A dual-language article – eating & shopping in Abruzzo
Learn some useful vocabulary with language teacher Paola Fraioli
Wow! exclaimed my husband and I – almost in unison – when for the first time we ended up in this small borgo (hamlet) of Pacentro in the heart of the Majella park in the region of Abruzzo.
The year after, we bought a house in Pacentro and we started spending two months holiday here every year. Now eight years later we made the big move and settled here. We moved from Ireland; I left my becoming-stressful job lecturing in University for a slower pace of life. My husband was anyway a full-time papà (dad) and our thirteen years old had at this stage made so many amici (friends) in Pacentro that he was happy to come and live in Italy.
I suppose that two reasons made us take this decision: one was the sistema scolastico (education system) for our thirteen year-old boy and the other was il cibo (food).
We felt that here we would be closer, as consumers, to the production of the food that we were going to eat.
In fact in estate (summer), zucchini (courgettes), pomodori (tomatoes), cipolle (onions), aglio (garlic), peperoncino (hot chili peppers) are bought from our vicino (neighbour), who at around midday passes our house with his carrozzino (small three-wheeled transporter) on his way home from his orto (small piece of land where vegetables and fruits are cultivated). Le verdure (vegetables) from the day freshly on our tavola (table)! Olio d’oliva (olive oil) is also produced in this region and every November we get around fifty litres of the best oil from the same neighbour! For il vino (wine) we travel to the nearby paesi (small towns) Vittorito or Pratola and if we go off somewhere on a gita (day trip) we always have the five-litre container in the back of the car. You could be travelling around the region and suddenly you spot VINO written somewhere on a piece of cardboard. Don’t be afraid to go in and ask for un assaggio (taste), people are very generous and you cannot possibly buy wine without tasting it first!
Apart from buying from the contadini (small farmers) the nice thing about Italy is being able to buy from the small shops (negozi), a tradition which is still going moderately strong in Abruzzo, although big supermarkets are certainly taking business away from them. But there is still a solid attachment to tradition which is probably slowly disappearing in other parts of Italy and Europe.
In Pacentro you can still find a forno (literally it means oven but indicates here a shop where bread, focaccia, pizza and different types of dolci (cakes and biscuits) can be bought); there is also a small supermercato (no translation required…), where various vegetables are grown by the parents of the shop owners like patate (potatoes) or aglio (garlic), always according to season. Salsiccia (sausages) are not what you might expect if you come from Ireland or England but I suggest that you give them a try: you will not be disappointed!
Formaggio di pecora o capra (sheep or goat’s cheese) is another specialty which is typical of this region. Sometimes you can spot i pastori (the shepherds) selling it along the country roads but also it can be bought from the negozi.
It is important to know the weight measures: un chilo di … (one kg of…) or mezzo chilo (half a kg) in case you buy bread, un etto or due etti (100 grams or 200 grams) when you buy prosciutto (ham) or formaggio.
When you enter the negozio you always have to greet the shop assistant: buongiorno (if it is daytime) or buonasera (in the afternoon) and the good news is you can use them as you are leaving because both mean hello and goodbye. Don’t use come stai? (how are you?) unless you know the people well and you are enquiring after their wellbeing. You will be probably addressed with a prego or mi dica? (something like can I help you?).
When the time comes for paying you will probably find yourself in a small queue so why not try qualche parola di italiano (a few words in Italian) that you already know?
There is a positive social aspect linked to shopping from small shops versus supermarkets: you get to know people and practice your language at the same time.
Check out Aurelio Candido‘s gorgeous photo stream en-route from Pacentro to Pescocostanzo here. He’s the author of our beautiful cover image!