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Wining and dining in Franciacorta

by Marcello Parmeggiani last modified 2008-06-20 15:10

Wine-tasting in the hills of Franciacorta and fossil-finding in the Stirone river park.

FranciacortaSnuggled between the blue waters of Lake Iseo and the grey factories of Brescia, Franciacorta is one of Italy's prime culinary tourism areas. Fruit of a well-measured gamble some thirty ago the area now produces some of Italy's finest wines. Industry, however, is beginning to take its toll on this picturesque area, as those of you who pass through Rovato will surely know.

Enough about the present, let's delve into the past and see if we can discover where the name Franciacorta comes from. There are a number of theories but the most popular one is that Charlemagne baptised the area when he was stuck there during celebrations for the traditional festival of St. Dionysius. Not being able to return to his homeland he declared that the area was a "little France", or Franciacorta, thus enabling him to partake in the celebrations from afar.

ErbuscoErbusco is the hub of the area and it's worth stopping off to taste some wines and take in some of its magnificent old buildings and villas. Don't miss
Villa Lechi, or Palazzo Martinengo, built in Erbusco by the Martinengo family between the 1500s and 1600s.
The morning has flown past and it's time for some lunch. Let's treat ourselves to a meal in one of Italy's most famous restaurants - L'Albereta
, whose resident owner and cook is Gualtiero Marchesi, quite possibly the best chef in the country. Another pleasant surprise is in store when we look at the menu - oh no, we were mistaken - the prices are in Euros! Ah well, we'll be washing dishes for the next few years - in the meantime you can head down the road towards Parma . . .
For a pleasant journey go towards the Stirone river park, the Stirone is a tributary of the Taro river which marks the border between the provinces of Parma and Piacenza. The park is quite small but is interesting due to a sizeable number of deposits of sea-fossils from the Tertiary and Quaternary eras that have been uncovered through erosion. If you fancy some fossil-finding take the path from Fidenza (starting from the Luce area) that runs along the right-hand bank of the river. If you're feeling particularly energetic walk as far as Vigoleno Castle, and adjoining village, built in the 12th century and still well-preserved.

Villas - - an informative list of the villas worth visiting in Franciacorta
Franciacorta - - a guide to the area and its wines
Gualtiero Marchesi - - a profile of the top chef to mark his 70

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