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In the Land of Taste with Alberto Bettini

We have just arrived in the city. Where shall we go?

In the city centre, in search of an accommodation that allows you to walk and enjoy the streets of Medieval Bologna and then, all in one breath, climb up the Asinelli Tower. A thrill, a "bird's eye view" over the historical centre to have an idea of the thousand-year old urban structure from the top of a very ancient tower. A look towards San Luca, on the Colle della Guardia and further on, towards the Bolognese hillsides as an appetizer for he days to come. 


But how nice it is to wander about the Bolognese hillsides...

Forget about the navigator and just follow your senses, up and down our hillsides, without a goal, even repeating the same road three times. Start a low descent from the top, which will lead you to the Plain, in one of the Italian valleys, most rich in history and gastronomy. Near Cà Bortolani of Savigno, at the Mulino del Dottore, Fabio Rossi produces wheat flour, corn and local chestnuts; with its turbines, millstones and barrel from the 1600s, it is a charming place, 700 metres high, in a small hamlet between potato fields and chestnut woods. This has always been a borderland in terms of language, habits, gastronomy and landscape. There is something strange, peculiar and out of the ordinary in this wide valley dotted with tower houses and castles, once devoted to self-defence, now residences or places to visit. In this area, history and its events have been so unstable, like in few other places in the world. The inhabitants, for hunger and for necessities, are deeply rooted to the land, in the defence of the crop and property, developing, in their DNA, the slight rough nuances that are typical of the peasant and locals living at the  banks of the river Samoggia. If history has not been generous, the same cannot be said of nature: the fertile soils, the gentle hills, the wealth of water and the good climate have created the ideal habitat for the inhabitants and for agricultural production. The last eastern valley of the production area of Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), Prosciutto DOP di Modena (PDO Ham of Modena), and Ciliegia di Vignola (Cherry of Vignola). Savigno, capital of the upper valley, has instead become the most important White Truffle collection centre in Emilia. This territory is full of water, although it is not visible, since it is underground. It disappears almost immediately, in the territory of Goccia and reappears towards Bazzano. And yet it was, and still is, the richest valley of water mills; in the twenty kilometres of its short course through the hills a few dozen water mills between Tolè and Monteveglio are still standing.


Why is the White Truffle so important in this territory?

In Savigno and its surroundings, truffle hunting has always been a must, at the bottom of the gullies between the willows and poplars and higher up, in the oak woods. Some old truffle makers Puggiàt and Barilôt have become legendary personalities. For decades they used to practice truffle hunting in the morning and go down to Bologna by bicycle to sell their harvest in the afternoon. Unquestionably of high quality, our White Truffle, was sold for years incorrectly, throughout the world, as the Truffle from Alba; now some brave restaurant owner and merchant outside the area has started proposing it as the Truffle of the Bolognese Hillsides, opening new roads towards the correct information on the origin of the product. The White Truffle season starts in October and ends more or less in January while the use in the kitchen is the classic one, in the sense that the truffle plays the main role and you, with discretion, stay a step behind. In terms of pasta to choose and combine with a truffle sauce, preferably Tagliatelle the eggs can be of many kinds, the Parmesan cheese must be young and the potatoes: these are the four historical truffle partners. Finally, the dairy butter is what binds the five delicious ingredients together.


And what about wine?

The producers of the Bolognese Hillsides are an example of simplicity and quality, passion and seriousness, but they started late with bottled wine, no more than forty, fifty years ago. If they had begun at the beginning of the last century, as in other areas of Italy, they would now be on the tables of the whole country. The Pignoletto is now achieving the success it deserves and a visit to a winery should not be missed during the trip to Valsamoggia. 

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