I didn’t think I could eat, drink wine, and hike simultaneously. Because I love to savour every morsel, and every drop. But I proved myself wrong last Sunday at the San Michele del Carso Enogastronomical Walk, which took us on a 10k route marked by a series of 16 food and drink stops, leaving us with no opportunity to go hungry or thirsty.
No cause to complain of course. There were Karst specialities waiting for us around almost every second turn of the walking trail.
Il Fornaio Cozzutti bakery from Gorizia greeted us with a few portions of the region’s traditional Easter cake and a cup of warm fruit tea. Also known as Pinza Goriziana, this brioche-style pastry strikes the perfect balance between soft and firm, and is not too sweet either. It’s got a lovely scent of vanilla with faint hints of rum and citrus peel. I classified this as perfect comfort food to kick off the morning.
Next in line were some typical Kras wines: Vitovska Grganja (white) and Teran (red), from Buntovi Farm in Komen. The Teran was earthy-rich as usual, tasting good even at 10am. They also had this amazing Teran liqueur, which I liked immediately because it wasn’t too sweet (Teran liqueur is usually super sweet), and also had a predominant clove and cinnamon flavour.
Further along, we tasted locally-produced sheep cheese, mortadella, salami, and jota—an Istrian stew containing beans, sauerkraut or sour turnip, potatoes, bacon, and pork ribs. There was honey in five varieties: chestnut, wildflower (millefiori), linden, and ailanthus honey—aka ‘tree of heaven’ honey, my favourite among the five. Juniper schnapps was also in abundance at one of the stands.
We witnessed quite a bit of merry-making throughout our walk: A Slovenian music troupe armed with accordions followed us along.
After spending just a bit of time with Slovenes, you’ll soon be able to observe that every event serves as an occasion for merriment wherever these people are concerned 🙂 They’ve got this astoundingly unfailing stamina for having a great time! Okay, let’s not forget their first-rate sportsmanship.
Italy or Slovenia?
Enough about the food, drink, music and stamina—I think you got the picture, but now I’d like to map it out for you.
You know I mentioned San Michele del Carso in my intro? You might be wondering, what has an Italian village name got to do with Slovenia? You see, a number of villages just across the border from Slovenia in Italy have both Slovenian and Italian names, just like San Michele del Carso, also known as Vrh. Why’s that? You may already know that some Italian citizens living in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia (particulary in Gorizia, Trieste, and Udine) belong to the Slovene ethnic and linguistic minority. So Slovene is also recognised as an official language in those areas, which explains why street signs and village names are in Slovenian and Italian.
This dual language situation comes in extremely handy for people like me who are still not conversant enough with Slovene to have a proper conversation going. I could speak to the organisers of the San Michele del Carso walk in Italian! Perfetto!
So you can eat your way through the Italy-Slovenia Karst region (or ‘Kras’ in Slovene) and get by with either Italian or Slovene. You might just struggle a bit to not confuse the two, especially if you’ve had a couple drops of wine. But no worries, you can walk off any lightheadedness via a good 10k route 😀