A place of more than just culinary culture
by Tommaso Ciuffoletti
“Ottava rima “is a poetic metre that even farmers knew how to use in Tuscany because the great richness and absolute originality of this region has always been its ability in knowing how keep together the superior and inferior, the sacred and profane, the humble and divine. Hidden in the southern borders of this land is Sorano, a jewel of a town literally dug out of the tufa stone. This is a rock of volcanic origin and it is found in this area thanks to explosions which over 300,000 years ago made a volcano collapse and become a lake, that of Bolsena. Those explosions filled the sky with a dust which fell onto the earth during the years and in the course of the centuries became that soft rock which the Etruscans had already started to dig to make houses, roads, necropolis and cellars.
In Sorano, dug out deep in the tufa stone, there is a wine bar precisely called “Ottava Rima”. Creating and running it for 15 years together with Luisa is Nicola Santoro, who leaving from Orbetello for Rome, ended up choosing Sorano. “I had studied at the Academy in Rome and started the first exhibitions with my works but it was not the right place for me. Even because at the time I had started going to Sorano, the place where my grandparents had been born and where I discovered the existence of this cellar which had been theirs. Because of some rather intricate hereditary issues, this place went to my grandmother’s brother who wanted to get rid of it.”
Nicola does not let the cellar be sold to others; he buys it, restores it and brings it to life becoming something between a tavern and a wine bar, with ingredients strictly from the area and their reinterpretation. “The last dish we have invented is a version of the “biscotto salato” of Rocca Albegna, latest in the SlowFood locations which we have used to make a “zuppa zecca”. A dish created by us, certainly, but coming from an ancient tradition.”
But the characteristic of this place are also the poetry evenings and book presentations and the wines, carefully selected directly from known producers. In one word, the sense of “Enosteria Ottava Rima” is in the care given to every single detail because it is there that we find, not so much the Devil, but God. Even when this latter seems to have forgotten these places.
“When 15 years ago, I decided to give life to this place, there was word going round promising that Sorano would become an important tourist centre. Today I can say that that promise was never kept and Sorano and its surrounding area are still very much unknown to tourists and maybe this is why they are so fascinating”.