Slow Food’s Salone del Gusto: First Thoughts

I knew exactly where to go this morning to get to Slow Food’s Salone del Gusto in Turin. I was in Turin in 2006 and had been to the Lingotto to watch speed skating. My mom and I hopped on the #1 bus from Turin’s main train station Porto Nuova. (We’re staying a hop, skip and a jump away at the ATA Concord Hotel, a 4-star business hotel with, needless to say, a great location.) We promptly validated our tickets on board – a good reminder to all Italy travelers to validate either at the train station before boarding a train or on board any bus.

After arriving at the massive conference center, we waited in a series of lines – for my press pass, to try to book food workshops, to try to reserve special lunches and tastings at various exhibitions. Here’s where I need to make a sweeping, stereotypical statement – passed on years of travel in Italy – Italians are horrible at standing in line. It is like they are allergic to it or something. If you find yourself in a long line in Italy, chances are you are going to have to position yourself so you’re not cut in front of, perfect your leering stare to get that person trying to cut the entire line to back away or speak up. I think I did all three this morning.

The number of workshops, tastings, lectures, exhibitions at Salone del Gusto is just overwhelming. I now know (useful for when I hope to return in 2010 – this is held every two years) that you need a game plan and you need one as early as possible. Many of the events, such as the Taste Workshops and Dinner Dates can be booked ahead online (but booking online seems to closes at least 10 days before thLinke events start). When I tried to book online, it was too late.

Following some hiccups, such as being told be two people that I was in the right line to reserve some things, only to find out after a 45-minute wait that I was in the wrong line, I started to get the lay of the land. Most of the bigger exhibitors – such as the major Italian regions – offer free tastings and reasonably priced meals but you need to go to each booth to reserve ahead. That’s a lot of logistics. Since I love Puglia so much, we headed over there first to try to reserve a spot for lunch. Too late – all spots taken. Do you see how this could get frustrating?

Lunch worked out – I’ll blog about that separately – and I realized you don’t need to overload yourself with workshops and formal tastings. Just walking around the booths and stands – there are 335 stands and 171 booths in the Italy section alone (The international pavillion has about a total of 100 booths and stands) – enjoying free samples and talking to the producers is much fun in and of itself.