Vibo Valentia, The Valley of the Mills

19.11.2019

The province of Vibo Valentia is certainly known to most for the wonderful Costa degli Dei. Capo Vaticano, Tropea, Ricadi, Pizzo, Zambrone, are the most famous tourist resorts for the beauty of the crystal clear waters that bathe them.

Mount Poro: Costa degli Dei

However, Calabria, beyond its splendid coasts, has a very rich natural heritage in the form of a predominantly hilly and mountainous area, rich in biodiversity. Characteristic flora and fauna that can best be observed with a trekking path, guided by one of the local expert environmental guides.

Cascade along the Valley of Mills

This terrific trekking between nature and food and wine will take you on the peak of the Mount “Poro”.

Down from the hill of Mount Poro

THE MOUNT PORO

Mount Poro can be defined as the fulcrum of the Vibonese hinterland. It overlooks the splendid landscape of the Costa degli Dei, set in a panoramic position between the mountains and the sea, and is characterized by very extensive meadows that are still used today for grazing.

Meadows of Mount Poro

The altitude, 700 meters above sea level, not being very high, allowed the development of a rich vegetation among green pastures, olive groves, vineyards and rows of poplars.

Famous Mount Poro’s pecorino

RECOMMENDED PATH

The excursion to Mount Poro will start from Spilinga, a very well-known location for the production of ‘nduja, which is located at the foot of Monte Poro, just 11 km from Tropea and 10 km from Capo Vaticano.

From Spilinga, going along a mule track, it is possible to go up the bed of the Ruffa river.

The seaside of Mount Poro

It is with this path that it is possible to admire precious historical testimonies and natural wonders and to arrive to the remarkable village of Sorianello.

The village of Sorianello

THE REMAINS OF THE NINE MILLS

During the trek, the remains of Nine Mills will appear along the so called “Valle dei Mulini“.

Their origins date back to around the 7th-10th century; during the era of the Arab invasions the mills were improved and increased and were a very important resource from the economic point of view for this territory up until the 1950s.

Ruins of a Mill near Sorianello

Along the way an expert guide can illustrate the rich heritage of the flora that includes both the most known Mediterranean scrub, such as oak, elm, laurel, strawberry trees, myrtle, blackberries, wild fennel, oregano and others. But above all very particular plants such as Mediterranean orchids, including the “orchis italica“, also called “naked man“. You can also observe the “Woodwardia Radicans“, a tropical fern with a very beautiful and unique appearance.

Woodwardia Radicans

THE RARE GIANT FERN

This plant certainly deserves a brief study. It is a Rare Giant Fern, whose fronds can reach a length of three meters.

In Italy we can find it in Sicily, in some gorges of the Peloritani and in some areas of Campania, but above all it is present in Calabria, on Mount Poro and in Aspromonte.

Mill in the trekking path

Along the Stilaro river, near the Marmarico waterfall, near Bivongi, there are numerous specimens. However, it is precisely along the banks of the Ruffa stream, and near the Milo river, that more than 2000 specimens of Woodwardia radicans grow. It is the most impressive concentration of this rare plant so far discovered in the world. The cause of this concentration is precisely the microclimate of this territory, which represents the ideal habitat of this plant. High humidity, poor direct lighting and temperatures between 10 and 25 degrees.

Milo River

A REMARKABLE FAUNA HERITAGE

Also noteworthy is the wildlife, consisting of wild boar, badger, fox, stone marten, weasel, hedgehog, dormouse and others.

Sight of Stromboli Volcano From Mount Poro

Depending on the period in which this excursion is made, thrushes, marsh harriers, snipes and larks can be spotted at different times, precisely because this valley represents a transit and wintering area for these animals. Moreover, among the birds of prey, you can admire the buzzard, the owl, the barn owl and the kestrel.

THE PECORINO OF “MONTE PORO”

Returning to Spilinga, it is possible to visit the local shops of typical products, like Cirò wine, ‘nduja, salamis, capicollo, soppressata, some of them also preserved in oil, and the delicious pecorino cheese of Mount Poro.

Pecorino Cheese

Pecorino del Monte Poro” is considered by many to be the best pecorino cheese in southern Italy. The milk from local farms is made special by the essences of the plateau, on which extensive grazing is practiced.

Creamy and soft: Pecorino of Mount Poro

This cheese, protected by the special mark “DOP,” represents a local excellence that differs from other similar products due to some precautions during the production process, by the traditional processing and, finally, by the special aging techniques of this genuine cheese…

Balbino, the ancient wine of Altomonte

11.11.2019

Balbino” wine is the ancient white wine of Altomonte. Discovering such  mysterious Balbino means re-discover the ancient wine of Altomonte (Cosenza) handed down from Roman authors and that in the last century, thanks to the Giacobini Company, became one of the ‘luxury wines’ of Calabria.

THE LAND OF THIS WINE

The vineyards rise above a mountains chain, which dominates the whole Valley of Crati river, and extends its view to the Gulf of Taranto.

Wide is the horizon, always of a temperate climate, often subject to the gust of strong winds. Here lies one of the most beautiful villages in Italy: Altomonte, a municipality in the province of Cosenza, which represents a rare jewel of nature, history and art. Its rich cultural heritage is clearly visible in the splendid architecture of its historic center, in the Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione, the greatest example of Gothic-Angevin art in Calabria or in the Norman castle of 12th century.

Town of Altomonte

The previous name of Altomonte (its toponym) is Balbia, perhaps a Phoenician voice deriving from Baal, which means “lord” and “divinity”; most likely the village was originally moved to the Esaro river, where, in the Larderia district, the remains of a Roman villa dating back to the 1st century AD have been found.

In 1065 the town of Altomonte is mentioned as Brahalla or Brakhalla, coming from the Arabic hypothesis “blessing of God“.

The town, besides Balbia, was called Braellum or Bragallum, by King Robert the Wise of the Angevin dynasty, or according to others by Pilippo Sangineta in 1337 the name was changed to Altofiume.

But even this name was not lasting, since Queen Joanna I, also of the Angevin dynasty, gave her the name of Altomonte.

Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione

HISTORY OF BALBINO WINE

Balbia (alias Altomonte) was known to the ancients for one thing in particular: his wine. The city became more celebrated in antiquity by reason of its generous wines.

Plinio counting the most celebrated wines of Italy, did not exclude those of Babia.

Athenaeus calls this wine generous, and truly austere [“Vinum Babinum generosum, et admodum austerum, et semper se ipso melius nascitur”; Ath. Deipn. Lib. I], and wants the Bimblina vine to be born here, which was transplanted to Syracuse by the first King Poli, a native of Argo Greco, so that the wine made from this grape by Siracusans was called Polio wine. According to these historical sources, therefore, the Balbino of Altomonte would even appear to be the ancestor of the Moscato di Siracusa, born from the same vine.

In modern times, we find it among those ‘luxury wines’ of Calabria together with the Provitaro Bianco (compared to the Chablis), the Calabrese Rosso (compared to Bordeaux), the Malvasia, the Moscato Giacobini and the Moscato Diavolone.

A FAMILY AND AN INDUSTRY: GIACOBINI

In Altomonte, between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, the family of Giacobini were active, a noble family that became a renowned company for the production of fine wines, liqueurs and vermouth.

An ancient brand

Balbino Bianco was one of their best products; in 1889 he won the gold medal at the National Wines Fair; then, Ciro Luigi Giacobini and his son Francesco gave birth to a real industry, one of the few then existing in the province of Cosenza.

The industry of Giacobini family gave rise to a period of great economic development of the territory, the factory created work for dozens of workers, reaching over 200,000 bottles a year, and exporting all over the world.

Fratelli Giacobini Company of Altomonte (CS) was located in the eponymous Palazzo Giacobini in Altomonte, today home to the Hotel Barbieri.

The activity has survived thanks to the Sciarra brothers and their actual brand Moliterno: in the company museum set up in a completely renovated patronal house, the Sciarra family still tells of the Giacobini Company through objects, equipment and documents, private and not.

Effectively, what was the grape used by the Giacobini for their Balbino Bianco (the standard Balbino white wine) is not crystal clear, nor whether it was that of which the sources speak or a mixed grape variety.

In any case, the Farneto del Principe farm in Altomonte called Balbino one of its wines, made from white Greek and Malvasia grapes.

A RARITY: BLACK BALBINO

There is also a Black Balbino in Altomonte, called in dialect ‘mparinata: it is a late-ripening vine (in the first and second decade of October), with a medium-large bunch, conical in shape, fairly long and compact but sometimes sparse and with a peduncle medium-short.

The wine coming from this grape medium-small, ellipsoidal or short ellipsoidal, is a red wine.

The skin is thick, very pruinose (from this the term “mparinata”, that is” floured “) and blue-black. The pulp is not very firm, pleasantly sweet and rightly acid.

Black Balbino wine

The Black Balbino grape prefers little expanded forms of cultivation such the sapling and is a rustic vine, not very sensitive to adversity and to parasites. It was also recovered in Cirò Marina, where it is used in the wine making and is attested from the mid-1800s; once it was used as a table grape, as well as to make wine.

Today, almost disappeared, it gives grapes that come together for winemaking with other locales.