Food&wine in “Terre di Faenza” are high quality and mostly produced in the countryside and hilly areas, enriching and completing Romagna culinary tradition.
This itinerary starts in Riolo Terme, one of the most renowned thermal and health stations in Italy, located in a small and verdant upland, surrounded by the Senio river bending toward the Padana Plain. The old town dates back to the XIV century and it is enclosed by robust walls; the more recent part of town develops up to the Thermal Park, in a perfect "fin de siècle" style.
In this area, we find Romagna Shallot PGI, a bulb that sums up the characteristics of onion, garlic and leeks.
In peasant tradition, the Shallot has always been a protagonist (shallot and bread was one of the snacks while working in the fields), thanks to its amount of nutrients, vitamins and mineral salts. Raw, pickled or as pasta seasoning, shallots can exalt every dish with their personality.
Completely local is also Saba (also known as sapa), a sort of thick sauce dark in color, obtained by boiling fermented grapes, the must.
The second stop leads to Casola Valsenio with its Chestnut and Forgotten Fruits.
The tiny borgo is also known as “Village of the Herbs and Forgotten Fruits” because of the culture this territory preserves: rediscovery and safeguarding of the many different species of official and aromatic herbs, cultivated and grown in many corners of the town.
One of the most evocative landscapes can be appreciated from Monte Battaglia Fortress, overlooking the Romagna Gypsum Vein Regional Park. Of great interest is Augusto Rinaldi Ceroni Herbs Garden, one of the biggest botanical gardens in Europe, where over 400 species of officinal plants are grown; interesting is also “Il Cardello” House Museum, former inn for Valsenio Abbey then turned into a noble house in the XIX century, it was the home of Alfredo Oriani, writer from Faenza.
Among the remarkable species of the territory is Casola Valsenio Chestnuts: with its sweet flavor it cannot be mistaken for a “simple” chestnut, smaller and darker. Casola Valsenio chestnut can be dried and turned into flour, boiled or roasted, or become an ingredient for sweet ravioli, chestnut cake, tortellacci (tortelli filled with chestnut) and soup.
Also deserving a mention are the “Forgotten Fruits”, so called by Tonino Guerra. These products are mostly autumn fruits that for the longest time have been part of the farmers’ diet, while today they are mostly found as spontaneous or wild trees, or cultivated for passion by a few locals. Ancient flavors, bringing back childhood memories: the sourness of a strawberry tree, Cornelian cherry and grapefruit, the sweetness of jujube, loquat and azzeruola.
Forgotten fruits are perfectly paired with the aromatic plants of the Herb Garden of Casola Valsenio, contributing to the making of delicious dishes proposed by local restaurants, between tradition and innovation.
Last stop of this original and tasty itinerary is the old village of Brisighella, one of the most beautiful in Italy thanks to its geological features: Brisighella develops over three gypsum pinnacles, where a XV century fortress, the Clock Tower and Monticino Sanctuary are located.
This is the area of olive trees, rooting and cultivated here since Roman times, along with the production of olive oil: an ancient millstone was found in the closeby Pieve del Tho.
The production of Brisighella extravirgin olive oil, first in Italy to be awarded by PDO mark, is limited to a small geographical area and comes from three local cultivar: Nostrana di Brisighella, Ghiacciola and Orfana. “Brisighella” and “Brisighello” olive oil are made with Nostrana, while “Nobil Drupa” only uses ghiacciola fruits.
How to taste these olive oils? Not only the typical bruschetta, but also with grilled white meats or tasty fish dishes.
To know more, visit the CAB Cooperativa Agricola Brisighellese, producing this olive oil, or the shop in the town centre, right under the famous Donkey Way: with the guide of an expert, you will taste this excellence and learn how to understand the shades of fragrance, taste and sourness.
On the clay of calanchi (badland formations) surrounding the village, a special artichoke grows: Moretto Artichoke. With its purple and golden colors, yellowish and black thornes, the true Moretto Artichoke is only cultivated by 30 farmers, for a total of 5 hectares of land.
It can be appreciated raw or softly boiled, with a drop of “Brisighello” olive oil, that shares a strong aromatic base.
Some of these typical products are protagonists of important events and sagre.
In the month of May, Brisighella celebrates Moretto Artichoke: a chance to buy and taste this local gem.
The third weekend of July is dedicated to Romagna Shallot PGI, thanks to the fair organized by Riolo Terme Pro Loco.
In Casola Valsenio, every second and third weekend of October is time for the FestI also of Forgotten Fruit and Chestnut, a unique experience to go back to a world that doesn’t exist anywhere else.