Abruzzo is among the top 5 regions of Italy for the production of wines and in the countryside of the Province of Chieti, between the Adriatic and the mountain, lies 80% of the region’s vineyards: the diamond point of this territory being Ortona with its orographic structure and rolling hills, rich in rivers and streams, represents the best winemaking of Abruzzo in terms of quality and quantity.
The wines, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano, Cerasuolo, Pecorino, Passerina and Cococciola, are the expression of this land rich in tradition and innovations.
Besides the various private cellars, there are two wine growers’ cooperatives and a consortium of cooperatives for bottling present on the territory, all internationally acknowledged.
Corvo Palace, in the historic centre of Ortona, hosts the Regional Wine Cellar of Abruzzo, where you can taste and buy a wide variety of local wines. Alongside the winemaking qualities, there is an equally unique and refined production of oil.
BETWEEN SEA AND LAND
The cuisine of Ortona is the happy marriage between the products of the sea and those of the earth. Among the typical dishes you can find the brodetto, fish soup with tomatoes, peppers and EV olive oil, served in terracotta pots; baccalà e patate in umido, salted codfish and potato stew; broccoli e stoccafisso, broccoli and stockfish; baccalà e peperoni, salted codfish and peperoni; seppie e piselli, squid and peas; finally, spaghetti con pelosi o frutti di mare, spaghetti with crab or seafood, and frittura di pesce dell’Adriatico, fried fish of the Adriatic. Tied to the rural tradition is pasta alla chitarra, handmade pasta with mixed meat ragù, cardone in brodo di tacchino, cardoon in turkey soup, pallotte cace e ove, cheese dumplings (made of eggs, grated cheese and breadcrumbs), pizze e fuoije (sautéed mixed greens accompanied by cornbread).
Among the traditional desserts are the nevole, cone-shaped rolled wafers made with mosto cotto, oil and flour, flavoured with cinnamon and baked between two heated iron plates like the pizzelle, a re-elaborated version of the pizzelle of Abruzzo.
Points of interest
The city tour starts from Terravecchia promontory, the hamlet of sailors, overlooking the Adriatic with its quaint narrow streets, the alleyways, the remains of ancient walls built to defend the city and the Aragonese Castle, an imposing defensive building wanted by King Alfonso of Aragon around 1452, after the Venetians had destroyed the port. Built on the ruins of an ancient fortress, with five lateral towers, it was damaged in World War II and in 1946 a landslide caused the collapse of the northern wing.
The ancient Corso Matteotti overlooks Corvo Palace (XVI-XVII centuries). The premises on the ground floor have housed the Enoteca Regionale d’Abruzzo (Regional Winery of Abruzzo); the first floor is the headquarters of the National Tosti Institute with the Musical Museum of Abruzzo. In the museum, through original photographs, letters, score notes, books and furniture that belonged to Francesco Paolo Tosti, you can trace the life of the musician and composer: born in Ortona in 1846 and died in Rome in 1916, he had a prolific output of romanze and chamber music published by Ricordi and lived for over thirty years in London as a singing teacher for the British Royal Family.
Strolling along Corso Matteotti, you can encounter the Cathedral of St. Thomas the Apostle and the homonymous square. From September 6, 1258, it has enshrined the remains of the Apostle Thomas stolen in Chios, Aegean island, by Leon of Ortona during a naval expedition and by the end of the XIV century the temple was referred to as being dedicated to the Patron Saint of the city. The Patron Saint’s Day falls on the first weekend of May, and from Saturday to Monday, visiting the tomb, you can obtain the plenary indulgence of St. Thomas’ forgiveness.
Three chapels of the Cathedral have been destined to the Diocesan Museum, which houses important works of painting, sculpture and jewelery dating from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth century. The church is also the finish line of the Way of the Apostle Thomas, a religious-cultural itinerary of over 450 km that reproposes the value of pilgrimage of the most important spiritual locations of Abruzzo.
After walking through the alleys of the old quarter, you go down the long promenade overviewing the sea, the Orientale, and you reach Farnese Palace, built by the Duchess Margaret of Austria, daughter of Charles V and wife of Ottavio Farnese, when, after the purchase of the city in February 1582, she decided to establish her residence in Ortona. Lady Margaret chose the most picturesque place of the city and the building project was entrusted to the Roman architect Giacomo Della Porta. The Palace is home to the “Basilio and Michele Cascella” Gallery, which exhibits the works of three generations of the famous family of artists.
Continuing along the Orientale, you enter the Terranova hamlet, where you find the “F.P.Tosti” theatre, the cultural heart of the city. It was designed in 1927 and funded by the engineer Tommaso Pincione of Ortona. It was inaugurated in 1930 and for several decades was privately owned.
The square of the Theatre divides it from the Oratorium of the Miraculous Crucifix and of the Sant’Anna complex which houses, on the ground floor, the Public Library, and on the first floor, the MUBA (Museum of the Battle), which exhibits artifacts and documents on the dramatic battles that in December 1943 almost completely destroyed the city with more than 1,300 civilian victims, so as to be called by Winston Churchill, the “little Stalingrad”.
The Terranova hamlet closes the perimeter of the ancient walls at Porta Caldari; Via Constantinople leads upwards to the church of St. Mary of Constantinople, dating from the seventeenth century, while the original building is of the XIII century.
In the Terranova hamlet of St. Francis Square, there is the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, also rebuilt after the war; guarding the remains of the Blessed Lorenzo of Villamagna, who died in the convent of Ortona in 1535.
On the hill of the San Donato hamlet, four kilometers south from the city centre, on the edge of the Adriatic Speedway 16, stands the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery. There lie the mortal remains of 1,615 soldiers fallen in World War II, belonging to Canadian regiments, who paid the highest toll in the Battle of Ortona.