When Slow Food Becomes a Science

University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo

We visited the College of Gastronomy Sciences

Best of Piedmont

Our “Summer Trek” wouldn’t have been complete without a stop at the temple of Italian food and home to the Slow Food international organization in Piedmont.

We spent a few nights in Pollenzo, seat of the Universitá di Scienze Gastronomiche run by the Slow Food organization. The Albergo dell’Agenzia, a first class accommodation and restaurant is located in the Agenzia complex that houses the Banca del Vino (wine bank), a place where wine is traded in the same manner as currency is in a bank. This is where many of Slow Food’s official functions take place.

These organizations are housed in what used to be the Agenzia buildings. This was where, at the time that King Carlo Alberto reigned, all the offices that collected taxes and ran the kingdom were located.

We used this location as a base to visit the wine districts of Langhe and Roero, Barolo, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Santa Vittoria d’Alba, Cherasco, Neive. We made every effort to avoid large centers, skipping Turin, Florence, Rome and other large metropolitan areas on this year’s trip. We felt like this strategy gave us a more relaxing summer and one of the best vacations ever. We spoke with the locals, we dined where the locals dine; we celebrated special fests in many small villages, engaging fully in the local culture, habits and traditions.

The highlights in Piedmont’s Langhe and Roero were food & wines. We discovered that Cherasco is not only a perfectly preserved small town, but also the capital of the world for raising edible snails, and of course for cooking them. It is home to the Istituto Internazionale di Elicicoltura, (www.lumache-elici.com) an international organization whose purpose is to supervise the breeding and raising of edible snails.

We sampled many different preparations and can assure you that wherever you dine in Cherasco, you will be impressed with the quality and variety of the local cuisine. The Osteria La Torre* run by the youthful Falco brothers, Marco in the kitchen and Lele in the dining room, with their enthusiasm and professionalism have created one of the best known dining places in the area. They exemplify the true meaning of what is called “Cucina del Territorio,” local cuisine, not only for their recipes, but also for their exclusive use of ingredients coming, if not from their back yard, from within the neighborhood. Their prices are very moderate.

Neive, a small village near Alba was a pleasant discovery, a very tidy and perfectly preserved village.

We enjoyed Santa Vittoria d’Alba with its remarkable castle and also had a chance to taste samples of its famed Moscato wine. Pollenzo itself is worth a visit, home of the Slow Food University and the Agenzia complex. We stayed at the Corte Albertina Hotel*, a beautifully restored Inn with well-appointed rooms and a friendly professional staff. Bra,* birthplace of Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement and home to its headquarters is worth a visit especially to sample its restaurants.

Saluzzo is built on a hill overlooking a fertile and well-cultivated plain. The surrounding mountains with the peak of Monviso as a backdrop frame this lovely small town. The city center is lined with blocks of arcades that make the evening “passeggiata” a rite that endures today. The arcades are an invitation to shop in beautiful old-style stores, and a perfect gathering place for groups of locals, both young and old, to socialize. The highlights of this town are the Lombard-gothic cathedral. We visited the Museo Civico di Casa Cavassa, housed in an exquisite 15th Century home that has been wonderfully preserved. The view of the town and the valley from its balcony is breathtaking. There are also notable paintings and architectural features that you will appreciate. You must also visit the church of San Giovanni, an excellent example of the Gothic style.

We will not forget the gastronomy of Saluzzo. Don’t miss the L’Ostu Dij Baloss* restaurant, excellent food, professional service, interesting local gastronomy, and an impressive wine list of local production.

Lodging & Food Information
* Restaurant La Torre Via G. Garibaldi, 13. Tel. 0172 488458 – Cherasco (no web site at this moment)
*Alba-Bra Convention Bureau – Alba
* La Corte Albertina Hotel –Pollenzo
*L’Ostu dij Baloss – Saluzzo
*Villa San Carlo Hotel – Cortemilia

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