My second stop after visiting my faculty advisor, Professor Simone Cinotto, in Torino, was visiting the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. As you can see from the photo, there’s just about nothing in Pollenzo except for this gorgeous castle-turned school/hotel, a scattering of homes and businesses to the right, and miles and miles of farmland and agritourism sites as far as you can see. When I asked Dr. Cinotto to recommend a good place for lunch, he only suggested about 5 great farm-to-table restaurants within a half hour (and Italians are not easy to please when it comes to food).
Fortunately I was able to spend the night in Bra with a graduate student at the university from California who is (at this moment) doing her required internship at an organization in London. She took about 2 hours to give us the inside scoop on the school, describing how the course schedule works, types of classes offered and the ones she preferred, and the city in which she lived. For example, in the university’s undergraduate program seen here, the course schedule includes a range of classes, from Sensory Analysis and Microbiology to Territorial Sociology (<–??).
In addition, programs include required food studies field trips to events in Bra and neighboring cities, another destination in Europe, and then another outside of Europe. The school is hard work, don’t get me wrong, but for lunch you get to eat fine Italian cuisine made by aspiring chefs in a gorgeous castle. That sounds awesome.
Although this young and selective university has only gone on to graduate a little more than 600 students since its beginning in 2004, the school has produced major talent. I would personally like to vouch for two young vibrant graduates, Anna Bellotti and Grégoire d’Oultremont, who opened their beautiful restaurant L’Alfieri in Bra. It’s intimate and modern, yet fun and colorful with an ever-changing menu and a chipper bartender that greet you upon entry (and offered us up some special cocktails which now have me putting black tea in every liquor). Here you can read an adorable interview with them about why they decided to open their restaurant.
It was one of the best – if not the best – meal we had in Italy, so I highly recommend it. Here is a beautiful mind map of the owners that I had to share, which highlights all of the intricacies of the restaurant, their quest to create a community-minded space that feels right to be there, with a strong professional backing that rigorously plans, sources, and funds their creative ideas. And if I can find pictures of the food I ate that night, you all will be the first to see them.
Last but not least, here are some final shots of the university before I headed on my way to Parma. Soak in its red brick archways, trailing vines of ivy, and gorgeous views and circulation patterns. What a university. By the way, interested in going there? Check out the university’s website here or go crazy – apply for the university’s Fulbright and earn your MA from there in 1 year for free.