Monday, September 22, 2014

Piedmont rice paddies

Whenever we think of rice, we instantly think of Asia however, risotto is a typical Piedmontese specialty. So, how come in carb and gluten obsessed Italy, there's a whole cultural area where people are so fond of rice to invent risotto?

In Piedmont we have a saying il riso nasce nell'acqua e muore nel vino or "rice is born in water and it dies in wine".
By now you all know that Piedmont is the REAL Italian wine country and the largest Italian high quality wine producing region, so what about the rice?
The longest Italian river, Po River springs in Monviso in Piedmont and crosses the whole region towards the Adriatic sea, creating an amazing landscape of rice paddies, plains and picturesque villages. Even its estuary is very unique and totally worth a visit!

Po River crossing Northern Italy stretches 405 miles/650km from its source to the sea
Having such a long and large river with many tributaries means having access to large quantities of water and a very fertile soil. This made of Piedmont one of the largest rice producing regions in the world and even today, going east, you can see our rice paddies.
For us, we decided to go this past Saturday to take some pictures and check out the famous Lucedio Abbey, just one hour driving from Turin.

This Abbey dates back to the 12th century and it was founded by a group of monks from Burgundy, enjoying good wine, they couldn't have chosen a better place in Italy!
When they settled here, the area was a whole marsh that got transformed into a very productive rice producing area by the monks' hard work and management. In fact, through the centuries they even enlarged the Abbey property.

The landscape is so majestic and the Abbey atmosphere is so peaceful that many couples choose it as their wedding location. This was the case, last Saturday when we went there. However, this didn't prevent us from enjoying the view of this endless yellow sea of ears of rice ready to be harvested.

a farm in Trino near the Lucedio Abbey
Certainly, if you are looking for the water covered rice paddies, the fall isn't the right season, however, last Saturday our attention got totally captured by the frogs that populate the area and the beautiful insects: dragonflies, butterflies, spiders and even hairy caterpillars. This is how we started our frog watching. 

Coming from the city, getting in touch with an unpolluted environment and a natural oasis filled with birds and wildlife was very fascinating. As we were driving through the area we saw different magpies, crows, red and white herons, little egrets (egretta garzetta) and ibis, locally known as Pulcinella of the rice paddies, being Pulcinella the commedia dell'arte character. 
Most of these birds feed of frogs who are also a very appreciated ingredient of the local dishes, including risotto.
As we aren't frog experts we couldn't recognize the different frogs we saw or the insects buzzing around us. Yet, to us it was like being miles faraway from the city, the mountains and the wine country hills.
In fact we were immersed in an ocean of yellow ears of rice sweetly swayed by the breeze and moving at the rhythmic croaking of the frogs.


Porcini mushroom + toma cheese risotto
Now you know it, next time you are in Italy, if you aren't in Piedmont, get on the train from Milan and on your way to Turin, you'll see our historical rice paddies. 
Include a visit to Vercelli and its rice museum and make sure to try some original risotto. If you come over in the fall you'll have a great porcini mushroom or pumpkin risotto, if you are on a budget and you are here in January, you just can't miss a royal white truffle risotto (white truffles in January are as good as in October, just cheaper!!) and in the summer, even a berry risotto.

Pick one of the many great Piedmont wines and enjoy your life!

Piedmont: a real foodie wonderland waiting for you!

1 comment:

  1. I came here only looking for information about Arborio rice, but found out so much more... and not just about Italian rice paddies but also your love of Nature. Love the photos, too.