Walking through the mountains and along the coastlines of Campania, Italy, earned me a touch of Italy uncommon to most travelers. The Italian people opened the doors to their kitchens and homes in the following off-the-beaten-path towns. Proud to share their regional foods and delicacies, cooks and growers introduced me to fabulous local cheeses, wines and other specialties.
A Taste and a Touch of Italy: Northcentral Campania
Walking is a slow way to travel but the payback is an immersive experience that allows you to taste and touch the local culture. I’ll share with you what I ate during this out-of-the-ordinary journey. That way, you don’t have to walk, but you can travel by car to these towns to taste and touch on your own—or with local guides.
Table of Contents
Where is Campania, Italy?
The Campania region of Italy is south of Rome, which BTW is in the neighboring Lazio region. Campania’s western border is the Mediterranean Sea called the Tyrrhenian, or Tirreno Sea, in that part of the world. The Campanian Apennines rise not far east from the coast, and those are mountains through which I walked.
Naples, the Best-Known City in Campania
My route followed the Appian Way or Via Appia around the Colosseum and south of Rome towards Naples. However, I did not go as far south as Naples—the best-known city in Campania—but walked to Italy’s west coast at Terracina and Gaeta before turning east and trekking over the Campanian Apennines on my way to the Adriatic coast. I was walking the Via Francigena del Sud.
Drive from Naples International Airport (NAP) to mountain towns around Monte Taburno, one of the highest peaks in the Campanian Apennine Mountains.
You probably know that Naples, located in the administrative region of Campania, is the birthplace of pizza. Farms in the mountains outside Naples produce mozzarella di bufala, or buffalo mozzarella, a key ingredient in Naples-style pizza. Although I knew that mozzarella di bufala campana was granted a DOC (denominazione di origine controllata,) I did not understand that it was made from the milk of Italian Mediterranean buffalo, an Italian breed of water buffalo.
Buffalo Mozzarella Genuinely Delivers a Touch of Italy
Silly me, I thought buffalo referred not to the source of the milk but rather to the preparation method as in Buffalo hot wings. It wasn’t until I walked by the water buffalo statue in Terme di Telese that I put two and two together. The smooth and creamy cheese is known for its elastic texture, indeed a touch of Italy. New York Times calls it “one of the most elusive cheeses on earth.”
Where did the water buffalos come from?
So, where did the water buffalos come from? After researching that question, I found that the Italian Mediterranean buffalo origins are somewhat mysterious. Experts say perhaps they were introduced into Italy during Roman times or in the course of the Barbarian invasions of the Italian peninsula. Others postulate that crusaders and pilgrims returning from the Near East, where the Arabs had earlier introduced them from Mesopotamia, brought the water buffalo. Whatever their ancient heritage, Italian Mediterranean buffalo now deliver a touch of Italy that you won’t soon forget.
A Touch of Italy Dinner in Solopaca
I stayed at Dimora Tammaro bed and breakfast in Solopaca. My generous host, Luigi Tammoro, created four courses of a touch of Italy for me. The dinner included a local red wine, almost black in color. The antipasto course involved Vitulanese pecorino, a cheese made from sheep’s milk, local hard sausages, cured ham, pickled cauliflower, bread and fig jam. Oh, how I developed a craving for homemade fig jam on this walking journey.
Cime di Rape, AKA Broccoli Rabe
The next course was a fabulous smashed bean dish topped with sauteed cime di rape, AKA broccoli rabe. The sweetness of the beans balanced the bitter field greens perfectly, which made it a touch of Italy. I was finally able to take in (literally) the stunning beauty of the green landscape that I’d been walking through that rainy day. This would be the first rabe / rape I encountered along the Via Francigena. Later, however, I would eat a lot of the “peasant food” that is especially popular in the upcoming Puglia region.
By the way Luigi lovingly placed the pasta course in front of me, I could tell that he was proud of his hand-cut and stuffed tortellini. Savory meat filled the pasta pockets, gently bathed in a thin olive oil and garlic sauce and crowned with coarsely-grated cheese.
Dessert with a Touch of Italy: Liquore Strega
Luigi introduced me to another local’s favorite, Liquore Strega when he poured it as a digestif with dessert. The vibrant yellow liqueur gets its color from the distillation of over 70 botanicals, including Ceylon cinnamon, Florentine iris, fennel, juniper, mint and saffron. The whole-foods natural product was first created in Benevento in 1860. In two days walking, I would be in Benevento, a town known for its Roman arch—and I learned that night—Liquore Strega. The semi-sweet herbal liqueur paired well with the tart lemon gelato and almond biscotti.
I was reluctant to leave the following day after breakfast. I’d settled into the comfortable abode with its fabulous food and charming hosts. “I must now go walk in the rain,” I said to Luigi and his wife.
“I’m sorry,” Luigi said in English as if he were responsible for the weather.
A Touch of Italy: Vitulano
Luigi must have felt so sorry for me that when the rain hadn’t let up by midafternoon, he called Niccola Matarazzo, my host at B&B Nonna Carmela in Vitulano, to come to pick me up. Niccola arrived after I’d huffed up two mountain passes in the Taburno Camposauro Regional Park, protected for its biodiversity. I was so happy to see the car pulling over, although I had no idea that the Good Samaritan was the owner of the bed and breakfast where I would stay that night.
In the next blog post, I’ll share a touch of Italy in Vitulano. Niccola’s friend Anna Si Soto made me feel at home in this hidden gem of a town in Campania. I’d heard about Anna from my new friends in Cori a few weeks earlier. They connected me with her on Instagram. So Anna and I already felt like friends before we met in person. Read the rest of the story at:
The Delectable Food in Campania: Your Typical Food in Italy
For personalized tastings and guided tours in Puglia and Campania, Italy, contact my friend Anna Si Soto:
Puglia-Campania & Co.
- Via SS. Trinita, 82038 Vitulano BN, Italy
- +39 324 879 6458
Cheat Sheet: What to Eat in Campania for A Touch of Italy
In conclusion, here’s a list of what to eat in Campania as described above and in the upcoming blog post:
- Aglianico red wine
- Buffalo Mozzarella / mozzarella di bufala campana
- Cecatielli pasta
- Cime di Rape, AKA Broccoli Rabe
- Falanghina white wine
- Liquore Strega
- Puparuoli ‘mbuttunati / stuffed papacella peppers
- Spaghetti alle vongole
- Vitulanese Pecorino sheep’s milk cheese
#weareincampania #iloveyou #sanvalentino #emozioni #cenaromantica #foodpornography #campania #love #dinner #specialmoments @dimoratammaro
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