Day Nine: E-bike tour!

Photo 1

After waking up and eating a delighted breakfast. we headed into the historical area of Lunigiana.  This area, like the rest of Italy, has a long line of history that has shaped the area.  Within this area, there are 14 municipalities- one of which is the town of Farefalle.  We arrived at the visitor center to partake in a days worth of activities, which included a presentation on Lunigiana and tourism, a presentation on UNESCO, then a guided 2-3 hour 6ou5 on bicycles (which had a battery to assist when climbing hills) and finally we listened to the president of the park speak about the TEA National Park UNESCO Biosphere project.

To focus on the tourist part of the day, this post will talk about our experience with bike tour.  We experienced roads that were windy with hair pin turns as well as dramatic up hills and down hills but don’t worry, our bikes were equipped with a battery system to assist on those long climbs.This was an amazing tourist activity because it puts people with a range of athletic abilities and fitness levels on the same level (everyone could participate!).  The assisted  E-bike had speeds of eco (little assistance), touring (helped speed up hills), sport (more assistance to really power you), and lastly turbo (most assistance to make you race around).

Once we left the parking lot we headed down the road toward the first of two castles.  The tour guide took us right inside of the small villages  surrounding the castle, which was a change of view from driving through them in vans.  As we climbed the long and windy hill up to the castle all of us had fun switching through all the different assistance modes.  As we entered the castle, our guide let us get off the bikes and tour around the main entrance area.  Of course we took a lot of photos as we admired the architecture of the castle.  The view from the castle was breath taking, seeing the mountains and the villages below was perfect.  There was a small rain storm that rolled through, too cool us off, but the beauty of it was seeing the dramatic clouds in the sky roll over the mountains.  From the first castle we biked to the next castle in the next village.  Again, we stopped and this time took a group photo with the mountains and the beautiful landscape in the background.  These bikes were amazing, it has been agreed by everyone that it will be hard to ride any other bikes besides these as they were just that fun.

Written by, Michael Tuthill

Hotel, Resort and Tourism Management

Paul Smith’s College 16′

Day Eight- Farm Restaurant

Photo farm 1 photo farm 2

Monday (day Eight) was our last breakfast in the wonderful town of Castlenovo Ne’ Monti. Which was sad, because the food that Chef Marco made for us was was fantastic!. So we started our drive to Apella, which seemed short to me because I fell asleep. We stopped at one of the TEA National Parks Visitors Centers and it was a beautiful stone building, right on top of a hill overlooking a great view.

We all sat down at a lovely table, and had no idea what was going to be for lunch (Which is fun!)The first course had bread, fried bread, salami, prosciutto, and other delectable items. We tried one of their main exports, chestnuts, baked into a small cake which was served with ricotta cheese….it wasn’t my favorite but I appreciated hearing about the history of this protein rich food item which was grown locally. Next, for the pasta course, we had a chestnut gnocchi with some type of sauce and vegetables, which I enjoyed very much. After that we heard a sizzling sound and our waiter put down this hot clay dish that had steak and arugula in it. The steak was really rare, but it was so delicious and of course we had potatoes to go with that. After that we had dessert which was a blueberry cake-it was also delicious.

After our meal we went outside to tour the visitor center and had a talk with the chef. We learned from the very attractive chef that everything we ate was local. He raises chickens, sheep, donkeys, and rabbits that he kills for dinner. They have a very lovely garden where they grow lavender and herbs. After we left the stunning chef, (wink wink) it was back into the vans to go tour a local town that only has 7 people living in it. They transformed the rest of the town into a giant bed and breakfast / conference center. It’s a very popular destination and heir busiest month is in August. After that little side trip it was back in the vans and we were heading to Comano.

Written by, Kylie Graham

Baking and Pastry Arts Student, Paul Smith’s College

Day Seven – Day of the Parks!

Today was called the Day of the Parks and we went to the Lago Di Gramolazzo in the Alpan Alps Regional Park. The group was given a choice to choose between three activities, which were to go biking, kayaking or hiking. The activity that I chose was to go hiking.  The mountain my group hiked is called Campocatino.  Two tour guides lead our short but amazing trek.  We were able to see panoramic views of the Alpan Alps.  Our guides were rich with knowledge about the area, which made the adventure even more enjoyable.  The area was established before Christ and some of the buildings were constructed in the 17th century or earlier.  Our group was fortunate enough to come across one of the shepherd’s huts that were being renovated.  The tour guides spoke to one of the construction workers and asked if we could look inside.  Although the hut was small we were able to get a sense of what life would have been like for some one living in that area centuries before.  The town was completely off the grid with no power to the small huts. There was a small restaurant/bar in the town that did have electricity and has been updated recently.  We were told by a man who lived in the village that some of the people that owned the huts are fixing them up and are consider vacation homes for them.  This location is amazing with its breathtaking views and interesting historical background.  Campocatino is my favorite part of the trip so far and I am very grateful for the experience.

Written by Brooke D. Warne

Day Six – Cooking Lesson with Professional Chef!


This morning we learned how to make authentic Italian tagliatelle with a beef ragu, this present style dish from the mountains. We made the pasta with 100 grams of flour, a pinch of salt, one egg and a small splash of olive oil. After mixing this all together we  needed the dough and let it rest so the gluten could relax. Next macro the executive chef showed us how to make the potato filling.  It consisted of potatoes, rosemary, thyme, parsley, garlic, butter, olive oil, sage, Parmesan cheese and eggs. Once the filling was mixed and the pasta was done resting we started to roll it out with a pasta machine, but he also showed us the way to do it by hand with a rolling pin. After all that we filled the tagliatelle and cut out each one with a pasta cutter. Marco already had the ragu made because it takes 6 hours to make; then he heated the ragu and he cooked the pasta……. next we feasted!!!

Day Five- Cheese Factory in Parma!

“Cheese Making is not just a job,

it’s a calling and a way of life”

-Cheese Makers Wife


Today we were given a tour of a cheese factory located in the TEA National Park. Cheese is still made in many ways the same way it has been made for hundreds of years- of course, there is some modern                 equipment which makes the process more efficient.

At this particular factory, the milk used to make the cheese comes from four local dairy farms- all of which are located within the TEA national park. The rennet is added to the milk to begin the process of separating the curds and the way, this process occurs in huge copper lined tubs. The cheese culture (which is specific to each factory) is also added at this time. Once the curds and way have separated, and the cheese has settled on the bottom of the tub, it is collected and wrapped in cheese cloth. The cheese maker and the assistant remove the cheese from the tub and wrap it in cheese cloth using wooden hand tools. The cheese is then wrapped in cheesecloth and left hanging, to drain. The cheese is then put into molds and the molds are then left to sit in a saltwater brine before being inspected, stamped, and stored for ageing (depicted above). The smell in the storage room was pungent and delicious….each cheese wheel costs over $500. We were able to taste and purchase cheese straight from the factory!

Day Four Wave to Wave- Water and Energy

waves 3

This morning started off with a fascinating tour of the Atelier, which was meant to teach us about renewable energy and how to apply it to the Apennine Park. At first, the students expected to be in back-to-back presentations for three hours on these renewable energy sources but we were pleasantly surprised. After the brief introduction about what the Atelier does, we were escorted around the property and then taken to what appeared to be a warehouse building, but inside there were station setups. Some of the set ups included: miniture wind turbines, water mills, and magnetic fields. Each setup was designed to allow students to build renewable energy sources, further their knowledge on how each is created, and how it works. In specifically, after making our water wheel work, Annalisa asked do draw and demonstrate force and energy. This question was very difficult to answer but with her assistance we were able to figure it out. This discussion was a perfect closing to our time at the Atelier and really reiterated the out of the box thinking and understanding of green energy.

wave to wave2Wave to Wave 1

The other two activities were a Petrognola beer factory tour and also we went to the place where spelt was grown. Both tours were informational and entertaining. During the beer tour we learned more about the process of brewing and also the marketing that is done to make a profit. After the tour finished, we were able to taste one of the beers that is coming out soon. As  we tasted we discussed pairings and the artisan beer market in Italy. 

Following the beer tour we drive to Farro Della Garfagnana where we learned about spelt. During this presentation we learned about the multiple uses of spelt which include: pasta, cookies, bread, and jams as we ate a plethora of spelt products. Although there is product and profits to be made, Farro Della Garfagnana also had a social purpose too. One of the major aspects that they touched upon was that in this area in Italy there is high unemployment in women so it is their goal to give job opportunities to them to decrease this number. Overall the spelt factory was very sustainable in a way where they are environmentally cautious, socially responsible while increasing the economy in the local area. 

Day 3- Wolves and Golden Eagles- a Protected Landscape


Today we saw several presentations at TEA National Park office, which gave us prospective on preservation. Historically the Apennine has been used by locals for firewood and agriculture. As a result, severe landscape degradation and immigration to industrialized cities this area had become barren. The Apennine has been growing independently for the past 70 years, and became a protected National Park and recognized bio diversity hotspot in 2001.

Italy has the largest number of species in the world; The Apennine Park is home to 70% of Italy’s plant and animal species.  This is accredited to the climate offered by unique topographical characteristics that create three distinct habitat types, temperate continental, Mediterranean, and Alpine. The elevation of the park ranges from 500 m to 2,000 m above sea level offering short summers, and long winters. Both Wolves and the Golden Eagle preside in the park. 

Written by Emily Eidman,

Fish and Wildlife Student, Paul Smith’s College


Day Two- Prosciutto Factory!

Today we checked out of our hotel from the tiny town of Berceto and went to the Prosciutto factory where we got an inside tour of the factory learning about how prosciutto is made. Now prosciutto is a product of the DOP or domination original product. This factory is the only one in the National Park, they are in the process of developing a brand for local products.

Ham 2

We learned that the pigs are born here and have to be at most 9 months old before they are killed. The pigs are killed of site and are quartered before they reach the main facility. First they quality control the meat making sure its flawless then, they put it on a conveyor belt where it gets salted and put on a hanging line. Then the process of salting and drying takes a total of 36 months before its ready to be sold. 60-70% of the ham is deboned and sent to the US. There are only 150 producers in Italy that produce Prosciutto each with their own secret method.

Ham Photo 1

After our visit we said dour goodbyes and drove to the University of Parma. At the University of Parma, we met with a   group of Environmental Science Masters students and helped them celebrate their last day of classes!  It was fun meeting with other students our age. Then we went to a meeting with the president of the school to go over how many people were In the school, students, faculty, types of programs, etc. everything was extremely interesting. Especially the number of interesting research projects they are conducting within the TEA Park.  After a visit to the city of parma, drove to Castle de le Monte a beautiful town located in the park where we would stay for the next week.

Written by Meghan Bomba

Baking Student, Paul Smith’s College

Day one photo

Today we met with the Mayor of Berceto. He informed us about the history of the town and what the people of the Apennine park take the most pride in. We discussed the large number of people who immigrated from Berceto to the United States, Australia, and Argentina in search of a better life for themselves and how he hopes the children of those people come back and see where their family comes from. We spoke with the director of a newly formed agritourist cooperative, she moved to the mountains and bought a new farm. They currently organize a mobile cheese making truck and goat sharing program (local barrow goats to help clear old farm fields).  After a delicious lunch (three full courses!) we took a tour in the Cathedral of Berceto with Don Giuseppe and he informed us about the religious history of the town and how deeply rooted religion is in Italian culture. Our experience in Berceto set the tone for our trip and gave us great foundation for the remainder of our Italian experience.

Written by, Chris Samuels

Culinary Student- Paul Smiths College

The Arrival

We’ve Landed! Our First stop is just outside of the Apennine National Park in the town of Berceto! Our first order of business, DINNER! The hotel had prepared a lovely meal of cold salads, meats, and cheese. Also, plenty of local wine.  The students were tired but happy to have arrived in such a lovely place!

The drive from the airport to the Apennine’s was (of course) beautiful, farm fields with a stunning view of the mountains in the background.First night dinner