Day 53 – Agnone

We spend the day out in the countryside, first visiting a Caseificio, a place where cheese is made.

It is a small, family-run place, and the mother greets us at the door to the working area.

Here they make mozzarella and a cheese called caciocavallo.

We are shown the balls of Mozzarella after they have been formed.

Next we visit a forno, where Mercede Orlando makes us four different kinds of pizza.

Everything in Mercede’s pizza she makes herself: she grows the wheat, the tomatoes, the onions, the zucchini, the broccoli. She makes the tomato sauce from tomatoes she grows and the olive oil from her own olive trees. She has the wheat stone-ground at a local mill.

Mercede has won prizes for her work in agriculture and belongs to a group called Amica Campagna, Friend of the Countryside, which focuses on farmers’ markets and teaching others how to grow food and cook like a contadina.

Next we visit the Marinelli Bell Foundry in Agnone. It is called the Pontificia Fonderia because it makes bells for the Vatican. This foundry is known throughout the world and has produced bells for over 1000 years. It is the oldest bell foundry in Italy and among the oldest in the world, specializing in the construction of bells. It is still in the same family after over a century.

Its museum contains hundreds of bells, with documentation on some of the most famous. An Italian law has made it illegal to destroy bells of a certain age, so the foundry has hundreds of bells in its museum and on its grounds.

The Marinelli Foundry produced the Liberty Bell in 1752. Our guide tells us it cracked because it was rung nonstop for 3 days and nights straight. Other sources say it cracked on President’s Day in 1846 but no one knows why it had a flaw.

Our guide takes us into the foundry where the bells are created.

It’s fascinating to see the equipment. The Marinellis make bells as they did in the Middle Ages. They have not changed the technique. They do not use computers. They know how to design bells to get the desired tone according to ancient formulas.

The complicated process requires several molds containing the melted bronze that becomes the bell.

Our guide, one of the Marinellis, gives us a concert.

After the foundry tour, we pay a visit to Tonina, owner of the Armonia B&B, where several of our group are staying. As a young girl, she fell in love with the presepe that are a tradition in Naples and southern Italy. She shows us a book that documents one of the first presepe, made in the 1700s.

Tonina makes each character by hand. She purchases the bodies, which are made by prisoners, and the faces, hands and feet made by artisans of San Gregorio Armeno in Naples.

She creates the costumes of each character, who are real people in Agnone’s history.

Tonina offers us the traditional cookie from Agnone, the ostia, and punch, a very powerful liquor made from ???, something very powerful. We thoroughly enjoy our visit with her and her sister and thank them for bringing us into their home.

All this in one day. Incredibile!

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