By Our Editorial Staff
What is bonding an interactive museum, a restaurant and a company active in the field of health and that develops medical devices based on vegetable substances? We would have discovered that on a sunny June afternoon in which we visited “Aboca Museum” and then, in the evening, sampling the flavours and atmosphere of the Osteria“Il Giardino di Piero”.
Thus we begin our journey from the “Museum of Herbs”, which winds through the rooms of the prestigious Renaissance building Bourbon del Monte. At the entrance, an ancient stone set on a wall reports an inscription: Prodest-Obest (Benefits-Harms), probable reference to the activity that was carried out in the building: the art of spices. The message immediately brings attention to the delicate balance and wisdom necessary in the preparation of medicines.
Let’s start from the historical path “Herbs and health over the centuries”, accompanied by the gentle and very prepared Annalisa, before going independently in the new interactive itinerary “Aboca Experience”. The halls of the palace are a succession of ancient prints depicting medicinal herbs, alembics, mortars, scales and other tools related to the preparation and study of medicinal herbs. The whole route is furnished by precious “herb’s rugs”, oriental rugs with representations of plants, flowers and trees in different styles. In the “Herbs Room”, which reproduces an ancient 16th Century warehouse, it is possible to touch several resins, seeds and flowers used in the preparation of natural remedies while one is overlooked by the variety of medicinal plants hanging on the ceiling sheltered from direct light, according to the ancient drying method. The herbs, coming from the hills around Sansepolcro, were collected respecting their “balsamic time”, that is, the period of the year in which they present the highest concentration of active ingredients.
The historical path is rich in references to symbolism, alchemy and ancient knowledge. Each room has its own identity and tells its own story. It starts from the “Mortars Room”, dedicated to the oldest and most indispensable instrument of the ‘Speziale’ which has always had a practical and symbolic value for pharmaceutical art. Here you can admire specimens of stone mortars, iron, bronze, wood and ivory, testimonies of the technical and artistic development of the instrument.
The “Room of History”, instead, tells of how man has used medicinal plants over the centuries, from prehistory to the Middle Ages to the present day. Here you can admire precious herbariums exposed along the walls. The aesthetic aspect is also very cared for. An example is the ceramic room, containing splendid, coloured decorations with heraldic symbols, friezes, flowers and plant motifs, epic and religious figures that make pharmacy ceramics really fine products. By observing the collection of vases, jugs and ‘albarelli’, in addition to the artistic taste, it is possible to appreciate the technical progress that occurred in response to the need to have a material that ensured the conservation of medicinal substances.
From the ceramics you move on to the blown glass, modellable and shiny, other material used for the creation of medicines containers in the ancient spices. Here some weird vials make their appearance, tools for the distillation that refer to the world of chemistry and alchemy. Without having to make a complete list of how much the visitor will have the pleasure of discovering for himself, the room that reconstructs a 19th century pharmacy deserves to be mentioned. In order to access this space, you must go through a small door. Our guide explains that between the room for the public and the laboratory there is always a door, often small and narrow, sometimes artistically camouflaged among the shelves of the medicines. It marks the limit of what is allowed, protecting the inaccessibility of places, invested by an aura of mystery and extraordinary, in which the pharmacist’s wisdom is secretly shown.
Our itinerary continues with “Aboca Experience”, the new interactive path offered to visitors to Aboca Museum. From alembics and mortars of the 19th Century we move on to interactive technologies thanks to which we learn the history and evolution of the company. The environment has a very pleasant wooden scent, a material very present along the entire route. The use of information is very intuitive and close to a game. Projections on large panels and the well-kept sounding of space facilitates immersion in content. Here we discover that the care of the products already starts from the choice of land used for the cultivation of medicinal plants. Treatment that leaves the land rich in biodiversity, more than before processing. Both from the history path and from the interactive path comes a clear information: attention to the care and naturalness of the product. Care of which we would have experienced in the culinary field shortly thereafter, continuing our path at the table!
A few steps from the Aboca Museum there is in fact the restaurant “Osteria Il Giardino di Piero”. While I enter the restaurant, I ask myself how much of the cure employed in the preparation of medicinal plants can be used in the culinary field. The answer would not much be delayed: a lot! The environment that welcomes the experience is looked after as well the food offered. The staff is very friendly and allows you to relax and enjoy the dishes in an elegant and welcoming ambience. If we were looking for a connection between the work done with the herbs and the catering, here it is: the meats come from organic farms, with cattle and pigs grown in pasture branch, the goat and cattle ‘Pecorino Cheese’ come only from pastors of the area that do not use GMO feed. The kitchen salt used is also selected (Himalayan salt is used). The entire needs are covered with certified and organic products.
Appetizers are delicious. The quality of the chosen meats invites you to dwell on flavours, attracting attention to the present moment and on what you are enjoying. It is incredible the freshness of the Ricotta and spinach ravioli with datterini and basil a swell as the bright taste of the Tagliatelle with cattle sauce and black wild pig. The green pepper fillet is simply to try! We intrigue the outline of ‘Fagiolini zolfini’ in the flask. We see them arriving inside a sort of glass ampoule, like a large anchor that recalls the alchemical instruments seen shortly before at the museum.
If you are looking for dishes cooked with skill and at the same time an accurate selection of raw materials, “Piero’s garden” is absolutely the place to go. Two desserts complete our dinner: the Scent of lime scent with raspberry sauce and the Pistachio Bavarian – complete the meal while keeping the expectation raised by the appetizers. We conclude with an herbal tea that brings us back to the beginning of our itinerary, closing a circle that started from the path of herbs over the centuries to move on to the interactive world of Aboca Experience and finally to the delicacies of the Il Giardino di Piero Osteria.
Thanks to this path through the centuries, between Persian rugs, alembics and biological food one thing appears clear and that is: quality and attention to detail never goes out of fashion.
Info: “Aboca Museum”: via Niccolo Aggiunti 75, Sansepolcro (AR) / tel. 0575 733589 / www.abocamuseum.it
– Osteria “Il Giardino di Piero”: via Niccolo Aggiunti 98/b, sansepolcro (AR) / tel. 0575 733119