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Let’s drink a good book: ‘A girl returned’ by Donatella di Pietrantonio…and a nice glass of Ratafía🍷

I was very intrigued by this book, set in Abruzzo, my homeland. It quickly became an international bestseller, translated into several languages. ‘L’arminuta’, in the local dialect, ‘The girl returned’ in English, is a thirteen year old who goes back from Pescara (my home town) to a small village in the province, where she discovers that she has another family who had given her up to be fostered because of their extreme poverty.

It is a poetic book but hard reading at the same time because, in a short time, the girl loses both the love of her foster family and her comfortable life, while also becoming overwhelmed by the poverty and indifference of a family of strangers.

She is forced to deal with abandonment, to live with doubts and unanswered questions, experiencing enormous inner loneliness. She finds comfort and help in her sister Adriana, they become tender accomplices even, despite great cultural differences.

The author is a master at describing complex feelings using simple language. I feel that Donatella Di Pietrantonio has written a pure and tough story that touches the heart.

Reading a book set in Pescara, my native town, has deeply moved me. I have been an expat for a long time and the description of Pescara’s Riviera and the Adriatic Sea, the parts written in dialect, the mention of the ‘arrosticini’ and the Sunday lunch of fish, were like a warm embrace for me❤️!

I imagined myself reading this novel, after dinner, by the fireplace in my mother’s house, enjoying each line in the meditative company of a glass of Ratafía (or Rattafia).

Ratafía is a liquor of Piedmontese origin. It is based on a recipe of the monastic order of the Monastery of Santa Maria della Sala in the Province of Biella. The original recipe dates back to 1600. It spread throughout Europe and in Abruzzo became the emblem of a peasant tradition, handed down from generation to generation and still homemade today by many families.

The story of Ratafía in Abruzzo dates back to 1800: Ratafía was considered a noble liqueur, also called ‘liqueur of notaries’, since the writer Alessio de Bernardis, born in the Abruzzese town of Teramo, wrote about the tradition of drinking it to celebrate the drafting of a commercial contract. The notary pronounced the decisive phrase ‘RATA FIAT’ (it is decided) before pouring some celebratory glasses!

The famous Italian poet and novelist, Gabriele D’Annunzio, also called it ‘the elixir of Abruzzo’, proclaiming its aphrodisiac qualities, as it is highly appreciated by women for its sweet taste and low alcohol content (7-20% alc.).

Ratafía is not as sweet and spicy as the similar Spanish recipe because there are no added sugar syrups, making it a unique and natural product. It is also different from similar Italian recipes (e.g. in Lazio coffee is added to the blend, in Veneto it is made using grappa rather than wine).

It can be purchased online or made at home with the following recipe:

Ingredients: 1 kg of sour cherries, 1 liter of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 300 g of sugar, 300 g of alcohol, 1 cinnamon stick.

Method: Wash the cherries, dry them and remove the stone. Put them in a glass bottle with a wide mouth, add the wine and cinnamon. Macerate the mixture, preferably exposing the container to the sun for 30 days. Filter the liquid with gauze, add the sugar, stirring well for a couple of days and add the alcohol. Leave to rest for a few days and then bottle the liqueur. Which should be drunk no earlier than 4/5 months.


In Abruzzo, the region where the book ‘A girl returned’ is set, it’s not Christmas without the sweet ravioli CAGGIONETTI. Chocolate, chestnuts, almonds, rum, lemon zest, cinnamon & honey are just part of the filling, enclosed within a paper-thin white wine fried ravioli casing. Who could possibly resist?

…et però credo che molta felicità sia agli homini che nascono dove si trovano li boni vini. (L. da Vinci).

… I believe that great happiness exists for the men who are born where good wines are found. (L. da Vinci)

And ……..Merry Christmas 🎁🎄

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