Le Tre Sorelle

November 6, 2014 / Local Interest

From L’Aquila, we drove east towards majestic Gran Sasso, mountain behemoth, passing medieval hill towns – clinging like lichen to rock faces – as we searched for a trio of ancient churches, le tre sorelle. (The three sisters)

All three Romanesque gems had key-keepers: nearby farm families. I called the number on Santa Maria di Propezzano’s door: “I’m visiting relatives now but I can open tomorrow.” On we went.  

S. Maria di Propezzano

No one in the house near S. Maria di Ronzano, but a local truck driver knew Gabriela, the key-keeper, and called her: “Away now – tomorrow possible?”  

S. Maria di Ronzano backdropped by Gran Sasso splendor

No, but it was lunchtime and  the trucker consoled us with directions to Trattoria da Luisetta – ”tipica cucina abruzzese” – in nearby Colledoro (pop. 45). The parked cars out front confirmed a good lead.

Near our table, a jolly group of business colleagues feasted on a Luisetta specialty, baccala’ (codfish): stewed codfish with cannellini beans antipasto, then mezzemaniche (half-sleeves) pasta with codfish sauce and on to fried, baked and grilled codfish.

Celebrating codfish
Codfish goodness
Pasta with hot sauce
Codfish, baked, fried

Hearing I was a “straniera” curious about Abruzzese cuisine, they made sure I tasted every codfish course! Waitress, Graziana, granddaughter of the cook (protégé’ of her mother, Luisetta), told us proudly, “Romans drive nearly 2 hours for our codfish.”  

Three cooks work magic da Luisetta

Pino opted for local grilled lamb and I chose another local specialty, the Abruzzese pasta alla chitarra con ragu teramano, a Teramo-area meat sauce rich with tiny veal/pork meatballs. Graziana drizzled homemade hot sauce – salsa piccante – on top, then mimicked “polpettine-making” for us. Turnip greens in garlic and olive oil and and grilled eggplant were perfect side dishes. After photos all around with the “baccala’ gruppo,” back to the “tre sorelle trail.” 

Pino opts for grilled lamb at Colledoro
Pasta alla chitarra con polpettine, vino..e la guida !
Graziana demonstrates the technique for baby meatballs

Finalmente, luck at the third church, S. Maria di Basciano. And key-keepers  Signor Biagio, (83), and his wife Maria Pia opened their home to us, too, offering us coffee and typical Abruzzese winter sweets.

Biagio's welcome to his home
Maria Pia and Biagio, a memorable couple
2 stonemasons exchange stories

Signor Biagio’s passione for stone – he’d worked years as a stonemason in Argentina – led to animated conversation with Pino, fellow builder (specializing in stone restoration), as we climbed up to the church. Proudly pointing out his work on consolidating the church, he scoffed at recent incompetent work (done by “the younger ones”). “This church is dearer to me than my own home,” he beamed as he pointed out the splendid Baroque altar and stunning maiolica tiled-ceiling. 

2 great artisans study the church structure
2 stonemasons analyze
Santa Maria di B Basciano maiolica-tiled ceiling - wth uccelletti, too
Amazing tiled ceiling

Grazie Signor Biagio, for sharing a treasure with us. We’ll be back to see the other due sorelle (two sisters).

Castelli view

From L'Aquila, heading east

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

38 Responses to “Le Tre Sorelle”

  1. Francesca Giacalone

    Brava Anne!!! I want to visit Le Tre Sorelle on my trip- hopefully next year!!!
    Mille grazie for the tour! And the food looks amazing!
    Great to see Pino in some of the photos!

    • Marie Giacalone

      Cugina Francesca,
      I agree about the photos of Pino- he is a handsome guy!

  2. Gabriele

    What a nice suggestion, I was just considering with my wife spending some days in the area in Christmas time! Thank you Anne

  3. I’m thrilled to see beautiful Abruzzo featured in today’s notebook. We don’t see enough about this breathtaking area of Italy…. please show us more…Thank you!

  4. Nancy Mazza

    Grazie, Annie, for another wonderful story. The food looked so amazing I wanted to jump into your table. I love that Pino and Signor Biagio got to “talk shop”. What a hidden gem that church is.

  5. Marie Giacalone

    Thank you for another wonderful visit. Your posts are always the best!

  6. Jack Litewka

    This column made me so-o-o-o hungry. I would gladly drive 2 hours from Rome to taste their cooking. Alas, it’s far longer than 2-hour drive to get there from Berkeley, California.

  7. sandra potter

    Benissimo Anne. I’ll add this trip to our “must do” list. sandie

  8. Judi Dalton

    What a lovely adventure; visually and gastronomically! Thanks for whetting my appetite.

  9. Jenny Hannan

    Gosh, what a blast from the past! I was 7 months pregnant with Simon last time I was in Abruzzo. After this fabulous culinary and historical tour, I’ll just have to go again, senza il figlio che – oramai – is 31! A big hug from a big FAN, Jen

  10. Deborah Salae

    Anne, I don’t know which of your talents is the most amazing: your writing, your photography, or your ability to connect meaningfully with just about anyone! As I sit in front of my computer at work, a dip into the Italian Notebook on the days when you post an article is truly a quick but rich
    visit to La Bella Italia. Mille Grazie. Deborah

  11. Looks like Pino was enjoying his tips. Sounds like a nice place to visit next time.

  12. Monica Narducci

    Would love to have been on this Abruzzo venture. And Anne: your gift for writing makes me feel as if I were. Love the photo of Signor Biagio and his wife…they are precious.

  13. Katie Larsh

    Thanks again, Annie for a wonderful peak into another gastronomic adventure with the added pleasure of having Pino with you to enjoy the people, food, and the beautiful church! I love the fact that you really get to meet the locals and they are so generous in sharing their pleasures with you and Pino! thanks for taking us along!

  14. Anne, I think this is quite possibly one of my favorite articles. It rekindles that longing to be immersed in true and pure Italian culture…. seeing those mountains… I can’t even put into words!! How captivating they must have been!! And the deep traditions of the family, churches..and of course food… wow, makes me so hungry for an Italian immersion. This was a special one… really enjoyed the pictures and the story. Bellissimo!

  15. Gian Banchero

    My gosh, the RAGU TERAMANO looked so inviting that I Googled and found the recipe. Tomorrow night guess what we’re having for dinner? Thanks again Anne for a great article and photos…

  16. The wonderful hospitality of Italian people! I have not been to Abruzzo but maybe next time.

  17. Lovely Anne, I wish I had been there. What an adventure to knock on doors and have them open to a wonderful world. So much knowledge from these forays. Please, keep it up.

  18. Hubba Hubba Señor Pino! He looks as good as that pasta with the tiny meatballs…my mouth is watering remembering true Italian pasta! I feel holier just seeing images of that gorgeous church. Beautiful!

  19. Joanne De Cecchis

    The picture of Gran Sasso brings back memories of Camarda, my husband’s hometown.

  20. Patrizia Carroll

    Made me hungry Anne! Guess I’ll need to make another trip to Southern Italy!

  21. Ann Krapf

    Anne, Thank you for a wonderful peak into the parts of Italy we like best…the hidden from tourists sites! Your articles and pictures make us feel as though we are part of the action. Hope to see you in 2015

  22. Cathy Skrine

    Annie – you made my mouth water with all that wonderful food. And the churches are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  23. carol weed lundin

    you make it so easy to step back into the boot and feel i am actually walking around with you,

  24. donald antonangeli

    The region of Abruzzo is the home to my father’s parents. now i understand his love for baccala. beautiful article.

  25. Paulette Carnicelli Pidcock

    Thank you Anne – everything was so wonderful in your Abruzzo article! Having visited much of Abruzzo – on at least 5 trips to the homeland of my father’s family – I loved seeing your fabulous pictures and reading the stories of the people and places. My heart still aches for the people (and my relatives) as they slowly try to recover the soul of the region after the earthquake. I hope someday Pino and you – meet my cousin, Padre Marco when you are in L’Aquila. Just head to the Convento di San Bernadino….and you will find him there. See you in March!!

  26. Oh, Anne, you knew what you were doing when you told me about this article. Tears are streaming down my cheeks from all the wonderful memories of the beauty and the beautiful, genuine people of Abruzzo. Although Colledoro is not on my list of visited places, I did see Rocco Calascio to the south, and much of the park. As you know, my ties are strong (and remain so) to the L’Aquila region. You have filled me with nostalgia for the good times spent there. What beautiful pictures you have taken; and yes, Pino does make a most handsome addition, but it’s Signor Biagio who lights up the scene. What a treat to have spent an afternoon in the company of he and his wife. It’s luminous treasures like these experiences that make me long to return.

  27. It’s easy to learn about the major attractions in Italy but Anne introduces us to the hidden gems that are truly the soul of Italy – and the reason we visitors love it!

  28. Mary Jo Barbato

    Grazie, Anne for introducing us to more treasures in Italy! We can’t get enough – your adventures are always so filled with life and fun. Travelling around with Pino must be a real pleasure! He is so much fun to visit with – we always enjoy his building insight.

  29. Joan Halperin

    Hi Anne,
    Scrumptious images!
    Question: How long will you a “straniera”??

  30. Patti (Amato) Boyce

    Great article, Anne.
    This just might be a coincidence but did Maria Pia ever reside in Chicago?

  31. Great post Anne! Romanesque and early Christian churches are my favorite. I love the simplicity. Sounds like you had a fabulous adventure with some delicious food to boot! Love the accounts of your travels!


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