As you all know by now, I am in Italy for the summer renovating our home here, a 12th century defensive tower (a fortress) that has a vineyard. As I work on the daily tasks of making this a spectacular setting for our family and for our workshops and retreats, I love to discover local artisans and craftsmen and of course small organic food producers. With the help of my lovely friends here, a secret world has opened up to me. I am meeting so many amazing people, and I am so thrilled to be living in such an authentic and undiscovered place as the Lunigiana.
Saturday, along with my son’s girlfriend Sydney, we visited a local bread maker. Fabio Bertolucci is revitalizing Lunigiana’s ancient bread making; he uses chestnut flour. The Lunigiana is filled with chestnut trees, and in ancient times bread makers discovered that the roasted and dried chestnuts could be turned into a useful and nutritional flour for bread making. Sydney is a Nutrition major at University of Texas, studying to be a registered dietitian, so this outing was of particular interest to her. She’s about to take part in a nutrition studies program in Sicily for six weeks (yes, I am jealous). Watching Fabio was exciting and interesting for us both.
High above the mountains in a tiny village, Fabio has his lovely little bakery. He makes about 100 loafs every other day and distributes them himself to local groceries and bakeries. He’s on a mission to bring back this local delicacy. The bread is called, Marocca, and it is made by mixing finely sieved chestnut flour, wheat flour and boiled and mashed potatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, yeast, a piece of sourdough starter and water. The dough is formed into a round loaf, about 20 centimeters in diameter, which is left to rise for over an hour before being baked in a wood-burning oven.
Fabio is a thoughtful and quiet man; he pulls every loaf of bread from the oven himself. He prefers to work alone. It’s a solitary existence, and life of purpose and exquisite simplicity. As he handed me a hot loaf wrapped in a brown paper bag, gratefully I took it in anticipation of sinking my teeth into a warm slice slathered with local butter and chestnut honey from the bees down the road.
This is as local as it gets, and the very reason I have chosen to live here in the Italian countryside half the year. What could be better than breaking scrumptious sweet bread with friends and family?
Thank you, Fabio for welcoming us. For those of your joining our workshops and retreats, you can be sure a warm loaf is in your future.
Il Forno in Canoara di Fabio Bertolucci
Casola in Lunigiana (Ms)
Via Villa di Regnano, 99 a
tel. +39 +39 0585 983017-347 2354711