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Black Gold of Atri

Monday 17 january 2022

A natural cure-all that attracts us because of its appearance as black as coal and its unmistakable taste as particular as it is pleasant.

Black Gold of Atri

It has happened to everyone to buy licorice, attracted by its aspect as black as coal and by its unmistakable taste as particular as pleasant. Not everyone knows it, but Abruzzo is one of the major producers of licorice and the town of Atri is considered the cradle of the processing of the root of this plant: in fact, licorice has been produced in Atri for almost 300 years, with national and international success.

Atri's licorice: a centuries-long history

Licorice, which we all consume in the form of wheels, candies, sugared almonds or sticks, derives from a medicinal plant known even to ancient people: it is enough to think that licorice was also found in the tomb of the famous pharaoh Tutankhamon. It has always been appreciated for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, refreshing and thirst quenching properties: licorice, such as the one from Atri, acts as a real natural antibiotic, valid against gastrointestinal inflammations, low blood pressure, sore throat and cough. In Italy, therefore also in the Abruzzi town of Atri, licorice arrived thanks to the Dominicans and the first documents attesting the production of the so called "black gold" in Abruzzi date back to 1433. The cultivation of licorice immediately took hold in Abruzzi, probably favored by the clayey and particularly fertile soils present here. Nothing stopped the rise of licorice, not even the departure of Dominican monks: in the old convent was born the first licorice factory of Atri, on the initiative of Cavalier De Rosa.

Liquirizia© Antonio Gravante Photographer

Discovering the village, between licorice and ancient Romans

Atri is a village built on three hills overlooking the Adriatic Sea: in the past it was called Hatria and even the great Roman emperor Hadrian lived there. Walking through the historical center of Atri, you will find many artisan stores selling licorice in all forms, from root to pasta, including fusilli or spaghetti made with licorice. Also by visiting the beautiful "Natural Reserve of Calanchi di Atri" it is possible to meet licorice plants which grow among scented capers and elegant gladioli.
Those who go to Atri to taste artisanal licorice, cannot miss the opportunity to discover the city, from the Grotte Sotterranee with its Roman cisterns to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta where it is possible to admire the mosaics of the Roman baths on which the church was built. Not to lose then the Villa Comunale because from its belvederi the sight spaces on all the Comprensorio of the Earths of the Cerrano until the Adriatic sea.

Grotte Sotterranee di Atri, © Elio Torlontano
Underground Caves - © Elio Torlontano

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