Sunday, December 30, 2012

Farina Bona - Ticino's "Good Flour" makes a comeback

After a long, winding drive up into the Valle Onsernone, we took a hike through the rough terrain as we made our way to meet Ilario Garbani. Though temporarily working out of the basement of a shop across the street, Ilario has restored an old mill where he produces Farina Bona, a finely ground toasted corn flour.

Once part of the everyday diet in the Valle Onsernone, Farina Bona fell out of favor following World War II. After the last millers died in the sixties, production ceased entirely.

Farina Bona, meaning “good flour”, only survived thanks to a few family recipes that had been passed down. Efforts to revive Farina Bona began in the 1990s and it was mentioned in the Ark of Taste of Slow Food in 2001, gradually expanding its appeal beyond Ticino and the Swiss borders.

So what is Farina Bona used in today? We sampled soup, cookies, ice cream and a delicious, creamy Nutella-like spread called Bonella, just a few of items Ilario produces.

If you can't make it into the valleys of Ticino, you'll likely find Farina Bona in COOP supermarkets across Switzerland. 

Read more about my travels in Ticino in the February/March issue of German Life.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

All aboard the Wilhelm Tell Express

It's no secret that I love Switzerland. But, somewhere along the line something was lost in translation with the term "express". As a rule of thumb, Swiss trains labeled with the word end up being pretty much the opposite. Not that it's a bad thing with scenery like this.

Take the Wilhelm Tell Express, a route you begin aboard a paddlewheel steamer in Lucerne and switches to a train at Flüelen before chugging its way down through the Gotthard 
Pass to Switzerland's Mediterranean style canton of Ticino.While Tell may be the stuff of legends, the route connects two very real - and incredibly scenic - parts of the country.

After two nights in Lucerne, we embarked on trip aboard to Wilhelm Tell Express for lunch and marvelous views of the Alps and lakeside towns. Along the way you'll pass by Rütli, where Swiss patriots from three cantons took the oath of the confederacy in 1291. We disembarked for a short walk to the station at Flüelen to begin a couple hours of scenic train travel.

Dramatic landscapes with gorges, rivers and melting glacial ice mixed with quaint church steeples and small villages along the way. After passing through the darkness of the Gotthard tunnel, the light greeted us with a new world, Ticino, Switzerland's rustic, Italian-speaking Garden of Eden. 

The journey ended at Locarno along Lake Maggiore, where we would feast on risotto, polenta and pizza, sipping the region's acclaimed wine. 

Further information about the Wilhelm Tell Express and
the Swiss Pass can be found at