Now You Can Adopt a Sheep

Adopt a sheep

A Single Face – © Jed Smith

Yes, you can adopt a sheep in Italy, even if you’re halfway across the world.

And by doing so, you help support an organic sheep and goat farm deep in the mountains of Abruzzo, Italy. You get to name him or her, get an identity card and certificate, and you will have artisanal cheeses and wool products shipped to you as part of your sponsorship.

Master Shepherd Nunzio Marcelli birthed the Adopt a Sheep program twenty years ago.

As part of my in-depth visit to Nunzio’s organic farm, La Porta dei Parchi, I had the good fortune to sit down with him and hear firsthand about the program.

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La Porta dei Parchi – An Organic Farm Ahead of Its Time

La Porta dei Parchi

The Gathering – © 2018 Jed Smith

Organic farming was a unique concept forty years ago.

Looking back to the late seventies and early eighties, I remember how organic products were a rare find. Only a few health food stores carried them. An organic way of life was considered more of a hippy, counter-culture type of thing.

So, imagine my surprise to learn that master shepherd Nunzio Marcelli resolved to build an organic sheep and goat farm, La Porta dei Parchi, forty years ago in the majestic mountains of Abruzzo.

The realization of La Porta dei Parchi is an inspiring story.

As you will find out in the following video, which is Part One of a four-part series, Nunzio was unlike many of his contemporaries who left their small villages in search of a more cosmopolitan life.

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Join Me for a Tour of an Inspiring Organic Farm in Abruzzo

Organic farm, Italywise

My visit to the organic farm, La Porta dei Parchi, in Abruzzo.

Go deep.

This is becoming my mantra here in Italy. The potential for rich experiences is plentiful. But it’s easy to zoom by, to just take it in all in too superficially because there IS so much and you can find yourself trying to accumulate and check off as many experiences as possible. It’s easy to feel anxious that you simply won’t be able to cover it all.

La Porta dei Parchi, a spectacular organic farm situated in the towering Apennine mountains in Abruzzo, has been an experience that keeps unfolding the more I’ve been willing to look deeper and not simply do a quick “drive by.”

Take an introductory video tour with me.

I love reaching out and bringing people closer to what I consider as worthy experiences in Italy.

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Back in the Kitchen with Novelia for Spaghetti alla Chitarra!

Spaghetti alla chitarra

A 200-Year-Old Chitarra – © 2018 Jed Smith

A chitarra that makes pasta, not music?

I argue that it makes both, especially after another guided journey in “la cucina” with my dear friend Novelia. Could spaghetti alla chitarra be that much better than spaghetti made with an expensive KitchenAid? Plenty.

Can the hands infuse some magical quality to pasta?

After this experience, I’d say “Yes!” Maybe grounding oneself in the simplicity of days gone by has benefits. Maybe making pasta without the help (and ease) of modern technology can bring us back to an essential reverence for creating that which sustains us.

Novelia, with her spaghetti alla chitarra has made me a convert.

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Pietrantonj is Abruzzo’s Oldest Winery

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Pietrantonj

Cerano Montepulciano d”Aruzzo Riserva from Pietrantonj

One thing leads to another.

This is becoming my motto in life, with one additional clarifier. One thing leads to another when you give yourself over to the flow of life and say “Let’s play!” Well, my introduction to Pietrantonj, Abruzzo’s oldest winery, is a prime example of things organically falling into place. First, came my visit to Sulmona and a fulfilled wish to witness my dear friend Novelia crafting her handmade pasta. I was over the moon that Novelia invited me into the kitchen with my camera to capture her artistry. As Novelia and I were plotting our cooking session, the topic of pairing wines worthy of her creations arose. Immediately, Novelia exclaimed, “Pietrantonj, of course!” Then, Novelia made a call to the Pietrantonj family and I was in like flint in short order to have a personal tour and tasting with Alice Pietrantonj, one of the three daughters.

The experience evolved.

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Fall in Love with Novelia and Fettuccine “a mano”

Fettuccine, Italywise

Fettuccine al mano – © 2018 Jed Smith

Am I a lucky man or not?

After you view the video contained in this post, I believe you’ll quickly respond in the affirmative. Just two weeks ago, I had the supreme good fortune to spend time in Sulmona, Abruzzo with my dear friend Novelia—this time to receive a personal demonstration of how to create pasta entirely by hand. Yep, not a single bit of assistance with modern appliances. We started with fettuccine, made with giant duck eggs, no less. That was followed by spaghetti made with a 200-year-old chitarra, but that is worthy of its own post (stay tuned).

I’ve never experienced a woman with so much reverence and love for her culinary creations.

Novelia’s fettuccine “a mano” is tangible proof. This is not someone just going through the steps dutifully. She is an artisan in the highest sense. Her hands at work easily could be those of a master sculptor.

She talks to her ingredients.

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For Love of Frittelle

Frittelle, Italywise

Frittelle easily brings out the animal appetites.

What’s the big deal with frittelle?

After all, it’s JUST fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar, right? That was my superior attitude until I remembered I had been a devotee of Krispy Kreme growing up. And vacations in New Orleans taught me to swoon at the first bite of a beignet. So who was I to pass judgment on yet another incarnation of fried dough? Italians adore this treat, and visitors easily become converts.

Also called fritole, these pastries originated as Venetian doughnuts. Traditionally they were served during Carnevale, but now you can find them all over Italy year-round, especially at local festivals, in all shapes and sizes––particularly the large “disk” incarnation pictured above. We even found a frittelle truck in the parking lot of Obi (an Italian equivalent of Home Depot). The basic preparation is fried, yeast-risen dough that is sprinkled with powdered sugar. But, more elaborate additions are found, such as raisins and pine nuts, and pastry cream fillings.

How can Italians eat so many sweets like frittelle?

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Sportoletti Cantina, in Umbria, Makes Amazing Wine

Sportoletti Cantina

Sportoletti excels at making beautifully rendered wines at great prices

Fair warning. I’m going to gush. But, for good reason. Just over eight years ago a bit of research and persistence turned up recommendations by other wine lovers to seek out the Sportoletti Cantina, which is south of Assisi, and just north of Spello. I had been making a list of wineries to visit in nearby Montefalco, home of the spectacular Sagrantino (a BIG wine that ages spectacularly), when I came across this one fellow’s article urging readers to visit Sportoletti. I’m one to follow advice to veer off the beaten path. Boy, am I glad I did.

Sportoletti Cantina has been around since the late seventies

The family started out, playing around with several varietals. Years later, they’d focused their efforts for five wines – two red, two whites, and a dessert wine. Yes, they wisely decided on perfecting fewer wines vs having a huge selection. Today, Sportoletti produces somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter-of-a-million bottles of wine. And, guess what? Many of them make their way to the United States. I hope, by the time you’ve watched my video about this winery 

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Venice’s Anice Stellato Delivers an Amazing Culinary Experience

Anice Stellato

Prepare yourself for a special dining experience

Finding a worthy culinary experience in Venice isn’t so easy.

Why? Unfortunately, the bulk of restaurants in Venice are heavily focused on two things – tourists, and turning a profit. In my opinion and experience, dining well can be more of a challenge in Venice than in other Italian cities, for this very reason. And, this is why I consider having discovered Anice Stellato, many years ago, a gift from heaven.

Unfortunately, most visitors to Venice aren’t willing to venture too far off the well-worn thoroughfares, where experiences like Anice Stellato await. Instead, people find themselves

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Valdobbiadene Will Deepen Your Love Affair with Prosecco

Prosecco, Valdobbiadene, ItalyWise

Prosecco wines of Valdobbiadene

It seems only fitting, with the holiday season, to devote a post to the standard-bearer of celebratory wines here in Italy – Prosecco. Until recently, I had been sloppy about my Prosecco knowledge. That is, until my partner and I took the forty-five minute drive from Treviso to Valdobbiadene. This town and area, my friends, is THE bullseye when it come to the gold standard for prosecco.

Prosecco continues to become all the rage outside of Italy.  But beware of what you’re buying!

I’ve been one of those people – you know, who gets excited just hearing the word prosecco, without really understanding the vast differences between what is being marketed as prosecco. I’ve learned there are plenty of differences, and a lot of the prosecco being exported is appealing to the general idea of prosecco, and not to the elegant subtleties. The good news is that most people really enjoy the prosecco they are buying at the local grocery or wine shop. But, come to Italy and spend a day in Valdobiaddene, and you might realize you’ve been short-changing yourself.

A day of tastings in Valdobiaddene will help you zero in on the style you like best.

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