There’s a saying in Italy. “Molise non esiste.” Molise doesn’t exist.
It’s a running joke among Italians to pretend Molise doesn’t exists due to its small size and relative obscurity, even among Italians. If you ask your average Italian to tell you something about Molise, don’t expect much (if any) information! But it’s also a running joke among Molisani, the quirky inhabitants of Molise, who seem to enjoy the absurdity of being famous for being forgotten.
Molise is Italy’s newest region, created in 1963 when it was split off from the region then known as Abruzzi e Molise. Located on the mid-southeaster coast between Puglia and Abruzzo, it is also one of the smallest regions of Italy. It is a green, mostly mountainous paradise, with beautiful coastline along the Adriatic Sea.
What makes it such a cool destination for a culinary vacation in Italy is precisely the fact that it is off the radar of most tourists. Tourist traps don’t exist here. You will find only authentic Molisani, who love their land and are happy to show it to our culinary travelers.
Farm-to-Table on a Culinary Vacation in Italy
Molise is also a great destination for culinary vacations because it’s a strong agricultural area. Much of the region split into small family farms like the one you will stay at during your cooking vacation in Molise. This is a real farm-to-table experience! Molise is a producer of olive oil, wine, grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. But it also boasts a strong fishing culture along the coast, where the “trabocchi” fishing huts give evidence of the centuries of tradition in the area. What could be more natural than traveling there to explore authentic regional Italian cuisine?
The gastronomy of Molise is similar to that of Abruzzo, which should not be surprising. As a mostly rural region, its cuisine is that of the “cucina povera,” or “poor person’s cuisine.” This means it is based on simple, hearty ingredients grown locally (and eschewing expensive ingredients and imports). Molise is especially known for its pastas, which is one reason it’s such an amazing destination for a cooking vacation. But it is also known for the lamb that is raised on its mountain and hillside, for salumi, cheeses, fish (particularly along the coast), and offal (don’t worry, we won’t make you try it if you don’t want to!). One local specialty you will want to try? Pampanella, a spicy, slow-roasted pork dish that is found only in this area.
Molise has an ages-old tradition of cooking “local.” This means that when you’re learning to make pasta during our cooking vacation in Molise, you’ll be using grain harvested from the land on which you’re staying, ground at the local mill, and dressed with a sauce made from home-grown produce and meat. What could be better than that?
What to See in Molise
There is so much to delight you in Molise. The views are spectacular, with stunningly-perched mountain villages. You will find picturesque, centuries-old tratturi (the trails formed over time by pastoral farmers during the seasonal migrations of their flocks). And you can explore the archeological ruins from the Samnite people. These were the ancient inhabitants of the land who were one of ancient Rome’s most unbending adversaries.
So yes, Molise will delight you with the gorgeous views, pastoral scenes, and fascinating history. But what may delight you more is that it presents a slice of authentic, small-town life in Italy that has remained largely unchanged for generations.
Molise is known for also for some handicrafts, most famously the folding pocket knives made in Frosolone, as well as bells made in Agnone. They even make a type of Italian bagpipe known as a zampogna!
In short: Molise not only exists, it enchants. And it will enchant you when you discover on our Authentic Italy from the Mountains to the Sea 6-night culinary vacation.
By Peg Kern
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