Gnocchi By Nature

This article originally appeared on the Aerohaveno travel blog, as well as Lonely Planet’s website.

farfalle

I don’t think there are enough museums dedicated to food.

Yes, I hear you scoff. “What about the Museu de la Xocolata, or Museum Of Chocolate, in Barcelona?” I hear you say. “Or that German Bratwurst Museum in the small village of Holzhausen near the Erfurt in Thuringia?”

Well, yes, those are obvious. But why has Australia never opened a tourist centre to worship the meat pie? Or a National Institute Of Lamington? Not only would these centres boost tourism and celebrate Aussie culture, they could even be housed in buildings could be shaped like Enormous Things. A Big Pie, for example, or a Giant Lamington. You can see the commemorative snowdomes now, can’t you?

Like coffee and fascism, this is something the Italians do best. I can never visit Rome without popping into the Museo Nazionale delle Paste Alimentari, or National Museum of Pasta Foods.

Located near the Trevi Fountain, the Museo Nazionale delle Paste Alimentari contains eleven rooms dedicated to the history and celebration of pasta. The museum recommends the use of their audio guides, a personal audio player that talks you through the various displays as you walk through the centre. The spoken English on the guide is idiosyncratic, although that could be the museum’s style – for example, this is taken from their advertising material:

“The Museum will, in fact, bear witness to the significance and vocational aspects of pasta, to sum up, its potential as a precious and balanced food for the well-being and enjoyment of mankind.”

Yes, it’s easy to mock poor English by non-native speakers – so let’s do some more of it, shall we? Visitors will learn “the history of Pasta, production machinery, didactics of production technologies, nutritional information, pasta in ancient and modern art, etc.. The visit is surely of great interest for every kind of schools and particularly for technical and hotel schools.”

How true. As you glide through the museum, the excitable recorded voice directs your gaze to items of interest – a Neapolitan pasta tree, for example (a metal frame used for drying fresh pasta), or pictures of famous people eating pasta. Or there – in the corner to your right – a “needing trow”.

I spent some time puzzling over this one before realising what my recorded voice had intended. “Oh, a trough!” I exclaimed, far too loudly, startling the Japanese students ahead. As I was leaving the room a confused woman behind me – also wearing a head-set – suddenly shouted “oh, a trough!” – setting a pattern that continued for the rest of the visit.

As the museum’s website tells us, “Room after room, the Museum will help the visitors discover how pasta is born from wheat and what processes are used for mixing and drying it… from “rudimental machinery”, such as the first stone grinders, to the modern pasta-making machinery.”

The most important phrase here is possibly “room after room”… after room. After room. Even with hundreds of years of history to cover, you’ll still be seeing a lot of Neapolitan kneading troughs and pictures of the young Sophia Loren. The repetition in the exhibits is, however, enlivened by the audio guide. His unique delivery turns everyday directions into startling commands, such as “which you will now see… BEHIND YOU!”, giving an unexpected Blair Witch Project flavour to the whole experience.

The final room is dedicated to art inspired by pasta. These include an illustration of a tank firing parpadelle, and a model playhouse in which pasta plays all the roles, much like Eddie Murphy in Norbit.

The museum is open seven days a week, although sadly the website currently says it’s temporarily closed for restoration. Entry is € 10,00, although there is a discount for children and “military personnel in uniform”. Children in military uniform are presumably admitted free.

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2 Responses to Gnocchi By Nature

  1. Tim says:

    And FYI, here’s the Pasta Institute piece as it appeared on Lonely Planet:

    http://tinyurl.com/m8a29z

    BTW, there’s a salami museum (actually for a specific type of salami, Pick Salami) in the town of Szeged, Hungary… you can read about its history here:

    http://www.pickmuzeum.hu/pages/index_e8.html

  2. Dan Cardone says:

    I went to this museum of the recommendation of the author, and frankly, it was the best museum I’ve ever been to, simultaneously educational and deeply, deeply ridiculous…

    My visit was made even more memorable by the fact that i was obviously the only person who had visited that day. i was shadowed by a small elderly italian woman who clasped her hands eagerly and smiled at me in puzzlement when i laughed inappropriately at something on the audio soundtrack, usually the earnest announcer saying, “Now look behind you…THERE’S SOMETHING OF INTEREST!!!”. It really was a ‘museum as pantomime’ experience.

    It’s the only museum I’ve ever been to when i wanted to give the audio guide as a gift, rather than a tea towel or a post card, even if said items depicted a pasta tank, shooting out farfalle of peace to the world…

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