Airola is a small town in the Caudina Valley, in the province of Benevento (Campania region), dominated by Mount Tairano and surrounded by the remains of a medieval castle on the hill of Monteoliveto, with the Taburno massif in the background. Its territory is crossed by the streams Tesa and Faenza, which join to form the river Isclero that, thanks to the Carolino Aqueduct, fed the waterfall of the Royal Palace of Caserta.
In some soils of Airola, thanks to the proximity to these watercourses, which release organic nourishment without, however, making them marshy, have created favorable conditions for the cultivation of an onion prized for its flavor and sweetness, never pungent. The historical production areas were located, in particular, in the districts of Padula, Feniello, Scarpone, Cortecalce, Pantanosi.
The onion of Airola has an oblong bulb, with an outer tunic of a lively coppery tone and pink inner part, with longitudinal shades of purple.
This variety belongs to the collective memory: the older farmers remember the extensive cultivation of this onion, which also occupied 100 hectares. Between the two world wars, production declined, but at the beginning of the ’50s, production resumed considerably, thanks to the great popularity of the product in the surrounding areas: the carrette (little carts) pulled by horses arrived in Airola mainly from the Neapolitan hinterland and the sanzan (matchmakers) from Airola acted as intermediaries between farmers and traders. The onion had become a very important element for the income of the peasant families of Airola, thanks to the excellent price that came out in the negotiations.
The cultivation techniques were handed down from generation to generation, as well as the seed, always self-produced by selecting the largest and most intact onions. Harvesting begins in mid-July and is done by hand. The product is left in the field, so that the first drying phase is completed, and then it is transported to the warehouses.
The onion of Airola is eaten raw in salads or soups, traditionally enriched with broad beans or beans, and accompanied by bread. Excellent also for the preparation of pancakes and omelettes, but its best use is in the preparation of the legendary “genovese”: a condiment for pasta, traditionally maccheroni della zita or mezzane, made with onions and beef. Despite the decline of its cultivation, still today the onion is a strong symbol of Airola, as demonstrated by one of the murals found in the streets of the city, which depicts a very convivial moment: the preparation of dinner, with a woman slicing an onion.
The cultivation of onions in Airola stopped in the early ’70s with the introduction and spread of tobacco. Many families left the onion production for this new product, which was workable with mechanized systems and guaranteed greater profitability. Another factor that caused the abandonment of onions was the development of the industrial sector, which pushed young people to leave the fields for better paid jobs. Today it is estimated that no more than 3 hectares are under cultivation. The launch of the Presidium aims to restore dignity to this local variety so that it can once again become a resource for Airola producers.
The guardian growers have drawn up production regulations that guarantee high organoleptic and environmental quality: prohibition of chemical weeding, crop rotation at least three years with grasses and vegetables (both cruciferous, cauliflowers and broccoli, and solanaceous plants, tomatoes and eggplants), use of low impact fertilizers, localized irrigation and only emergency irrigation.
Municipalities of Airola, Bucciano, Bonea, Moiano, Montesarchio, San Martino Valle Caudina, Cervinara, Rotondi, Paolisi, Arpaia, province of Benevento.
Presidium supported by
Municipality of Airola, Municipality of San Martino Valle Caudina, Citizens of Airola.
Ministry of Labour and Social Policies
Giulia Antonuccio, Masseria della Contessassa, Via Torre, s.n.c., 83018 San Martino Valle Caudina, +39 388 3544345, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nello Falzarano, Masseria del Conte, Via Trice Alessio 6, 82011 Airola, +39 3270452999, email@example.com
Felicia Concetta Carbona, Via Lavatoio 160, 82011 Airola, +39 3413485701, firstname.lastname@example.org
Liberata Iannucci Notariello, Via Cortecalce, 82011 Airola, +39 3333717175, email@example.com
Monica Romano, Azienda Agricola Ager, Via Puchetti 10, 82016 Montesarchio, +39 3288961487, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pasquale Monte, Via Napoli 89, 82016 Montesarchio, +39 3288732911, email@example.com
Antonio Ruggiero, Via Sepalone 87, 82016 Airola, +39 3804639236
Antonietta Paolo, Via Cortecalce, 82016 Airola, +39 3478624820
Giovanni Falzarano, Via Trice Alessio 18, 82016 Airola, +39 3802392550, firstname.lastname@example.org
Agostino Guarino, Via Luigi Gallo 12, 82016 Montesarchio, +39 3923263119, email@example.com
Davide De Masi, Az. Agr. Falco Pasqualina, Via Trociano, 82011 Airola, +39 3519488893, firstname.lastname@example.org
Biagio Quarantiello, Via Fizzo, 82013 Bonea, +39 3382939342, email@example.com
Andrea Penna, Via Sctito 11, 82011 Airola, +39 3293713449