I did a little solo travelling this week, to the far north of Italy. I went to visit the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo. It is a school started by the Slow Food movement, whose goal, as stated on the website, is to “create an international research and education center for those working on renewing farming methods, protecting biodiversity, and building an organic relationship between gastronomy and agricultural science.”
It is a very unique university, which offers a holistic approach to the study of food culture and tradition, taste and quality, production, tourism, and communication. I was excited to learn about this school a few years ago, and with the unexpected support of my parents, am considering one day applying to the one year master’s program in Food Culture and Communication. Being only a train ride away, I had to take advantage of this opportunity to see the school for myself.
It took a whole day of travelling to get there. There was one moment (maybe it was an hour) of panic, because instead of simply transferring trains once I had arrived in Asti, I found out that I had to take a bus to Alba and then another train to Bra (where I would be staying overnight). Anyway, once I figured it out, I had the most lovely bus ride between Asti and Alba. The area is all countryside, and we drove among the hills, through fields and fields of grapes and olives. It was so green and lush. I don’t know what is so appealing about the pastoral landscape, but it was just beautiful.
I had a tour of the university, the highlights being the library (with over 12,000 books all about food!) and the wine bank. The wine bank is a project started in 2004 to preserve an archive of Italian wines. Some are sold, but a certain number are saved in the cellar to keep a record of their production and to serve as a kind of museum for visitors.
I walked through the cellar, where the wines of Italy are displayed by region. I don’t know much about wine, but even I could appreciate this endeavor, the way it pays respect to the growers, producers, and connoisseurs of these wines.
There’s even a locked section for the most prestigious and expensive bottles.
The university is tiny, and it was pretty deserted, since students don’t have classes right now. But it is a really interesting place, and it’s exciting to think about one day returning as a student.
It started pouring that afternoon, and did not stop before I left the next day. So unfortunately, I was not able to see much of Bra, the small town where I was staying, adjacent to the university. I stayed in a rented room of a woman’s apartment. It was really quite funny, because on my one trip away from my host family, I ended up under the protection of yet another Italian mother.
I had been feeling a little bit restless in Acquaviva, and I was growing more and more frustrated with the language. Having a few days away was definitely worthwhile, even if travelling alone is a little bit lonely. Not only did I visit the university, feel a little more independent for a few days, and finish my third book (along with four Italian magazines), but I returned with a renewed determination to push myself with my Italian and engage with my family here as much as I can.
So, it’s back to the beach for me, then a short trip to Perugia before my family (the American one) arrives in July.
Baci e abbracci to everyone at home!