Slow Food Festa
Parma & Piedmont and the Salone del Gusto
- Commune with artisan farmers at Slow Food’s biannual food festival, Salone del Gusto in Turin
- Visit a Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese producer and a balsamic vinegar maker
- Lunch at prosciutto factory
- Accompany a truffle hunter and his dog in the woods
- Visit three wine regions: Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont & Lambrusco in Emilia Romagna
- Private sit-down tastings at Ceretto and Damilano (Barolo), Marchesi di Gresy (Barbaresco), and Medici Ermete (Lambrusco), plus dinner at the Marchesi di Barolo winery
SLOW FOOD FESTA, which in 2009 was a National Geographic Traveler “Tour of a Lifetime,” brings together slow food in Piedmont and comfort food in Parma. We’ve scheduled it to coincide with the Salone del Gusto, a Slow Food festival held every two years in Turin.
We start in Parma. Emila Romagna’s reputation as a food capital goes back to Roman times, when butchers and bakers would proudly display their vocation on grave markers. It continued through the Renaissance, when upper-class epicures savored a variety of spiced, cured meats—an expensive delicacy devised by local pork butchers. During modern times, Bologna was a forerunner to international food destinations, acting as a magnet for gourmands for much of the past century. And no wonder. Its cuisine is the very definition of comfort food: slow-cooked ragús, soul-satisfying lasagna, mom-can’t-make-it-better chicken broth for tender tortellini. Plus, here’s where you’ll find the real deal in Prosciutto di Parma, crumbly Parmigiano-Reggiano, and aged balsamic vinegar, aka Aceto Balsamico Traditionale di Modena.
Piedmont has a different, but equally proud food tradition. The refined elegance of its cuisine owes to close ties with France: Piedmont was ruled by the royal house of Savoy for nearly two centuries, French was the language of diplomacy, and French customs in the kitchen and wine cellars freely traveled across their shared border. As a result, you’ll find butter and cream in risotto and pasta recipes, and truffles flecking rich egg dishes. And in wine, there’s Barolo, one of Italy’s first age-worthy reds, created by piemontese aristocrats who wanted to emulate Burgundy.
More recently, Piedmont has led the way in the Slow Food movement. As the story goes, Carlo Petrini, a food journalist from the town of Bra in Piedmont, was traveling to Rome in 1986. He was appalled to see that McDonald’s was about to launch its first outlet in Italy—on the famed Spanish Steps, no less. To resist this infiltration of fast food, he launched a countermovement, Slow Food, with the snail as its rebellious emblem. In 1989, the founding manifesto was signed in Paris by 15 countries. Today there are 132 countries with 800 chapters (including, no doubt, one near you!). Among its goals, Slow Food promotes biodiversity (via seed banks of heirloom varieties), the preservation of local food traditions, and small-scale processing, while educating about the hazards of monoculture, genetic engineering, and pesticides.
Every two years, Slow Food holds its huge food festival, the Salone del Gusto, in Turin. This five-day event brings together Slow Food farmers, activists, and consumers for tastings galore and educational panels of every kind. You’ll find Meet the Maker sessions and Taste Workshops on amphora-aged wines, Icelandic preserved foods, Basque cured meat, fruit beer, biodynamic wine, vertical tastings, and dozens of other arcane, intriguing topics. We’ll devote an entire day to the food fair, offering free time to pursue your own interests, then reconvening in late afternoon at the enoteca for a giro d’italia wine tasting.In both Piedmont and Parma, we’ll focus on food and wine in equal measure (like any good Italian). Join us for a taste of it!