Our dream, our idea, and our project have become reality. Today, April 30, the inauguration of the Agenzia di Pollenzo will take place. Comprehensively restructured and renewed, the site is now ready now all set to go into full working order. The inauguration will be followed by a week of celebrations in which the various souls of Pollenzo will combine as one: Guido, the restaurant which opened last summer and is already proving to be one of Italy’s finest; the Albergo dell’Agenzia, the hotel that has already hosted the first guests in its rooms, each named after one of the best crus of the Langhe; the Banca del Vino, or Wine Bank, whose ‘royal’ cellars are now occupied by the wines it has collected; and, last but not least, the University of Gastronomic Sciences, the most ambitious project of all, now ready to receive its first 60 students from October 4 this year.
When, at the end of 1997, I had the opportunity to visit the Agenzia, then hidden and in a sorry state of repair (it was privately owned and not visitable), and learnt it was for sale my first reaction was to foster the rebirth of what was once the beating heart of the Savoy agricultural world. In those cellars Francesco Staglieno had been the first to codify the modern methods of vinification of the great Piedmontese wines and Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, staged the first major seminar on agriculture on Italy there. A complex of this kind deserved to return to the service of national eno-gastronomy. It is an ideal and fitting home for the much underrated science of gastronomy a point of reference for high quality agro-industrial production.
Then ideas gelled. First came the Wine Bank, then the hotel and the restaurant. Then the brainwave: the University. It’s easy to have grand or grandiose ideas; what’s hard is to make them materialize. All the more so if you don’t have the resources needed in your pocket. Only a few people weren’t taken aback when I proposed the enterprise. Nevertheless, the long laborious process got under way with the forming of a public company with mixed public and private capital, the commencement of the complex restructuring work, the search for resources, financial and human, to get the single initiatives on their feet.
Now the time has come to thank all those who have believed in us and helped us. Starting with Giovanni Ravinale, a fraternal friend of mine who, alas, hasn’t lived to see the conclusion of the enterprise. Then all the others who, at one stage or another , have done their bit: partners great and small, public and private, of the Agenzia di Pollenzo Spa; members pf the Association of Friends of the University of Gastronomic Sciences; all those who have adhered to the Wine Bank project; the managers of the hotel and the Alciati and Mongelli families who enthusiastically accepted the idea of bringing their hospitality and catering skills to the Guido restaurant.
Seven years have passed between the idea and the inauguration: now Piedmont and Italy have a ‘residence’ for eno-gastronomy, seen as a science, an economic activity, and fun. The place is unique the world over and ideally associated with Slow Food, the movement that conceived it and pulled the strings to make it happen. Pollenzo will provide a springboard for the new concept of gastronomy that we wish to support and disseminate: a responsible gastronomy, tied to the environment and society. A gastronomy that is no longer mere folklore but has now joined the ranks of academic subjects deserving of study and scientific research.
All this constitutes an inestimable patrimony for followers of Slow Food, all people convinced of the nobility and utility of gastronomy. And it all begins with the thing we like most and which we can’t do without—food.
First published in Slow Food 2, the new magazine for Italian member of Slow Food.
Carlo Petrini is the president of Slow Food