Bra: the champion of Piedmontese tradition – Piedmont cities series

The year 2021 has just begun and who among you is already planning a weekend away? We know, because of the situation you can’t, but for this trip you don’t need to go out, just follow us: it won’t be an adventure trip among the Niagara Falls but hold on tight because also the charming Bra can give you really breathtaking moments. 

Do you know how to reach this destination? Open the map of Piedmont, point your finger at Turin (if you don’t know where it is, we’ll give you a hint: it’s in the North West of Italy) and drive about 50 km away to the hills of the Langhe and Roero. The Longobards called this town Brayda“, meaning vast tracts of land used for grazing, while the Celts referred to the word Braye as meaning “alpine pasture”: indeed, both were right as Bra is surrounded by greenery. 

If green pastures remind you of Heidi and her tranquility, wait until you hear this tidbit and Niagara Falls won’t seem so overwhelming (not to take anything away from it). It’s no coincidence that the Slow Food Presidium was born in this small town of 30,000 inhabitants: a fantastic project whose protagonists are producers, artisans and farmers with the mission of handing down their trade secrets. Nothing is given to chance, in fact the environment also plays an important role: the more it is safeguarded, the more your palate will jump for joy in savouring good, genuine food.

Before we sit down to eat, let’s work up an appetite: a walk is just what we need. Let’s start at the Casa dei Braidesi: the Zizzola. Photographs, films, all provide evidence of the town’s history. It is also curious to know how the citizens of the past used to have a good time, which is why there are so many stories from the past.

Around the octagonal floor plan of this museum is a beautiful park. Then we leave the building and let ourselves be overwhelmed by the all-round view that the hill of Monteguglielmo offers us. I didn’t want to tell you before, but to get to beautiful destinations you have to do a bit of walking!

The Zizzola in all its charm
If you are lucky, you will be able to find the jujube among the trees of this park, but it is not so obvious. In fact, the climate has not been kind over the years and the cold winter wind does not favour the growth of this plant. The same fate has befallen its fruit, named Zizzola, but the Dominican friars, who had the good fortune to see this marvel, were far-sighted in naming the monument in its honour. A name that has become part of our dialectal speech, as in the proverbial saying “going into jujubes” to indicate a state of mind of great satisfaction.

Now we descend from this hill, the descent is less demanding, to reach the church of Santa Chiara. To get there, we enter the heart of the city via Via Cavour: a meeting place, cafés and historic places. We know that the Poor Clare nuns treat each other well: it was they who commissioned this masterpiece from the architect Bernardo Antonio Vittone. The four-lobed floor plan, the perforated double dome and the small dome were the trump card for calling this church a jewel of Piedmontese rococò. We don’t know whether the architect or the nuns were music lovers, but the church structure offers perfect acoustics for listening to numerous musical performances.

One of the historic cafés in Via Cavour
If you are a fan of frescoes, you absolutely must visit the Trinity Church! It is the first small but completely painted church of Bra; we thank Sebastiano Taricco and Pietro Paolo Operti for these masterpieces. This monument is better known as “Battuti Bianchi“, in reference to the brotherhood that lived there. 
A view of the amazing Trinity Church
Now it is time to sit down to dinner, we have come a long way! It’s winter, it’s cold, it’s time to warm our limbs with a tasty hot dish. Make yourself comfortable and we’ll order the main dish of the day.

Don’t worry, the wait won’t be long because the chef, to be on the safe side, simply chooses the town’s cheese: Bra cheese. It was given the name of this town because in the past it was sold at the Braidese market. To add icing to the cake, it received the Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) in 1982. We do not doubt your knowledge, but in case you had a lapse of memory, we would like to point out that this mark is given to products that have exclusively local characteristics. In short, we are not eating just any cheese.

It is perfect as an appetizer or entrée because of its intense, spicy flavour which awakens our taste buds. But if our aim is to warm up, the best choice is to combine it with polenta, specifically polenta from Beura. Why this one? The Mulino San Giorgio producers are some of the protagonists of the Slow Food Presidium project. It all comes together now, doesn’t it?

The refinement of this product is evident, because it is obtained by stone grinding two varieties of corn, grown in the Beura, using the conventional method and respecting the environment. The good news is that this dish can also be eaten by people with coeliac disease, as the wholemeal maize flour is rich in starch and does not contain gluten.

As it should be, you don’t get up from your chair until you have eaten dessert. And to maintain the fil rouge, the choice falls on Audere chocolate with blond onions from Cureggio and Fontaneto, also Slow Food Presidium towns. Don’t be taken aback by this combination, it’s the real deal! You will enjoy chocolate with an intense and smooth taste, perceiving also the acidity with scents of fruit and spices. 

I would say that we can now return home satisfied, with good food in our bodies and our eyes full of wonder!

– Until next time, With love!
Marcella