The Spa and the Spoon
From Bolzano to Bologna
The Italian province of Trento was annexed by Italy in 1919, and maintains many aspects of its former Austrian character. Trento is geographically stunning: it is almost entirely mountainous with many gorgeous valleys that we will explore during our six-day stay.
“The Spa and the Spoon” feeds both body and soul. Adagio Travelers start their journey accompanying a young, energetic chef on his weekly shopping in a land where sustainable agriculture has been practiced for centuries. Chef Alessandro will introduce us to natural production of salumi, cheese, beer, wine and spirits. Meals will be centered around tasting these delicious raw materials, and learning how they are transformed into familiar and unfamiliar products. Evenings will be spent resting in a gloriously simple inn, refreshing our bodies with unpolluted air and peaceful surroundings.
From the Trentino region we travel south through the Adige Valley to gorgeous Lake Garda on our way to a small spa hotel in the hills just south of the lake. Monica and her team will pamper us by day at their “Beauty Farm” while her husband serenades us by night at their 100-year-old restaurant. After a day with an art historian in stunning Verona, we continue our journey south to bustling Bologna. This magical city is really known for three things: its 1000-year old university, its 38 kilometers of exquisite porticoes, and….its fabulous food. We’ll explore all of this and more, with gastronomic and artistic walking tours, a cooking class in a private home, and a stellar gala dinner.
Day 1 (Thursday) – The Italian Alps: whisked away to a world of nature and harmony
Transfer after lunch from the Bolzano airport or train station to our tiny “maso”, or “country house”, in a peaceful setting about an hour southeast of Bolzano. Time to unpack and rest up from jet lag. Cozy dinner at our B&B, lovingly prepared by the owner. D
Lodging for the next 5 nights: a charming, 6-room “mountain shelter” dating from the 1600s, nestled in the Carano municipality of the province of Trento.
Day 2 (Friday) – What in the world is “speck”?
Each morning starts with a rich breakfast of fruit, yogurt and homemade sweet and savory pastries. There’s time for an early stroll through our village before departing to visit a friend of Alessandro, whose family has been producing speck, this region’s most famous cold cut, in the same manner for over 50 years. Most locals prefer speck to prosciutto, and it appears in numerous Trentino dishes. We’ll try a few of those at our midday meal, eaten in utter simplicity on top of the mountain. After lunch, we can amble downhill (optional – about an hour) through forests of larches and fir trees back to our B&B. Exquisite dinner at Michelin-starred El Molin tonight. Chef Alessandro Gilmozzi excels at enlivening local specialties, like cheese and polenta-filled buckwheat ravioli; venison prepared with fennel and smoked juniper; and pork fillet with Rhododendron honey pearls (we’ll see how these are made later this week)…just to name a few. The restaurant’s name is local dialect for “the mill”, and indeed it is housed in a 16th century converted mill, with comfortable tables skillfully arranged on several levels and an open kitchen showcasing Alessandro’s skilled team. B,L,D
Day 3 (Saturday) – Sweet beginnings and a street party
After breakfast we are off to a small production honey maker. We will taste, among others, a very rare honey made from Rhododendron flowers, which grow only on the highest mountain slopes. Lunch today is at Alessandro’s “old wine shop”, housed next to El Molin in the charming town of Cavalese. We complete our day’s sojourn with a visit to a small production sheep farm, where we’ll discuss with the breeder why he pastures his herds so high in the mountains and how this impacts the flavor of the lamb.
Tonight we’re the only Americans invited to the end-of-summer party hosted by Ristorante El Molin. Chef Alessandro will be joined by other talented chefs for an awesome street party, complete with live jazz. B,L,D [note: if party is not held for any reason, dinner will be at El Molin or another Michelin-starred restaurant.]
Day 4 (Sunday) – Lana bollita e “Puzzone”
Moena is a peaceful mountain town known for a cheese called “Puzzone”. We will visit the facility where raw milk from cows that graze in fields at very high altitudes is cooked in copper kettles and converted into this special product. Free time for lunch, then off to visit a producer of lana bollita – boiled wool. Has anyone noticed how often this is showing up in current fashion catalogues? They’ve been making it for centuries in Trentino … we’ll see it made at the source!
Free night for dinner. B
Day 5 (Monday) – Meandering with Alessandro
This is the week’s highlight: an entire day with Alessandro and friends. We start by gathering fresh herbs in the forest at 6,500 feet above sea level. Alessandro walks with us on the same paths he took as a boy, teaching us some of the culinary lessons learned from his aunt which have been borne out in his extensive culinary training around Europe. We then return to his private “baita” (mountain hut) to help prepare a delicious, intimate lunch. There’s time to walk a bit afterward before returning to pack your bags. “Essences” gala dinner tonight at El Molin highlights the latest philosophy of Chef Alessandro: returning to our roots, literally. B,L,D
Day 6 (Tuesday) – Of Lakes and Corks
Arrivederci to our mountain paradise as we journey toward the regional capital Trento and the home of Emma Clauser. This fascinating woman is dedicated to organic wine-making at her spotless cantina located just above the Adige Valley, far from any source of pollution. Emma rotates crops and focuses on biological equilibrium rather than pesticides to support her grape production. Guided walk through the vineyards followed by Emma’s personal tasting lesson of several wines. Then a one-hour ride takes us through the Adige Valley to charming Riva del Garda (the northern tip of Lake Garda). Lunch here on your own before catching the ferry along the glacial lake to Malcesine. We’ll pick you up there around 3pm for the 1.5-hour transfer to our accommodation in Castellaro Lagusello.
Our all-suite hotel, Corte Uccellanda, was one of the original “alberghi disperse” – unique Italian properties that bring to life nearly-abandoned hamlets and offer them to us as beautiful and unique accommodations. The Ferri family has decorated each suite in honor of a historical Italian character. Hand-painted walls and murals and romantically-draped beds are some of the hallmarks. We’ll sample traditional specialties at the historic Trattoria La Pesa this evening, possibly serenaded by owner Diego! B,D
Lodging at the Corte Uccellanda for the next two nights
Day 7 (Wednesday) – Stunning Verona…and One of Italy’s 100 Most Beautiful Villages
After breakfast we travel 45 minutes to one of Italy’s artistic jewels, the city of Verona. Our guide will meander with us through the streets of Shakespeare’s setting for Romeo and Juliet, highlighting in particular the gorgeous Roman theater. Lunch on your own in one of the city’s many cafes.
Return to our hotel in mid-afternoon. Corte Uccellanda has the good fortune to be located in one of the prestigious hamlets designated as “Italy’s 100 Most Beautiful Villages”. This afternoon we’ll have time to amble through its cobblestone streets, which end at the Villa Arrighi. The gardener will tour us through the lovely grounds (explaining why caper berry plants love to grow on old stone walls and other interesting facts!), ending with a walk along the medieval walls. A glass of prosecco with the villa’s owner concludes our planned activities today….unless you’d like to join an informal cooking demonstration at La Pesa (about 2 hours). Also, there’s still time to explore the nooks and crannies of our hotel’s “Beauty Farm” (spa) this evening (not included). How about a hot stone or chocolate facial? Or a wine therapy treatment using anti-oxidant grape must and a grapeseed and rosemary oil massage?
Free night to dine in town, including the option to return to La Pesa for an al fresco dinner. B
Day 8 (Thursday) – Bologna: the City of Arcades
Bright and early start for a 2-hour transfer to Bologna. Authentic and fascinating, Bologna remains relatively undiscovered by tourists, but beloved by voyagers like us! Time to grab a sandwich (try the city’s famous mortadella) before our afternoon walking tour with a local art historian. We will learn about the city’s history as the oldest university town in the world (dates from 1088!) and how it earned the nicknames: “the learned one” (la dotta) and “the fat one” (la grassa). If you need more walking after our tour, just take off in any direction: Bologna boasts 38 kilometers of gorgeous arcades!
Our guide will offer suggestions for dinner tonight in one of Bologna’s many fabulous eateries. B
Lodging at a centrally-located charming abode for the next two nights.
Day 9 (Friday) – More Spoons
After a sumptuous breakfast, we’ll walk the beautiful old streets to a private home. Here we’ll enjoy a cooking class that unveils the secrets of Italy’s richest food, followed by lunch.
The afternoon features a fascinating culinary walking tour of the old medieval market: art, food culture and Bolognese traditions. We will visit an ancient bakery and learn the history of tortellini and tagliatelle; then an ancient chocolate factory will reveal the secrets of the invention of solid chocolate; and finally, the Beccari Delicatessen, where we will learn of the progression of Bologna’s famous “boloney” (mortadella) from the Second Century B.C. to today. There’s time after the tour to explore Bologna’s fantastic opportunities to find unique gifts you’ll find nowhere else – and at very fair prices.
Our trip ends with a gastronomic dinner hosted by one of the prestigious Young Chefs of Europe at Marco Fadiga Bistrot. B,L,D
Day 10 (Saturday) – Arrivederci and transfer to the Bologna airport or train station.
See Special Features for optional post-tour “foodies” extension to the mountains nestled between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany.
*B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner provided
Back to the Mountains
Add a short post-tour extension in the mountains south of Bologna. We’ll taste great wines done in a different style and olive oil that’s won awards internationally; hunt for truffles or herbs, depending on the weather and season; cook some more of those delectible Romagnoli sauces; and sip grappa by starlight beside Italy’s smallest volcano. Dreamy!
Lodging for 2 nights at http://www.vecchioconvento.it/index.php?l=2.