Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Wanderlust Wednesday Drive into Southwest Lombardia's Rice Growing Center

Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

According to my calendar, today was the first day of Spring!

Thus, a drive in the countryside sounded like the perfect thing to do on yet another edition of Wanderlust Wednesday in northern Italy.

The goal area today was in the rice producing, southwestern corner of Lombardia to explore the cities of Robbio, Mortara and Vigevano.

My Google Maps app sent me along some tiny country roads next to lots of fields that would be flooded for rice growing in the near future I suspected.

I also got to drive through some small, sleepy country villages like Confienza before arriving at my first city, Robbio.

A Confienza memorial
to a fallen local hero

The reason for my visit to these three cities was information found in my book Italy for the Gourmet Traveler by Fred Plotkin.

The rice grown in this area means that this is risotto country. Plotkin goes on at length about a spot in Robbio that serves what sounded to be fantastic risotto.

I was fairly sure that I would be hungry at midday, so Robbio it was to dine at Plotkin's highly recommended Ristorante da Mina.

Once in Robbio, I found the correct address easily enough but . . .

The ristorante had both changed
its name and had a new . . .

. . . day off,
Wednesday of course

Undaunted, I started my stroll about Robbio's modest streets in search of an alternate dining spot for a risotto dish.

The former Chiesa Santa Maria
delle Grazie, built in the XVth-century,
is now Robbio's play hosting auditorium

The front door of Robbio's
still active XIIth-century
Chiesa di San Michele

Intricate doorway details

Random window grill

Another XIIth-century Robbio church,
the Chiesa di San Pietro

Just around the corner from this church I found my dining spot . . .

. . . it just caught my eye

I liked the look from my table . . .

. . . but I LOVED my seafood risotto

I know that I should have ordered a white wine with this dish but I like red wine more than white and no one yelled at me about my culinary faux pas.

I lived.

On to Mortara . . .

A random rice growing field

Besides growing rice, this area is also known for its frogs.

As the story goes, back in the day when these fields were flooded to aid the rice's growth, the stagnant waters led to the proliferation of man-eating mosquitos the size of '56 Buicks.

The mosquitoes natural predators were the frogs that lived in the channels that served to transport the water to the rice fields.

The frogs ate their fill of the mosquitoes and grew to large proportions as well. Thus the locals would catch these mega-frogs and add them to their menus.

So, the area is known now for both its risotto and frog legs. 

Mortara's City Hall

One Mortara memorial . . .

. . . and another

In Mortara's XVIth-century
Chiesa di Santa Croce

Padre Pio

Relics in tribute to perceived miracles

GREAT beard!

St. Michael the Archangel

Near the Chiesa di Santa Croce
is this memorial dedicated to . . .

. . . Mortara's World War I dead


This would have brought a
smile to Bill Gardner

GREAT mustache!

A topless opera in Mortara?

Mortara's highly recommended
butcher shop

Closed on Wednesday.

Of course . . .

Mortara is famed for its goose dishes

Centuries ago, Mortara was a Jewish enclave and the goose has historically been linked to Jewish cuisine.

If you note the small yellow sign next to our goose, Mortara is the City of the Goose (oca).

After strolling Mortara's main street, Corso Garibaldi, and still full from my delicious risotto lunch, I pushed on to my final stop of the day, Vigevano.

Orderly planted tree groves like
this one are all over the area

I'm not sure what kind of trees these are or their purpose if they do not produce nuts or fruits.

I had, by sheer accident,
saved the best city for last

Vivevano's Piazza Ducale is said
to be one of the most beautiful
in all of Italy . . .

. . . I have to agree

The Piazza Ducale's buildings
are works of art in themselves


This statue is at one end of
the Piazza Ducale . . .

. . . while the Cattedrale di Sant'Ambrogio
is stationed at the other

I just liked the ancient Caffé sign
on the Piazza Ducale

The Piazza Ducale was conceived by Ludovico Maria "The Moor" Sforza who wanted as regal entrance to his castle just behind the piazza. It was built between 1492 and 1494.

As regal as the Piazza Ducale was, I felt the need to explore more of this fascinating city.

How old is this pharmacy?

The Chiesa di San Francesco's
XVth-century entryway

San Francesco fountain in front
of the chiesa named in his honor

Interesting door knocker

Radical tattoo shop t-shirt


The huge inner-courtyard
of Vigevano's  Sforza Castle or
Ducale Palace

The castle grounds date back to 1345 A.D.

The castle's main living quarters

The Strada Coperta
or covered street

It was built in 1347 A.D. on the wishes of Luchino Visconti and was designed as a fortified bridge to protect the passage of the Dukes of Milan as they walked from the Castle to the Old Fortress.

An ancient fresco

Back in the day, these were
the horse stalls for the castle

Looking up at the castle's
Bramante Tower built in stages
starting in 1198 A.D.

What does that sign say?

I couldn't agree more!

The view back into the castle's
inner-courtyard as I leave

Back on the Piazza Ducale

Just a magnificent view of the
Piazza Ducale

A view of the exterior
of the Strada Coperta

The Strada Coperta's street
level corridor

One of Vigevano's random,
artsy buildings

The Cattedrale di Sant'Ambrogio

It was calling my name and I was listening.

Blessed Teresio Olivelli

This was the second time today that I had seen a tribute to this would-be saint in a church. The first time was in the Chiesa di Santa Croce in Mortara, but who is he?

Ah, now I see . . .

Are those human remains
behind the glass?

I love ornate cupolas!

I also like the four silver busts
of the saints on this side altar

Now that's ornate

Graphic art

It was a good day to say the least

Once back home, I discovered our new flyer about the upcoming Venom Camp hosted by the Skorpions featuring the coaching staff of the Chicago Bears to be held in Varese's old calcio stadium in June.

It's going to be a BEAUTIFUL
weekend for American football!

Now, if our Offensive Linemen will just come to practice tomorrow night . . .


David said...

Seems like lunch in Robbio should have been frog's leg risotto.

But I probably would have gone for the seafood, too.

George said...

I think that I made the right choice too.