Located on a hilltop between Monti Lattari and the Amalfi Coast, Gragnano is celebrated for its air-dried, bronze-extruded pasta across the world.
Pasta has been made in Italy for thousands of years. Although there is evidence that the Greeks once cooked sheets of dough made of wheat flour and the juice of crushed lettuce, the first real document that describes modern pasta can be traced to 13th century Italy. Until the 16th century, pasta was homemade; in fact, it was the most consumed meal in the house throughout the peninsula. It was in these years that pasta became an industrial product, thanks to a small number of Italian pioneers. And Gragnano is where it all began.
Pasta di Gragnano: a story of struggle and achievements
Located in the region Campania, Gragnano was one of these few territories in which the “white gold” (as the gragnanesi – Gragnano townsfolk – call pasta today) became part of a mass production. Despite the encouraging start, a series of unfortunate events, such as famines, epidemics, and droughts, prevented this business from growing further. It was only in the 18th century that Pasta di Gragnano became a proper brand, first sold in the nearby regions and then gradually spreading all over Italy.
This century was an authentic golden era for the area, with the establishment of numerous pasta factories in the main road of the city. In 1885, Gragnano was the first city in Campania to gain a direct rail connection to Napoli, proof of the growing importance of this place. Finally, the last century was the era of globalization, when Pasta di Gragnano began to travel beyond Italy’s borders to the rest of the world.
Today, Gragnano is synonymous with pasta, especially “maccheroni,” one of the most famous types of pasta all over the world. I pastai – pasta makers – continue to strive for the quality production of this exquisite product that popularized the town.
Why pasta di Gragnano is so delicious
The first secret of this amazing pasta is the land where the wheat is cultivated. Situated at the foot of Monte Lattari, Gragnano benefits from a microclimate made of the right mix of wind, sun, and humidity. It was for this reason that, in the 18th century, the king of Napoli decided that only two places were suitable to cultivate the wheat for the rest of the population: Naples and Gragnano. The pasta also must be made by mixing durum wheat with the calcium-poor water of Monti Lattari.
The second secret is the carefully-developed process, which continues to be regulated by a strict standard of production. In 2013, the European Union declared PGI (Protected Geographical Indication): the pasta made under the name “Pasta di Gragnano” must be produced in a legally defined area that still corresponds to the territory indicated by the king of the Napoli about two centuries ago.
Finally, the dough must be extruded through rough bronze forms and, once it has taken shape, dry at low temperatures in the mountain air. The result of this long and traditional process is one of the finest pastas in the world.
A trip in and around Gragnano
Due to its ideal location between Monti Lattari and the Amalfi Coast, Gragnano is a popular destination for tourists. The Valle dei Mulini, an ancient mule track situated in the historic city center, allows tourists to admire the pristine beauty of this town, with ancient mills and typical medieval houses.
The strategic position of Gragnano is ideal for tourists who want to visit Campania’s top destinations. In fact, just a few miles away is the Amalfi Coast, one the most popular tourist destinations in Italy – a picturesque stretch of coast that has been enchanting visitors for hundreds of years for its astonishing beauty. An exclusive sunset tour of this area seems the best thing to do after visiting Gragnano during the day.
Going north, the captivating beauty of the excavations of Pompeii is even closer. A journey to explore the mystery of Pompeii and the life of people in the Roman Empire seems perfect to keep discovering the glorious past of this region. Tourists who want to continue this exciting travel into the past can continue a few more miles to reach the lost city of Herculaneum, another great example of the Roman glory, second only to Pompeii.
Last, but certainly not least, in this ideal tour around Gragnano is the city of Napoli, the capital of the region and one of the best example of the Italian “dolce vita.” After discovering Gragnano pasta, Napoli takes you deeper into the Italian cuisine for at least three mouth-watering reasons: it remains the homeland and world capital of pizza, is the epicenter of coffee culture, and produces the best gelato in Italy!
Buon viaggio – e buon appetito!