On the San Martino di Castrozza plateau, 2,600 meters above sea level, the light is brilliant, the pristine air intoxicating. This cool and breezy paradise is the symbol and image of a territory in which sustainability is a tangible and concrete concept. At the table, too.
“Mountain water, barley malt, yeast and hops from our valleys. Beer like this could only come from Primiero”. Fabio Simoni, craft brewer from Bionoc’ was enthusiastic. His bottles (see box) are a feature of Mezzano, in the Primiero Valley, listed as one of Italy’s Most Beautiful Villages. In the background are the idyllic mountains of the Pale di San Martino, the largest of the Dolomite groups. The appeal of this town of wooden and stone houses, inhabited by 1,640 people, is enhanced by an outdoor circuit of 31 works of art that interpret traditional wintertime woodpiles in creative ways (see box). “In the summer, there’s also Mezzano Romantica, a program of music framed by food festivals dedicated to the area’s excellent products, starting with our exquisite cheeses. It’s an ideal opportunity to fall in love,” joked IvanoOrsingher, the Tourism Office head.
Have you ever studied a cheese under the magnifying glass of its sociological environment? At Caseificio Sociale Primiero, a cooperative that brings together 65 dairy farmers and a dozen dairies, its director Alberto Bettega clarified the concept: “Our farmers form a small, local, family economy that contributes to maintaining the mountain environment. We don’t only make Tosèla, Fontal, Trentingrana and Botìro,” pointed out Bettega. “We are also a partner in tourism and environmental protection. By making our cheeses and butter, we maintain the territory.” The role of milk can even be seen in local proverbs. “La boca nò la è straca, se nò la sa de vaca.”“That rhyming dialect saying means that the mouth is not satisfied until the palate has tasted cheese at the end of the meal,” explained the president of the Strada dei Formaggi delle Dolomiti, Francesca Doff Sotta. This cheese-focused itinerary shows off the excellent production and hospitality of three valleys: Primiero, Fassa and Fiemme. She added, “In the summer we offer “Dawn in the Dairies”. We set off early and go up to the mountain plateaus to show how we make Botìro, our best butter.”
The Scalet family offers another special experience at their agriturismo, Dalaip del Pape. They organize a picnic with a donkey, who carries a breakfast of bread, Botìro, jam and apple juice: three hours in small groups. “The cucina in Primiero is simple but of high quality,” said chef Michele Corona from Da Anita, the restaurant he runs with his mother Anita and sister Elisabeth, who waits tables dressed in traditional costume. “We have Tosèla, which is our fresh cheese. It’s lightly cooked in butter and served with mushrooms and polenta. We have Botìro, a fantastic butter, made in the mountain dairies during the summer months. We also have grassole, wild spinach from the mountains, and herbs that we use in grappa and in canederli dumplings. Come and visit us!”
Herbs and spices go into the marinade for carne fumada, meat cured by butchers Rolando and Francesco Bonelli, father and son, in nearby Siror. They produce a beef roast enhanced with fruit and herbs they grow and then cold-smoke with beech wood. Our next visit took us to 1,493 meters above sea level to the Malga Lozen dairy. Here the Orsega and Iagher families run a tavern where cook Gianni Iagher welcomed us with a steaming plate of polenta, Tosèla cheese cooked in butter, sausages, and a mixture of porcini, chanterelle, and chiodini mushrooms. The sausages are homemade and smoked with pine and juniper wood. The meal ended with a tasting of the house grappas, a delicate one with milk, and a more assertive one flavored with pine cones from a high altitude tree, cirmolo or Swiss pine.
We left Malga Lozen for a walk in nearby Val Noana, fragrant with balsamic aromas, in the silence of a gigantic pine trees: 50 meters tall, a meter in diameter. The only sounds were birdsong and flowing water from a fountain in the woods – mountain water, a precious resource. “Our water produces all the electricity we need,” explained Paola Toffol, president of the tourism association of San Martino di Castrozza, Primiero and Passo Rolle. “We are trying to completely abandon the use of coal thanks to two facilities, one in San Martino that has been functioning for ten years, and a more recent one in the valley of Primiero.”After a polenta lunch, a walk in the woods followed by a house-made pastry at Lucian, it was time to go shopping. In Mezzano that means woodwork from Zeni, with traditional objects made by Renzo and works of art by his son Gianluigi. We also saw hand-weaving at Arteler, a store and workshop owned by the Trotter family. We found elegant shawls, clothing and articles for the house. Before you leave for the city, take a deep breath and fill your lungs. A gift from Trentino.
by Massimiliano Rella
Where to eat
Malga Lozen| loc. Lozen |Valle del Vanoi (TN) | tel. 347 516 7624
Dalaip dei Pape| loc. Dalaibi | Primiero S. Martino di Castrozza (TN) | tel. 0439 1990 110 | www.agriturdalaip.it
Da Anita | via Cavallazza 24 | S. Martino di Castrozza (TN) | tel. 0439 768 893 | www.ristorante-da-anita.com|
Malga Venegia | loc. Val Venegia | Passo di Rolle (TN)| tel. 348 062 7886|
Castel Pietra La Pajara | via Venezia, 28 | Transacqua di Primiero (TN) | tel. 0439 763 171 | www.ristorantecastelpietra.it|
Where to stay
Capanna Cervino| loc. Prati di Castellazzo | Passo di Rolle (TN) | tel 0439 769 095 | www.capannacervino.it|
Hotel Garnì Paradisi | via del Pian 25/a | Mezzano di Primiero (TN) | tel. 0439 725 389 – 348 988 6528 | www.hgparadisi.it
Rifugio Caltena| loc. Caltena | fraz. Transacqua | Primiero S. Martino di Castrozza (TN) | tel. 0439 62879 | www.rifugiocaltena.it
Where to buy
Malga Rolle | fraz. Siror | Passo Rolle | Primiero S. Martino di Castrozza (TN) | tel. 0439 768 659 | www.caseificioprimiero.com|
Artelér | Via Semedela 12/a | Mezzano di Primiero (TN) | tel. 347 777 8611 | www.arteler.it|
Pasticceria Lucian | via Roma, 169| Mezzano di Primiero (TN) | tel. 334 393 8918 |
Zeni Scultori | via Roma, 156 | Mezzano di Primiero (TN) | tel. 0439 67674 – 340 215 9394 | www.zeniscultori.com|