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food / travel

A Tasty Tour Through Rossini’s Italy

Best known for his operas, Gioachino Rossini also had quite a flair for culinary composition. That hardly comes as a surprise considering he grew up on Italy’s Adriatic coast, which continues to wow visitors with its natural beauty, exquisite architecture

Valerio Griffa

PESARO - "Rossini stood there motionless, looking over his favorite dish, listening to the quiet whispers…" wrote a French aristocrat. Like any good Italian, the master composer – in his Parisian period – delighted in surprising his guests not only with music, but also with his culinary repertoire. Gioachino Rossini would sift through ingredients, arranging and pairing them up for each plate, just as he did with musical notes. Tournedos alla Rossini, crema Rossini and frittata alla Rossini are some of the dishes that still bear his name today.

Music and food are, in the end, questions best left to the palate. This is no doubt a truism ingrained in Rossini from his earliest days in Pesaro, on Italy's Adriatic coast. Visitors to the Master's birthplace Pesaro and the small towns along the coast to Portonovo get a taste of not just art, musical architecture and musical poetry, but also wild mussels and other "gastronomical music."

This section of Italian coastline is full of stories, like this one about Napoleon and wine. When the Emperor established the Kingdom of Italy, his adopted son, Eugène Beauharnais, planted some pinot noir vines in the marshlands that had been confiscated from the Church. Now, on the hills overlooking the sea, these vineyards have become the property of the Mancini brothers, who have recently recovered the best clones and produced a "Napoleonic pinot."

In Pesaro, the Rossini Opera Festival (August 10-23 this year) features the best of the Master's legacy. There is also a "Rossini path" that leads to his childhood home, where the ceramic caricatures of Franco Bucci joke about the two passions of the musician: the serenade and the kitchen.

The city's beautiful Rossini Theater, the Rossini Foundation Conservatory, and Pedrotti Hall are particularly enjoyable. Also worth visiting are the waterfront with the enigmatic globe of Arnaldo Pomodoro, Castiglione (the neo-Gothic structure of the ceramicist Mengaroni, now a restaurant), Molo di Levante, overlooking the port-canal and its boats, and San Bartolo. Other attractions include Piazza del Popolo, with the Duke's Palace and the Fountain, the alleyways of the ghetto and the synagogue, the art gallery (which displays the Pala di Pesaro, as well as art from Carracci, Tintoretto, and Reni), and the Ceramics Museum (a must-see, especially for their 18th century decorative plates, the so-called Rosa di Pesaro, and the magnificent Medusa of Ferruccio Mengaroni).

The surroundings are equally attractive, mainly because they offer excellent products that go well with both music and Rossini's cooking: Acqualagna, with its black and white truffles; and Cartoceto, the land of fine oil and that marvelous cheese known as pecorino di fossa. In addition, as is common in many of these villages, there is a magnificent theater, called the Theater of Triumph. Also worth mentioning is Furlo, the natural reserve on the Apennine ridge through which a gorge of the Candigliano River flows, and the tunnel of the Via Flaminia. Running between Acqualagna and Fossombrone, the tunnel is a microcosm that brings together Mediterranean vegetation and Apennine limestone, marble and fossils.

Then there is the small city of Cagli, a jewel with gates and towers, noble palaces, luxurious churches, and a 19th century theater. If you descend into the lands of Metauro (where Bianchello del Metauro was born), you'll encounter the town of Fano, known for its Roman Fanum Fortunae (Temple of Fortune). And as luck would have it, the city possesses a discreet yet poignant beauty, with its ancient walls, the Rocca Malatestiane fortress, the Arch of Augustus, the gate, theater, and above all, the narrow streets in the center of town. Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque – a blend of styles and a feast for the eyes. The waterfront is a little dull, but it goes well with the beach covered with rocks that are called Sassonia.

The brodettoalla fanese (a fish soup typical of the region) is a real trademark of the town – and arguably one of the best recipes of the region, while the moretta, coffee with anise and rum, is unique. The port town of Senigallia is another important coastal site, not only for The Castle (Rocca Roveresca), the Governor's Palace, the Ercolani Arcades, and La Rotonda a Mare, or even for the Sengallian brodetto, but also for the two master chefs, Moreno Cedroni and Mauro Uliassi, who each serve up exemplary Adriatic fish dishes. At Madonnina del Pescatore (Cedroni), in Marzocca, and at Uliassi, in Banchina di Levante, you can see the brilliance that is behind a great kitchen.

Rossini knew what he was talking about: music and food, in the end, speak to the same part of the brain.

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food / travel

Pasta v. Fascists: How Italy's Staple Dish Became A Symbol Of Resistance

Pasta may not be considered controversial today, but it played an important role during Italy's fascist years, particularly in one family's celebration of community and liberation.

Photo of the Cervi family.

Photo of the Cervi family, whose seven children were shot by the Fascists on December 28, 1943, at the Reggio Emilia shooting range.

@comunisti_alla_ribalta via Instagram
Jacopo Fontaneto

ROME — Eighty years ago — on July 25, 1943 — the vote of no confidence by the Grand Council of Fascism, leading to Benito Mussolini's arrest, set off widespread celebrations. In Campegine, a small village in the Emilian province, the Cervi family celebrated in their own way: they brought 380 kilograms of pasta in milk cans to the town square and offered it to all the inhabitants of the village.

The pasta was strictly plain: macaroni dressed with butter and cheese, seen as more of a "festive dish" in that period of deprivation. As soon as the Cervi brothers learned about the arrest of Mussolini, they procured flour, borrowed butter and cheese from the dairy, and prepared kilos and kilos of pasta. They then loaded it onto a cart to distribute it to their fellow villagers. Pastasciutta (dry pasta) specifically regards dishes with noodles that are plated "dry", not in broth. That would disqualify soup, risotto, ravioli...

Even though pastasciutta is the most stereotypical type of pasta today, it had a complicated relationship with the government during Italy's fascist years.

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