Headed to the food extravaganza that is Terra Madre-Salone del Gusto this week? Hosted every two years in Turin, Slow Food’s mammoth conference brings together the who’s who of the real food movement (hey there, Alice Waters), hundreds of food producers and experts from across Italy and further afield, and a packed schedule bursting with thought-provoking panel discussions, tastings, pop-up dining and expansive markets. I went to the last event in 2014 and will be there again this time around – here’s what you need to know to make the most out of your visit, plus a little teaser of all the deliciousness that awaits.
1. Wear flat shoes
My Day 3 heeled ankle boots looked oh-so cute, but after traipsing kilometres from the Honey Bar to the Enoteca to the street food stalls to panel discussions to the Italian Market, I was ready to barefoot it. TM-SDG has traditionally been hosted at Turin’s enormous Lingotto trade fair space, but this year is set to be even more spread out across the city as an open-air festival using different spaces in a number of buildings – making for even more walking between venues. Don those daggy-but-supportive runners (/joggers/trainers/sneakers/whatever you call them), and be sure to check out the event’s guide to getting to and from each area, which covers bike rental, shuttle buses and public transport.
2. Prep yourself
Between the joint TM and SDG events, the schedule of talks, tastings and markets to check out is full-on. It’s wise to go through the official list of events for the days you’ll be attending to map out a rough schedule, and be sure to book your taste workshops ASAP (they sell out fast and are all ticketed), but leave some breathing space to stop by for by-the-glass wines at the Enoteca. The official website’s events section only lists the taste workshops, panel discussions and other events with a particular start time, but there’s much more to discover in terms of markets and themed spaces, so take a look at the map. Plus, there are plenty of unofficial sideshow events happening around Turin at restaurants, bars and the like listed on Facebook, like these ones from Bike N’ Eat, Casa Jasmina and San Salvario Emporium.
3. Bring an empty stomach
Tyrolean beer by the pint, mountains of alpine cheese and handmade chitarra pasta are just a few of the morsels you could end up slipping down while making your way through the event. There’s the Italian aMarket as part of SDG, while TM has its own spaces dedicated to showcasing unique, foreign products. All the market areas offer sample tastings of their products, and some stands have their own cash points to buy drinks, small plates of food or packaged products direct from them. Meanwhile, the Terra Madre Kitchen is where you’ll find the most interesting dishes created by chefs from around the world – this year, I’ve got my eyes set on Albania’s walnut pancakes with hare, the Moroccan tagine with apricots, prunes and almonds, and the tehri rice with pomegranate sauce from India.
4. Fringe (day) benefits
If you can manage to attend on a week day, do it. The weekends are abuzz with plenty more visitors, which makes for an exciting atmosphere but also means getting a bit bolder to make your way through the overflowing crowds, especially in the market areas where
hangry eager punters line up to dive into food samples. Thursday and Friday – the first and second days of the conference – offer the chance for a more relaxed warm-up and getting your bearings before coming back for more on the weekend.
5. Sweet deals
Looking to pick up some edible souvenirs? The last day of the conference (Monday) sees the market areas slowly wind down, where sample tastings from stalls become more generous as the day rolls on and the price of products is often brought down to clear stock. At the 2014 event, my last-day-lurking efforts werre rewarded with raw gamberi rossi on the house, as many half-price bottles of Tuscan olive oil that my canvas tote could carry, and helping a merry Dutch oyster farming duo shuck their surplus for any passersby in the mood for a free mollusc – one for you, one for me.
6. Actually, just cannoli
Forget everything I’ve said. Clear your entire Salone schedule and head for the Sicily zone inside the Italian Market. They’ve got all the good snacks, like watermelon granita and thimbles of limoncello. But the best of all are the freshly piped cannoli that visit me in my dreams, studded with crushed pistachios and candied citrus either end.