For four years now, Cristiano Bonino, the founder of specialty tourism company Food.Stories.Travel., and I (his wife) have undertaken an annual winter scouting trip to explore the places and meet the people who will be featured on tours that year.
FST is a Slow Food Small Business Supporter and, in fact, Slow Food was the inspiration to its founding. As such, Slow Food Presidia are central to both our winter scouting and future tour designs. Itineraries highlight as many of the nearly 300 Italian Slow Food Presidia as can be reasonably managed as well as osterie d’italia (this Slow Food eatery guide has been a great tool in tour planning, and to date has never disappointed!) for dinners that showcase the stories and sapori gleaned over the course of that day.
This winter, four particular Presidia left big impressions on us (two in Sicily, two in Emilia)
Vastedda of the Belìce Valley area of Sicily is preserved by seven official producers. It is the only stretched-curd sheep’s milk cheese in the world (excepting one other type from Poland). We met with the president of the local DOP certification and producer Massimo Todaro, who is also a professor of zoology in Palermo.
Masculina da magghia is comprised of eight fisherman of the Masculina anchovy. The name comes from the fishing method (the maglie is the type of net, leading to magghia), practiced continuously since the days of Homer. We met the producers’ coordinator Gaetano Urzí.
Comacchio eels have been caught at the Po River Delta and marinated in special facilities for centuries. The town of Comacchio, its valley and the process reached global audiences through the film La donna del fiume starring a then-unknown Sofia Loren. We visited the Manifattura dei Marinati factory, which is also a museum.
Culatello di zibello is one of Italy’s most prized cured meats for the length (18 months or more) and delicacy of its aging process, and the value of its particular cut of pork. We learned about this Presidium at Podere Cadassa near Parma.
Sicily and Emilia were regions of great focus for us this year. But if you happen to be in Sardinia any time soon, do not miss the Casizolu cheese in the Montiferru area out of Oristano. Watching maker Giampaolo Piu at his work—the passion in his hands palpable!—is something we’ll never forget.
And in Liguria, following Alessandro Parodi around his farm of Savona Chinotto (fruit), and helping Marco of the Noli fishermen push his boat into the sea, are two more for the Food Stories Travel history books.
Supporting Presidia inspires and motivates us (and makes us hungry). The edible museum of the world that Slow Food upholds and protects is the true north to our travels—in the winter and with our guests all season. So we say, Grazie, buon viaggio e buon appetito!