Arianna Frea takes us on an enchanting food stroll through the ancient town of Bobbio, Italy.
By Arianna Frea
As soon as you enter the village of Bobbio, you immediately realize the importance of the place. The little roads of the centre enclose the life of Bobbio in an almost monastic way. Resting on the left bank of the river Trebbia, at the side of the “Appennino Piacentino” (the Appenines near Piacenza in the region of Emilia-Romagna), Bobbio is a lovely village rich in history. Since Roman times there is evidence of its existence, but it is only in 614 A.D. thanks to the the monk Colombano, that the importance of the village started. In fact it was him that began the construction of what later became one of the most important Abbeys of Europe due to its library and Scriptorium (“a place of writing”, room in medieval European monasteries devoted to the copying of manuscripts by the monastic scribes).
Located on the “Via Francigena” (an ancient pilgrimage road between Rome and Canterbury), it is also connected to the most ancient pilgrimage route, “Via degli Abati”. Bobbio has several other monuments, museums and art collections, including the Abbey of San Colombano, the Cathedral, the beautiful bridge Gobbo (literally hunch-backed) on the river Trebbia, the Malaspina Castle and the historic centre.
This location in the piacentino (region of Italy) is not only made up of history, but also nature, wine and food, and traditions. In the region the climate is mild, the flourishing woods create landscapes that mix with the geometries of the agriculture. The products of the earth express characteristics and flavours. In this place, where I spent a few days away from the scorching heat of the city, I rediscovered places, typical produce and people that made me enjoy life. It would take me too long to talk about all the beautiful things I saw and all the nice things I tasted, so I’m going to try to summarize it all with some tips I wish to share with you.
Visiting the centre, you go through roads and alleys that, still to this day, offer gastronomical excellences such as the distinctive shop of mushrooms and truffles. When you are metres away in the “Contrada di Porta Nuova” you can start to smell the unmistakable parfume of mushrooms. The different varieties, fresh or dry, are beautifully displayed in large crates; the closer you get to them the more you lose your senses, since to the perfume of mushrooms and the unmistakable fragrances of truffles are mixed. In this ecstasy of perfumes of the Earth, Mr Sandro will offer you his knowledgeable advice and tips, guiding you with passion through the fresh or dry Porcini, Caesars mushrooms, Honey mushrooms in oil, and the fantastic truffles, both white and black ones.
Carrying on with the walk, you encounter old shops including a delicatessen, a fruit shop and a baker’s shop. The latter, “L’Antica forneria Bobbiese” (the antique bakery of Bobbio), owned by Mrs. Stefania, has been producing some of the traditional cakes and typical sweets such as the Amaretto cake or the almond cake for more than 100 years. And they are both delicious!
On a Saturday, in the town’s centre, there is a market that groups together some of the best food produces of the region: cold cut meats and cheeses. After having walked through, admiring the village’s attractions, I strongly encourage you to taste and understand the real traditional cuisine. In order to do that, it is necessary to go to the restaurant “Piacentino”.
Eating in this restaurant, run by Giuseppe and Celestina is a unique experience that brings forth the true flavours of the traditional food from the region. It’s ingredients are always fresh, and rigorously prepared by hand, allowing the flavours of the “old days” to remain intact and carrying on a tradition that has been passed on for four generations.
Sitting for dinner in the beautiful back garden allows you to sample the typical cold cut meats: Pancetta, Coppa; or the different shapes of hand-made pasta including the regional speciality “Maccheroni alla Bobbiese” and “Tortelli Piacentini”. Not to be missed is the sampling of mushrooms or truffles which are delicious both in combination with first course (pasta/gnocchi) or second course (fish/meat) dishes; everything obviously accompanied by regional or traditional Italian wines. There is a saying which goes that in order to understand a world you need to know its culinary culture; in order to discover Bobbio it is essential to eat at “Piacentino”.
As for many other places, there is still a lot to talk about, but for now I going to enjoy and share my memories with you. I will be back soon to talk about some of the other treasures of Bobbio.
Hotel and Restaurant PIACENTINO
Piazza San Francesco, 19
29022 Bobbio (Pc)
Ph. (39) 0523 936266
La Casa Del Porcino e Del Tartufo (Mushrooms and Truffles)
V. Contrada Porta Nuova, 30
29022 Bobbio (Pc)
Antica Forneria Bobbiese (Bakery)
V. Contrada Porta Nuova, 4
29022 Bobbio (Pc)