the white artichoke of Auletta
Spring is waking up slowly this year. However, today is a wonderful day and we are going to respond to the siren calls of Cilento.
In this wonderful afternoon of late April, we are heading to the hinterland of the province of Salerno, along the Alburni Mountains, which have already been the scenery for our lovely walks.
We can recognize the indented profile of the area, the woods rich in delicious smells and the custodians of delightful tastes. We would like to take a break in order to enjoy the beautiful landscape, but we do not want to risk being late: in a few hours we will be in Auletta for the inauguration of the White Artichoke Festival!
Auletta from a distance is a spectacle: a small naturalistic pearl, flanked by the River Tanagro and surrounded by century-old olive trees. In fact, it is known as “the country of olive oil”: here the cultivation and production techniques were introduced by the Greeks in the 6th century BC and have been handed down through generations. Favorable climatic conditions and features of the territory have made Auletta the cradle of the olive trees of Cilento and the keeper of secular traditions.
Among the ancient olive trees, for a moment, we’ve just had the impression of seeing the shape of a man. It was only the wind but we still have the feeling not to be alone: after all, these trees have witnessed the flow of time and who knows how many secrets they keep.
According to some people, the name of the village comes from the Latin word "olea” – oil – which emphasizes the main vocation of the territory. According to others, the name "Auletta" is linked to Auleto, the companion of Enea, who, according to the myth, has founded the town.
The historic center of Auletta seems to confirm the link between the village and the ancient legends: we are in a small square with an archaic charm – Largo Santi Quaranta – the heart of the town from which the typical narrow streets and stairways are branching off. We walk into one of the narrow streets and, after a few turns, we cross the most important historic buildings of Auletta: Castello Marchesale, a monumental structure of the 12th century, erected when the village was annexed to the Duchy of Salerno; the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which dates back to the first centuries after the year 1000 AD; and the Palazzi Gentilizi.
We’ve got back from our journey in the past and the sun has begun to set down, giving us a wonderful sight: the endless olive tree groves seem to be turning red and in the background stands the Casino dei Monaci, for a long time the summer residence of Benedictine monks, surrounded by a vast land rich in vineyards and olive trees. It looks like a postcard.
Unmistakable smells have distracted us from the contemplation of natural beauty and, by following the intense scent, we’ve reached our destination: we are in the midst of the White Artichoke Festival.
We are strolling around the stands of the festival with a gluttonous curiosity, tasting the traditional rural recipes. We are not shy when we are invited to try the most delicious dishes: small artichokes in oil and artichoke paté that melt gently in our mouth but do not prevent us from asking more information about this product with a unique flavor.
The white artichoke – they say – is so called because of its light green color, bordering on white, and because of its delicate flavor. Without thorns, unlike other artichokes, it can also be eaten uncooked. We’ve been invited to taste it raw, only seasoned with little olive oil: a real bite of paradise.
We are really satisfied and full, but we don’t want to leave the place empty-handed: we have stocked artichokes and we are looking forward to using them in our recipes!
The White Artichoke Festival is part of the project to promote products and events of the local tradition that Pastificio Antonio Amato has been carrying on since 2016. Keep following our journey to discover places and treasures of the province of Salerno.
Chef Pasquale Torrente's recipe
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