Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Eating Out

ITINERARIES, GASTRONOMY AND TRADITION: SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, RIVIERA DELLE PALME

We begin our journey through the Italian cities and provinces starting from our hometown, just like any traveler would do. San Benedetto del Tronto, Riviera delle Palme (The palms’ coast) described by the writers who visited it; and then its identity, its typical dishes...

They say about it: San Benedetto del Tronto

Nuttate de luna (moon nights) is the San Benedetto’s hymn. Written in the ’30s, tells the anxious night of a woman waiting for the return of her beloved fisherman

“We were at the beginning of September, I was hoping to have a whole season of sea bathing in the Adriatic, but I was very disappointed when I arrived in San Benedetto del Tronto and found that all the hotels were about to close. Where I stayed, I was the only guest. Without bathers or tourists, the town was going back to its genuine appearance. The fishing boats used to leave the harbor two at a time. I would like to know if the boats in the other Adriatic harbors have such beautiful sails. Decorated, in pairs, with strange signs, with multi-colored, ventilated images of crests …they spread out splendidly on the cerulean carpet of the sea, recalling the times of the crusades and a glorious past “.

The words of Andre Gide, Nobel Prize for Literature and one of the most important writers of the 20th century, refer to San Benedetto that back in 1896, was a fishing village with few hotels closing at the end of the season. Of that people, still proudly and with a stubborn identify, always incline to draw a clear line between “us and you”, Gide also said: “The singular inflection of that dialect that cuts itself off from all the others of the Marches and Abruzzo regions, a dialect of scorched privateers who came from somewhere in the south … ».

The sambenedettesi are deeply linked to corsair origins (in the ancient Truentum were found archaeological finds of the seafaring people of the Liburnians, the creators of the ships used then by the Romans).

In the city, like a mantra, the passage of the journalist Piovene is repeated, which in the ’50s was commissioned by Rai (Italy’s public broadcasting company) to provide a picture of Italy at that time. About San Benedetto he said: “They are so different from all the others in the Marches, to be a kind of colony and race apart. Usually, the people of this region are quiet, constant, classic but the inhabitants of San Benedetto (the Sambenedettesi) are fantastic, violent, ready to fight, and they also have something oriental and Saracen in their bodies. Those characteristics of the eccentric colony, different from the land that surrounds them, typical in ports, are therefore more visible in the small San Benedetto del Tronto than in the bigger Ancona.

The city and the identity of its people

San Benedetto del Tronto, with Grottammare – “The pearl of the Adriatic” much appreciated by Franz Liszt – and Cupra Marittima, forms the Riviera delle Palme. The tourist vocation that at the time of Gide was just beginning, today displaces the seafaring one. It was the second fishing fleet of Italy, Viareggio’s sister to which the sambenedettesi have also left a typical dish of the Tuscan tradition, but has been reduced due to a crisis that has affected the entire sector. Among the first sailors of the Adriatic to venture into the Atlantic, in this third millennium, the sambenedettesi can live a whole life without getting on a boat.

Consequently, of their history today they perceive – concretely – very little. Young people can not wait to escape abroad or in big cities and then return, bringing back new experiences to be told as the grandparents who, among the first, saw Dakar. And they do it with the same arrogance and the same naive prosopopoeia, the one that makes San Benedetto a provincial city with the pride of a capital.

Any other population would have split and would have gone through a profound identity crisis. Not the sambenedettesi. Because if it is true that the seafaring people are less and less seafaring, it is also true that the sambenedettesi have so much internalized their history to transform it into a real Weltanschauung.

A population on the border between two regions, split into the age-old risks of storms and that of the customs cops. These two souls have poisoned their blood and build the whole identity of people.

This particular sense of what they are separates them voluntarily from their neighbors. Ancona, Ascoli (especially Ascoli Piceno!), Teramo, Pescara, Fano, … The sambenedettesi are mad with everyone and “hate” everyone. But not for real. They are sailors. Arrogant, snooty, verbally quarrelsome. People so direct that they cross over into rudeness. Sea people and therefore people of the world. People with a big heart. All their grumble, getting angry is just something that will always be a part of them. Just like the Chinese water torture that echoes in the brain of every sambenedettese. Repetitive and hiss:

We are not like you
We are not like you
We are not like you
We are not like you

The table: the typical dish par excellence

Brodetto alla Sambenedettese

A typical dish of the city is undoubtedly the Brodetto alla Sambenedettese (fish soup). His birth (which according to some would have led to the birth of the “Caciucco – Tuscan Seafood Stew,” given the great proximity between the inhabitants of Viareggio and San Benedetto) cloaked under a shadow of the legend. Certainly, it was born on otter trawls. Indeed after the discovery of America (tomato is used in the soup). The particularity is vinegar or, according to some, the soured white wine, which the sailors drank with a lot of water. The vinegar was also used to eliminate the not very fresh smell of those poor fishes that the sailors kept for themselves (this, at least, tells the legend). From the typical lunch eaten on board, the dish arrived on the mainland, spreading in particular in the low houses of via Laberinto, a street still existing in San Benedetto.

Also present at Expo 2015, the Brodetto alla Sambendettese has a disciplinary and is one of the most renowned along with those of Fano, Ancona, Porto San Giorgio, and Porto Recanati.

The sambenedettese’s one is white, with green tomatoes, vinegar, onions, peppers and slices of toasted bread. In the soup, you will find cuttlefish, squid, weever, horse mackerel, white skate, sea-hound, monkfish, scorpion fish, shrimp, and mantis shrimp.

These are practically obligatory, although there are people who put less or even more types of fishes (17 some and even up to 21 others).

The table: corollary dishes

Coda di rospo in potacchio (Stewed monkfish)

One of the most common dishes not only in San Benedetto is the monkfish in potacchio. The monkfish is cooked in a pan with Mediterranean ingredients such as tomatoes, garlic, oil, and rosemary. White wine is added to the sauce, in addition to oil and salt.

Sailor’s coffee

A coffee born on the fishing boats and prepared in some houses and in a few restaurants of the Riviera, even if in the last 3 years some have tried to sell it, successfully. Cinnamon, Caffè Borghetti (Italian liqueur obtained from espresso coffee), Sambuca, and rum. Above all rum.

In conclusion

San Benedetto is a seaside town with a fishing and tourist vocation. Like all the cities of this type, it sleeps in the winter (more or less) and gets excited during summer. The sea is its center. The sea supports the sambenedettesi and feeds them. In every way.

Try the typical dishes of San Benedetto del Tronto, find the best restaurants with foodiestrip, read the reviews and choose the business that best meets your needs. Our foodie will guide you with their tips through fantastic gastronomic itineraries.

Photo credits Roberto Taddeo, Fabio Curzi, Marco Arbani

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Pierluigi Capriotti
My name is Pierluigi Capriotti to be exact. Despite a degree in Architecture I'm a journalist. I write following temporary monomania and others that are chronic such reading, soccer, travels and food. When I write I use many asides – because I have the impression there is always something more to say. Because in those asides I talk about my passions. So that everybody will notice them but with nonchalance. I've never had a high regard for wisdom. And, thanks God, this helped me to leave for the foodiestrip journey with a spiritual-creative mathematician, an IT engineer who plays the Star Wars soundtrack with the coffee stirrers and a businessnerd. One way ticket. No return.