When most of Europe and the northern hemisphere celebrates Labour Day or May Day, in Abruzzo there is a wonderful food tradition each May 1, in a little corner in the north of the region. If you are visiting the northern province of Teramo in Abruzzo this spring then be sure to be there on the 1st May when an ancient food tradition will be featured all over the province.

Traditionally this time in May marks the end of the winter and the promise of spring. Food wise it was when the bare winter cupboards and pantry were emptied of what could be found and added with some greens of springtime. Hence the dish

“Le Virtu” (The Virtues) was created – a thick and hearty soup or ‘minestra’. It is a wonderful healthy and robust mix of dried legumes and beans, odd bits of dried pasta in varying shapes and lengths, some pieces of fresh or cured meats as well as fresh herbs and wild greens.

Every family in the province of Teramo had their own personal recipe and way of making it with what they had, so it was truly a peasant dish of the poor, known as ‘la cucina povera’. Today though, this type of cooking is appreciated again and has risen in it’s culinary heights and can be found in many restaurants in Abruzzo.

Le Virtu' a typical spring dish in Abruzzo
Le Virtu’ a typical spring dish in Abruzzo  (Photo from www.eventiteramo.it)

The variety of ingredients that were used led to great creativity in the kitchen. For example any of these typical fresh greens or foraged wild greens could be included, such as: wild chicory, wild asparagus, dandelion, silverbeet, spinach, artichokes, endive and borage. Legumes could be anything from lentils, borlotti beans, cannellini beans, chick peas, to fresh peas and broad beans of the season. Even the pasta could be a blend of dried pasta and some fresh pasta.

To flavour the VIRTU‘ dish many fresh herbs can be used such as sage, marjoram, thyme, celery, parsley, wild mint, wild fennel, dill and spices included pepper and nutmeg.

Wild Asparagus in Abruzzo
Wild Asparagus in Abruzzo

 

It is truly a feast for the senses!

On your next Italy vacation, tour more of Italy and a visit to Abruzzo is a must on your Italy tour programme where you can discover this seasonal celebration and other great traditional dishes.

If you want to try making this dish here is the recipe from Bon Appetit 

Well BUON APPETITO to you!

Every January 16 in Fara Filorum Petri, a small village in Abruzzo – the miracle of Saint Anthony Abbott is relived. He is known as the patron saint of animal keepers, butchers and basket makers as well as guarding against fires. Born in 251 AD in Egypt and the son of wealthy parents, he renounced his riches and found solace in meditation and lived in the desert. Here he was tempted many times by the Devil and renounced him many times. 
He is also remembered and celebrated in Abruzzo for the expulsion of the advancing French army  into Italy in 1799.
Each hamlet of the village creates a “farchia”- enormous columns of reed cane which are bound together tightly and then paraded through the village and brought all together in the main piazza. The heavy columns are hauled up by many men and then set fire to. Many are filled with fireworks also, so a spectacular scene to behold in the bitter cold night of January on the edge of the Maiella National Park.
I was fortunate enough to be part of the festivities one cold winter. The festa started weeks before at each hamlet preparing the ‘farchia’ – the locals gather to eat and drink wonderfully prepared food by the team of Abruzzese women, songs and praises to Saint Anthony would be sung throughout the evening.
On the final evening of the burning of the ‘farchie’ thousands of Italians fill the piazza. After the long procession, the singing, the praying, the grand finale spectacular of the burning and fireworks follows. The columns are thought to symbolise the oak forest that Saint Anthony’s presence turned into troops to repel the French army of 1799.

PictureA large farchia or pole being built

In the coldest part of winter, a few villages in Abruzzo celebrate the feast day of Saint Anthony the Abbott (not Saint Anthony of Padua)… Every January 16 in Fara Filorum Petri, a small village in Abruzzo – the miracle of Saint Anthony Abbott is relived. He is remembered for the expulsion of the advancing French army of 1799.
I was fortunate enough to visit with friends and be invited to be a part of the festivities one cold winter. The festa started weeks before at each hamlet preparing the ‘farchia’ – the locals gather to eat and drink wonderfully prepared food by the team of Abruzzese women, songs and praises to Saint Anthony would be sung throughout the evening.
On the final evening of the burning of the ‘farchie’ thousands of Italians fill the piazza. After the long procession, the singing, the praying, the grand finale spectacular of the burning and fireworks follows. The columns are thought to symbolise the oak forest that Saint Anthony’s presence turned into troops to repel the French army of 1799.
Each hamlet of the village creates a “farchia”- enormous columns of reed cane which are bound together tightly and then paraded through the village and brought all together in the main piazza. The heavy columns are hauled up by many men and then set fire to. Many are filled with fireworks also, so a spectacular scene to behold in the bitter cold night of January on the edge of the Maiella National Park.

Picture
The farchie lit up and burnt late into the night..