Travel diary: the Campania you wouldn't expect! – fourth part

The history of Italy has often passed through Campania.This is an ideal bridge which connects the history of Salerno with Eboli. Today it is a pleasurable experience, pointing eastwards, to cross the Sele plain and climb the Picentini mountains to find several products of excellence. Here we are sure to find the deposits of extra virgin Salernitano oil Dop, but we will also find the production of cherry tomatoes and firstlings. Our journey takes us onwards to the Picentini mountains, where Primo Levi describes the exile and isolation, which has now disappeared, in his intense novel Cristo si è fermato ad Eboli. We discover the vineyards which produce the Doc Cilento  (and Colli di Salerno with the Aglianico (the principle red vine of Campania) and the Falanghina and the Fiano (two of the great white wines of Campania). Eboli, which deserves a visit for its intact medieval centre, brings us to Giffoni to become acquainted with the city of the International Children’s Film Festival (every year for 15 days 5 thousand kids from 50 countries around the world meet here to judge the best films and Giffoni is considered the Oscar of film for the under 18s) and the Round Hazelnut: a delicate fruit, of gentle sweetness. Descending seawards once more, we reach the agricultural area of Nocerino Sarnese which is a kind of blessed in-between land between the provinces of Salerno and Naples that have two mouth-watering contact points. The first is this zone of Campania where the famous San Marzano Dop tomatoes are cultivated which have risked extinction and been returned to their former glory. These uniquely shaped and flavoured red fruits have many stories attached to them. Perhaps the most emblematic is that of Francesco Cirio, from Turin. As soon as Italy became united (Campania also had a part to play in this) he departed for the Mezzogiorno attracted by the tomatoes. Francesco Cirio is the father of the Italian canning industry; he succeeded in putting into practice the processes invented by Frenchman Nicolas Apperet who was the first to succeed in preserving food in glass (but he did not patent the process) closely followed by the Englishman Pierre Dourand who invented tin cans. Cirio made peeled tomatoes famous worldwide, starting from the San Marzano variety, the key ingredient of pizza. But from the agricultural area of Nocerino Sarnese another migration began many years before Cirio and made these lands famous all over the world: that of the colonists who went on to build Pompeii eight centuries before Christ.

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Edit by Carlo Cambi: journalist experienced in the wine, tourism and culinary sectors which make him one of the greatest experts in the communication of territorial products.