Left to right, Erika Gotta, chef at La Bursch, the family home and unusual country house of entrepreneur Barbara Varese in the hamlet of Oretto in Campiglia Cervo, Biella
Those who arrive at La Bursch and experience it by letting themselves dive into all that La Bursch is, will not leave it indifferent. Something happens, a mechanism is triggered as the walls melt away and La Bursch becomes a new skin to wear, creating, by magic, a unique familiarity in a place that was previously unfamiliar. It is by gradually discovering its spaces, breathing in its scents, nourishing ourselves with the details that every centimetre holds, that any feeble attempt at resistance in the face of all that La Bursch will become for us is thwarted.
The Music Hall
But before understanding this, readers should geolocalise themselves and get to know those who have belonged to La Bursch since they took their first steps. Barbara (Varese, a businesswoman of Genoese origin transplanted to Milan) did not like that old family home on the slopes of Biella, in the Cervo Valley, in that portion of land that gives its name to the current property: La Bursch. Too many memories, too many folds of memory, locked away for many years between walls of dust that were also able to hold accumulated family treasures: sets of dishes, books, maps, furniture from everywhere, especially from the journeys that the men of the family and of the valley took to this land of stone - syenite - and water.
The large table in the communal kitchen
But the Bursch - the Valley in this case - is above all a code of values and Barbara realised this only a few years ago, when she decided to give that large family home a chance, to bring it back to life with new eyes, and most of all, to live it. To live it and make it live, out of the past, transforming it little by little into a warm and welcoming place for anyone who wants to stay there: first, her own daughters, then large groups of friends, the first corporate events, and then officially opening the doors of this little world. The watchword: welcome guests, light a fire, listen to them, share a glass, offer space. Barbara does not follow a form, nor strict etiquette, but reads her guests, and the more they are willing to receive, the more she gives. She hasn't turned her house upside down, but she has given it an order consistent with her way of being, free and seductive, creating suites (America, Neptune's Attic, Asia and Europe), superior (Antarctica and Africa) and 11 standard rooms.
The charming Asia - Europe suite
Your eyes will move from room to room, catching glimpses you had missed a moment earlier, and if everything works as it should, you will soon identify your stay not with a single room, but with the entire dwelling, mingling with its other occupants. At least, this is the best advice we feel to offer for an authentic, light and enveloping experience of hospitality: you will discover, sitting around a large fire, that in the basement there is an old well, a manger and a sitting room, formerly the servants' quarters; at the top, a roof of hemp left to dry in the sun, while the rooms of the workers were set in darkness.
The Well Room
Nothing is by chance, and far from falling into aseptic confusion, La Bursch is the fluid boundary between mood and imagination, between concreteness and emotion. ‘This project is madness: it was born in a destination - only seemingly - without any tourist vocation, carried out by someone who has never done hospitality in her life,’ Barbara confesses. Yet something is changing today, thanks to the boldness and curiosity that the hostess does not shy away from.
Sunrise over the Cervo Valley
There’s nothing to surprising if, just outside La Bursch, you will find a path traced upwards, the work of Cavalier Rosazza, who gave his name to the municipality just beyond Campiglia Cervo, an esoteric village of mysteries, where every ray of sunshine has its own specific weight and rips through layers of violet shades; while driving up, along the Panoramica Zegna, you can look out from one of Europe's most astonishing natural balconies.
Chef Erika Gotta at the helm of La Bursch’s kitchen since 2021
And this is the world outside. Inside, the wonder soaks in sincere flavours, meeting the equal comfort of the place, even in terms of food: the young chef Erika Gotta, 29, takes care of this serious business. She is shy, but less so in the kitchen where she proves she knows her stuff both in classic preparations and in more daring choices, always drawing inspiration from what the territory offers. First of all, because it would be foolish to miss out on the goodness of the surrounding area, coming directly from the home garden or sourced locally; no less important, because of the indissoluble bond between Erika and Piedmont, her homeland: La Bursch, in fact, is her return home [Erika is originally from Cherasco, Cuneo] after years in Milan, in the first Dark Kitchen in Italy, then at the court of chef Giancarlo Morelli.
Citrus fruit cake with zabaglione: a soft end to the meal
Erika loves pastry. She allows herself to be inspired by the products of the earth; Erika unleashes domestic warmth in the making of fresh pasta and harmonises her naïve and spontaneous manner with the industrious vigour of the cook, with the need not to eliminate meat from the menu because it is an integral and consistent part of the local supply, leaving no space for disappointment in any palate.
Venison carpaccio, strawberry grapes, Tonka bean, Gattinara marc
Among her gestures, hence in her dishes, we find the undiscovered mystery of a cuisine that feels feminine, and certainly not for lack of intensity, but for 'agility', flexibility. A graceful cuisine, decisive and never impetuous, giving contentment and calm to those who savour her dishes.
Veal in tuna sauce, sweet and sour onion, dehydrated anchovy, marinated egg
Some of our favourite dishes include homemade button pasta, oxtail stew, citrus, pine, garlic and nasturtium; or Buckwheat polenta, Parmesan fondue, prickly pears, leeks, and liquorice; or a great classic, opulent and fresh, Veal in tuna sauce; or Tenuta Castello Risotto, goat fontina cheese, pumpkin oil with fir crumble and persimmon - the enveloping mintiness and herbaceous notes are held by the rough sweetness of the persimmon, while fir and pumpkin contextualise the dish in the Bursch woods, in perfect seasonal symbiosis.
Tenuta Castello risotto, goat fontina cheese, pumpkin oil and its seeds, with fir crumble and persimmon
It is a path of research that has just begun, one that identifies the soul of the place with the gastronomic vision of Erika and sous chef Pietro Cinti, supported by a harmonious and constant dialogue with Barbara, as well as the assiduous scrutiny of neighbouring productions.
Left to right, Davide, sommelier at La Bursch, and Andrea, at reception
One thing is certain, those who go to La Bursch return, for Barbara's stories, for her company, for Erika's delicacies, for Davide's (Bolle, the sommelier) glasses, for Andrea's daily courteous welcoming. For that enchanting narrative that originates from the earth, passes through skilled hands and satisfies the senses, the efforts and the heart. No mystery about this: there’s so much substance and a radiant future for La Bursch, like the first morning light on a mosaic of autumn leaves.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
Reviews, recommendations and trends from Italy, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose
Born in Irpinia in 1991, she studied Foreign Languages at university, and then International Studies. But then she followed her heart and so her love for hospitality was born in the New Forest (U.K.). Her love for food had always been alive and kicking. After manging the hospitality at Identità Golose Milano, today she reports on flavours for Identità Golose. Isa travels, and tastes. She keeps her sensations alive through words.