Spring is the season of the gentle and fragrant flavors, often coming from delicious treats pulled directly from the earth. During this period, Italian cuisine proposes simple yet mouth-watering recipes that allow us to enjoy the gifts of spring.
But foodies traveling to Italy can expect a lot more than just tasting seasonal local dishes: spring is the time when Mother Nature challenges us to her great food scavenger hunt! Inspired by nature, the seasons, local traditions and by a growing number of discerning gourmets, we at Italian Special Occasions DMC have conceived foodie experiences with entertaining activities to be enjoyed in selected venues characterized by gastronomic excellence, eco-friendliness and history.
Are you a food lover who wants to enjoy an experiential journey with your family and friends? We want to share some of our insiders’ knowledge with you by hinting at some spring foodie experiences in three different regions: Piedmont, Emilia Romagna and Apulia, respectively in the north, center and south of Italy.
Assorted Flavors in Piedmont
This region offers a true assortment of food products, such as truffles, meat, rice, cheese, chocolate and wine – just to name a few of the most famous ones. But what about less-known goods that are just as delicious and top quality?
One example is artisanal beer. Piedmont is home to one of the most innovative, fun and unique breweries in Italy: the Baladin brewery was founded in 1996 in Piozzo – a small village in the Langhe area – by its founder and master brewer Teo Musso. Beer is a passion and a form of expression for Teo: through his recipes, he has communicated special moments in his life and his constant search for the perfect sensory balance. The beers called “Isaac” and “Wayan” tell of the birth of his children, while “Nora” tells a love story and memories of spices discovered while traveling in Morocco. The “Nazionale” beer expresses the commitment to working in direct contact with the Earth and the desire to be Italian.
If you are not already amazed enough, in 2012 Baladin became a farm brewery that pays great attention to energy self-sufficiency, and with the goal of becoming the first 100% independent craft brewery in the world. Just imagine how amusing it would be to visit this pioneering brewery farm with your friends, and to taste these beers with such a strong personality!
Piedmont is a proud producer of another Italian product of excellence, rice. Spring is the perfect time to visit the risaie (paddy fields), since farms prepare the land for cultivation and irrigate it with water from the rivers. One of our favorite venues for authentic foodie experiences is Tenuta Castello di Desana, a family-run agricultural farm that dates back to 1883! It covers a surface of 320 hectares, of which 250 are dedicated to rice cultivation.
The hosts welcome you as guests, and take you around the estate while telling stories about the farm and the castle. You get to learn about the secrets of growing and harvesting rice, to peek at the machinery that packages the product, to appreciate the architectural transformation of the castle – from fortress to rice house. You can walk up to the castle tower and admire the beautiful landscape of rice paddies reflecting the spring sky in the water. At the end of the day you will be surprised by the restaurant’s menu, where all dishes – from the main course up to the dessert – are rice based!
Slow Spring in Emilia Romagna
Every year, the Po Delta Park hosts 14 weeks of “Primavera Slow”, a unique event that promotes the unhurried and careful observation and appreciation of spring and its gifts. A variety of visits and workshops are dedicated to food and wine, birdwatching and nature tourism, wildlife photography, traditions and culture, environmental education and sports tourism.
If you have children in your group, this is an amazing occasion that you should not miss. Special laboratories are conceived for the little ones to explore nature and food in a fun and educative way. This goes hand in hand with our philosophy of inspiring the next generation by allowing them to discover Italy through its smells, sounds, tastes, colors and textures.
Spring is packed with foodie festivals around Emilia Romagna, most notably the Truffle Festival in Ravenna, the Asparagus Festival in Mesola (Ferrara) and the Strawberry Fest in Lagosanto (Ferrara). Many of such gastronomic events are organized by the Italian National Trust (FAI Fondo Ambiente Italiano), under a program called Frutti Antichi (ancient fruits). The objective is to promote ‘forgotten’ plants, flowers and fruits, as well as products of high artisanship. And there’s more! The events are often hosted in mesmerizing venues such as the Castles of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza.
If you would like to combine these food festivals with foodie experiences of your own, at Italian Special Occasions DMC we can suggest beautiful, intimate places that can exceed your expectations. One example is Villa Horti della Fasanara, a historic residence from the IX century located inside a large park that was once the game reserve of the Este aristocratic family. This is the perfect location from where to explore Ferrara’s gastronomic heritage, as well as history and sights.
Another charming venue is Quattro Passeri, an ancient stone hamlet surrounded by the green hills near Cesena. Picture yourself enjoying cooking lessons and wine tastings during the warm spring days, and relaxing in the heated swimming pool or by the magnificent stone fireplace in the chilly nights… This farmhouse from the 1800s is the perfect retreat for families or groups of amateur cooks who want to taste the flavors of Romagna!
Ancient Tales from Apulia
Thanks to its mild temperatures and sunny weather, spring in Apulia almost feels like summer for many visitors. Few tourists, pristine places and genuine flavors make this region simply irresistible between March and June. Apulia also gets extra points for providing foodies with the unique opportunity to enjoy a gourmet experience in an ancient masseria.
A masseria is a fortified country house set in working farms producing olive oil, wine, or produce. They are usually located in scenic settings between the countryside and the sea. Can you imagine yourself harvesting seasonal produce from the local fields, and then cooking ancient recipes within the fortified walls built in the 17th century against the attacks of Turks and pirates? Priceless!
In Apulia, you can hear, envisage and experience stories around every medieval tower, behind every trullo, and even off at sea. In fact, you can join fishermen as they practice their traditional way of life, and watch them at work as they narrate the challenges and satisfactions that have accompanied them throughout generations.
One of our favorite gems in Apulia is located near Brindisi and called Masseria Camarda. The man behind this magical place is Cesare Fiorio. Once a sportsman, he swapped race cars for rural tractors in search of a way of life that has almost disappeared. His retreat is ideal for people looking for the quietness of genuine relationships and delicious food.
Masseria Camarda produces premium quality extra-virgin olive oil, “primitivo” wine, corn, vegetables and cheese, among others. The farm’s “Senatore Capelli” variety of corn is used to make the flour for the typical orecchiette pugliesi pasta. Amateurs can delight themselves in cookery classes to learn this and other local gastronomic specialties. Since you are in Apulia, go all the way and immerge yourself in ancient traditions by learning how to dance the pizzica with experienced dancers in the farmyard!
One of Apulia’s most spectacular sights is that of La Città Bianca – Ostuni – the whitewashed village perched among olive groves, the red soil and the blue sea. It’s the same splendor that you find at the 16th-century Masseria Salinola. Apart from its quality produce, the fortified farm features an amazing restaurant that been praised in many prestigious guides. Indulge yourself by tasting the orecchiette con cime di rapa, pot-cooked mashed broad beans, and the oven-baked rabbit with Mediterranean herbs.