Sampling Sulmona’s Secrets

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The beautiful city of Sulmona is located roughly a 20 minute drive from where we were staying. The drive was nice and easy and we reached the city without any dramas. We had been advised by my supervisor not to drive into the heart of the city as apparently it’s a pedestrian only zone and so if you drive into certain parts you receive a fine. We didn’t want this which added to our parking stresses a little! Anyhow we parked up relatively easily and went to explore.

A Slice of Sulmona

It was pretty hot when we first walked around and we seemed to have quite a bit of difficulty working out where abouts on the map we were. We decided to follow signs to the Confetti Pelino as I had read something about it being a confetti factory earlier and thought this might be interesting. We made our way to the factory, following the tourist signs to the factory, only to find it was closed for lunch and wouldn’t be opening till later in the afternoon. We walked back up to the centre a bit more, finding some gecko friends on the way. Here, I think we took a wrong turn and instead of heading through the main streets of Sulmona we took a long walk round the outside of the city. Never mind, there were some nice views along the way and we ended up at the Cathedral which was a nice place to stop.

Basilica Cattedrale di San Panfilo

Sulmona Cathedral, otherwise known as Duomo di Sulmona or Basilica Cattedrale di San Panfilo, is a Roman Catholic Cathedral and situated at one end of the city. It’s quite a grand white / beige coloured building with big brown wooden doors. Apparently the Cathedral was originally built in 1075 (ages ago!) but was badly damaged as a result of an earthquake in 1706 which led to it being rebuilt in more of a Baroque style. Later renovations and buildings works have been added too. I did walk all the way round the Cathedral and tried the doors but it seemed like it wasn’t open for us to take a look inside. I didn’t see any touristy type information anywhere nearby so can only assume it’s not open to the public, or at least wasn’t at the time we were there (this would start to be a recurring theme in Sulmona).

There were some a nice gardens next to the Cathedral which we decided to take a stroll through to see what else we could find. We came across some fountains and saw a family having a picnic which looked rather yummy.

The Hunt for Gelato

After walking through the park are we came to the shops. Here we knew we had to look for the ice cream place recommended by my supervisor. We decided we would try and look it up in google maps. As we were messing around doing this I looked up to try and find what road we were on and happened to notice we were standing right across from the gelateria we were looking for! We entered Di Silvio’s and were greeted by a vast range of scrummy looking luscious ice creams and sorbets. It took us quite a while to decide which cones and tubs to get let alone ice cream flavours to try! Luckily it didn’t matter as we appeared to be the only tourists in the shop, let alone Sulmona. I only wish we had places like this in England where they are so may different flavours of rich creamy gelato (then again maybe it wouldn’t be so much of treat that way). I settled for a tub with two scoops – one of coconut and another scoop of kinder bueno cereal – it tasted so damn good! We went back to the park and ate the ice creams there.

After devouring our ice creams we made our way through the city’s streets. The streets were lined with confetti shops, many of which had stalls full of flower bunches made from confetti outside. Confetti is the name for sugared almonds which originate from Sulmona (more about that when we visit the factory). I was amazed at the colourful displays of flowers and animals made from the sugared almond arrangements and couldn’t resist buying a couple for myself to take home – they were pretty cheap at a euro or so each after all.

With my confetti flowers in hand we wandered further into the heart of the city. We made it to the Tourist Information Centre, which looked like a really grand architectural building. It said it opened at 3pm and as it wasn’t far off that we decided to take a seat on the steps and hang around until it opened. It started to rain as we waited for 3pm and we couldn’t help notice that everything seemed to be shut – a lot of the shops and restaurants / cafes. It didn’t quite have the feel of the sunny busy photos my supervisor had sent me when she had been here a few weeks earlier. We ended up waiting till about 3.20pm and the tourist information didn’t open so we decided to move on, it was raining and we were getting pretty wet after all.

We passed through various squares and stumbled across lots of beautiful buildings and some stunning architecture. It had a real Italian feel to it and despite the rain and thunder that had now started, it was still quite a sight. After snapping quite a few photos (no one was around which was nice) we decided to hot foot it back to the Confetti Factory as we knew it would have re-opened for the day.

So What is Confetti?

The Confetti Pelino Factory is free to enter and definitely a good place to take shelter from the rain. There is a car park too with room for a considerable amount of cars. You enter into the shop and walk through lines of cabinets full of confetti models and gifts before you reach the museum part of the factory. Here, there are walls upon walls of information about the factory and production of sugared almonds and lots of pictures of the Pelino family. The Pelino Company was founded in 1783 and has since made and produced confetti. As you walk up the stairs you can observe staff working in the factory making the confetti – we stood for ages watching the ladies transfer the almonds into big copper heaters and adding the sugar and colours – it was quite mesmerising really, although a little odd when one of the ladies would look up at catch you staring at them!

After the viewing window we carried on looking at various cabinets of information and objects relating to the Pelino family and Company. There were typewriters, statues, pictures of the confetti making process and examples of different flavoured confetti.

Give the Gift of Confetti

There is also lots of information on what confetti is. Confetti, as mentioned previously, are small, almond sweets with a crisp sugar coated – sugared almonds as we call them in the UK. Apparently confetti would traditionally be given at Italian celebrations such as baptisms, weddings and other important family events. Confetti can be presented in various ways which include, packaged in boxes or gift bags, loose in large dishes or bowls or made into shapes which are normally flowers and insects. There were loads of different examples on display in the museum and the shops for you to purchase. There a lots of different colours of the sugared almonds too and some were wrapped in bright coloured paper which helped to make the flower arrangements look particularly striking. Apparently different coloured confetti would traditionally be associated with different types of events:

  • Pastel pinks or blues for babies baptisms
  • White or ivory for weddings
  • Confetti covered in silver or gold for anniversary celebrations
  • Red for graduations

We saw quite a few people in the shop buying different types of confetti- some flower arrangements and some loose choosing different colours and sizes of the almonds. These people all appeared to be speaking Italian and appeared like they were locals buying them as gifts for people. Confetti appears to be a popular thing to give to someone as a gift – a bit like real flowers and chocolates here in England I guess. We did treat ourselves to a small bag of the mixed size and coloured confetti, although I have to admit we haven’t tried them yet! They don’t grab my fancy like a bar of dairy milk does!

I feel we spend at least 45 minutes walking around the museum part of the factory and visiting the shop. It was good to get out of the rain and I think a good sight to see in Sulmona. We certainly learnt a new meaning of the word confetti and it dispelled my original thoughts that we might be going to factory where they made small bits of tissue paper for guests to throw at weddings! Although I have later read that this type of confetti does have origins relating back to Italian traditions!

Have you ever been to Sulmona and visited the Confetti Factory for yourself? Have you ever tried sugared almonds and what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments below.



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