In May we visited Italy and the theme of this trip was “chilometrezero” or “Km 0” for short. This is a trend in Italy that promotes the use of entirely locally produced products, not to be confused with the movie “Km 0” or the mile markers throughout the world. See the Wikipedia entry Chilometro Zero for more on this trend.

KM02a

Tortellini Three Ways at Km0

Meat & Potatoes - Emilia Romagna Style

Meat & potatoes Italian style.

KM01a

Appetizers – Km0

In the US, we might call this farm-to-table or extreme locavore, but Km 0 seems different.

First Stop: Osteria Chilometre Zero by Tom e Ciccio

This trip, we ate at the restaurant northeast of Reggio Emilia near the Autostrada called “Osteria Chilometre Zero by Tom e Ciccio”.  See reviews and location here.

The directions using our iPhone map app took us within 1 Km, but not 0 Km.  We ended up on a farm road that went nowhere (thanks, Siri.)  Using our pre-iPhone skill of reading the actual signs on the road, we backtracked and followed the little white sign (clearly pointing the way in the opposite direction of what Siri said we should do) and found the place easily, except they apparently have recently renamed the restaurant, so the neon sign didn’t exactly match (it was actually a caricature of a Mexican guy advertising coffee – ??)

When we opened the car door after parking in the rear, we had a clue as to the extreme localness of the products based on the smell that made us think we had landed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, if you get my scent.  Yes, fresh, locally produced pork products are the theme here.  But there was much more to the menu on this day.

We had no reservation, and arrived about 8pm.  We had no problem getting a table way in the back, but the other two open tables quickly filled up.  The place might qualify as a “dive” in the US, but it was pleasant, friendly, and packed with locals.  The staff spoke no English, and there is no printed menu.  Instead, a chalk board gets parked next to your table, and you see the full menu of the day.  Also on the board on the wall is the list of where exactly each item on the menu came from.  We had no trouble interpreting the items with ample help from our cheerful waitress and our command of “restaurant Italian.”

The antipasti were an outstanding selection of salumi, lardo, and puffy fried bread.  In this area of Emilia, the word for the puffy fried bread is cresciontini, but we had previously found them in the Romagna area to the east just called gnocco fritto.  In any case, they were great with the meats. For the wine, we chose the local Lambrusco, which goes perfectly well with the somewhat fatty food.

The primi course consisted of three different ravioli dishes recommended by the waitress.  One vegetable stuffing, one beef stuffing, and one cheese stuffing.  All were better than what we’d had in a fancier restaurant in Bologna the previous day.

For secondi, we were a bit filled up, but dove in to maiale and manzo dishes.  The freshness of the meat and the preparation of each were simple, but really good.  We skipped dessert.

Cheesemaking at Fattoria Montelupa

Cheesemaking at Fattoria Montelupa

 

Next stop:  Fattoria Montelupa near Città di Castello east of Arezzo, north of Perugia for some fresh cheese. Yum.

The owners moved 40 water buffalo to this part of Tuscany some years ago from near Naples, where Tuscany juts its finger way northeast up into Emilia Romagna.  The buffalo seem to like it here just fine, versus the hotter climate in Campania.  The farm has accommodated the buffalo with a low spot to wallow in the cool mud.

Our host explained that the buffalo don’t like stress, and produce the best milk when free from stress.  Based on the taste and consistency of the resulting mozzarella product, we think these are pretty happy animals.  The farm is outside of town, but there is a retail store in town.  Whether it is because the cheese we tasted was made today from milk collected yesterday from a bunch of happy water buffalo, or because it is made with a different technique, the end result is a product that can’t get any better.  We were fortunate enough to also have fresh ricotta made from the whey byproduct of the mozzarella process.  The ricotta, too, was as good as it gets.  Total distance from buffalo to table – about 300 meters.

Tempting Salumi

Tempting Salumi

Al Fresco at Ghiandaio

Al Fresco at Ghiandaio

 

Next stop:  Il Ghiandaio

North of Città di Castello, a bit further east of Arezzo, but still in that little tip of Tuscany that juts up into Emilia-Romagna and Umbria, there is a tiny little store-slash-restaurant on the side of the highway. (Click here for a location map and reviews).

The proprietor of Il Ghiandaio  is a man who takes his craft very seriously and produces his own cured meats to sell in his tiny store.  The restaurant consists of a couple of tables in the yard next to the store.  The store sits behind his house, just off the Autostrada, exit Pieve Santo Stefano (Nord).

We feasted on six types of cured meats (actually, I lost count) including the one he called the “eel” because of its shape and size.  Also on the menu was the typical Tuscan crostini selection of green pesto made with celery leaves instead of basil, chopped liver, and a new one – fresh sausage, uncured, made on Monday (we were there Thursday).  It tasted like tuna tartare – really different.

The pigs are raised nearby.  Giuseppe Ferroni is the proprietor, but the pigs are raised by another farmer.  Signore Ferroni is a master at making sausage, salami, prosciutto, and anything that can be done with pork.  We highly recommend this man and his work.  Distance from curing room to table – about 50 meters.

If you take a trip through Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, and Umbria, let us know if you visit these establishments!

–Jeff

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Image credit: Slow Travel

Image credit: Slow Travel

In the advance of the Olio Capitale fair in Trieste in March, two of us spent the week touring Italy, with hundreds of kilometers added to the car.

From Rome to Campobasso, to Monticchiello (near Montepulciano in Tuscany), to Bologna, to Venice to Trieste, our diesel fill ups totaled euro 150 for an Alfa Romeo that counted as a mid-size vehicle (comparable to the Audi A3).

We rented from Avis and spent 50 Euro extra to have snow chains in the car, a legal requirement if were were to be pulled over. We also obtained International Drivers Licenses. This modern-day Thelma and Louise pair rented a manual transmission car, to save money of course. Like riding a bike, our ability to clutch and shift returned. We had given up manual transmission vehicles many years ago, when an extra hand was needed to tend to small children!

Knowledge of road signs, a decent map, and GPS are recommended, as you will see below.

We brought a Garmin GPS (updated for Italy) and it was worth every penny. On the first day we drove from Rome to a very small town, Cercemaggiore, in the area of Campobasso. There were turns instructed by the GPS that we failed to believe, but were undoubtedly true. In the region of Molise we found many “roads less traveled”. Once we learned to completely trust the GPS, and regained our sense of humor, we enjoyed each and every turn and vista.

We should have refreshed our memories on road signage, because some signs are far different from what we know on roads in North America. Knowledge of road signs, together with GPS is recommended. Please believe us on this one. (See the road signs tutorial on the Slow Travel Web Page).

There was only one place where the GPS caused more trouble than good. In the small mountain town of Mirabello Sannitico, we were on a steep narrow cobblestone road, lined closely by houses, when the road suddenly became one way, in the opposite direction!  Unfortunately, this little detail was not recognized by the GPS, which recommended a hairpin turn down a flight of stairs. And, maybe we should have taken another look at the roadsigns?

A young man noticed our plight (with the attitude that he had seen such foolishness before), and settled into the driver’s seat to back the car up the narrow winding path. We were most grateful to him for rescuing us! He was very kind to the two foolish American women.

Bonus! There’s another very significant way that a GPS beats a map. On our drives through small towns and on the autostrada, our GPS announced an alert in advance before each radar “traffic tutor”.

But don’t forget the map. With a map you can plan ahead. In some medium sized towns and larger cities, you will want to be aware of the ZTL, zones of limited traffic. When making hotel reservations, we asked about these to ensure directions not crossing the the ZTL. Fines for driving in a ZTL without a proper permit can be quite costly! You may wish to Google ZTL and Bologna (or whatever town) to find out if you need to be concerned about a ZTL on your travels. Here’s another good guide to ZTL.

While I love the ease of train travel, the car allowed us freedom to explore places that can’t be reached by train. Plan ahead. Be Fearless. Have Fun.

For more information on Speed Cameras in Italy, read this post.