Nov 22, 2023 10:04 AM
Food and wine
Not only Red Onions in Calabria! Have you ever tasted the prized White Onion of Castrovillari?
Fresh from the De.Co. (Communal Denomination) recognition, the White Onion of Castrovillari is a vegetable with clearly recognisable characteristics that tell of its territory of origin, on the slopes of the Pollino, and is the undisputed protagonist of many typical Castrovillari recipes.
Let's discover its characteristics and the places where it can be enjoyed.
The White Onion of Castrovillari, properties and recipes
The cuisine of the villages that fall within the Pollino National Park draws fully on the piedmont tradition and the ancient workings of popular culture, favouring seasonal soups and broths, with extensive use of cereals, local pulses (many of which are PAT and Slow Food Presidia) and vegetables.
Among these stands out the unmistakable White Onion of Castrovillari, now with De.Co. (Communal Denomination) denomination. A local ecotype belonging to the Allium cepa variety, cultivated and appreciated since ancient times throughout the Pollino and Sibaritide area.
A culinary delicacy and source of income, this queen of the table is also the star of the Terranova di Sibari Fair (13 June), otherwise known as the "Castrovillari Onion Fair", at which the precious vegetable was also used as a bartering commodity with shepherds, in exchange for their cheese.
At one time, the cultivation area of the White Onion of Castrovillari was extended to the entire Coscile Valley, whereas today it is reduced to the locality of Jardìni and involves around twenty producers who cultivate it using techniques with a low environmental impact (rotation, manuring, etc.).
The sweet White Onion of Castrovillari is the basic ingredient of a number of classic Pollino dishes in all seasons: raw in salads, in combination with typical soups and omelettes, with the traditional "pane cotto" (panicòttu) prepared with stale bread and broth flavoured with mashed beans, olive oil, salt and cheese.
Where to taste the White Onion of Castrovillari? It depends on personal taste, whether you prefer it in a traditional, peasant guise, in one of the typical trattorias of the Pollino area that serve genuine "Km 0" products; or in gourmet dishes, at some of the town's famous restaurants, noted and awarded in prestigious guides.
What to see in Castrovillari
The town of Castrovillari, lying at the foot of the Pollino Massif in the so-called "King's Basin", is the largest urban centre in the Pollino National Park area and a privileged gateway for nature excursions and guided tours.
Interesting and full of cultural events in all seasons, during the autumn and winter months Castrovillari reveals its most fascinating face.
The town of the historic Castrovillari Carnival has always combined nature, folklore and popular culture like few other places in Calabria, offering visitors intense experiences all year round.
A walk in the centre, in the Cìvita (the historical quarter), offers the opportunity to get to know the medieval building of the city, which is identified in the Aragonese Castle, remodelled in its current form during the 15th century.
Rising in much earlier times on the cliff controlling the Coscile Valley, the Castle of Castrovillari is still an imposing structure, built on a single trapezoidal block with four cylindrical corner towers. Equipped with a drawbridge and loopholes, the castle was conceived as a prison by the famous military engineer Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who equipped it with dungeons connected by dark corridors and secret passages.
Its keep, known as the Tower of Infamy, was sadly the protagonist of torture and macabre legends that still disturb the collective imagination today.
Among the most beautiful historical buildings in Castrovillari there is the Franciscan Protoconvent. Founded in 1220 by Pietro Cathin, it is now a multifunctional centre entirely dedicated to culture and art.
It houses the small Archaeological Museum of Castrovillari, which exhibits lithic and bone finds from the Palaeolithic period and various prehistoric artefacts from all over the Pollino area, and the Sybaris Theatre, home to the "Primavera dei Teatri" festival, one of the most important theatre festivals in Calabria.
The walk through the centre ends with a visit to the Church of St Joseph (16th century), inside which a 16th-century fresco of the Madonna of Constantinople and two important paintings can be admired.
When to visit Castrovillari? In every season of the year: in autumn to taste the Zucca Lunga of Castrovillari; in winter to take part in the parade of floats and masks of the historical Castrovillari Carnival; in spring to attend the shows of the "Primavera dei Teatri" festival; and in summer, for a nature excursion in the Pollino National Park to be combined with the unmissable "International Folklore Festival".