In the latest of our series of interviews chatting with experts in all things Italian, we’re chatting with Loriana from Molise Cuisine. Loriana set up Molise Cuisine nearly 6 years ago at the end of 2015.
After growing up in Montreal, Loriana moved to Italy in 1993, where she worked for Italian automotive company Magneti Marrelli before managing a gelataria in Termoli (we are rather envious of this particular job!!) and working in various bars and restaurants. Fluent in English and French, she went on to become a kitchen guide for a restaurant that was running cooking classes for tourists. And it’s this that reminded her of her passion for food, and more precisely her passion for traditional dishes. She speaks with fondness of her mother’s cooking, ‘She is an excellent cook. When my mother cooked, the whole neighbourhood knew about it! I already knew about so many Molisane specialties!’ And so, inspired by what her mother had taught her, Loriana set up a company that had a clear focus on cooking classes but also went further to offer a wider array of experiences that would bring Molise to life to those that visited.
In short, Molise Cuisine was set up with the aim of helping holidaymakers to discover what we think is probably Italy’s least well-known region. Situated in the south of Italy, Molise is the second smallest region in the country and it’s also the newest region in Italy, only coming into being in 1963 when the regions of Abruzzi e Molise split and went their separate ways. Because it’s so new and unknown, it’s also completely unspoilt and authentic. Molise Cuisine offer a variety of tours and experiences in Molise including cooking classes, wine tastings, guided tours and truffle hunting.
So, let’s hear from Loriana…
Tell us about where you live. What do you love about it?
My roots are firmly set in Molise. My parents are originally from a small town called Guglionesi in Molise but moved to Canada which is where I was born and grew up. They moved back to their hometown in 1989 though and I followed in 1993. Would you believe it, I ended up marrying a man who also grew up just a few miles away from Guglionesi. We now live in a little town called San Martino in Pensilis, a hilltop town right across from Guglionesi! I love the fact that I can walk anywhere. Plus the views are incredible – soft slopes planted with grape vines and olive groves lie all around us, the Apenini in front of us and the Adriatic Sea to our right. What more could I ask for?!!
Why is Molise so little known amongst tourists?
The ‘Molise conspiracy’ (as it has come to be known) has gone on to become something of a cultural phenomenon. People here were slightly bemused at first, but now I think we’ve come to embrace the absurdity of it all. I mean, of course we exist! Unfortunately, being the second smallest region in Italy means the region of Molise has very little resources and publicity is one of the last things on their list.
What sets Molise apart from other regions of Italy?
Its authenticity, the people and, of course, me!!!!!
What do you recommend tourists see and do if visiting Molise?
The main attractions of the region are the archaeological remains (such as those in the Roman city of Saepinum) along with the incredible natural beauty including the Matese mountains up to the Molise coastline and the beautiful old town of Termoli. Other key sights to visit include the Marinelli Bell foundry, the Castle of Gambatesa and the Castello Pandone.
For more ideas on what to see and do in the region, take a look at our travel guide to Molise.
What are the traditional dishes of Molise that you recommend visitors should sample?
The pampanella is one of the most common meat dishes of traditional Molise cuisine. It originates from San Martino in Pensilis, right in the little town where I live but a few small towns round about San Martino in Pensilis also make it. Another main dish is Zuppa di Pesce and, along with our guests, we can delight our palates at the Restaurant Da Nicolino in Temoli where the Cavaltelli pasta and Ragù Molisano is definitely not to be missed!
What are the most popular tours and excursions at Molise Cuisine?
Tours of Agnone are definitely on top of the list, closely followed by trips to Venafro and Isernia. Our day trip on a yacht to the Tremiti Islands where we enjoy eating seafood, drinking wine and relaxing and swimming in emerald green waters is also incredibly popular. The Tremiti is a small island chain that contains a compact yet diverse microcosm. Three are the islands – San Nicola, San Domino and Capraia – together with some impressive rocks make up the marine reserve, a real wonder of nature for diving enthusiasts. But really, anyone that is lucky enough to pay a visit here will be awe-inspired by these waters. Caves, gorges, corals and relics of a distant past when these parts were crossed by trade routes represent the best that can be offered to those who love exploring under the sea.
Tell us about the team you work with at Molise Cuisine.
The most important member of our team is our chef, Nicola Vizzari. At just thirteen years old, Nicola left Molise for Villa Santa Maria in Abruzzo, one of the most renowned hotel schools in Italy. In 2002 he became a member of the Italian National Chefs. Nicola has been on national and regional television preparing his delicious dishes, has won prestigious events and he delights our guests with his wonderful smile, his good humour, his patience and his cooking!
Scott Barden is from London. He lived and worked at a bank in Singapore before moving back to London, when he started to travel and develop a love of wine. He moved to Italy and joined Molise Cuisine, studying to get his Level 3 in Wine & Spirits at the WSET. Scott has a contagious smile and is our wine tour guide where he meets and has a great rapport with the many wine cellars and producers. Scott is also is our driver when needed.
Ewa Wojtowicz is our Eastern Coordinator, and for those who wish to take a Yoga Class Ewa is a top notch yoga teacher. Fluent in four languages, she takes care of our relations with our Eastern clients.
Giovanni Carlo Russo is an architect and an expert in Molise & Abruzzo history, art and architecture. He is also our occasional driver when needed and he’s my husband!
We’ve talked a lot about holidaymakers coming to Molise but where do you like to holiday?
I love to travel and have been to many countries – Spain, France, Prague, Greece, the USA, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Israel… Next on my list is Japan! I have seen most of Italy, but I haven’t yet been to Padova, Mantova & Verona so these three cities are definitely on my bucket list!