Let's take another virtual vacation. On our travels to Castiglione Messer Raimondo, we love to get to know the area businesses. There are a number of places in the small town that you can look forward to visiting over and over again. These include the vegetable market, the local provisions grocery store, the corner cafe and of course- your neighborhood watering hole.
The pace of life can be different and take it with a grain of salt that we are on vacation when we visit so we take the leisure aspect pretty far. We wake up and get our espresso at the corner bar where you can get a croissant along with your espresso. Almost everyone in town stops here at one point during the day - either like we do for espresso, a pack of cigarettes or to get a soda after school. One time we were invited out to grab our morning joe with the patriarch of our surrogate Italian family and he ordered himself and chef cappuccinos, but insisted on ordering me a morning glass of red wine. Not to be a rude American I drank it - but whoa - breakfast wine is not my regular beverage of choice.
Instead my prefered way to imbibe wine would be to finish up dinner and head over to La Lanterna. On the winding roads of Castilgione this bar appears to be built into the mountain with a step down onto the patio where the entrance is. Inside is decorated with football (soccer) jerseys, bottles of wine lines the walls and artistic paintings. The room glows with a golden light all hours of the day making it a welcome refuge. The outside has a small, narrow terrace that clings to the building and looks out to an uninterrupted view of the mountains and sky. You feel entirely enclosed in the landscape while also flying high in it.
We were able to track down the owner of La Lanterna and ask him a bit about life as "Il Presidente d'La Lanterna".
Gianluca Delle Monache is part of the family that has been operating the bar since 1975 at the same location at Piazza XX Settembre*. He is a highly fashionable fellow and likes to keep up to date on trends in cocktails as well as holding true to classic Italian cocktails. Gianluca has a curated selection of Italian wines and takes great pride in this widely popular wine coming from the region. .The most popular wine from the Abruzzese region is Montepulciano. Montepulciano wines are rustic and carry strong notes of herbs, fruits and sometimes tobacco. They often have the taste of oregano, pepper, plums, boysenberries, and sour cherries.
In addition to keeping track of quality wines, Gianluca keeps it seasonal (you should not be surprised) and works on cocktails like a fresh Mojito for the hot summer months with a quality rum. He also likes to craft beverages with gin which can be classic or trendy depending on how you choose to mix your cocktail.
The future is on everyone's mind and La Lanterna would like to grow in the coming years. Il Presidente would like to see tourism improve for the country but also specifically for his town. We know the great benefits of getting off the regular routes and would highly recommend trying a new region of Italy if you are looking to plan a new adventure. During the summer, especially August, the cities each have their own festivals on feast days of the saints. This is a great way to vacation. The lore of long traditions from the Catholic church meld with the modern festivities**.
The government of Castiglione Messer Raimondo has had the benefit of bringing fresh blood to the administration. The mayor is a younger gentleman and has forward thinking ideas that can benefit the growth of their town. Gianluca has expressed his appreciation of the new administration and is looking forward to seeing how they are able to implement their new ideas to continue to grow their business. While some people in the town may be a bit hesitant to have new people at the helm, chef and I are also looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this little gem of a town.
I thank Gianluca for his contribution to this article and also for the La Lanterna jersey that chef brought home. In classic Italian style, he gave one to his cousin and they wear them together to represent their motherland.
Grazie Gianluca per aver parlato con me, John ed io non vediamo l'ora di tornarci presto. Nel frattempo portiamo Castiglione Messer Raimondo nei nostri cuori.
*Many towns have a XX Settembre - this date is significant to all Italians as it marks September 20, 1870 which was the final capture of Rome from the Papl States and the unification of Italy under the House of Savoy. This name is saved for the road that leads up to the main cathedral of any town and often what "Broad St" is to most American towns.)
** Chef and I were able to make it into Castiglione for their massive festival in 2019. This festival runs for 3 days and is opened with a cannon being fired at 8am. Different sections of the town are set up nightly once the first parade is completed and there are performances, music, food, and a lot of conversation. Chef had the honor of assisting to carry the St Donato relic through the town along with a group of other men. This procession through the city is a time honored tradition where the relic is removed from the church and paraded past all the homes, up and down the hills and is a blessing for the year to come. After this parade there was a large table, spanning many blocks, that was set up under fairy lights and a full dinner was served. The procession is a long tradition and the big dinner is a new idea from the administration that gets all of the citizens out and mingling together. All towns have these festivals and if you plan to travel look up what is going to be happening in your areas so you can make it to parades, carnivals, performances, musicals, and more.