There is a certain magic that happens when you take from the land and put it in the hands of a passionate chef that lives to respect and accentuate the beauty that nature provides. Parma is where I live and as Italy’s food capital we are very lucky to have such Chefs at every turn of these beautiful plains. Chef Massimo Spigaroli is one of those rare breeds that at every turn surprises and bewitches us with his refined simplicity.
We can find him along the banks of the Po River, in the Bassa Parmense, in a little slice of foodie heaven, that was once a 15th century castle, originally constructed by the Marquees of Pallavicina, as a point whereby to control the transport of goods all along the Po. It was then converted to a working farm with unique cellars where the Pallavicina used to cure their ‘Culatelli’, cheese and store farm produce. Maestro Spigaroli’s great grandfather moved with his family to work on the farms before coming a tenant, and many years later, in 1990 the Spigaroli family was finally able to acquire the property. It has been restored and reformed, with particular attention to maintaining original architecture and antique traditions in the kitchens. So now the Culatelli caves are full again, the farms are fully operational and everything served on the property comes from what is produced from their own lands. The castle has been transformed into a beautiful Relais, and the property now boasts 3 restaurants, where one of those is Michelin Starred.
Chef Massimo Spigaroli is often dubbed as ‘the farming chef’ and on our first official day of touring we aimed to catch a glimpse of the root force behind his passion, by beginning with a bicycle tour of the farms. So in the early morning sunlight, we hopped on our bicycles to look at the kitchen gardens, fields of grains, vineyards, vegetables and all kinds of fruits. We visited the rare native breeds of black pigs, white cattle from the Po valley, chickens, ducks and geese. All meats and produce end up in the family’s restaurants, and what is not consumed is sold at a local farmer’s Market.
Outside of Italy we know that the sharing of good food and good wine with great friends is always a recipe for success, but it is in this beautiful place, surrounded by those that have a true appreciation for beauty and simplicity, that you can begin to really understand the heart and soul of every Italian. Here, under the guidance of brothers Massimo and Luciano, and the Spigaroli family, we truly understand that this notion is not just a really well-orchestrated advertisement for a glossy magazine, or a picture in a travel brochure, but it is a real way of life that actual people live. It is a way of living that every mother, every grandmother, aunty, uncle or father instill in their children, to respect the power of sharing something that is so simple. And suddenly that fire burns in us too, and we all really really want to be Italian! Bring on the Limoncello and let’s celebrate! (home made with home grown lemons of course!) This is one place I am certain that my heart will insist I return!
Director – Manuelina Culinary