Salone del Gusto 2016

Between official tours, I took a quick trip to Turin for the final day of Slow Food’s biannual Salone del Gusto food fair.

Slow Food’s emblem, the snail, popped up throughout town. This is the first year that Salone del Gusto wasn’t held at Turin’s convention center in Lingotto, but outside on the streets, piazzas, and parks of Turin. Reportedly, the move was due to a dispute over the rental fee for the convention center; Slow Food held out...and lost their gamble. That meant they not only had to move the location, but the timing, shifting it to September, when the weather was more likely to cooperate.

And it did. The event managed to dodge a week of rain—not so common in Piedmont in September, but here nonetheless. Whether this is a good long-term strategy remains to be seen. The event is so spread out it's hard to manage. The big blister on my toe speaks to the great distances between locations, which means daytrippers like me will have to carefully pick and choose precisely what they want to see.

I chose beer. Despite the website showing their Monastic Beer workshop as sold out, there were still last-minute tickets available (in fact, half the room was empty; what was that about?). There I discovered a great story I’ll be covering sometime down the road for Tastes of Italia: A monastery in Norcia, Umbria, was repopulated in 1998 by Benedictine monks, all coming from New York City! They're a young set—the oldest is 48—and they see beer not only as a way to earn income for the monastery, but as a way to evangelize, to get people to visit the monastery and hear about their work.

They were displaced by the horrible earthquake in central Italy last month, but hope to return to their monastery soon. And I hope to pay a visit next spring, bringing you all the news about Birra Nursia.

I spent the rest of the day wandering the booths from all the regions of Italy. It was like being in a huge, outdoor Italian food market where vendors give away free samples while hawking their wares. (Everyone was selling something, so this aspect was about education and business.) I sampled endless cheeses, breads, tapenade, sardines, chocolates, hazelnuts. and more. I lunched at street-food stands on the Po river promenade, choosing lamb skewers from Abruzzo and pale ale from Puglia. I made a special trek to their gelato row, selecting coffee and chocolate gelato made from Slow Food Presidia ingredients from Guatemala and Equador. Beer, gelato, assorted nibbles—all in all, a fun day.