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Food and Wine Mini Marathon in Franciacorta

March 2022

On the occasion of my specialization course for Food and Wine Tourism Specialist  I am participating in an educational trip in Franciacorta, in the Brescia and Lake Iseo area.

Day 1 | Visit to the historic center of Brescia, lunch at 21 Grammi restaurant, transfer to Castenedolo and visit to Peri-Bigogno cellars, dinner in Darfo Boario Terme, overnight in Lovere

Rome, Termini Station. Finally, I meet some of the people I’ve just seen on a screen so far. Despite the age difference our shared interests are a glue. Between one chat and another we arrive in Brescia where we reunite with the rest of the group, a total of 29 participants from  all over Italy. First stop, the Castle of Brescia and the city’s medieval streets.

Castello di Brescia
Brescia Castle
Brescia Piazza della Loggia
Brescia Piazza della Loggia - Bella Italia monument
Tempio Capitolino Brescia
Capitolium Brescia

Not everyone knows that Brescia has several Roman remains. The Capitolium is a temple located in Piazza del Foro. With the theater and the remains of the city forum, it is the most important complex of public buildings ruins from the Roman age in Northern Italy.

We have lunch at 21grammi, a restaurant that employs people with Down Syndrome and we take a guided tour of Brescia‘s historic center: the Cathedral, Piazza della Loggia with the magnificent Town Hall building and the Clock Tower, Piazza della Vittoria, symbol of the Fascist period’s architecture with the large Post Office building and the INA tower, the first skyscraper built in Italy and among the first in Europe.

Brescia Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta
Brescia - Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral
Brescia Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta 2
Brescia - Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral
Palazzo della Loggia Brescia
Palazzo della Loggia Brescia
Piazza della Vittoria Brescia
Piazza della Vittoria Brescia

Then we go by bus to Castenedolo, in the Colli dei Longobardi area to visit the Peri-Bigogno winery, located in the eighteenth-century Palazzo Togni purchased by the Peri family in 1946. The winery occupies an underground area of ​​over 1,000 square meters.

Cantine Peri Bigogno
Peri-Bigogno wine cellars
Cantine Peri Bigogno
Peri-Bigogno wine cellars

At the end of the day we are driven to Lovere, on the shores of Lake Iseo. In this village, considered one of the most beautiful in Italy, we stay at the Ostello del Porto.

Lovere sul Lago d'Iseo
Lovere - Iseo Lake

For dinner we go to Darfo Boario Terme at  La Storia restaurant where they have prepared a tasting menu for us with various samples of local specialties including a memorable risotto with caramelized onion.

risotto alla cipolla caramellata
Caramelled onion risotto

Day 2 | Boat tour of Lake Iseo, lunch in Peschiera Maraglio, Visit to the La Vela oil mill in Marone, Visit to the Ricci Curbastro winery in Franciacorta

From Sulzano we leave for a boat trip of the lower Lake Iseo, the Tour of the Three Islands: San Paolo, Loreto, Monte Isola. Right here in 2016, the artist Christo set up The Floating Piers, an amazing land art installation made of a network of floating piers between Sulzano, Montisola and the island of San Paolo; 100 thousand square meters walkway over the water that attracted one and a half million visitors from all over the world.

Floating Piers Christo
Floating Piers 2016, Wikimedia Commons

We get off at Peschiera Maraglio, on the largest lake island in Europe, for a tasting of local specialties at  Isola dei Sapori where we taste Montisola’s traditional dried sardines and buy cured meats, cheeses and craft beer, all locally produced.

sarde essiccate a Montisola
Dried sardines in Montisola
Isola di Loreto Lago d'Iseo
Loreto island - Iseo Lake

We continue to Marone where we visit “La Vela” oil mill. It’s an opportunity to put into practice the tasting techniques learned from our teacher Marco Oreggia, curator of Flos Olei, the only world guide dedicated to extra virgin olive oil. First, heat the glass well then smell it for a long time and finally taste it, letting air pass through the sides of the mouth with a sucking action.

Frantoio La Vela Marone
La Vela oil mill
Frantoio La Vela degustazione
Extra virgin olive oil tasting at La vela oil mill

We then go by bus to Capriolo, in Franciacorta, to visit the award-winning Ricci Curbastro winery where Spumante is produced according to the method that derives from that of Champagne, created by French abbot Dom Pérignon. In the past, italian sparkling wines were also called champenoise, but since 1994 this is no longer possible and therefore the name has been changed to “classic” or “traditionalmethod.

Azienda vinicola Ricci Curbastro
Ricci Curbastro Winery - Agricultural Museum

The traditional method is the result of a long process. It starts with a blend of still white wines to which tirage is added: a blend of sugars and yeasts. The bottles are filled and stacked horizontally. Thus begins the prize de mousse caused by the yeasts which, by feeding on the sugar, release carbon dioxide. Once the yeasts have consumed all the sugar, they die and settle in the bottle where they will remain for 2 to 5 years.

Bottiglie accatastate per la presa di spuma
Piled bottles for prize de mousse
Metodo tradizionale remuage
Traditional Method - Remuage

Once the refinement is complete, it is necessary to remove the deposits from the wine. The bottles are placed upside down in special racks where they are rotated a few degrees every day until the funds collect in the neck of the bottle. It is the remuage manoeuvre, once carried out by expert hands and now entrusted to machines.

When all the sediments are close to the cork, disgorgement takes place. The bottles are immersed by the neck in a brine at -25°C. Thus a small icicle forms trapping the deposits, then the bottle is uncorked to make it squirt out without excessive loss of pressure. At this point, to compensate for the lost wine, the shipping syrup is added, a mixture of aged wine, brandy and cane sugar in variable doses. Then a further refinement follows in the bottle for a few months.

After the visit we return to Lovere to dine by the lake at the “Le Terrazze” restaurant with several typical local dishes such as casoncelli alla bresciana and polenta with artichokes.

Polenta with artichokes
Casoncelli alla Bresciana
Casoncelli alla Bresciana

Day 3| Visit to the Archaeological Park of Rock Engravings in Naquane, lunch at Agriturismo San Faustino, return to Brescia 

Today we are in Valle Camonica for a visit to the Archaeological Park of Rock Engravings in Naquane. The guide shows us the prehistoric representations engraved in the stone dating back to the copper, bronze and iron ages. In the local dialect of Valle Camonica, petroglyphs are referred to as pitoti, or puppets.

pitoti Parco delle Incisioni Rupestri di Naquane
Pitoti - Naquane National Park of Rock Engravings
Incisioni rupestri
Rock engravings in Naquane
Parco delle Incisioni Rupestri di Naquane
Naquane National Park of Rock Engravings guided tour

For lunch they take us to Agriturismo San Faustino in Ceto where we enjoy a selection of cold cuts and cheeses, risotto, and amazing tagliatelle made with chestnut flour.

The cows have just given birth and are now in the stables.

Stalle agriturismo San Faustino

The bus ride to Brescia station is the chance for last-minute chats and exchanging contacts.

I really enjoyed this trip, I discovered a region I didn’t know, rich in history, nature, gastronomic and winemaking traditions appreciated all over the world. I met interesting people, we exchanged experiences, tasted exceptional food and wine, a nice “contamination” experience as Mattia brilliantly said.

Once again Italy confirms itself as a treasure chest of infinite gems.

Not all the shots are mine,  I drew here and there from those of my travel companions who turned out to be super photographers.