Into the Wild

Exploring the untapped region of Molise, Italy's "Wild West" frontier.

This article, written by Silvia Marchetti, appears on CNN.

Molise: The untouched Italy few ever see

We all know Tuscany, Umbria and Sicily — but ever heard of Molise?

The door to Italy’s deep south — though paradoxically dubbed its “Wild West” — Molise is the least known Italian region, even among Italians.

A land of wolves, wild boars and ghost towns — sacked in the past by pirates and brigands — it offers untouched landscapes and hearty shepherd food.

There are pristine beaches and snow-capped mountains, a picturesque coast dotted with fortresses and a preserved Roman town to rival Pompeii — but without the crowds.

Here are seven things to know before you go.

1.Prepare for a high-protein diet

This used to be the land of transhumance: the seasonal movement of people and their livestock between summer and winter pastures.

Grazing sheep, cows and buffalo still dot the landscape and you can still spot ancient trails winding up the mountains.

The fresh mountain air produces great meats: sausages, cold cuts and cotenna (pork rind).

Local cuisine includes pampanella, a pork dish cooked with chili, garlic and vinegar, and pezzata, a piece of tender lamb shoulder served with potatoes and tomatoes.

Then there’s torcinelli — sausages filled with sheep liver.

The specialty cheese is caciocavallo, which is tied with a knot and hung from a cord.

This gives it a distinctive teardrop shape which, combined with the fact it oozes deliciously when you bite into it, has earned it the nickname “lachrymose.”

2.The region was only born in 1963

Molise is the ancestral home of the warlike Samnites, who fought off attacks from the Roman Republic.

The invasions didn’t stop there: Molise has been raided by the Romans, Normans, Spaniards, Slavs and Barbary pirates.

An often neglected region, lost between the rich Papal State and the Kingdom of Naples, Molise was created in 1963 when it was divided from the neighboring region of Abruzzo.

3.Pirates still attack each August


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