After breakfast, we drove from Venturo to Petrognola a beautiful little village in the Garfagnana to meet with Paolo Magazzini, the village baker. He showed us how to make the bread dough using a starter that he has kept ‘alive’ that was his mother’s (who has since passed) and putting in freshly boiled potatoes that were put through a ricer. We took turns kneading the bread as he corrected our posture. It was interesting to learn how a loaf of bread is used here. Erica, my host, for example, will buy a quarter loaf or 1/3 loaf and they will sell her a portion of the bread, so we can have fresh bread every day. Some larger families will have toast in the morning with jam, panino (sandwich) for lunch or cube the bread and toast it to be used in zuppa. Bread is a staple here, but not to be wasted. I’ve yet to see anything being ‘wasted’ here.
Jenny helps make the dough
Paolo teaching his kneading technique.
It’s all in the wrist
Lighting the wood to fire up the oven
Putting the bread in the oven
After lighting the wood fired oven, we let our bread relax and rise, and we are off to Paolo’s farro-polishing machine. Farro (emmer) is an even more primitive form of wheat than spelt and is still grown today on terraces in the village. It is used primarily in soup and even in beer. Paolo had his own Farro grains that needed to be hulled and when the local mill closed, he found himself without a place to bring it for processing. His poblem was also a problem for others in the village. If he couldn’t get his farro processed, it would be useless. He started to ask around and found someone in another area that processed rice and thought to himself, ‘ I wonder if the rice processing machine could be used for processing farro?’ He put a couple sacks of farro into his car and drove to the city where the machine was located and with the owner’s permission used the machine to try it out. It worked! He took out a bank loan, purchased the machine, and used it not only to process his own farro but processes farro for anyone (for a fee). Three years later, the machine is paid for and he now processes and pack farro for locals and companies.
hulls removed from farro.
Modern Machines help hull the farro
Farro ready to be shipped to grocery stores
We now walk back to the bread bakery where pop the bread into the oven and let it bake while we eat lunch. After lunch, we take the bread out of the oven and take pics proudly presenting our Garfagnana Potato Bread.
Paolo’s wife, Daniela, cooked us lunch
Tour group photo with potato bread