Even though we’ve stayed in Calitri four times we haven’t even begun exploring the many small towns in this area of Irpinia. I looked at a map and then got on the computer to do some research when I came across an article on I Borghi Piu’ Belli d’Italia-the most beautiful towns in Italy and there was Monteverde, about 8 miles from Calitri.
The countryside between the two towns is hilly and Monteverde is located on the top of a mountain. As we wound our way up to the town the views were stunning-fields of green as far as the eye could see. A pack of about seven barking dogs came out of nowhere and followed us for a while. It was pretty quiet when we got to town and there was the castle looming about everything so we decided to hike up.
Located at the very top of the town the castle overlooks the valley of the Ofanto and Osento rivers. Construction began in the ninth century and was inhabited by aristocratic families from 1059 to 1932 when the last lord died.
We were happy to poke around the outside of the building when we met two Italian gentlemen who struck up a conversation with us. Turns out they were from Calitri and and after telling them our story it turns out one of them had relatives living in the small town in NY where I grew up and he had actually been there-small world! They called the caretaker who had the keys to the interior of the castle and he drove over to give us a private tour. He spoke no English and I did my best to keep up and translate for J. The interior is quite rustic, but there were a variety of high tech videos and even a virtual reality experience, which had us sitting on a donkey exploring the countryside!
While walking around town we asked three different people where we should have lunch and they all named the same place- Al Giardino Ristorante. After touring the castello we were happy to follow their advice and stopped in for lunch. The food was simple and representative of the area. We started wth a salumi platter that included three local cheeses. I spied pizza fritta on the menu and didn’t hesitate to order it. I took one bite and I was instantly transported to my grandmother’s kitchen. I enjoyed another classic dish from my childhood-ricotta stuffed handmade ravioli while J. had spaghetti with a meat sauce topped with toasted bread crumbs, which is common in the south. It was exactly the lunch we had hoped for.
A few years back we did venture out to Melito Irpino and had an unforgettable three hour lunch at Di Pietro. There isn’t much to the town (as the medieval center was destroyed in the 1962 earthquake), but the experience at this restaurant is certainly worth a detour if you are anywhere in the vicinity.
Via Fontana 4, Monteverde (province of Avellino)