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Abruzzese Saffron

Welcome to Abruzzo, also known as the land of yellow gold, the precious and fragrant saffron (now with a "Denominazione d' Origine Protetta" - Protected Origin Designation) which in addition to flavoring foods, also has significant healing properties.

A journey through one of the most beautiful and pristine natural areas of Italy: the highlands of saffron, where the small red flowers turn purple in autumn, painting the fields and creating a unique panorama.

zafferano, fioriThe area of cultivation and production of this spice extend through the province of L’Aquila. An area surrounded by greenery and dotted with villages, across from the Regional Sirente Park and bordered on the north by the National Park of Gran Sasso and the Laga mountains, and on the south by the National Park of Maiella.

L'Aquila and the Navelli Plateau
It starts from the capital of Abruzzo, L’Aquila, beautiful balcony on the Gran Sasso, with the 16th-century Spanish fort, the basilicas of Santa Maria di Collemaggio and San Bernardino and the Fountain of 99 Spouts, also known as the Rivera, a symbol of the town with its stone masks.

Before heading south, in the Navelli pleateau (760 m), we find the villages of San Pio and Camere, places of transhumance, where one can still find the "pajare," a kind of trulli site near the pasture for sheltering shepherds. This is the Navelli plateau: in the fall, in the blooming season, the extensive cultivation of saffron color the fields with violet.

The Sagittarius Canyon

Another area of saffron production is Cocullo. To get there, one must cross the beautiful Sagittarius Canyon. It is reached after passing through Capistrano, where the famous "Warrior of Capistrano," a sculpture in stone and marble of the sixth century BC, now kept in the National Museum of Chieti, was discovered. Continuing south, one passes by Bussi sul Tirino, whose waters are famous for shrimp fishing. Finally, after Sulmona (home of confetti candies), is Cocullo which from its 900-meter position dominates the Flaturno valley, the Mezzana, and and gorges of the Sagittarius Canyon. This area too is devoted to the cultivation of saffron.

The Rocche Plateau
One cannot miss the beautiful Celano with its 15th-Century Piccolomini Castle and the National Museum of Marsica, a detour of a few miles towards Avezzano, leading to the archaeological site of Alba Fucens. Otherwise, continue from Celano to Ovindoli located at 1375 meters above sea level, known by skiers and mountaineers, because from here the mountains Velino (2487 m) and Sirente (2,348 m) begin. And then there's Rovere, the picturesque fortified medieval town. On the vast expanses of the Rocche, finally, are Rocca di Mezzo Rocca di Cambio, known for their resorts and skiing.

Do Not Miss
A trip in the fall. In the last hours of the night, saffron gives off the most of its perfume and the farmers gently collect the flowers one by one, the pistils of which are then separated by hand and dried the same day as the harvest.

Useful Information

In 1300, the friar Domenico Biscotti, an herbalist returning from a trip to Spain, brought the flower bulbs of oriental origin to Navelli. Saffron has been important for the economy of the city ever since then, and the basilica and the large hospital were built with the taxes levied on his business. Among its virtues, there are anti-aging properties, and in fact it is used in traditional Chinese medicine as an elixir for life. To get a kilo of saffron, it takes about two hundred thousand flowers.

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