Browse all

The New Italian Luxury according to Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore

Their B&B, Casa Maria Luigia, talks about a new experiential dimension between cuisine, art and nature

The New Italian Luxury according to Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore Their B&B, Casa Maria Luigia, talks about a new experiential dimension between cuisine, art and nature

Amid the huge number of chefs recycling themselves as tv characters and authors of vapid recipe books, Massimo Bottura still remains the only pure chef who has managed to make his vision and art almost legendary in Italy and around the world. Without ever selling out to the media, but always remaining attentive and present on the horizon of contemporary culture, Bottura represents a type of public personality so pop that it can collaborate with Gucci and at the same time so authoritative that it can sign an appeal to the Conte Government in defense of Italian restaurateurs. In addition to the now famous Osteria Francescana, Bottura is, together with his wife, Lara Gilmore, the soul and heart behind Casa Maria Luigia, the guest house immersed in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Emilia, halfway between culinary experience, art gallery and country life.

Casa Maria Luigia, in these times of confinement and urban spaces that become hostile, represents the best experience of a type of luxury that is not simply linked to the gastronomic preciousness produced in its kitchens, but that extends to a totalizing living experience. Its design furniture, the comfort of its fifteen rooms, the art and commodities that enrich it and the beautiful Emilian landscape that surrounds it all around make this space something much greater than the sum of its individual parts, almost the realization of an all-Italian and experiential aesthetic, which blends past and present and has nature as its protagonist. A type of conception that, in the world of industrial repeatability and serialization, represents the future of the same and the conception we have of it.

For this reason nss magazine spoke with Massimo Bottura and his wife Lara Gilmore to listen to their ideas on luxury, the nature of tourism in the post-pandemic world and the concept of cross-sectorality of luxury.

Casa Maria Luigia expertly mixes the simple aesthetics of the countryside with the sophisticated taste of contemporary art. What is the philosophy that inspired Casa Maria Luigia?

Massimo – Casa Maria Luigia is our dream. A farm that we have unearthed, after being unused for decades. A cook could not want anything better than having fields of buckwheat, a vegetable garden with flowers, aromatic herbs, vegetables of all kinds constantly at the service of his creativity. This is how we reconnected with the land, letting ourselves be inspired by the daily life of the farmer, from the fields to the table. But also from a deep sense of hospitality and sharing, the same that guides our Food for Soul projects around the world, thanks to which our most vulnerable guests can sit together around a table and share a good and healthy meal, made with food surpluses. In our vision everything is connected: from Osteria Francescana to Franceschetta58, from Casa Maria Luigia to Gucci Osteria or Torno Subito in Dubai. The beauty and value of hospitality are the common thread, to put the guest and his experience at the center, always. 

Lara - In our mind Casa Maria Luigia is the extension of Osteria Francescana with 15 rooms. We wanted to broaden the approach to hospitality based on our greatest passions such as art and good food. In Casa Maria Luigia we take care of the meals of our guests not only for lunch or dinner, but throughout the day, telling the strong link with the Emilian territory. The breakfast we serve is typical of the farmers, with cotechino cooked under the ash, focaccia prepared in the wood oven, omelette, jams km 0, ricotta di Rosola, fried dumpling with mortadella. All excellent products that tell our landscape through tastings of the best of the territory. During the day our guests are invited to open the fridge and take fresh snacks based on fruits and vegetables from our garden, which accompany them until the evening, when we open the doors of Francescana at Maria Luigia. We decided to propose a Osteria Francescana in a new context, where there are no more tablecloths but only three common tables, and where the cooks together with the staff tell, dish after dish, the story of our restaurant. The nine-course menu breaks down into chapters the most important moments in our history, involving everyone to participate personally in our ever-evolving history. It is like participating in a show where everyone can interact and become protagonists, stopping act by act for a taste. 

Today's luxury is no longer associated with opulence and excess but increasingly with measure, balance and well-being.  What is your idea of Luxury?

Massimo – Time is the real luxury. At Casa Maria Luigia no one will ever come knocking on your room and no one will ever break into your privacy. We want this to be a place to reconnect with oneself and one's passions, to be inspired by art – from Ai Wei Wei to Damien Hirst, Mimmo Paladino, Joseph Beuys...  and immerse yourself in the slow times of the countryside. To walk in the park and marvel at the incidence of changing light, to let thoughts run in our minds free, ready to generate new ideas. We'il take care of everything else.

Lara - Today's luxury is not ostentation as for example can be found in a rich cuisine based only on exotic products that come from afar, but rather from the excellences that we have around the corner, such as cotechino, Parmigiano Reggiano, mortadella, Balsamic Vinegar and the traditions that define Emilia as a Food Valley but also as a land of culture that has a lot to offer.

The pandemic and the lockdown have strongly impacted the tourism industry, which is changing very fast today. there is more and more talk of "experiential" tourism rediscovering genuine values and tastes.  How do you think tourism will change in the next ten years?

Lara – I am noticing a return to the most authentic experiences, a reborn curiosity to know places still little known beyond the classic Italian destinations. Emilia Romagna is a very rich land, from the Apennines to the Adriatic, from the hills including getting lost cycling to the historic villages and art galleries. Casa Maria Luigia is the starting point to discover the territory, but also the right place to take refuge: this is how we decided to open next November Luigina, a private residence a few steps from the main structure of the "large" Maria Luigia, dedicated to families or groups of friends who want to have an even more tailor-made experience. Private garden and kitchen included. 

Massimo – I think that tourism will continue in this direction. People are increasingly hungry for authentic experiences, which can deeply connect them with one place and those who really live it, to return home with invaluable baggage where the relationship with each other is what makes the difference. I see it every night from Francescana to Maria Luigia: different people who live a unique culinary experience, able to tune them to a deeper level. This is how there are no more barriers, walls, but we are all connected through a work of art, a story, a plate, an emotion.

The concept of Casa Maria Luigia is composed of contemporary art, food and hospitality, following the principle of cross-sectorality that today dominates the creative industry. You also offer the opportunity to live experiences in other local excellences such as Maserati: when you developed the concept was what you had in mind?

Massimo – Casa Maria Luigia is a place of inclusion and sharing. It was completely natural for us to want to share with guests not only the passions but all the best that our home can offer. We do not want to be a hotel, but a family of friends from which to spend an unforgettable experience. And that's what people who love and dream do, want to share beauty more and more. From Maserati to the Ferrari Museum and our best vinegars, there is so much to discover that it is our pleasure and obligation to tell it to those who have chosen to become part of this world. 

Lara – On our website there is an entire section dedicated to experiences. Because Modena is learning to fold tortellini just like the rezdore of Tortellante, a non-profit association thanks to which the elderly and disabled children find their place as protagonists in society, passing on the most precious culinary traditions. It is listening to a concert at our beautiful Teatro Pavarotti but also driving a vintage Maserati between the hairpin bends in the middle of the fields.

The family and DNA of Casa Maria Luigia is strongly linked to Italy but has contamination from all over the world, in particular from the USA.  You have always said that more than one hotel is a welcoming home: what aspects of different cultures influence your everyday life?

Lara – We are lucky to have a team of people coming from all over the world to be here with us. We all speak Italian and English as if they were one language! But this summer we wanted to give a touch of America to our culinary proposal with our Sunday brunch. The whole menu has been designed to be cooked in a wood oven or with the smokemaker, as per tradition oversea. Country or jazz music as an accompaniment. We made guests travel even when they couldn't, and the response especially from the local audience was incredible.

Massimo – Balsamic Vinegar flows in my veins but I do not want to make distinctions, I feel like a citizen of the world. Walking through Via Stella in the center of Modena, where Osteria Francescana is located, or walking through the gates of Casa Maria Luigia, you hear all the languages of the world speak, and this is a wonderful feeling. As I said before, here we break down the barriers, there are no distinctions. We communicate the best of Italian excellences and traditions filtered by centuries of history and reworked by contemporary thought. And today, contemporaneity, is having no limits.