On Sunday, we drove out of Milan toward the northern lake country, for one of my favorite days of the trip, the “medieval dinner.” Our bus barely made it up the steep gravel roads and dropped us off in front of the gates of a large stone house, where we were warmly welcomed by Elena, the owner, who immediately ushered us inside. As we warmed ourselves in the spacious living room, adorned with interesting artwork, she recounted us the story of the house and her family’s relationship with it.
Known as i Vallicelli, the house has records dating back to the early 1500s, which describe all of its past residents and their professions, although there are structural indications that the building existed since the 1000s. Elena had moved into the house with her husband when she was younger, and the historic building and the surrounding natural beauty inspired her. The property was almost a miniature natural preserve, with various wildlife and fruit trees, and when her children were born, she began making homemade jams. This hobby has since expanded, and our tour of the house next led to the modern kitchens and storerooms, where the incredibly delicious preserves are now concocted and packaged.
After our introduction to the charming property was complete, we began the real business of the day–a feast. The marathon meal (which would last about 4 hours in total), began with light appetizers: breads, regional cheeses and salami, tomato and olive pastes, and some of the homemade preserves. Each course had been paired with a specific wine selected by a sommelier, and we clinked glasses for our first brindisi with a sparkling rosé. Moving to the table, we began the first course, two types of quiche, one onion, and the other ricotta and spinach, accompanied by Pinot Bianco. We switched to red wine for the main course: beef, marinated in wine and spices for a week, and polenta, which had been cooking in an iron pot over the open fire since we had arrived.
By the time the vegetables arrived, we were all wondering if we would physically be able to survive the massive meal, but the cheesy cauliflower was too good to pass up. Finally we were served a dessert wine, and made it to the final course, but there were two different desserts to finish: spiced wine-soaked pears, and an orange tart. Despite the fact that we finished off the meal with espresso, everyone was asleep about 5 minutes after we settled onto the bus…exhausted by the portions, and dreaming of polenta.