- Food & Wine
Tasting in Lombardy: Five flavoursome experiences
Oil from Garda, truffles from Mantua, Francia Corta sparkling wine, salami from Varzi and PDO cheeses. Five delicacies for five flavoursome experiences in Lombardy
1. Stock up on oil at Lake Garda
Oil tourism attracts more and more gastronauts to the shores of Lake Garda in Brescia every year. It’s all down to the microclimate: the PDO extra-virgin olive oil produced on the lake is particularly delicate with a fruity flavour and distinctive after-taste of sweet almond. This year will see the addition of a new springtime day event entitled That’s Garda, but you can find olive oil presses open to the public throughout the year. From the Valtenesi hills to the towns of the Riviera, you can take part in guided tours, book a tasting, watch the olive oil being pressed and even experience the olive oil harvest, which takes place here at the end of October. The other way to taste Garda Gold, of course, is seated at a table by the Lakeside.
2. Truffle-hunting (near Mantua)
Mantua is famous for its pumpkins, but autumn in the province of Mantua is also the season for truffles. The upper Mantua area is home to the prized black truffle, the scorzone, the smooth black truffle and the marzuolo (the latter in springtime), but the Valle del Tartufo or truffle valley runs along the right bank of the river Po, from Quistello to Felonica. The sandy soil, constant rainfall and temperate climate create the quintessential climate for these “sons of the soil”. Here you can also find the Tuber Magnatum Pico, the most prized of all. Epicentre of the area is the town of Borgofranco sul Po, which hosts the Tuberfood national white truffle fair in October. Ideal for a flavoursome stopover. Risottos, tortellini, gnocchi and lasagne: everything here is fragrant with the “trifula”.
3. Wine-tasting in Franciacorta
Driving slowly over the hills, dawdling between villages and castles, cycling or walking alongside rows of Pinot Nero, Pinot bianco and Chardonnay. And at least for one day allow yourself the luxury of not having to do anything but choose between Bianco, Satèn or Rosé. The perfect state of mind for a tour of Franciacorta is very zen-like. The In Cantina Festival held in September is an unmissable event, but the land of wine and fizz is open 365 days a year. Between one tasting and the next, find time to visit the monastery of San Pietro in Lamosa and the Abbazia Olivetana, both legacies of the Cluniac monks. The monks at the Convento della Madonna della Neve in Adro and of the Convento dell’Annunciata in Rovato produce their own Franciacorta. Buying directly from the monks can only add to the meditative experience.
4. Hunting down PDO (and other) cheeses
Bitto and Casera in Valtellina, Silter in Val Camonica, cheese made out of 100% raw goat’s cheese in the Luinese area… the region of Lombardy produces the greatest number of PDO cheeses, veritable food and wine gems that you can discover on a total of 12 Wine and Tasting Trails. The 12 tasting trails wander between the Alps and the river Po for a total of 1500 kilometres taking in a plethora of local products. When it comes to cheese, there is an embarrassment of choice Quartirolo Lombardo, Taleggio, Grana Padano, Gorgonzola, Salva Cremasco, Strachitunt and the other PDO cheeses jostle to satisfy your palate with cheesemaking excellence. A prime example is the Bagòss di Bagolino, with its spicy saffron notes.
5. Enjoy a bread and salami aperitivo in Varzi
No self-respecting wandering gourmet can miss Autunno Pavese, the biggest food and wine event in the Province of Pavia. And they cannot leave without stopping off in Varzi, capital of PDO hams and sausages. Varzi salami – sweet, delicate with a slightly spicy aftertaste – is produced and seasoned only in the 15 municipalities described in the PDO product specification, and made out of the best Italian pork (only pigs reared in Piedmont, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna). The perfect time to taste it is the aperitivo hour with a fine glass of red wine and a slice of Micca, a type of local hard bread with a crumbly crust.
PHOTO Franciacorta | Adobe Stock