Fiercely independent and proud of their Rhaetic origins, the Ladin people of the Trentino-Alto Adige region in the Dolomites still maintain a strong South Tyrolean identity.
Formerly part of Austria, there is a distinctly Teutonic feel to this corner of north-east Italy: men sport lederhosen, and women dirndl. The cuisine falls into the hearty and wholesome camp – tasty survival food to fuel a day in the fields, created with home-grown produce and foraged finds, preserved in summer to last the harsh, snowbound winter months.
Loyal to their cooking traditions, the Ladins will raise a broad smile at the mere mention of the perennial favourite, canederli, or bread dumplings – and once tasted, it’s easy to see why. When these plump, fluffy quenelles are stuffed with tangy Tyrolean Graukäse cheese and smoky, home-cured speck, then doused in lashings of butter and extra cheese for good measure, they are quite simply the food of the gods.
A refreshing salad of thinly sliced fennel and cabbage, laced with olive oil and caraway seeds, is the perfect foil as a first course; or they can be dished up as an accompaniment to stews and roast meat, or even simmered in soup. To consume them like a local, never cut canederli with a knife – simply tease apart with the prongs of a fork. Who would have thought that stale bread could be transformed into something so delicious?
For the full rustic farmhouse experience, visit Lüch de Vanc in Longiarù; alternatively, the sunny terrace of Hotel Ciasa Salares’ chic La Terrazza restaurant in San Cassiano is unbeatable.