Italy is one of the most desired countries to visit in the world, however, it keeps many interesting stories and recipes hidden in its small towns. One such town is called Alvito, located in a beautiful valley in the Apennine Mountains, south of Rome.
This picturesque town hangs over a hill, stretching from the very top with ruins of a castle to an emerald-green valley. Founded in the 10th century, here you will find numerous palaces from the 18th century to marvel at. There are no tourists here and the locals welcome me on the street, give me advice, and tell me stories. I came here to feel the breath of the cold Apennines, walk through the old city and learn its history. And I found one story, in particular, to be very unique.
Walking through any old Italian town is always a visual pleasure. Here, it is even better due to the lack of tourists. Old churches, winding narrow streets to climb up or down. The simple elements of Italian identity – demijohns used for wine, old utensils, wrought-iron doorbells. It was amazing. The calming atmosphere of balance, where the warmth of the sun is felt on your skin, just as the wind from the Apennines peaks touches you with its chill, makes this a special place.
The whole town feels like a living antique. From the medieval windows at the old market gates to the old palaces, which remind me of a glorious time when the town was the capital of the principality and a part of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies. I leave the town gates to stroll along the beautiful plain tree alley and draw fresh water from the fountain. There is a small bar not far from the gate, I decide to go in. The sign reads “Torrone ducato di Alvito”. I have lived in South Lazio for several years, but I have never heard of this torrone. Traditional Italian torrone is famous all over the world, but not this particular type.
This is where the story begins.
Alvito was on the periphery of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and thanks to this, the Sicilian tradition of almond paste sweets has roots here. The story of Pasticceria Macioce and torrone ducato di Alvito is the story of almond paste in a family interpretation. At the beginning of 1900, Vittorio Macioce went to study pastry in Rome, in a famous pastry shop that served the royal court of Savoy. Having received the necessary knowledge, he returned to his hometown to open a pastry shop and revise an old local recipe. This is how the delicate torrone ducato di Alvito was born. Its main characteristic is that the sweet taste of tender almond paste is balanced by the thinnest layer of dark chocolate.
Signor Macioce passed on his knowledge by inheritance, and now the smiling and friendly granddaughter protects the family secret. She casually mentions that she studied to be a pharmacist, but her love for sweets turned out to be stronger, and she continued the work of her grandfather. She talks about her experiments, asks me to try their torrone with bergamot, pine nuts, cherry, rum. The old laboratory now produces mostaccioli, crocantini, sesamini, colombe, panettone. All of these are delicious examples of Italian artisanal production. But the main character – torrone ducato – received the most awards (Slow food, Gambero Rosso, and others).
Then, in 2005, Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori took torrone ducato aboard the International Space Station as an example of traditional products of the Lazio region!
An amazing story like this is often very close by, you just have to talk to the locals and take trips to new places to find them!