Slow Food and Windows

January 14, 2020

“Traditional” Balsamic Vinegar in Modena, Northern Italy

Among fruit vinegars made from grapes, a balsamic vinegar is an essential seasoning for Italian cuisine. In the city of Modena in northern Italy, it has been used as an anti-fatigue and digestive medicine among nobility and emperors since the Middle Ages. The reason why Modena is said to be the birthplace of balsamic vinegar is because the regionʼs soil, topography and climatic conditions are ideal for grapes (varieties: Lambrusco, Torrebiano, Ancerotta) and the annual temperature in Modena is ideal for aging balsamic vinegar.

In this article, I will refer to balsamic vinegar in Modena as “traditional” balsamic vinegar, distinguishing it from ordinary balsamic vinegar. The difference is in its production method. Ordinary balsamic vinegar that you usually see at supermarkets is made by adding wine vinegar*, coloring, flavoring, caramel, etc, after having fermented it with acetic acid in wooden barrels for 3 to 4 years. “Traditional” balsamic vinegar does not have added ingredients, and is produced by aging in wooden barrels for over 10 years.

The “Acetair Sereni” brewery produces balsamic vinegar in this way. In order to get to the distillery, one has to go up and down the many hills scattered around the base of the Apennine Mountains, as if sewing them together. I visited the brewery around October, just when the vineyards were beginning to change color with the autumn leaves.

  • The hilly area of Modena colored red and yellow
May 28, 2019

Red Wine from the Terraced Fields of the Bormida Valley

The Bormida Valley is located in the southern part of Piedmont, a region in northwestern Italy located about two hours by car from Genova. Because the valley is at a high elevation of 400-800m, the temperature difference between summer and winter is severe. It is said that the temperature may drop as low as 5℃ in winter.

  • Terraced fields in the Bormida Valley
January 28, 2019

Dry-cured Ham Culatello in Zibello Village

At the beginning of November, I drove a car north from Parma and aimed for Zibello village. As I passed through the central Old City, I saw fields and houses scattered around. As I advanced the car further north, it suddenly began to fog all over. Even though it was still 3 oʼclock in the afternoon, the road ahead was hazy enough to make it difficult to see without headlights.

Here, Zibello village is close to the Po River, which is the longest river in Italy. The humidity is high, and as the temperature drops, the water vapor in the air becomes a small water grain and  turns into small drops of water, so the area gets wrapped in fog during the winter. The fog produced here in Zibello village is a very important natural resource for the production of dry-cured ham Culatello.

  • On the road from Parma to the production facility
October 23, 2018

Vino Santo in Trentino

Drive a car east from Milan, go north through Verona and you will see the largest lake in Italy, Lake Garda. Continue running north along the lake and you will arrive in Trentino. This is a province located in Trentino-Alto Adige, at the border with Austria and Switzerland, so both Italian and German are recognized as official languages. Because much of Trentino features valleys lying in between small mountain ranges, the days remain cool even in summer. It is used as a summer resort not only from Italy, but also from neighboring countries, and you can see people enjoying touring and cycling.

For this second column, I would like to introduce the windows that make use of nature to help produce Trentinoʼs Vino Santo noble rot wine. Noble rot wine is a type of sweet dessert wine made by attaching the noble bacteria (Botrytis cinerea) for fermentation. The bacteria melts the wax layer that protects the surface of the grape and promotes the evaporation of moisture  from the fruit. By doing so, the sugar is condensed and a unique flavor can be produced. Noble rot wine is known as a luxurious wine due to its rarity. Generally speaking, it is fermented in vineyards——Trentino Vino Santo, however, is fermented in the attic room. This special production method makes the flavor very mellow.

  • Trentino valley between the slightly elevated mountains
June 19, 2018

Garlic Window in Vessalico village

Lemon raised under the shining sun; cured ham aged in a rich flavor by growing mold; wine made from grapes raised under well-ventilated pergola. We can see architectures particular to each region within these charming food production scenes. Surely, Italian food is born from the relations between architecture and local climates and geography.

With this in mind, I spent a year from February 2016 in Italy researching food and architecture. The subjects of this investigation were groups producing traditional foods protected by Slow Food.

The Slow Food movement was started by Carlo Petrini, a journalist of wine and food, who feared that the Italian food culture would be lost after a McDonald’s opened in “Piazza di Spagna” in Rome in 1986. In the first page of his book, Petrini explains that because gastronomes (gourmets) have sharpened sensitivity and good taste, they are able to consider how food is made. Slow Food is concerned that traditional and regional foods are being lost due to the rise of fast food and globalization. They are therefore protecting traditional and regional foods by marking them with the Slow Food logo and distributing them to markets, as well as creating networks between producers, cooks and consumers.

The wines, cheeses, cured hams, fruits and vegetables that I researched are all registered with Slow Food, and are produced through the utilization of the natural conditions of local climates and geographies—light, heat, wind, humidity, etc. In this series, I want to trace the relationships between the taste of traditional foods registered with Slow Food and the window as an architectural element that utilizes the natural environment around us.


In this article, I will introduce the window related to the production of garlic in Vessalico village located in the north of Italy.