Salumeria in Bologna: culatello, hams, pancetta and salami hanging

A salumeria in Bologna, hanging culatello, hams, coppa

I rubbed the brass pig snout in Florence hoping to rid myself of bad Florence karma (first time there, my girlfriend left me for another guy, second time there, Donna and I parted for what was planned to be a year’s separation; this time, only a crummy dish of carbonara happened to me, which wasn’t bad at all, so it seems the brass pig works).

Mandatory tourist shot: Expelling bad Florence karma

But even in May the place is thick with tourists, so I was only too happy to say arrivederci and head for the rural shelter of the Spannocchia.  This trip was filled with out-of-the-way places not much written about.  Like, Spannocchia.  Loved this place.  They raise the hogs on beautiful pasture and in woods, the interns take them to slaughter in as stress free a way as possible; they do all their butchering and charcuterie on the farm; they also make olive oil, grappa, and grow much of their own food.  If you are hale and have three months to spend in Italian countryside learning about food and farming, look into an internship there (info@spannocchia.org). It’s also a lovely vacation retreat.

Hams from the Cinta Senese pig hanging in Spinnocchia cellar

We began the trip in Biella, 90 minutes east of Milan.  It’s a lovely old town with a Medieval section on a hill over looking the city and behind it, the Alps.  A small manageable place with no tourist issues. Again, a trip to Mosca is recommended.

I convinced Brian and Nic that a Colonnata detour was worth the time.  Brian, having tasted the lardo in Biella, was eager to go.  After winding, winding, and more winding, honking before we took each bend in the narrow two-way road, we reached the tiny city center, one small square.  Bigi Luigi, gave us a tour of his curing cellar, where he packs slabs of fatback in sea salt and herbs for a minimum of six months.

Marble quarry in the hills near Colonnata

Bigi Luigi's Salumeria; he cures lardo below the shop. Notice the beautifully rolled pancetta hanging and the flat belly hanging at left, which I heard referred to as tesa.

San Miniato is a classic Tuscan town on a hill looking out over rolling pastures (see previous post).  We visited a great salumeria, Sergio Faschi, tasted their coppa and soppressata, salami, and a fabulous spuma di gota, guanciale pounded to a paste in a mortar, spread on bread.  (Strangely, the bread in Italy is almost uniformly without character.)

San Miniato, a classic Tuscan town

Midway through a tasting at Sergio Falaschi's salumeria; notice the meat at six o'clock; it's what Tuscan's refer to as soppressata, what we call headcheese, cooked and stuffed into in giant cloth casing.

Bevagna, a tiny ancient city that became a self-governing Roman town around 80 BC is near Perugia and Assisi, turned out to be a lovely detour where we found an excellent salumeria and wine store, Salumeria Enotecha de Bevagna, where we first encountered “Grandpa’s Balls.” We stayed in the historic residence, L’Orto degli Angeli. Nice rooms, reasonably priced, wonderful old building and decent food in the hotel’s restaurant.

Bevagna, outside our hotel, L'Orto degli Angeli

From Bevagna we took another detour to Norcia, seat of the ancient butchers that now gives its name to the trade.  The town seems composed entirely of salamerias and is decorated everywhere with pig bladders.  It’s a gorgeous town set in the middle of the mountains, enclosed by 14th century walls.

A salumeria in Nocria; these bladders are for decorations but numerous cuts, from the culatello to the coppa are put in the bladder to cure.

Prosciutto in Norcia. In the shop we were told it was the best in the town (useful info as there seemed to be a dozen or more).

Gate leading out of Norcia.

Siena was the kind of big city I didn’t expect to like as much as I did.  Dark brown stone walls, a picturesque square around which horses race in the summer. Perhaps it was the meal at Pino di Cicco’s Osteria da Divo that made it feel such a fine place.

Pino di Cicco, chef owner of Osteria da Divo, finishes a risotto in a wheel of cheese. Highly recommend his restaurant if you go to Sienna.

Zibello, way off the beaten trail, in the semi-industrial farmlands of the Po valley, is where we had our final lunch, at La Buca, a lovely restaurant and Inn that I can’t recommend more highly (you’re greeted by the propietor and cook, Marian, who has a discussion with you at the outset and more or less tells you what you will have).  A platter of culatello, served with bread and adorned with curls of cold butter began the meal, followed by three different pastas and a platter of boiled meat (excellent), cured pork shank, with three sauces, a sabayon, a chunky salsa, and mostarda, fruit cured in a spicy syrup, a grappa, a coffee then, sigh, a long drive to an airport hotel to catch an early flight to JFK.

It’s so hard to leave Italy.

Bella Tuscany

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41 Wonderful responses to “Salume Tour, Part 2”

  • pat anderson

    Oh yummy. You’ve got me looking forward to my trip to Anghieri in September (to be followed by a week in Provence).

  • Durk

    I have American health codes. Everything hanging there is a beautiful sight

  • Vivian

    Michael, I cannot wait to see how this trip influences your new book. Absolutely inspiring journey.

  • Linda

    Michael, apparently it’s getting to you! You might want to revisit the text, get rid of extra letters, then knock on wood, spit three times in the air (big fat Greek wedding style) and declare your karma clear, or whatever it is when all problems are solved..
    Boy, Bourdain must be drooling! Is it an accident I watched his Tuscany episode today?

  • Amber

    I live in Siena, so please forgive me for being a stickler, but Sienna is an actress. Siena is a gorgeous town in Tuscany!! ;)

    And it’s Osteria da Divo with an O, but you only got that wrong in one place! Sorry!

    • sasha

      word- come on; if you travel, make some effort to spell the names of the towns properly!!!!!

  • Phil

    This is how I like to start a Monday morning. What an awesome post, and an incredible assortment of pictures. The rest of the day can suck now (highly likely) and it simply won’t matter. I might be stuck behind my desk, but my mind is in San Miniato.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Toast

    These pictures are killing me. My wife and I spent ten nights in Italy last year for our anniversary, and almost a year later just seeing pics makes us pine to go back. Such a country.

  • Nick (Macheesmo)

    Going to Italy for the first time in October… I can’t wait. Seeing your photos and reading what you have to say… I’m worried I’m going to cancel my return flight!

  • Paul

    The only low point in my last trip to Italy was that da Divo was closed on the day we allocated to Siena. Used Bologna as our home base and had a room in the market area just off of the central piazza. Terrific.

    So … what (tangible) did you bring home? I’m curious as to what you would choose to nurse through TSA and UDSA at Arrivals.

  • stephen

    “Strangely, the bread in Italy is almost uniformly without character.” Well, it seems that you were in Tuscany when you wrote this…where, for whatever reason, they don’t use salt in their bread, which, in my view, leaves it…um…characterless. Amazing the power of a teaspoon of salt…

  • Natalie Sztern

    Uhhh first paragraph…echoes o fHoward Stern just appeared before me ..(no relation)..:))

    I would give it all up for just a year living in Italy….anywhere and everwhere.

    Your young cooks and readers: like Nike says..”just do it”…really

  • Linda Griffith

    Have been to many of the places you mentioned. Loved Zibello. Hope Marion gave you a tour of her place. She is quite a character. Fred and I ate for hours. By the way, Dominic Cerino’s family is from Norcia, and some still live there. He had quite a lovely visit there. I’m sorry we didn’t know you were going there. You would have had a very special visit. They are famous for their lentils, besides their prosciutto.

    From everything I’ve been told, besides what I experienced, there is no good time to go to Florence. It’s filled with tourists all the time.

    But I enjoyed your trip…now I’m hungry. Welcome home.

  • Mantonat

    Great pics and info. Coincidentally, I just completed my tour of Denver traditional salumerias, which – as far as I know – consists of only one place: Il Mondo Vecchio. They do primarily Italian style salumi with no nitrites (nitrates? – I always forget which is which) and sell mostly at the wholesale level. Friday’s are open-dock days though and they offer samples and salumi to go. I talked to one of the owners and he mentioned that botulism is not a concern because of the cool aging temperature and lack of anaerobic conditions (botulism can’t grow in the presence of oxygen). As you mentioned in the previous post, whole muscle is not a problem at all, but one of their dry sausages is a French-style cured sausage made with only pork, salt, and pepper. Mindblowingly good in its simplicity. If you are ever in Denver…

  • Georgia Pellegrini

    I have dreams of going to Bielle… the salami maker in my book is from there, I think the air is responsible for the spectacular charcuterie…

  • Ben Solow

    Longtime reader, first time commenter — Michael, is that headline picture from Tamburini in Bologna? If not, please tell me you went and ate his mortadella! If you’re not looking for mortadella genovese (with pistachio), his is the best I’ve found.

  • bobdelgrosso

    I have not been to Italy in 30 years, but when I was there I found that the bread in the larger towns (in my case, Bolzano, Bologna, Parma, Milan, Turin, Venice) was all Tippo 00 plasterboard. It was only in the smaller towns that had local bakers that had decent bread, but I don’t recall any standouts.

  • Rebecca

    I enjoyed reading your posts about your Salume Tour. I live in Siena and am familiar with many of the places that you visited. I’m glad that you enjoyed Italy and I can’t wait to check out your new book.

  • Tags

    Too bad you couldn’t stop in South Philly (9th St.) on your way home to get some Sarcone’s Italian rolls. Then you coulda gone to Center City and rubbed Philbert the brass pig’s nose at the Reading Terminal Market.

  • Rhonda

    Michael, this is a beautiful post.

    You had me at “Risotto finished in a wheel of cheese”.

    I don’t know if I will ever make risotto ever again because now I can’t see it being done any other way.

    I can’t tell you how many people I know have had back luck in Florence. Don’t know what it is but it is definitely a phenomena. Glad you are done with the bad karma.

  • Jennifer

    I’m with Rhonda on the risotto. I’ve been begging my husband for a trip to Italy and a curing chamber in the basement. I’m going to firmly direct him to your Italy posts. Can’t wait for the new book.

  • Rachel Ward

    Awesome post.
    Do you have information on who to contact for internships in Spannocchia? I am interested in exactly that sort of thing.
    Thanks.

  • ANDREW KARP

    Michael, your photos of the salume tour bring back great memories. Italy is the center of the culinary universe. And yes my friend, Italy is a very hard place to leave.

  • Jane Ridolfi

    Michael……this is a fabulous post…fabulous, fabulous, fabulous!
    Thanks so much for taking the time to post and share…..appreciate your generosity……..Best to Donna…….Jane

  • emanuele sbraletta

    I am currently translating this article to my father, which happened to be here cutting ‘prosciutto al coltello’ while you stopped in the Enoteca di Bevagna – Grandpa’s balls, does it ring any bell?- along with your colleague. We thoroughly enjoy your comments and hope to see you again soon in Bevagna!!!!

  • Natalie Sztern

    I am re-reading this article and thinking to myself “now this is a travel and food show”….imagine this article and these pictures live in a made for PBS show…no offence, but for me it would beat out No Reservations…whoever took these pictures did a wonderful job.

    Yours script couldn’t be better.

  • Susan

    About the bread. If it’s used to pair while featuring the meat, cheese or oils, it should be plain so as not to be present in the featured flavors and to cleanse your palate. No?

  • luis

    I am reaching for charcuterie this minute. I need to get into this book. I am on vacation so its a great book to take with me to the keys. I need to read more about how to make a leg of prosciutto…1275 Euros is a piece of change. There is a place near me that sells Serrano hams and they are expensive in some cases but not even…Why is prosciutto so expensive?

  • Maria Z

    My parents are visting Italy now, and between their reports, your posts, and memories of being there four years ago during the World Cup (which Italy won), I’m dying here! I can’t wait to go back, and I can’t wait for the new book!

    I remember that the bread there was terrible. Having been in Paris, I was surprised about the lack of flavor in Italian bread. I recently read somewhere that they don’t use salt in their bread, and that greatly affects the difference. I am sure there is someone here more knowledgeable about that than I am.

  • Omid Tavallai

    Just got back from a week in Liguria and Tuscany and dream of lampredotto (stewed tripe from the fourth stomach of a cow) and lardo di Colonnata every time I close my eyes for more than two seconds. I was never turned on by Italian food until I started digging more into things at which I would’ve previously turned my nose up.

  • phillyray

    Biella is lovely. I have family there. If you didn’t try the cherry liquer there, get some the next time. It’s delicious and a local specialty. Another local thing is a decadent coffee drink: first a wine glass is slathered with nutella inside, then espresso is poured in and super thick whipped cream is piped on top. Its soooooo good, that’s what I call a “pick-me-up”!

  • polly

    and yet you can’t spell siena correctly- are you by any chance american?surprise!!!

    • lindsay

      apparently from ohio- and yet they can’t understand why the europeans and canadians and asians etc are so apalled….

  • robert

    yes i had a hard time leaving the amerikkkan and it’s lack of care for the health of its citizens but its quaint “heated dogs” and fried frenchies and fat covered fat that its fat covered people subsist on…especially in the middle of the amerikkkaaaa

  • lucy

    yes- well – we must all let the americans spell the things willy-nilly- when the letter combination -ou- was too complicated, they just got rid of it after all. Rumour has it they don’t even teach their children how to spell any more and every other country should really just change their names to reflect their ignorance to wit all the travesties of pronounciation of town names in America ostensibly named after towns in Europe.

  • ruhlman

    I fixed that spelling days ago, don’t know how it resurfaced!