For those who think confetti is a paper thing you throw at weddings (coriandoli in Italian), the Pelino family’s Abruzzo variant is a little more organic and consists of the most divinely crisp-sugared Sicilian almonds that contain no cornflower or starch, perfect for the gluten intolerant. They are meant to represent bittersweet married life, the almonds the bitter and sweet their sugared shells.
Pelino Confetti has been Sulmona’s biggest exporter since 1783, crafting a Roman fertility tradition that grew in the C13th when sweet-makers began to ply their craft with sugar rather than honey, which in turn gave the hallowed crispness that the former honey variety lacked. By the C15th the local Sulmona nuns of Santa Chiara were acting as the chief sweetmakers of the city, working the individual confetti into rosaries, flowers, grapes and wheat to name just a few and in affect building the city’s fame in the newly emerged sugar trade.
Taking a visit to the Pelino Confetti Museum and their wood-panelled sweet shop, with shelves of assorted giant potted candy, you get a history of Sulmona via the family mementoes combined with the bewitching aromas of candy, caramel, vanilla and memories of artisan sweeties that are measured by the scoop. There are none of those plastic slugs best chewed when you are feeling really angry anywhere here, this is a real candy store and as such gets really busy!
You get a glimpse of the firm’s sweet-making today – that, despite steam and electricity still takes 4 days to create a perfectly coated sugar almond. There are centuries-old large copper pots, vats, tools galore that have been used to finesse sugar almonds through the ages. It is fascinating… and interesting tracing how the sugar trade made the leading sugared almond makers by the end of the C19th & C20th, the first in Sulmona to afford a car, telephone and so on, it’s not an end product or something you automatically think about when studying the sugar trade.
I must admit my personal favourites of this sweet making house were the dangerous Cuore di Amarena – a cherry covered with dark chocolate & almond in a crisp shell that even haters of marzipan like substances like my partner found a little too addictive. I don’t know if it was high cocoa content, or just exiting the building after inhaling that rich heady scent for an hour and bagging 3, but to say I felt giddy and giggly is an understatement, and I’m sure it provided the steam to walk back into Sulmona on a very hot summer’s day.
For UK & Canada lovers of orange smarties (they are called something different in the USA), do try the Pelino variety made with an old Abruzzo tangerine liqueur called Rosolio, definitely not so sweet, a little sharp even but what a flood of flavour.
Entrance: Free & an English speaking guide is available to take you round if you ask at receiption
Address: Via Stazione Introdacqua, 55 | 67039| SULMONA
Tel: 0864 210047 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org |WWW: pelino.it