, recently restored medieval churches of Santa Maria Assunta...


...and San Pietro ai Muricento--both which are built atop the ruins of ancient Roman villas...

Courtesy of I Luoghi di Cuore
As part of his work to promote Montebuono and all its historic and cultural treasures, Fiorenzo organises a popular motorcycle tour of the region called Andar per Olio e per Cultura that attracts over a 120 participants each year.
Photo courtesy of Claudio D'Artibale
Fiorenzo and his wife Antonella are not only skilled cooks, but they are also very accomplished bakers -- they have a wood fired bread oven in their home kitchen! Over the past month or so I have been following with envy Fiorenzo's pasta making and bread making exploits on Facebook.

A recent post of his about Panpepato, re-posted by another of our friends, Alessandra Finiti, reminded me that I wanted to try my hand at Panpepato Sabino, especially since it was a recipe that came from our friends in Montebuono. 

Photo courtesy of Fiorenzo Francioli and Antonella Bigi
So, here is Fiorenzo and Antonella's recipe for


 Almonds - 100 g
 Hazelnuts - 100g
 Walnuts - 100g
 Candied peel ( orange peel ) - 100 g
 Sultana raisins - 100 g
 Dark chocolate - 150 g
 Honey - 200g
 2 tsp Cinnamon
 1 tsp ground Nutmeg
 fresh cracked Black Pepper
 White Flour

The ingredients with the hazelnuts not yet chopped

Soak the raisins in warm water for at least 20 minutes before you prepare the other ingredients. 


Chop walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and chocolate. 


Put these in a large mixing bowl. 

Add the candied fruit, a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon, one tsp nutmeg, a generous sprinkling of ground black pepper...

...and finally the wrung out raisins.

Turn on the oven and set it to a temperature of 180°C/356°F. Prepare a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

In a saucepan, heat the honey and some water over low heat. Bring the honey to a boil. 

Pour immediately over the ingredients in the bowl so that the chocolate melts. 

Hot honey!

At this point add some flour, a bit at a time,  mixing all the time. 

The resulting mixture should have the right consistency to be able to shape the rolls to be placed on the baking sheet. 


You can prepare 5 to 6 pieces depending on the size.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool down before you remove them from the pan. 

Although the recipe did not call for it...

...we gave our Panpepato a light dusting of confectioner's sugar. 

The Panpepato can be stored for a couple of weeks in a cool place in tin containers, and can be easily wrapped in cellophane to give as gifts...


So there you have it everyone, a wonderful recipe that brings the taste and tradition of the Sabina to your home. 

Casperia, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi

The recipe is so easy, and the results are delicious. Just ask my Mom!

My mother taking her first taste of Panpepato Sabino after Christmas Dinner 2013

Thanks to all of you who have been reading and supporting me in the writing of this blog. Richard and Smokey and I wish you Buon Natale, and every good wish for a happy, healthy, prosperous, and love-filled 2017. Stay tuned for more posts. Alla prossima!!!

Friday 18 October 2013

Touring HIGH ON THE HOG - Andar per Olio e per Cultura: A Cultural and Gastronomical Motorcycle Tour in the Sabina

"E anche quest'anno siamo pronti per guidarvi tra le strade della Sabina, tra gli ulivi e le montagne dai mille colori...
Montebuono and Fianello in autumn by Giorgio Clementi
...i borghi medievali che come per incanto, il tempo non ha usurato. I frantoi del paese vi aspettano per farvi assaggiare la spremuta più antica che c'è, tra piatti tipici, musica e compagnia. Chiese con affreschi duecenteschi o di Iacopo di Roccantica...
San Pietro ai Muricento courtesy of I luoghi di Cuore
Terme di Agrippa mangiate ormai dalla natura, sono qui, con una storia di oltre 2000 anni. Qui, il tempo si è fermato."

And also this year we are ready to guide you through the streets of Sabina, among the olive trees and the mountains of a thousand colours... 
The medieval borgo of Fianello. Photo courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
the medieval villages that like magic, time has not eroded. The mills of the country are waiting for you to taste the oldest juice that there is, including local dishes, music and companionship. Churches with thirteenth-century frescoes, or those by Iacopo Roccantica, the Baths of Agrippa, eaten now by nature... 
External view of the apse of San Pietro ai Muricento with the ruins of the Terme of Agrippa in the foreground, by the author
They are here, with a history of over 2000 years. Here, time stands still...
This kind of poetry one would expect in some exclusive travel magazine aimed at well-heeled world travellers with an interest in high end gourmet tours of Italy. These words though, are aimed at a specific type of tourists, and those tourists are bikers... And I am not talking about spandex clad cyclists, I am talking about REAL BIKERS, the kind who ride motorcycles.

On November 9th and 10th the Tourism Association/ProLoco of Montebuono is organizing its second annual Guided Motorcycle Tour of Montebuono and its historic environs. The name of the tour is Andar per Olio e per Cultura in Motocicletta, which roughly translated means and Olive Oil and Cultural Tour by Motorcycle
The tour is timed to coincide with Sabina's annual olive harvest and includes visits to local olive oil producers, where the lucky participants get to view close up the process of transforming freshly harvested olives into pungently fragrant spicy green Sabina D.O.P. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and taste it on fresh toasted bruschetta. The itinerary also includes visits to a number of important historic and cultural sites in the Montebuono area including the churches of San Pietro ai Muricento and Santa Maria in Assunta in Fianello--both of them built atop important Roman villa ruins--as well as the fortified hill town of Cottanello, and the Sanctuary of Santa Maria in Vescovio. 
Biker Breakfast in Montebuono. Photo courtesy of Gustavo Fabri
Both tours, in good Italian fashion, begin with an ample breakfast, and include a hearty outdoor lunch. The longer Saturday tour finished with a social dinner at a local restaurant. Mamma mia! Knowing what these folks will see, eat, drink, and experience, it is enough to make me want to learn how to ride a motorcycle so I can join in the fun next year! 
One of the key organizers of this tour is our friend Fiorenzo Francioli. We met Fiorenzo last year and spent an unforgettable afternoon with him touring the historic sites of Montebuono and Fianello. 

Fiorenzo is not only the key tourism officer of the Comune of Montebuono, a truly wonderful ambassador for his town and the Sabina, he is also an avid biker. 

Here is the schedule for the two days of tours. 


Ore9.00-09.30:ISCRIZIONI, colazione e gadget.
Registration and breakfast and mementos.

Santa Maria in Vescovio
Ore10.30-11.00:Motogiro e visita guidata al Santuario di S.Maria in Vescovio.
On the road by Foto di Claudio D'Artibale
Ride on motorbike to the Santuary of Santa Maria in Vescovio for a guided visit.

Drizzling freshly pressed Sabina D.O.P. olive oil on bruschette. Yum! Photo courtesy of Gustavo Fabri
Ore11.30-12.00:Aperitivo e visita al Frantoio “SAPORA”
Snacks/Drinks and a visit to the Olive Mill "Sapora"
Lunch al fresco in the olive grove. Photo courtesy of Claudio D'Artibale
Ore13.00-13.30:Pranzo presso il borgo medievale di Fianello.
Lunch near the medieval walled town of Fianello.

Meat on the grill by Gustavo Fabri
Ore15.00-16.00:Concerto del gruppo "Tom Shepperd's Production"
Concert by the group "Tom Shepperd's Production"

Fianello by Matteo Bordini via
Ore 16.30-17.00:Visita al borgo di Fianello
Tour of the walled town of Fianello

Ore 20.30:Cena sociale presso Ristorante: "Il Muretto" di Montebuono
Photo courtesy of Mucca Viola
Biker's Breakfast by Ramona Abati
Ore 9.00-9.30: ISCRIZIONI, colazione e gadget.
Registration, breakfast, and mementos
Fresh pressed Sabina D.O.P. Olive Oil
Ore 10.30-11.00: Motogiro e visita al frantoio a pietra "Leonardi" di Configni.
Motorbike to Configni to visit the stone olive mill Leonardi di Configni
Bruschette. Foto di Claudio D'Artibale
Ore 12.00-12.30: Visita alla chiesa di San Pietro ai Muricento di Montebuono con esibizione del gruppo musicale “Lemon Three”
Visit the Church of San Pietro ai Muricento with a musical exhibition of the group "Lemon Three"

Concert at San Pietro ai Centimuro Photo by Jacques Francois di Cesare
Note the glass panel on the floor of the church of San Pietro ai Muricento under this biker's boots. Photo by Mucca Viola

Below the glass panels on the floor, visitors can see the excavated remains of the ancient Roman Villa under the church.
Ore 13.00-13.30: Pranzo presso il frantoio "Minicucci Cairo". 

Lunch among the olive groves. Photo by Jacques Francois di Cesare
You can follow the course of each day's tours on Google Maps by clicking on the the links embedded in the dates noted above.


So what does all this cost participants, given all that is included, not very much at all.

A visit to the Antica Fattoria Sabina by Gustavo Fabri

There participants pay 15.00 a day. The dinner on Saturday costs extra. If you participate on both days you end up paying a mere €30.00. For those who want to stay overnight there is a special overnight offer of Hospitality at a local B&B or Agriturismo for just €20.00, or free camping.
This will be the 5th Annual Andar per Olio e per Cultura In Motocicletta. It draws people from all over Lazio and Umbria, possibly even other parts of Italy.
Fiorenzo sent me this explanation from a previous years tour explaining the motive behind the project.
"The Tourist Association Pro Loco of Montebuono continues its activities to promote the area adding this event to the many events already organized. The idea comes from the observation of a contemporary phenomenon that since the 80s there has been a significant increase in interest from many users, young and old, of motorized two-wheelers: the motorbike. In recent years an increasing number of trade journals, magazines, websites and groups of enthusiasts dedicated to motorcycle sports have featured articles on motorcycle tours that combine the spirit of knowledge of places and cultures and the search of good food and wine gastronomy. Even in the villages of our province it is now increasingly common to meet numbers of motorcyclists who come here seeking a weekend retreat in search of places of Art, Culture, Faith and local flavours.
Based on this preliminary analysis, it seemed like a natural evolution to propose to the many fans of mototouring an opportunity to get together and tour that would give us a further opportunity to promote our area, a region not only rich in monuments of great historical, cultural and artistic value, but also has a rich history of important olive oil production that stretches back millenia and has resulted in the Sabina D.O.P. designation. Thus was born, in 2009, the idea for the "Andar per Olio e per Cultura in Motocicletta" tour programme which has been repeated every year since then growing in popularity and appreciation. 

Last year, at the end of the day, the tour was summed up as follows: 
"130 participants with more than 100 bikes with two days of programming provided ... an idea of ​​promotion of the territory" a network "that slowly grows and spreads and promotes knowledge of the local economy .....its monumental and cultural riches through the desire of groups of cyclists to gather and participate in activities together ...... Activities that offer opportunities and spaces for artistic expression to the youth of the region ... Activities that promote awareness of the typical gastronomy of quality and DOP Sabina extra virgin olive oil bringing participants in contact directly with local producers....... and finally promotes friendships that binds people and unites the emotions."

Montebuono has so much to offer. People wishing to find out more about this event, or who are interested in learning more about the history, the many fascinating attractions, and gastroniomical possibilities, and options for staying in the region should contact the office of the ProLoco for MonteBuono. 

Associazione Turistica Pro-loco
  • Indirizzo: Via delle Scuole n. 10, 02040 Montebuono (RI)
  • Telefono: 0765.607631
o   Dalila: 389 2539870
o   Matilde: 334 1096424
I highly recommend a visit. 
Photo courtesy of Fiorenzo Francioli
 Now for my motorcycle lesson!
Grazie a Fiorenzo Francioli e a tutti tutti coloro che gentilmente mi ha permesso di usare le loro foto in questo blog.