In Italy, more than in most countries, life is lived at a leisurely pace. One of the very good reasons for this is that food is considered very important. Rather than complicated formulas, an Italian from any region respects the quality and freshness of the ingredients, and treats both with respect. Imagine the dismay when a McDonalds fast food restaurant was planned in Rome a few meters from the noted Spanish Steps. This was the final straw for Carlo Petrini and some close associates. Rather than carry signs, they founded Arcigola in 1986. This association grew rapidly into what is now a non-profit member supported organization of organic food producers, wine makers, restaurant owners, chefs, scientists and ecologically conscious people who love good food. As Signore Petrini is quoted, “It is useless to force the rhythms of life. The art of living is about learning how to give time to each and every thing.”
If life is to be enjoyed to the fullest, meals must not be only a source of fuel for the body. Fortunately, the more fresh and honest the ingredients, the more pleasurable the meal will be. At least, this is at the heart of the philosophy of what is now known as the Slow Food movement. Of the more than 83,000 members, 35,000 are Italians, but there are 450 chapters around the world. Each one recognizes that the choices we make about what we eat will affect our own health and pleasure. They also know our choices have great impact on humanity’s nourishment and the global environment as well.
Slow Food members work steadily to increase understanding of the value of good farming and sustainable food production. Industrial animal production and food factories are seen as threatening to not only our tastes, but to the viability of farming and species preservation. Family owned wineries, fields and farms are prized, and the unique qualities of the foods, wines and even chocolates are treasured. Slow Food restaurants are multiplying as both locals and tourists realize how superior the meals are in preparation, nutrition and flavor. Lines of tourists at pizza restaurants are moving to better Trattoria and restaurants across Italy and Europe. As young people are reached, the quality of life that Slow Food offers will become even more available in the future.
Carlo Petrini and Massimo Montanari are the primary founders of the University of Gastronomic Science in the Piemonte village of Pollenzo on the outskirts of Bra. This campus is housed in the restored Castle of the Duke of Savoy, and the associated Banco del Vino (Wine Bank) was once the Duke’s private cellar. Students from all over the world attend the fully accredited University for a three year Master of Gastronomy degree. Graduates have learned to appreciate good food and nutrition from both a technical and practical curriculum. Courses train in cultural recipes, locally grown produce, domestic animals and even the very plants and seeds that might otherwise be lost to a region.
Many experts believe the Banco del Vino is a premiere state of the art wine cellar, and an enormous selection of Italy’s finest wines is available for students and visitors to study. An inexpensive tour of the cellar will let you meet Piemonte wine producers in person. You will taste the result of the heart and soul they pour into every bottle. Restaurants and shops in every corner of Piemonte offer local and distinctive food and wine, condiments, and even recipe books to let you take the genius of Slow Food home with you.