The spirit of the Italian Lakes
On the road back from the quarries is the picture-book town of Mergozzo. Down a back-street from the pastel-coloured lakefront square, the sweet smell of baking leads to Al Vecchio Fornaio Pasticcere, established in 1957 by Patrizia Baroni’s mother and father. Today, Patrizia still runs this bakery, making traditional fugascina biscuits from butter, flour, sugar, egg, lemon and Marsala wine with her husband, Giordano Pavesi. ‘I’ve been a baker since I was 13 years old, but at another shop,’ says Giordano. ‘In 1976, I met Patrizia, and three years later I started to work at her parents’ bakery. We’ve been married for 28 years.’ The recipe for fugascina biscuits is a folk tradition, first written down in 1857 but undoubtedly much older. ‘At the beginning of July every year, we celebrate the feast of St Elizabeth,’ says Giordano. ‘All the families living here make pastry for these biscuits. Then they bring the pastry here and I bake it in the oven. When you walk around the town on that day, everyone shares their biscuits with you.’ ‘We don’t have children,’ says Patrizia, ‘but we hope the boy who works with us will take over the shop one day. It’s very important to us that this carries on. It’s handmade, so it’s good!’ She passes round fugascina biscuits with a tiny cup of strong espresso. The biscuit is light, crumbly and still warm from the oven. It’s impossible not to take another. Patrizia and Giordano smile at each other. Here in Mergozzo, and across the lakes region, there is no doubt that things have changed. Yet the locals, it seems, aren’t ready to give up their traditions just yet.
Al Vecchio Fornaio Pasticcere (Via Frattini Emilio 6, Mergozzo 28802).