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Tornareccio: A Honey of a Town

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

The following Monday, Victoria and I took a 45-minute road trip to Tornareccio. Victoria wisely suggested we use Google maps, which I confess had never occurred to me. Doing so sucked up a lot of my international data plan, but the time we surely saved was well worth that expense.

Approaching the town of Tornareccio

I was surprised I hadn’t heard of this place before. Tornareccio, a village of Medieval origin with about 2,000 inhabitants, has two claims to fame. First, it is the reigning “capital of honey” in the Abruzzo region. The “Tornareccio, Regina di Miele” (Tornareccio, Queen of Honey) fair attracts thousands of visitors every year during the last weekend of September.

Second, it has for ten years been home to an open-air museum of more than 80 works in mosaic that reproduce paintings of international artists. The mosaics appear on the exterior walls of buildings — including homes —throughout the town, each credited with museum plaques. Every summer, an exhibition of contemporary art called “Un Mosaico per Tornareccio” is hosted here to choose the new works that will be transformed into mosaics for the following year by the “mosaicisti” of Ravenna, the city in Emilia-Romagna storied for its mosaic masterpieces.

As soon as we landed in what looked to be the center of town, we spied an older gentleman sitting on a bench and stopped to ask for a good place to buy honey. He eyeballed us for a minute without responding and I half-feared we’d be scolded for having interrupted his early afternoon musings. Then he nodded and told us to follow him in his car. He led us to a house with a little shop adjacent, pointed to the driveway

entrance, and waved goodbye. At first we weren’t sure what to do because there seemed to be nobody about, but a woman soon appeared on the balcony and told us she’d be right down.

{Strict vegans eat no animal byproducts, but I make an exception for honey. I know taking it makes the bees angry, but I don’t put that in the cruelty category. Maybe I’ll change my mind at some point.}

The place, called Apicoltura Tieri ( was the real thing. Our host told us her family had been beekeepers for generations and also noted something I’d never heard: that beekeepers follow the bees. The sites of her family’s honey production move around the region as climate and flora change.

And what an assortment of honey she had! Fortunately, there was even a sampling bar. I bought jars of acacia, millefiori, frutti di bosco, and liquirizia (yes, that’s licorice-infused honey, and it’s got a lip-smacker of a finish not unlike burnt caramel). I also couldn’t resist some packets of a honey-royal jelly blend prescribed for steeling one’s system against allergies and assorted maladies that come with the change of season. The treatment called for one dose a day for seven days. I sucked down the first on the spot.

The treatment didn’t work, alas. My allergies were terrible. Or maybe it did work and I just don’t know how bad I would have felt had I not taken it. At any rate, it was a medicine that went down in a most delightful way.

Not having done my homework prior to visiting Tornareccio, I didn’t realize that the village’s mosaics, too, celebrate themes of bees and honey. I noticed only belatedly that there’s an allusion incorporated into many, though I’m not sure all, of the town’s displayed artworks. In some, it's overt; in others, quite subtle. In some cases, the works' titles give viewers a clue how and where to look; in others, no.

In “The Image of Christ” (first shown below), is that a bee hidden in Jesus’ beard? Yes, I think maybe it is.

Is that a sun made of bees there at right? Yes.

Is that a bee's eyes staring back at the viewer in the center mosaic? The title, "Bee's Eyes on Chameleon," would indicate it is.

Is there a honeycomb pattern to the snakes of the Medusa? I believe so.

What I can’t find an answer to now is whether the artworks displayed must include an allusion to bees or honey, because I haven't managed to find it in some of them. At any rate, it’s fun to exercise yourself looking for it, ala Where’s Waldo?

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