Day Trips to Bormio...and Italian Line Dancing?

We managed to pull ourselves away from the food haven that is Paolo and Marisa's and hitched a ride with Paolo to explore the nearby Alpine town of Bormio.

Bormio: quaint as can be

Historically, Bormio was a main stop along the trading route between Venice and Switzerland. It has kept the flavor of a lively trading town, and it's easy to imagine those medieval days as you walk upon the cobblestone streets and through the bustling main square, Piazza del Kuerc.

Mountain-nestled Bormio is an entry point to Stelvio National Park, the largest national park in Italy. While the town is renowned for skiing, mountain biking, and abundant hot springs (starting at €13 per person), we skipped this pricier option (for limited time/obvious reasons we skipped the skiing and biking) and set out to do the thing we do best: walk around and eat things. 

What would Italy do without me eating all of the gelato? Be sure to stop by Chocobormio (35 Via Roma) for it's handmade chocolates and gelatos.
Bormio's main square, Piazza del Kuerc ,has a few restaurants and the Torre delle Ore, or clock tower, which dates back to 1498 and was used to warn citizens of danger or invasions

First order of business: lunch. Word on the street was that the Valtellina region in which we found ourselves specializes in a cheese dish called Sciatt (say it and giggle: she-aht), wherein cheese (typically Bitto, which is like Gruyere's older and cockier Italian brother) is doused is a fritter-like mixture of buckwheat flour and a touch of grappa (need I mention that all three ingredients should be local?) and lard-fried into bite-sized, irregularly-shaped rounds. 

Fittingly, "sciatt" means "toad" in the regional dialect and is thus named for its peculiar and sometimes lumpy appearance. Due to the buckwheat, the dish is gluten free (excitement!)...but it sure ain't healthy.

Hard to go wrong with thinly sliced tender cured beef. Eat it alongside Sciatt (in the background) and you're in business.
Inside Vecchio Borgo with old frescoed ceilings and a downstairs bar area for a more relaxed option

Vecchio Borgo ended up being our restaurant of choice as it was reported to serve authentic regional specialties. Our first sciatt experience was divine, although I would have liked more melting cheese overflow from the fritter (I am from the south, after all). 

Our bresaola with fresh lemon juice was a classic winner, and John's buckwheat and nettle gnocchi was a toothsome rich green masterpiece. We left full and happy, although the atmosphere probably would have been a bit stuffy for us had we been eating dinner there.

A man pondering life/thinking about sciatt by the square
The primary school. I could deal with that.
The Romanesque church of San Vitale, possibly dating all the way back to 1196
The medieval frescoes that remain on the church's facade date back to the 14th century

After the meal, time was short, so we stayed town-bound despite the beckoning mountains. We oogled shops with jars full of porcini mushrooms and salumieris with cheeses I'd never heard of and cured meats of which I'd only dreamed.

Bormio is filled with cute and kitschy specialty food stores, but don't miss Il Salumaio.

Something—was it fate?—pulled us into Il Salumaio where the nicest donna in Northern Italy gave us fat samples of cheese and slices of a cured pork called culatello that were so thin I'm surprised they didn't float off of her hand. 

Pure slicer magic. Italians always have at least one package of freshly sliced cured meat in the fridge, a habit that we should all adopt with the utmost urgency (but find your local choices for American cured meats!).
Culatello comes from the large muscle mass on the back of a pig's leg, and in producing it one loses the opportunity to make a typical prosciutto. Many call culatello the true King of cured meats, and it is certainly one of the priciest.

The bormiolina morbida (translation: "tender little Bormio cheese) we chose to accompany it was creamy and pungent, and oh how I mourned that after leaving Northeast Italy, we would probably never find this tiny artisanal delight again.

One of the fancy ancient buildings of Bormio
Farewell, Bormio! Would that I could have hiked your imposing mountains!

Paolo scooped us up after delivering a puppy on the Swiss border (you didn't realize how exciting the life of a dog breeder could be, did you?), but the day's adventures weren't over. For that very night, in the tiny town of Teglio which is only reachable by a steep and winding mountain road, a "Country West Brew Fest" was taking place. And lo, it happened to be a mere five minute drive from Paolo's house. 

In the parallel universe of Italian line dancing, tight and fashionable jeans are a must-have
Yes boys and girls, that is a Confederate flag you see. Italy is packing surprises, y'all.

American old-school country music. Line dancing. Artisanal Beer. 

'Nuf said.

The Italian country version of CCR's Bad Moon rising. Is it so wrong to point out the hilariousness of our lead singer's completely self-invented and often gibberish lyrics?

The lyrics may have been wrong, but it sure felt right to me.

For more information on visiting Bormio, check out these websites:
Thermal Baths
Snow Skiing
Stelvio National Park
General City Info
Mountain Biking Info
Bike Rental



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