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