The Castle on the Hill,

As we slowly lumbered up the hill, our car laden with too many suitcases, through the thick shadows of the night, we discerned the Castello Chiola sitting atop the highest peak of Loreto Aprutino. For sure the views from the roads that wind to Loreto Aprutino would be really picturesque, but we were not to know that until the next morning.

We arrived late, in a car borrowed from our friends at Capestrano. Our rental had managed, somehow, to hit a rough curb and have a tire explode thunderingly, leaving us stranded. Our spirits could not be dashed though, for Maria had prepared us a meal “con i fiocchi”, and then sent us on our way, exacting a promise to return their borrowed car as soon as ours could be fixed.

And so deep into the night we travelled, searching for the hotel that would be home for a few nights.

The Castello Chiola rises above a steep climb that with our borrowed Fiat in first gear, our heavy bodies satiated from a delicious meal, and our considerable luggage, we were lucky to reach. Truly my husband proved his prowess as a driver that night…. Regaining thus our confidence after having so brutally destroyed the rental car’s front tire.

But now we were here----at least we were at some mediaeval Castle, as far as we could see, that bedecked with a full knight’s armour at the entrance, welcomed us in.

We stopped to stare in amazement and exclaim our surprise at being so easily transported into the middle ages. But then a clear and pleasant voice called us to attention and invited us to approach the front desk with our documents.

We had arrived at a medieval fortress that has become an elegant residence which most obviously has been beautifully restored. We were shown to our spacious and stately rooms but just had time to brush our teeth before falling hard on the bed and into a deep dreamless sleep.

The next morning, a large and well-draped window introduced us to the lovely Loreto Aprutino below. From here, at the hill’s summit, we got lovely views of the golden stone houses with their pale terracotta roofs and, below them, the narrow streets that wind downhill through the town and out to the beautiful surrounding countryside, much of which is covered in ancient olive trees. In fact, Loreto-Aprutino along with Moscufo and Pianella forms the so-called 'golden triangle of olive oil'.

But the best surprise the Castello had in store for us that evening at dinner was its restaurant: L’Antico Torchio.

The restaurant within the Castello has also been restored to show off its ancient stone walls and vaulted ceilings. An ancient winepress (torchio) that sits emphatically at the centre of the room dominates its elegant interior.

The atmosphere is quiet and austere, but the staff is professional and friendly. Once seated we are visited by the Direttore of the Castello Chiola, Leonardo Chiavaroli, who introduces himself and asks us where we are from. We chat a little and are then invited to enjoy our meal. And what a memorable meal!

Our culinary adventure begins with an introduction by the chef, Vito Pastore, on the first page of the menu. This bodes well; here is a chef who cares that his patrons learn about his cuisine.

A quick glance through the menu and we are besotted. Vito Pastore is a chef who cooks according to the seasons, and creates a cuisine that is fed by the local raw materials like the extra virgin olive oil of the surrounding land, Abruzzo’s pear shaped tomato, the saffron of Navelli. We are definitely guaranteed fresh products here. The only problem is how will we ever choose what to eat?

The antipasti are brought out with much flair by the serving staff. They are not what we expected but are fancy, well planned and transformed into works of art. We remain in silent wonder and then simultaneously pull out our phones. These things need to be captured!

The single artichoke I order is both an extraordinary visual and gastronomic experience.

The main dishes are difficult to choose; they represent so obviously the result of untiring research, study and experimentation. There are infinite combinations of ingredients, that seem so carefully selected. Vito Pastore’s cuisine is clean and true because only in this way can the flavors be appreciated, he says.

​For my main dish I choose “Santifichiamolo” which is a dish of smoked rice with the pear tomato of Abruzzo and sheep’s sour milk, sprinkled with wild oregano. Mine is a relatively simple dish. My husband’s is somewhat more daring: Ruote pazze pasta with sea snails, mussels and beer cream enhanced with erotic pepper no.3. Really?

The truly surprising fact in all this is that these extreme and superb dishes are all so reasonably priced: from 12 to 14 Euros for the Primi and from 14 to 18 for the Main dishes. And, they are very filling!

Chef Vito claims that he loves contrasts. So much so that he called one of his favorite dishes by this name, “Contrasts”. "I wanted to create a grilled dish to serve raw", he says. But how to solve this apparent contradiction? "With a surprising ingredient: he uses ash, which gives the marinated scampi an unexpected smokey taste. To complete the dish he adds truffle shavings and carrots braised with wine. What comes out is a real "Contrast" of flavors". 1. https://www.informacibo.it/vito-pastoree-non-chiamatelchef-oggi-guida-la-cucina-de-lantico-torchio-a-loreto-aprutino/

We get to the desserts, and are blown away. To start, we are served a complimentary lemon curd cone sitting in a bed of seeds. This allows us to cleanse our palate, we are told. When my dessert arrives, I feel I am dessacrating the beautiful work of art, but one bite and I am transported in a new sensory world of unknown flavours. The “Sottobosco” dish I order brings to my palate all the flavours of the hidden world of the woods: wild raspberries transformed into a creamy concoction spooned onto a bed of pistachio shavings with Matcha green tea and cream of milk.

The final dish is a class act. It is complimentary, and It comes to everyone: it is simply a little dish with the gelatine initials of the chef.

A signature to a great work of art.

To stay at Castello Chiola

Via degli Aquino, 12, 65014 Loreto Aprutino PE, Italy

Phone: +39 085 829 0690

To Eat at L'Antico Torchio:

Aperto tutti i giorni a pranzo e cena, ad eccezione di Martedì. Prenotazione consigliata. ph: +39 085 829 0686 info@castellochiola.com

SOMEWHERE YOU'VE NEVER BEEN | A JOURNEY OF SORTS, VARIOUS MEANDERINGS......AND A LITERARY EXPLORATION OF A LESSER KNOWN ITALY
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