Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 30, 2012

Making bread with Paolo in the Garfagnana


Yesterday I went with Heather Jarman to the village of Petrognola to meet farmer and baker, Paolo, who showed us how to make bread Garfagnana style. The Garfagnana is an area near Bagni di Lucca dotted with beautiful mountain villages.
Farro is a type of wheat that is grown in the Garfagnana and Paolo uses the flour from his own farro combined with regular wheat flour to make his delicious bread.


The farro is already a gorgeous shade of green, but we need some rain right now to help it along.


You can tell it is a type of wheat apparently because of the tiny hairs growing on the stalk.



Paolo has his own plant to separate the grain from the chaff and polish the grain.


Paolo, with his eyes closed, and his father.

Now to the bread making. We went to his bakery under his shop where he has a wonderful wood fired oven.


Paolo and Heather explain the different types of flour used for the bread. Type 1 flour is mixed with farro four.



We all get to feel the texture of the flour. It is quite coarse, the best for bread.

The flour is placed on the working bench and salt is added.


Then the fresh yeast (here it is called beer yeast) is added to the flour.


Potatoes, which have been cooked in a pot in the oven are added.


Then the warm water from the potatoes is added. Andy gets to play at this point.


He works fast.


2 loaves are shaped and then rolled in semolina to prevent the loaf sticking to the cloth it will be wrapped in to prove.



The loaves are wrapped in a handwoven cotton cloth, covered in a blanket and we head off to explore the farm while the dough rises.




Did I mention that the Garfagnana is gorgeous?


Heather and Paolo head off towards the cows. I lag behind to admire the view.



We meet the herd of cattle, waiting patiently to be allowed on the new grass.


We meet Valerio, the bull.




True love, Valerio style. This lucky bull is always with his cows.

Then it is more lovely view on the way back to the bakery.


Earlier, Paolo had relit the fire in the oven. The wood used is oak or chestnut as it burns well and gives off a good heat.



After our walk the embers are taken from the oven.


Then the oven is swept with a wet broom made from the branches of a type of juniper. The smell of this broom is heavenly.




It is then vacuumed, but this does not look quite so exotic.

The top of the bread is slashed.


Then it is lifted onto a long handled paddle and put into the oven.



A very important thing is next. Paolo blesses the loaves.


We have lunch while the bread bakes and soon it is time to inspect our work.



It smells divine. Is there anything a good as fresh bread straight from the oven????


My loaf is put carefully into it’s packet ready to go home with me.


We also made fresh pasta and had a delicious lunch prepared by Paolo’s lovely wife Daniela, but that is another story. Thank you Paolo and Heather for a fun day.

You can make bread with Paolo on 2 of Heather’s tours later this year. Click here and here for the links.

Andy, my fellow bread maker also has a blog. You may see his version of this story there soon.


  1. Superb piece. I feel like I can taste and smell that lovely bread!

    • we ate some last night with pecorino cheese and today for lunch with tomatoes and olive oil….too delicious.

  2. Wow, freshly baked bread! Nothing beats that. 😉

    • The smell alone makes it worthwhile.

      • And slathered with creamy butter or dipped in olive oil then a glass of wine to go…my idea of a wonderful meal. 😉

  3. What a beautiful area … let alone to enjoy some freshly baked bread! Yep – we have farro in our cupboard.

    • All I have done with farro is make soup occasionally.

      • There are a variety of salad dishes.

      • Thanks for the tip. I will look out for some recipes.

      • Besides farro salad, you can also make farrotto, a risotto made with farro. The two that I like best are with zucca (butternut squash works well) and porcini (dried or fresh).

  4. Oh, yummy! I love farro, or “triticum dicoccum” a wheat variety similar but not identical to the now very fashionable spelt. It has been eaten throughout Europe and the Middle East since ancient times and it used to be the staple food for the Roman legions and the ancestor of “polenta” before corn was brought from America. I particularly like it in the “Minestra Garfagnina” a hearty soup to which the whole grains are added and boiled for about 20 minutes. The Garfagnana area is paradise for food and nature lovers. Such a wonderful region!

    • I have only been to a couple of the Garfagnana towns. I definitely need to get out more.

  5. I was very interested in reading about the fllour. I told my (Italian) hairdresser one day that I was having trouble stretching out my pizza dough. He used to make pizza in his youth and told me that Italian flour is less ‘nervous’ than ours. Fortunately in Toronto we have access to many different ingredients from abroad so I was happy to find flour from Italy. It does seem to be more relaxed and much easier to use.

    • I use Italian flour in Autralia with good results.

  6. There is nothing beautiful more than homemade foods… This is so beautiful… and I can smell as if… 🙂 I loved this lovely place and your amazing photographs… everybody seems happy… Bulls too! Thank you dear Debra, Have a nice weekend, and Blessing and Happiness for you all there, with my love, nia

    • Little can beat freshly baked bread. I hope your weekend is good too.

  7. What a wonderful outing. I would love to do this with Heather some day.

    • There is a tour coming up soon with Heather.

  8. I love days like this…perfect….and I can even taste the bread!!! The view is pretty amazing too!

    • It was a glorious day in the mountains.

  9. I could certainly take some lessons from Paolo! I attempted to make bread a few weeks ago, had the post all ready to go, then flop! I can make a mean tomato sauce but bread … I’ll save for the professionals.

    On a lighter note … you kill me with some of your photos! LOL!

    • I make bread at home all the time. I do it with a food processor with a dough hook, not as romantic, but very effective. that Valerio was a real charmer.

    • I bet after one lesson with Paolo you’d be as good at bread as tomato sauce. It’s much simpler and foolproof than it sounds in most recipes.

  10. I once lived in a farm for one year, back in 1983 . That was in Minas Gerais, Brazil. I used to make our own bread, cheese and butter. There’s nothing like the smell of newly baked bread! Loved the post!

    • I have made butter years ago when I lived on a dairy farm, but I haven’t tackled cheese.

  11. Debra, it was fun having you with me and so gratifying reading people’s enthusiastic comments about being able to smell the bread. I’m still enjoying the loaf that Andy baked — it was too big and heavy to pack in his suitcase and take home with him. He was very sad to leave it behind.

    • I don’t know how he could tear himself away from his loaf!

  12. I am such a huge fan of bread. And these loaves look incredible.

    • We have eaten half of it already…delicious.

  13. It is good to hear of bread being made in this traditional fashion. I bet it tasted yummy. Valerio the bull looks so cute and so peaceful.

    • He was one happy bull.

  14. Heather’s Sapori et Sapere programs are a great idea, I’d love to go on one myself – or better yet, get some going in my area with all that organic cheese making.

    • Heather is a wealth of knowledge on the subject of food in the area.

    • You could do both, Shelagh. Come on one of my tours and I’ll help you set up the same in your area. The more people we introduce to the amazing flavours of artisan food, the better. Email me if you’d like explore this idea.

  15. Delicious! I love their immaculate kitchen too. So Italian. I would love to learn to make bread with these gentlemen. You can sense their passion. The scenery is sublime….I could go on and on….

    • The Garfagnana are is incredibly beautiful. Each village is different and has something wonderful to offer.

      • You have chosen well! There is a Melbourne lady I met years ago who I’m sure still has a house in the Garfagnana. She even wrote a book about it….She’s a bit larger than life so you might even know her. Ring any bells?

  16. Ah Debra! Have you fallen under the spell of the wood fired oven, I love your descriptions, the views and the story you tell of the blessing of the bread and all the wonderful details of the process – maybe I will brush my little oven stone with juniper branches. I have been known to consider taking the dough to bed to keep it warm, so wrapping it in a blue blanket, the same shade as the Madonna’s cloak seems like a good idea 🙂 What a special day 🙂

    • That juniper brush smelled divine. I swear I could smell it and the oak in the bread! Paolo was delightful and charming and proudly show us his beautiful farm.

  17. What a fabulous post – I love the idea of blessing the bread and the notion of wrapping it in a cloak of Madonna blue – how magical. The picture of Paolo ‘inhaling’ his bread says it all doesn’t it. What a great experience – my bucket list grows ever longer. As for Valerio ! he looks so contented but I bet he’s copped the odd left hoof on the nose occasionally.

    • Valerio was looking hale and hearty and I saw no hoof prints on his hide.

  18. I can almost smell the bread through the computer screen! Thank you for sharing the entire process with us, the quality of fresh bread is one of the biggest things I miss about living in Europe!

    • The bread here is too delicious!

  19. What a wonderful experience that must have been. Thanks for taking us with you 🙂

    • Perhaps one day you will actually come to visit.

  20. Wonderful bready action! Potato bread, cooked in a flaming hot wood oven! It must have tasted divine!

    • It certainly did taste great and was fun to make.

  21. Beautiful looking bread Debra… and you are right there is nothing as wonderful as smelling fresh bread straight from the oven.

  22. What a fantastic set of photos – you really know how to tell a story in pictures!

  23. What a wonderful way to spend the day! I’d love to do the same…one day! 😀

    • You’d be very welcome! Maybe you could teach him to bake cakes. Heather

  24. Mmmm, fresh warm bread is extremely delicious.

    • Nothing beats the smell of freshly baked bread.

  25. […] visiting his gorgeous farm in the Garfagnana. He grows farro and breeds beautiful cattle. Click here to see the gorgeous […]

  26. Reblogged this on Our House in Tuscany and commented:

    Making bread with Paolo is just one of the fun things to do in the Garfagana.

  27. […] I also headed to the Garfagnana to watch Paolo make bread. […]

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