For the weekend of September 23rd through the 25th, a group of JFRC students traveled to the town of Cusano Mutri in the Campagna region for the annual Sagra dei Funghi (Mushroom Festival). The group was met by Angelo Zollo, the Art Director from the company Culture Promoservice, who coordinated the events for the weekend and also traveled with the group daily to each activity.
The students and SLA Gina Crovetti arrived at Villaggio Turistico, a series of cabins near the top of the mountain in Cusano Mutri early Friday afternoon and were welcomed with home made, preservative-free snacks of meats, cheese, wine and bread offered by the owner of the lodge.
View from Villaggio Turistico
From there, the group traveled with Angelo to a nearby park for a nature walk. He explained to the students that it was in these surrounding mountains that the mushrooms used for the festival were harvested, as well as the chestnuts for the upcoming chestnut festival, and various other herbs and plants.
Meals took place in the Sagra at a restaurant called Lo Svago. There were wonderful tagliatelle, polenta, bruschetta, and meats that all accompanied porcini mushrooms in their first dinner. As a wonderful surprise, the group ran into a man named Tedino Mariano who explained to the students and to Angelo that he was the director of Mensa some 20 to 30 years ago when John Felice was the director of the Center. Students thanked him for his work and took a commemorative photo. After each dinner, the group had time to explore the sagra, eating many of the dessert varieties offered, drinking the local wine, dancing to live music, purchasing artisanal goods, and learning additional ways that the mushroom is used.
JFRC students at a pasta-making lesson
The second day of the trip began with a pasta-making lesson from the wonderful employees of Lo Svago. Students learned how to make tagliatelle, gnocchi, and pizza dough, and many got hands on experience. Lo Svago explained that each ingredient for their pastas comes from the surrounding area and it is this high level of quality control that yields such amazing, tasty pasta.
After the pasta demonstration, the group began a guided tour of the Museo del Territorio di Cusano Mutri: Sezione della Civita Contadina. This museum is located in the town of Cusano Mutri, and the students were able to see how farmers lived and worked in the mountain lands hundreds of years ago.
After a mushroom-based lunch in the sagra, the group visited the interactive multi-media museum and laboratory called the PALEOLAB. Inside,they were able to view several informational videos on the history of Cusano Mutri and the significant scientific findings gathered there. The finale of the museum’s visit was seeing the fossil of the first dinosaur found in Italy, a famous attraction in Cusano Mutri.
JFRC Cusano Mutri Group
On the final day of the trip, the group returned once more to the sagra for a guided tour of the town, with a focus on Cusano Mutri’s important churches, including the church of San Giovanni which houses an important thorn believed to be part of Jesus’ crown. Students had one final opportunity after lunch to purchase all the gifts and local treasures that they could afford. And many equally enjoyed one last chance to fill up on the local desserts made by the families and shopkeepers of Cusano Mutri.