“Bread and Hospitality” is the slogan of a festival honoring the centuries-old tradition of bread making in Altopascio, a small town in the province of Lucca. On Saturday and Sunday, May 9-10, Altopascio, which became famous in the 11th century for its spedale (hostels) for pilgrims to eat and rest during their travels to Rome on the Via Francigena, will host this popular festival, now in its 11th edition.
In medieval times, the offering and sharing of bread in Altopascio’s hostels was the simplest and most authentic expression of conviviality. The purpose of today’s festival, which will take place in the streets and squares of Altopascio’s historic center, is to celebrate the town’s famous product, made with high quality ingredients and rich in fragrance and history.
This bread has earned its fame not only for the undisputed quality of its raw materials, but also for the craftsmanship of its production and its special flavor. Natives say that the secret to creating a perfect loaf depends on the quality of the water and the leavening agent used, but most bakers in Altopascio will say that success depends only on their ability.
The bread of Altopascio is the result of a unique production process. It is made with predominantly Tuscan flour, does not contain salt and does not use ordinary yeast but rather a particular kind of leavening dough that is produced daily. While the inside remains soft, the crust is lightly crisp and takes on a subtle golden color.
Interest today in bread from Altopascio spans from Pope Bergoglio’s appreciation for it to recognition at international fairs such as the BIT (Borsa Internazionale del Turismo) and the Salone del Gusto. It is also receiving special attention at the Cascina Triulza booth of the Milan Expo 2015 where a series of events organized there, “offer an opportunity to reflect on the value of the territory which is deeply marked by the tradition of this product,” explains Maurizio Marchetti, mayor of Altopascio.” Even today, centuries later, bread production is still one of the most important sectors of Altopascio’s economy.
While bread will be the real star of the festival, also showcased will be other local products such as wine, extra virgin olive oil, cheeses and cured meats of various kinds. More than 30 exhibitors, including bakers and producers, will have their stands set up in Via Cavour, in the heart of the festival entitled, “Bread and All the Good Things of the Land.” Here the visitor can taste and buy various types of bread but also the other featured products.
Market stalls of crafts and antiques will be set up in Altopascio’s Piazza Ricasoli and Piazza Garibaldi.
All stands will be open Saturday from 2 to 8 pm while Sunday hours will be from 10 am to 8 pm.
Additional festival highlights on Sunday from 10 am include a Ferrari rally in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, sponsored by Autosport Service Pistoia, and outside the city’s walls, a re-enactment of Altopascio’s traditional threshing process and a display of vintage tractors.
“Bread and Hospitality” is made possible by a collaboration of the municipality of Altopascio, the Slow Food chapter of Lucca, Compitese and Orti Lucchesi, local bakers, wine and oil producers as well as support from the Region of Tuscany.