Franciacorta in bloom | A spring weekend thinking about the water shortage
On 19, 20 and 21 May our rose and perennial plant market is back, bringing the historic village of Bornato to life, an opportunity to (re)learn about plants and flowers both outside and inside the kitchen
A few extra hours of light and sudden – currently pleasant – heat waves are all its takes to get us worrying about an early summer and distracting our attention from our enjoyment of one of the most attractive months of the year. May is a bit like “Saturday in the Village”, the poem by Leopardi: a fleeting moment of beauty in life and an invitation to make the most of every single spring moment as we wait for the holiday season to come along. Because the stifling heat is just around the corner and before we’ve even noticed it our minds will be projected into those August Sundays.
But above all May is the month which celebrates nature’s rebirth after the winter, the same long-awaited rebirth that Bergamo and Brescia town councils had in mind when they came up with the idea of a single Italian Capital of Culture as a glimpse of hope after the terrible pandemic experience. In it culture is the inspiration for growth and innovation, together, in a little-known beauty spot. This is also the context of the 24th edition of Franciacorta in bloom, the rose and perennial plant show and market organised by Cazzago San Martino town council from 19 to 21 May.
This year’s theme is The Water Shortage: The Plant School designed to be an opportunity for thinking around an element essential to our lives but which is too often taken for granted, despite climate change, but also a learning opportunity. And our teachers will be the plants themselves, as centre-stage players in conferences and workshops in which to find out more about their life cycle and thus the intelligent way they use water. Why not take the opportunity to organise a weekend away here? And don’t worry about what to do: we’ll give you a programme.
On Saturday morning set out early for a sweet breakfast at Pasticceria Roberto, a pastry shop in Erbusco where you’ll be welcomed into a splendid farmhouse for a taste of Italian and international delicacies of all types, from croissant to macaroons, both mignon to the baked cakes which are a constant feature of Lombard cuisine. A journey of just ten minutes by car will then take you to the first true stage on this floral weekend, Castello di Bornato.
This historic fortress dominates the area’s vineyarded hills together with Villa Orlando, rare Renaissance villa built inside a castle, whose strategic position affords panoramic views over the Po plains. On a clear day you can see as far afield as the Apennines. You can admire its frescoed rooms in the company of a guide who will take you through the park’s centuries’ old plants and Italianate garden. And the tour continues underground, through the cellars which produced Castello di Bornato’s wine for seven hundred years. After wandering through oak barrels and historic winemaking equipment you can enjoy a glass of Franciacorta made by Azienda Agricola del Castello.
If you’ve fallen in love with the 200 year old Japanese pagoda tree or got lost amongst the Lebanese cedars and ancient Ginko biloba trees, it will very probably be time for lunch. Alongside the castle’s 16th century walls you’ll find the historic stables which are now site of Ristorante Dama Bianca, in which Brescia’s culinary culture is reworked in modern (and lighter) style, but still using local, in-season, zero-miles ingredients. Whether you’re in Sala del Camino, with its stone arches, Sala della Grotta with its splendid cross vault or Salone di Adalberto, with its wonderful vineyard views, you’ll be swept up in the yesteryear atmosphere. With a bit of luck you’ll come across the Dama Bianca herself looking out from the castle’s highest tower to the horizon in the hope of catching a glimpse of Adalberto, her beloved.
In the afternoon, a guided visit to Antica Pieve San Bartolomeo in Bornato, a unique opportunity to soak up the history of one of Cazzago San Martino’s most attractive historic buildings. Its current appearance shows the signs of its period of abandonment over the last two centuries, although this is certainly not the way it would have looked to local people in the Middle Ages, when the church was a religious, but also civic, meeting place and trading centre for a large area. The early medieval church, reworked in Romanesque style and then rebuilt and extended in the 15th century, was built over the ruins of a 1st century AD villa and a later Lombard settlement, a rare example of historic stratification whose story deserves to be told.
And after this journey through the past, treat yourself to a few minutes of relaxation in the building you’ll be overnighting in: just five minutes away from Bornato, in the midst of gentle vineyarded hills, Bed & Breakfast Villa Franca in Franciacorta. Check in and settle into the portico area to admire the sunset in the company of a good glass of wine.
If a ‘magical’ stay is more to your taste, Villa Biondelli Wine & Suites is the place for you. Its eleven haute bohémien style suites pay homage to The Singing Princess animation film which was made inside the villa during World War Two. A selection of watercolours and original sketches was the inspiration behind the resort’s renovation and three blinds painted by the film’s creators have been conserved as a souvenir of the building’s magical past. Opt for a massage in your room and don’t leave without trying out Cantine Biondelli’s organic wines, perhaps as a relaxing pre-dinner drink in the rooms of the park surrounding the estate.
For a light dinner we recommend Pepe Enoteca Winebar Food & Spirits, with its large selection of wines by the glass accompanying its ‘pepite’, small dishes to try out and share, with lots of local cold cuts and cheeses to enjoy in an informal atmosphere, an ideal end to the evening.
On Sunday morning take your time over breakfast but keep an eye on the clock to ensure you don’t miss the Wild Meadow Herbs workshop. A great many plants are edible and can be used to supplement our diets, make herbal teas and natural remedies. The sustainable gathering of wild plants also contributes to reducing the environmental impact of intensive farming and preserve biodiversity. It is also a fun way to combine usefulness (for you and the planet) with fun!
Before you make your way to our gardening show and market treat yourself to a guided tour with tasting at Monte Rossa’s underground cellars. Ecocompatible and ecosustainable, these were opened in 2022 and are the result of an ambitious project in which the small farming tradition melds harmoniously with technology in the pursuit of excellence with no compromises needed, including in the quality of life of those working every day with enthusiasm and dedication. Don’t forget to book!
Later on in the afternoon take advantage of the garden flower, plant and decor show to reinvent your home’s outdoor spaces. The fair hosts sector firms from all over Italy who help you decide what to buy and give you valuable advice with which to look after your home’s green spaces. For lunch choose one of the restaurants taking part in the Today I’m Eating Flowers and Plants Initiative launched last year. For the whole of May Franciacorta’s restaurants, including those outside Bornato, can offer a dish featuring edible flowers and herbs to promote the area’s cuisine, taking Franciacorta in bloom beyond the area’s borders too.
In the early afternoon watch the Palio della Rosa di Franciacorta historical parade accompanied by athletes, flag wavers and drummers from the six town districts. To conjure up the period of Veneto domination of this area from 1420 to 1480, in which Franciacorta was caught up in long and bloody battles between the Venetian and Milanese armies, on Saturday and Sunday you will be catapulted back in time through the trade and craft market and ancient medieval games during which the town districts will vie with one another to win the Palio.
And this historical re-evocation will bring our weekend itinerary to an end, a green week in Franciacorta, a cultural and culinary experience in which to find out more about farming in all its forms and raise your awareness of the important sustainability theme.