My Italy - by Luciana Masci

December 13, 2013

CIT invited Luciana Masci, owner and tour leader of Touring Abruzzo, to share with us 'a taste of Italy'.

Luciana Masci in Abruzzo

Please tell us a little bit about you (and your Italian heritage?)
I was born in Australia to Italian parents who hail from the region of Abruzzo in central Italy.
I visited Italy for the first time when I was 8 yrs old (in the 70s). My parents took their 3 children over and it was the first time they had returned to visit Abruzzo since their migration in the ‘50’s. 
Since then I have visited Italy many times, but I am always drawn back to my roots, to my large extended family still in Abruzzo.

Where have you travelled in Italy?
I have travelled to most regions in Italy – however I still have to explore some of the south - Sardinia, Puglia, Calabria and Basilicata

In Europe?
Everytime I go to Italy I have to see a bit more of Europe as well. I have enjoyed Spain, Portugal and France. My last trip was a special birthday and I decided to be adventurous and went on a bike and canal boat tour through Netherlands and Belgium. It was fabulous – great scenery, the people were friendly and the Belgian chocolate a real highlight!

What is your favourite place in Italy is (and why?)
I guess I am biased but having travelled extensively through Italy nothing can really beat the beauty and tranquility of the medieval village next to mine in Abruzzo. It is called Pennapiedimonte and it is in the Maiella National Park – the walking tracks are wonderful, the mountain scenery and spectacular limestone gorges are unforgettable and the water so fresh as it continuously flows out of the rocks.. It is my ‘go to’ place to chill out and read a book and let the world slip by for a while.

Top 3 Italy highlights or favourite places to visit?
1) The Gran Sasso National Park in Abruzzo – see the highest peak of the Apennines towering above at nearly 3000 metres..hundreds of sheep grazing on this high alpine pastures..this is real Italy.

2) Aeolian Islands  – the island of Salina is outstanding and I have been back several times… for the volcanic crater, the crystalline blue waters and the amazing granitas!

3) Torino (Turin), in the Piemonte region (in the north of Italy). It has it all - amazing history and culture, museums like the great Egyptian museum, the royal palaces of the Savoia family..and wonderful food.

Also in October is the Slow Food Fair (on every 2 years). The cheeses and the chocolate are divine and the aperitivi in the main squares are fabulous.

What are your favourite Italian recipes/dishes/flavours?
I have been cooking since I was 16 so have really done a lot of Italian cooking. Over the years, as I have learnt more about my heritage and my people, I have come to love flavours like saffron, truffles and cooking with good extra-virgin olive oil (that is for savoury and for sweet dishes/baking). These ingredients are all abundunt in Abruzzo!

One of my favourite recipes has to be Mussels cooked in SaffronHere is the recipe and some photos of the prized saffron in Abruzzo and the mussel dish itself…mmm squisito!

Mussels in Saffron Infused Saffron 

3 things you shouldn’t miss when in Italy?
1) Spending time strolling through the local markets – with fresh seasonal food or stalls selling wonderful kitchen wares.

2) Being there for a local village festival – usually in summertime. There are religious festivals, food festivals and cultural festivals..all wonderful!

3) Time to enjoy an Aperol Spritz. Wherever you are in Italy, in any piazza, this is a drink to have for aperitif, and it is served with some savoury snacks. Just the thing to sit and watch the world go by….Italian style!!

What do you think we can learn from Italians and their attitude to life ie. “la dolce vita”?
I think the notion of slowing down, time to enjoy family and friends over a wonderful home cooked meal, even simple dishes but the fact of being together is the important thing.
Also that food and produce is so seasonal, you really get a sense of this living there. There is a time and place for everything.

What would you suggest for travellers seeking the “Italian way of life”?
To experience the “Italian way of life” you need to step off the main tourist track, explore the road less travelled, travel amongst locals.  Only by doing this can you truly experience their way of life.

Be brave and explore lesser known places and regions. Walk the back streets of any busy town and see the ‘real Italy’.

Buon viaggi!

For more information on Abruzzo and CIT's range of Abruzzo tours in central Italy, click here or email CIT at citonline@cit.com.au
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