The town of Airola is located in the Benevento province, in the vast western area of Valle Caudina. This small town is dominated by Mount Tairano and is surrounded by the remains of a medieval castle perched on the hill of Monteoliveto with the Taburno ranges in the background. The Tesa and Faenza torrents insert themselves into this beautiful setting, which then join to form the Isclero river and Carolino Aqueduct, which fed the waterfall of the Royal Palace of Caserta. On some pieces of land in Airola, thanks to the proximity to these waterways which release organic nutrients, without making them swampy, conditions have been created which favour the cultivation of an onion, which is particularly prized for its flavour and sweetness, and which is never pungent. The areas which produce this onion were identified in the districts of: Padula, Feniello, Scarpone, Cortecalce and Pantanosi.
The Airola onion has an oblong shaped bulb, with a lively copper coloured outer skin, while the inside is pink with vertical streaks of purple. The history of the Airola onion is remembered in the stories of farmers, who recall extensive cultivation of this onion. In the past it was cultivated on over 100 hectares. During the period of the two World Wars, the production suffered and its cultivation decreased, however, in the 1950’s its production recovered significantly, thanks to its huge popularity in the surrounding areas: the “carrette” (carts) pulled by horse, mainly arrived from inland Neapolitan areas and the Airolan “sanzan”(brokers) acted as intermediaries between farmers and traders. The onion became a very important source of income for the peasant farmers of Airola, thanks to the optimal price which they were able to sell it for. The cultivation techniques have been handed down from generation to generation, as have the seeds, which have always been produced by the farmers by selecting the onions which were the largest and most intact. The harvest begins from mid-July and is done by hand. Whatever product is harvested on each day, is left in the field to begin a first drying phase and is then transported to warehouses.
Due to its organoleptic characteristics, the Airola onion is often eaten raw in salads, or as an ingredient in soups, traditionally accompanied by broad beans or beans and accompanied by bread. It is perfect also for omelettes and “frittelle” (cooked in batter), but it is best used in the mythical Genovese sauce: a pasta sauce, traditionally made with maccheroni della zita or mezzane, made from onions and beef.
Even though there has been a decline in its cultivation, the onion is a strong symbol of Airola, as demonstrated by one of the recently made murals found on the city’s streets, which aims to depict a very common moment for the citizens: the preparation of a dinner by a red haired woman cutting an onion.
The Airola onion is harvested from mid-July onwards
The traditional growers have created a production specification to maintain the quality of the onion. In particular, this provides requirements which include the use of crop rotation at least every three years, the use of fertilisers which have low environmental impact, restrictive localised irrigation of plants which can only be done in times of severe need and the prohibition of chemical weeding.
The cities of Airola, Bucciano, Bonea, Moiano, Montesarchio, San Martino Valle Caudina, Cervinara, Rotondi, Paolisi, Arpaia.
The Municipality of Airola, the Municipality of San Martino Valle Caudina, the citizens of Airola.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Policies
The Airola Onion Presidium is funded by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, General Directorate of the Tertiary Sector and Corporate Social Responsibility - notice No. 1/2018 "Slow Food in action: communities as protagonists of change", pursuant to Article 72 of the Tertiary Sector Code, referred to in Legislative Decree No. 117/2017
di Monica Romano
Via Puchetti, 10
Tel. +39 328 8961487
Felicia Concetta Carbone
Via Lavatoio, 160
Tel. +39 341 3485701
Davide De Masi
Tel. +39 351 9488893
Via Luigi Gallo, 12
Tel. +39 392 3263119
Tel. +39 333 3717175
Masseria del Conte
di Nello Falzarano
Via Trice Alessio, 6
Tel. +39 327 0452999
Masseria Della Contessa
di Giulia Antonuccio
San Martino Valle Caudina (Bn)
Tel. +39 388 3544345
Via Napoli, 89
Tel. +39 328 8732911
The seed is also kept by: Giovanni Falzarano, Antonietta Paolo, Andrea Penna and Antonio Ruggiero from Airola
Slow Food Presidium coordinator
Tel. +39 335 6171983