But my adoration for this small town wasn’t always so. In fact, I downright loathed it when I was a kid who, twice, had to spend her entire summer there. I thought it was torture, and other than the fact of getting to know my aunts, uncles and cousins, I could not understand how my parents thought I would enjoy having to spend three consecutive months in a place where chickens outnumbered people.
No pool? No movie theatre? No shopping mall? No pasteurized milk? No toast? Are you kidding me?! Those summers when I was 11 and 13 were eternal!
In fact, I was so saturated with Galluccio’s “old country” traits, I steered clear of it for almost a decade – without any desire to go back anytime soon.
Yet, when I finally went back in my 20s, I discovered that what I used to consider “old country traits” were exactly what gave Galluccio its warmth, charm and authenticity.
Granted, things had evolved in the town as well – livestock no longer outnumbered people in the early 21st century. But even still, there was something suddenly appealing to me about being in a place where you are no further than a 15-minute walk from any place you need to run an errand; in a place where you can hand-pick every fruit for your fruit salad from the garden in the back of your house; in a place where you can sip a cappuccino in the piazza as you take in the mountainous view and greet every passer-by by their first name.
As a young adult, I loved the slow, relaxing pace of Galluccio village life so much, I went back five times in six years.
During my visits, I became familiar with the history of the beautiful comune of Galluccio. The town has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era, but it was the Italian population known as Aurunci who really left their mark. The Auruncan territory extended in the area of Roccamonfina, between the Liri and the Volturno rivers. They were attacked by the Romans in the 6th century BC, and it’s believed the town got its name after the man who formed one of the colonies there – Trebonio Gallo.
Today, the town that sits between folds of the grand Monte Camino and the stunning volcanic ranges of Roccamonfina measures 32 square kilometres.
Galluccio has 6 frazioni:
- Vaglie: a small place that is home to the San Giacomo church.
- Calabritto: a trip back in time, with its narrow alleyways and arches made of white rock.
- Campo: featuring spurs of rock that emerge near the Peccia River as its 30-metre waterfalls run through the forest.
- Galluccio: the frazione which lends its name to the town, it is rich with history and art. The Saint Nicola Chapel, built in the 12th century, sits in the town’s centre.
- Sipicciano: known for its breathtaking view of Monte Camino, the highest point of this frazione sits 860 metres above sea level and is encompassed by chestnut fields.
- Last but not least, my favourite San Clemente: The ‘downtown’ of Galluccio, this frazione is the biggest in size and population. It’s the place to be: town hall is here, the main Piazza Umberto I is always filled with young people who go out for a drink at one of the bars, the weekly Sunday market is held here, and San Clemente is often host to many events and festivals in the area. It’s a good thing, because events and festivals are frequent. Let’s begin in January, when residents come out on the 16th in hats, gloves and scarves to build a blazing bonfire in the middle of the piazza that will burn for the next 24 hours to honour Sant’Antonio Abate, the town’s patron saint.
May is time for l’Ascensione. On the first Sunday of May, the Gallucciani spend about 2 hours hiking up Monte Camino. Once they get to the summit, they visit the Madonna di Camino chapel that sits on the peak, say a prayer, and then eat breakfast – picnic style – on the mountain.
Another festival only seen in Galluccio is the Mostra dell’Artigianato every July. This is a festival celebrating authentic Gallucciani dishes. Here, people can enjoy old-style traditional recipes such as Fasuri e Castegne, Spaghetti co Agliniegli, Trippa Re Vitella, Mazzabotte, Crispiegli, Pizza Casata Rustica, Struffoli and Guanti.
Ferragosto is the season when Italians are on vacation, so August is the perfect to host the nine-day beer Festival Beer. Hundreds of people stop by Galluccio this time of year to savour beers imported from around the world.
The Festa dei Cacciatori, also in August, is one for meat-lovers! It honours the regions’ hunters. Here, dinner is served for the entire town, and the menu is made up of meats from animals raised and hunted in the region alone.
The Sagra dell’Uva cannot be forgotten. Here, a procession takes place in the month of September, and the Gallucciani make floats for a parade to celebrate the region’s vineyards and grapes that produce the local wine: Vino D.O.C. Galluccio. One of the most famous spots to stop for a bottle of red or white is at La Starza. This agriturismo is the town’s most popular one, drawing tourists and residents from outlying regions. The view is stunning as you sip on your favourite wine or eat a pizza while enjoying a view of a lake that lies just below Monte Camino.
Another hidden treasure? The breathtaking fields of chestnut trees that fill the mountainous landscape near the Roccamonfina Volcano. Legend has it that at the beginning of the 1400s, the Franciscan San Bernadino da Siena, accompanied by San Giacomo Delia Marca, made a pilgrimage to Roccamonfina to pay homage to the Madonna dei Lattani. When the monk arrived at his destination, he thought about building a convent in the area and, in order to find out God’s will, he planted his dry chestnut-wood stick in the ground and it immediately sprouted. Chestnuts are still a vital economic activity in the region, and are exported all over the world.
In fact, the region’s infamous chestnuts are exactly what inspire Gallucciani living in Montreal to get together. This is thanks to the Associazione Gallucciana del Quebec, which was founded in 1965 (in the middle of the decade when many Campani were immigrating to Montreal.) Every year in November – right when chestnut season is at its peak – La Castagnata is held. It’s a night of dinner and dancing, followed by baskets of hot, roasted chestnuts being served at each table at the stroke of midnight…a time to eat, enjoy, remember and honour Galluccio!
Written by Sabrina Marandola