If you love a holiday of colour and the wake-up zing of chillies in your food, September is the time to holiday in Abruzzo. This is the time that the local red chillies known as both diavolino (little devil) or peperoncino (depending where you are in Abruzzo) are harvested and hung bountifully up above doors and draped from balconies in the Gran Sasso mountain villages to be dried by the sun. They add a welcome blast of colour in a landscape mellowing its way into its Autumn olive harvest and rest period.
With the first press of the local grassy Abruzzo olive oil, these addictive little peppers are snipped into bite size pieces and popped in a jar to infuse and become known as ‘olio santo’ (holy oil). This is what keeps the cold out, the circulation going and a healthy feel-good glow that is ever so welcome when the snow and winter winds descend on Abruzzo’s famous mountainous regions. Of course, in the summer period they add a welcome sweat in what is often a parching heat!
Although Abruzzo is officially declared as Central Italy, via their delicate but ample use in cooking of what is known in the buttery north as the ‘spice of the poor’, the chilli identifies Abruzzo as ‘southern Italian’. Who needs a long, fuel-burning ragu when you can have a simple but wonderfully tasty spaghetti aglio, olio, e peperoncino (spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and chilli) that takes just 5 minutes to pull together.
If you are eating out in any Abruzzo restaurant or agriturismo do expect this month to be presented with a couple of fresh peppers and a pair of scissors with your meal and no ‘olio santo’. These are for you to snip and add their sweet heat fresh into the dishes. Generally, they will always be mild and nothing to give you hiccups.
Peperoncino Festivals – Filetto il Festival del Peperoncino Piccante
The small town of Filetto in the province of Chieti, Abruzzo now has a world famous chilli festival the 3rd week of August that runs for 4 days generally around the 21-24. Chillies from all over the world are presented to the thousands that throng through the little town eager to make the most of fiery heat that has flown over often many continents just to take part. Sadly they currently don’t have a website available…