Four Regions In Four Weeks ---- A Slow Food Journey Across Italy.
Why did we do this? because we love Italy, the Italian lifestyle, the wines, and of course Slow Food. So, armed with my Slow Food bible, The Osterie & Locande D’Italia, we set out to explore, at a slow pace, four regions of Italy.
For the uninitiated, the Slow Food movement was founded in Bra, in the region of Piedmont, (one of the regions we visit) in 1986, to counter the standardisation of taste and the manipulation of consumers across the globe.
Slow Food works not only to protect the historic, artistic and environmental heritage of places of gastronomic pleasure, but also to safeguard the food and agricultural heritage (crop biodiversity, artisan techniques, food traditions, and sustainable agriculture)
I have always believed in eating and drinking the produce that is produced in the region, that is, Locavore. Farmers markets are always the first thing on my list to visit when arriving in a new destination.
So the journey begins, in Venice with this edition covering our first week in the Veneto.
In the following weeks we will cover Piedmont, Abruzzo and Tuscany.
Welcome to the Veneto.
The Veneto is a huge area that stretches from Lake Garda in the west, Venice and the Adriatic Sea to the east and the ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the far north. There are seven provinces in greater Veneto – Belluno, Treviso, Venezia, Verona, Vicenza, Padova, and Rovigo. The Veneto Region of Italy is a fascinating section of the country to visit packed tight with wine country, gorgeous cities and hamlets, and some stunning natural scenery. The area is the perfect destination for wine lovers & Slow Food devotees.
Lost in Venice, the only way to go.
We arrived in style into Venice, with the sun coming up as we cruised in onboard La Lyrial, part of the Ponant fleet. Truly a spectacular way to view this wonderful city for the first time.
Our accommodation for the next 3 nights was in an incredible apartment in a 15th century Palace, in the district of Cannaregio, which is the district of choice for the local Venetians, and just a way from the hordes of visitors that threaten to sink this beautiful city. These are the views from our windows. It was wonderful to come home from a day of exploring to this beautiful apartment, and probably the best wi-fi we had in our entire journey.
We had three nights here, and with a little pre-planning it was enough to see what we wanted to see. We purchased a 3-day pass for the water bus and vaporetta’s, a great way to see the city and the nearby islands like Burano with the glass blowing studio’s.
Then it was off to relax with a glass of Prosecco and a cicchetto, the Venetian style tapas popular with the locals, delicious and very local. The Rialto Markets were calling and as it turned out they were just across the canal from our Palace accommodation. Perfetto!
It’s worth a morning visit, to watch the chefs negotiating for the best of the seafood. The San Polo district is a maze of little lanes and dining options are numerous. The further you get away from the tourists, and the Rialto Bridge, the better the quality of the cuisine offered. Eat like a local, works everytime for me !
Tonight, we have our first taste of Slow Food endorsed dining at La Bitta. A small osteria that started out as a bacaro where you could stop for an ombra and a cicheto, that is now making a name for itself among Venice’s restaurants. It’s a pleasant place, both in the bar area the dining room and in the outdoor courtyard garden. Seating is limited and booking essential.
Front of house is the delightful Debora who presents the menu describing the dishes cooked by her husband Marcellino. The menu changes every day depending on the season and what is available in the nearby markets. The focus is mainly on meat and vegetables from the local area always of excellent quality. Dishes will include, Rabbit meat in “in saor”, tagliatelle with white meat ragout, potato dumplings with fresh ricotta and aromatic herbs. Other meat dishes include lamb chops sautéed with thyme, braised pork cheeks, veal liver in Venetion style, fillet of beef grilled with bacon.Duck in peverada sauce, and chicken straccetti with finferli mushrooms. To close a selection of cheeses and delicious home-made puddings.
As for the wine line, trust Debora. The choice is from approximately 60 wineries from Triveneto region. Some available by the glass.
This was a special evening providing an insight into traditional Venetian style cuisine, prepared and presented with pride. Realistically priced for Venice, our group loved the evening.
After another 2 days of doing the tourist thing in Venice it was time to collect our car and head west across the Veneto, staying with the A4 and bypassing Padova and Vincenza in favour of reaching the Soave district, which lies to the East of Verona. We only had time, on this trip, to take in one wine region, and the Soave has always interested me.
The Veneto is jam packed with vineyards and is home to a multitude of appellations including: (DOCG) Bardolino Superiore, Recioto di Soave and Soave Superiore (both using the Garganega grape primarily), (DOC) Colli Euganei (making great Cabernet Franc and Merlot based wines), Bianco di Custoza (refreshing white wines), Bardolino (made on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, mainly light reds and strong rosés made with the Valpolicella trio of grapes- Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, and also Negrara and Rossignola), Lugana (aromatic whites, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene)
We had pre-arranged a wine tasting at Trabucchi, one of our partners for the tours we bring through this region. Outstanding location, with the winery built into the side of the hill, outstanding wines, and a wonderful family. Raphaella personally greeted us and we spent a relaxed morning discovering the wines and the history of the Trabucchi family. The wines will be reviewed separately and we will be back here next year one of our wine and food traveller tours.
We chose to stay in a wonderful villa property at Colognola ai Colli in the hills behind the town of Soave. A perfect place to relax in the Est Veronese province, and close enough to explore Verona and the surrounding villages of the Soave region.
Back to the Slow Food bible, where to eat over the next 2 days. We are heading south to the Adige River region as I was keen to see the area called the Bassa Veronese, the vast plain where the vialone nano veronese rice is grown and is protected by the IGP designation. We would have dined at Risotteria Melotti a family owned and run osteria where the entire menu is based on the vialone nano rice of the region, but we were too late!! Definitely next time.
There is a trattoria in a village called Ronco all 'Adige that is an experience not to be missed when traveling through the Soave region.
If you stop to ask for directions you would be unlucky to find a local who doesn't know where this trattoria is! All the locals know about Sofia.
There are no sign posts pointing to the establishment nor is there one telling you that you have arrived. Just a little sign in a non-descript house
The menu follows the seasons using only products from the immediate region, the rice fields the wetlands and the river A'dige.
You will taste the best of Verona's traditional dishes namely risotto with meat, risotto with frog’s legs, risotto with pessin de fossa. I choose the risotto with frog’s legs----outstanding.
This place is an institution, with the owner & two daughters running the kitchen in a way that is deeply rooted in local tradition and a true slow food philosophy. Sofia herself, is such a personable character.
Don’t arrive and expect to get a table, this little gem is a favourite of the locals, who dress for the occasion on a regular basis. So, bookings are a must.
The Est Veronese province is full of Slow Food endorsed product and 3 -4 days could easily be filled tasting Olive Oil, Cheeses, wines, and then dining at the many osteria that are hidden away in the most obscure places.
We also visited the frantoio Bonamini who produce some highly acclaimed Olive Oils and recognised by Slow Food.
Our last day in the Veneto was spent in Verona as we continued our journey west toward Piedmont and although we spent a couple of hours exploring this beautiful city dining will have to wait till our return next year.
We are now heading for Piedmont ( with a night beside Lake Como in Lezzano along the way)
Part 2 is all about Piedmont, the home of Barolo and Slow Food . Coming soon.