There is a place tucked between gentle green hills just south-west of Bologna that seems to come right out of the past: Il Mulino del Dottore (in Italian, The Doctor’s Mill).
It is a brick house dating back to the 17th century, built with stones from the nearby rivers, as it was common at the time. The building includes a tower, topped by a weather vane in the form of a bird of prey, that was used to catch sight of crooks who raided the barns and stables of the area. Il Mulino was also a rest stop for the pilgrims who headed to Rome from northern Europe, given its location along the backbone of the Apennines that was part of an ancient route walked by the pilgrims.
What makes this place unique today is the old mill which is still in use. The surrounding valley, rich in rivers, used to be dotted with mills that have all been demolished or converted into houses. This is the only remaining working mill in the area. It comprises four millstones, operated with the water arriving from the nearby Venola creek. They work the flour which will be used to make different types of bread, cookies and cakes, baked in a wood oven.
When we visited on a fall sunny day, Signor Alberto Rossi, who runs the mill along with his wife and son, greeted us and showed us around with pride. “This type of activity requires earnest passion because you have to work really hard,” he said. “At times, your working day can be 14 to 15 hours long.” He explained how the flour they produce is a non-refined, all-natural flour: “The germ inside the grain is a living being and through our process it remains alive. In industrial flours the germ dies, making them much less nutritious. Our flours are rich in fiber and mineral salts.” The mill produces several types of flour, including soft and hard wheat, multi-grain, spelt wheat, chestnut and chickpea flours: the rule for all of them is “from grain to bread”, meaning that each and every part of the process is taken care of by Alberto and his family with the products of the land. “I’m a big believer in organic and natural food,” Alberto asserts fervently. “Obviously it requires more work for lesser quantities, but it’s a completely different result.”
The mill has belonged to the family since 1837, when the great-great-grandfather bought it from the Lanzarini brothers: one of the two brothers had a degree in law, which is why the place is called Mulino del Dottore (“dottore” in Italian is used to indicate someone with a university degree). Today, Alberto runs the mill, while his wife and 30-year-old son bake the finished products and sell them. The building complex includes a small shop where you can buy their breads, cookies, cakes and flours. Everything is excellent – and does taste different!
Il Mulino del Dottore
Località Ca’ Bortolani
Via Rodiano 843
40060 Savigno (BO)
Every Sunday afternoon, it is possible to witness the mill in action.
The shop is open every day except on Mondays.
You can also find Il Mulino del Dottore’s products at Il Mercato della Terra Slow Food, an open-air market with natural foods (from the farmer to the customer) which takes place every Saturday morning (Monday nights during summer) in Bologna, via Azzo Gardino 65.