Underneath the former medieval Convent di San Giovanni in Orvieto lies the regional wine library of Umbria, in the Province of Terni. This was a wonderful discovery that happened while I was with a blog tour group in the Umbria region. I love wine, traditional Italian cuisine, and old monasteries so you can imagine my great pleasure upon arrival.
Once a Roman temple dedicated to Giove, the convent is now instrumental to the teaching, sampling and display of the typical food products and wine of Orvieto and the Umbrian region. It is also the international seat of the Slow Food movement where nature’s bounty is combined with the artisans and entrepreneur’s skill to provide examples of the gastronomic supremacy of the area. It contains over 120 different labels of the best locally grown wines displayed on the walls along caves and tunnels that have been dug out of tufa rock from as far back as the Etruscan era.
All are listed as DOCG, DOC, and IGT wines grown from the area’s most prestigious vines of the Umbrian wine routes. Touch screens accompany several wine displays, packed with information to acquaint yourself with the featured wine. Sixteen different wines can be sampled from automatic dispensers.
However, Il Palazzo del Gusto, the Palace of Taste, is more than wine. As part of the Slow Food experience, it is a cultural association that promotes the local artisans, farmers and traditional cuisine through regional events such as wine tastings, farmers markets and taste workshops. Slow Food is Italy’s alternative to fast food. I couldn’t be more excited about this movement, and to acquaint myself more deeply with the activities and support of the local people in their effort to keep the old ways and traditions alive was fascinating.
Italy’s Slow Food movement began in 1986 thanks to Carlo Petrini, a food writer living in Rome. He launched a local protest to resist the opening of the first McDonald’s in Italy located near the Spanish Steps. The Italian culture resists the values and concepts of these institutions and strive to keep the old traditional methods and production of the natural foods alive.
Slow Food aims to promote centuries-old traditions of gastronomy and local farming. Tourists want to understand the culture, so restaurants open their doors in an effort to show them how their products are produced. It opposes globalization (food grown in another country), and industrial food production.
The Palazzo del Gusto in Orvieto is committed to preserving the local traditions of food and wine in the region of Umbria. Food education and training courses are conducted along with tasting, craft and art events. The restored cellars contain a kitchen for the purpose of training professional chefs as well as amateur tourists in the art of traditional Umbrian cooking.
Inside the cellar of the convent, we took seats around small tables. Slow Food supporters shared their thoughts concerning the relationship between the small local producers and chefs in local restaurants. Many strive to keep the local cuisine and wine available to tourists as an important factor of the total tourism experience.
Wine tours grant an education in all phases of wine production, including tasting along with sampling the local cuisine. This provides an opportunity to meet the small producers in Italy and to experience the centuries-old tastes of the region.
Local farmers share their products with us including pasta, crackers, jams, honey and biscuits
In a world gone crazy over fast food that lacks nutrition from freshly grown ingredients as well as the absence of taste from traditional recipes prepared with care, Il Palazzo del Gusto is an anchor of hope. Come for a guided visit inside the Palazzo and discover the real essence of Italy for yourself.
For more information:
Palazzo del Gusto
Via Ripa Serancia, 16 – 05018 Orvieto (Tr)
Phone: +39 0763 340833 – +39 0763 393529
Fax: +39 0763 394455
– Susan Nelson
Susan Nelson’s love for Italy began 12 years ago when she took a two week whirlwind tour of this lovely country. Since then she has been back several times only to fall more deeply in love with the culture, history, people and beauty of this country. She has written over 100 posts on her blog, Timeless Italy, and has done guest posts for Boomer Women Travelers among a few other online travel publications. You can most always find her in her home office researching and writing new articles that intrigue her about Italy. Follow Susan on Twitter.
Concierge tip: Are you a Slow Food enthusiast? As part of a never-ending quest for gastronomic innovation, Baglioni Hotels has been working with the University of Gastronomic Sciences to offer to its guests a brand new breakfast experience based on good, clean and fair food. Currently Breakfast for you is available at Baglioni Hotel Carlton in Milan.
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