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.
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.
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.
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.