Riddle: when you can’t see, there is. And it is the secret and elusive ingredient of many Parma specialties. It is the fog, indeed, the “fumära”, as we say in dialect. Nowhere else does this special meteorological condition have such a close relationship with food: it is as if every autumn renews a tacit agreement between this land and its inhabitants, which await the fog as elsewhere people seek the sun.
And “Let’s hope there will be fog” is the slogan of November Porc, the “most delicious Italian relay” in the land of Verdi and Guareschi: four countries – Sissa, Polesine, Zibello and Roccabianca – and four weekends to celebrate the thousand gastronomic virtues of pork and its derivatives, Culatello di Zibello, Spalla Cruda, Prete, Strolghino, ciccioli, and of course Prosciutto di Parma. Flavors enhanced by the fog. A wish that is especially valid for the Culatello, which during the seasoning, thanks to the diffused humidity, acquires all its flavor. But it is also a period of mushrooms and truffles, which absorb the substances of the soil and concentrate them, enhancing them in recipes.
In November it is really worth losing yourself in the fog to fully appreciate, among muffled noises, suffused colors and enchanted atmospheres, the flavors of the Food Valley. A tour that starts at Polesine Parmense, at the Antica Corte Pallavicina, at the farm – with relais and starred restaurant – of the Spigaroli family, among the November Porc organizers. In the fifteenth-century castle on the banks of the Po you can taste the products and admire the frescoed rooms, the central courtyard, the vegetable garden, the maturing cellars. The perfect opportunity to visit the breeding of black pigs in the wild and the Culatello Museum, which belongs to the circuit of the Food Museums of Parma. In the Bassa, in San Secondo Parmense, the Rocca dei Rossi awaits us, a late-medieval manor that in addition to monumental frescoes houses the Museo della Nebbia in its stables: an installation that relies on the senses to tell the “good side”, even in the gastronomic sense, of the fog, offering an original experience.
The tour continues with Parma City of Gastronomy member producers, including the norcini masters who are happy to open the doors of their farms to tell their stories. Let’s start with Roncole Verdi in Busseto, just a short walk away from the birthplace of Giuseppe Verdi, which can be visited. Here is Dallatana, the cold cuts factory – with a restaurant in a seventeenth-century mill – which produces the Culatello di Zibello DOP, but also other specialties, adopting strict rules of environmental ethics.
Still in the area, here is Alle Roncole, a restaurant and example of Parma hospitality, a reference point for local cuisine. Immersing ourselves in the fog, in the rarefied and dreamy atmospheres of the Bassa, we cannot fail to evoke Giovanni Guareschi, who belonged to these places and who told them better than anyone else. Still in Roncole Verdi is the Guareschi archive, managed by his family. Still in the Bassa Parmense area we find Bre’ Del Gallo, a company in Roccabianca, guardian of the ancient art of butchering for generations. The company of the Magnani family produces, in addition to Culatello di Zibello DOP and the various salami of the local tradition, also Fortana and Malvasia wines. We remain in the lands of the author of Don Camillo and Peppone, in the kaleidoscopic “Little World” that we have known on paper and on the screen. Still in Fontanelle di Roccabianca, the birthplace of Guareschi, we restore ourselves with salumotherapy, the specialty of Hostaria da Ivan. Among hanging salamis, fine wines, giardiniera and mustards, covered with a napkin the guests suck the scents of a platter of cold cuts. Each ingredient was brought to temperature to express all its olfactory potential. Result: the endorphins increase, the mood improves, the appetite inevitably grows, but fortunately the tasting moment comes.
Not far away, a not to be missed stop, the splendid Reggia di Colorno, the “little Versailles”, home of the Farnese, the Bourbons, Maria Luigia of Austria, with monumental French garden and over 400 rooms to visit. Not far away, also in Colorno, we meet the Podere Cadassa, where the DOP and IGP cold cuts of the territory are brought to season and prepared, to be tasted with fresh egg pasta and other excellences all of Emilia.
From the Bassa to the Apennines: the scenery changes, but we remain more than ever in contact with the territory. Especially with the woods, where a real treasure hunt takes place in autumn. Fans of mushrooms and truffles are well acquainted with the Borgotaro IGP mushrooms and the Fragno black truffle, two products that blend well with traditional local dishes such as tortelli, tagliatelle, risotto, meat, eggs and polenta.
To experience all the excitement of mushroom picking – the walk in the undergrowth, the “reading” of the land, the lucky sighting, the preparation for the table – it is possible to choose one of the farmhouses where this experience is offered to customers. For example, in Strela di Compiano, at Il Cielo di Strela, where truffle hunting with dogs is also organized. After the harvest, you can taste the mushrooms along with local cured meats and honey, in dishes prepared by chef ALMA and landlord Mario Marini. Another interesting formula is that of R&B Tolasuldolsa – in dialect “take it easy” – a sustainable bike house in Sambuceto, Compiano, which offers mountain-bike adventures followed by a nice table of local specialties, naturally with porcini mushrooms. Also in Val di Taro, in Ostia Parmense, here is Ca ’Bianca, an oasis of tranquility where you can enjoy genuine, home-style cooking with farm products and fresh mushrooms from the surroundings.
And the truffle? For lovers of the “black diamond” there is the National Fair of Truffle di Fragno, one of the most important dedicated to this product. An event that animates the town of Calestano from October 20 until November 17, with the truffle market, conventions, stands selling local products and crafts, music and street artists, meetings. And again, the many events related to the fair are back, such as the Black Truffle Auction of Fragno (11 November), the Borsino domenicale del Tartufo, the national competition for truffle dogs (5 November). Restaurants, trattorias and farmhouses will offer appetizing themed menus to delight all palates.
The Val Ceno also pays homage to the black diamond, on 19-20 and 26-27 October in Bedonia, to discover the goodness and ductility of the magical black truffle, during the fifth edition of the Truffle Fair of Valceno di Bedonia, with the food and wine market of the local producers, themed lunches and dinners, mycological exhibitions, street games for adults and children.