19 #Piemontestories The taste of the Alps


Traditional recipes of the Occitan, Valdese, Franco-Provençal and Walser cultures

Many ways to relax and have fun in breath-taking environments and authentic Alpine hamlets await you. 'Where?', you ask. In Piedmont, of course! Come and explore wide-open spaces where you can roam freely and where it's easy to find the perfect experience for you. There are over 50 skiing facilities, and the chance to practise snow-shoeing, excursion skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and sledging on an extensive trail network. And for the more adventurous visitors, there's scenic ski mountaineering, free-riding and ice climbing

After all this movement, it's time for some food! You can't go wrong, whether you choose a refuge or a trattoria: the flavours of the Piedmontese Alps are unmistakeable. In the vicinities of the Sacro Monte of Oropa, a UNESCO World Heritage site, you can try the traditional 'polenta conscia', a creamy polenta with a soft local fat cheese, served with melted butter. Near Turin, in the Susa, Chisone and Pellice valleys − which take centre stage during many Olympic and sporting events and are a historic crossroads of cultures – you should try gofri, waffles cooked between two piping-hot plates served with cold cuts, cheeses or sweet garnishes; cajettes, which are oven-baked gnocchi; chestnut soup; breadsticks and tomato soup; ham cooked in hay and cheeses such as the Blu del Moncenisio and the Plaisentif, also known as violet cheese.

At the foot of the Colle dell’Agnello (Agnel Pass) crossing on the road that leads to France in the Queyras valley, there is a part of Cuneo where Piedmontese, French and Occitan cuisine merge. At the dinner table, you'll find the Varaita valley gnocchi, soft potato and flour gnocchi stuffed with tomino cheese and served with a cheese fondue. In Valsesia, you’ll find the traditional miacce, thin crunchy wafers which pair well with many foods, and the Alagna Cake, which brings together sweet and savoury flavours − typical of Swiss-German cuisine − and the uberlekke, a rich boiled meat dish garnished with boiled potatoes, carrots and turnips, served with a horseradish sauce. The Alpine and Walser tradition are also kept alive in the nearby district of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, as rye bread and Bettelmatt cheese are produced in a small number of Ossola alpine pastures. In Val Grande, the green heart of the National Park bearing the same name, in the Coimo hamlet, there's an excellent ancient bread that pairs well with mortadella Ossolana, flavoured with wine and spices and presided over by Slow Food. In the poetic valley of Val Vigezzo, the women who know the ancient recipe of the gnoch da la chigià (in local dialect, 'spoon gnocchi') reveal its secrets: this dish made with wheat flour and water, contains the same wholesome ingredients which are also required to make the local stinchéet (or 'runditt') pastry.