Your 4-day itinerary in Norway’s Tuscany!

Text: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Barely an hour north of Trondheim, the lovely Inherred region is the ideal place to slow down and follow a food path between local farms and historical landmarks through fields of gold, rolling hills and scenic fjords… Here is your perfect four-day itinerary in Norway’s food basket through Trøndelag starting from Trondheim.

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Day 1: The serene Tautra Island

The coffee culture of Trondheim calls for breakfast in town before heading out to its lovely northern surroundings (for what to do in Trondheim, check out this article).

Then, once out of town, the road to Tautra Island borders the fjord and its settlements along its bank with a few boats reflecting in the still surface of the water. Driving the inland sections, the red large farms contrast against the golden wheat fields or the green of potato, onion and beetroot plants, or leafy celeries and cabbages. Before crossing the long one-lane bridge to the tiny Tautra Island, an unexpected marshy area hosts a rich bird life.

Bird life

An oystercatcher raises a series of high-pitched alarm shrills when I slowly approach the shore of the Trondheim Fjord. Alerted by its shrieks, a flock of yellow passerine birds fly up while a snipe digs for food, seemingly undisturbed. Ducks glide in the still water and plunge to forage for food.

The island of Tautra is an important habitat for about 220 bird species, and more importantly for the threatened ones depending on wetlands: long-tailed-ducks, dunlins, oystercatchers, lapwings and common eiders. In the hills, bluethroats, Northern hawk owls, woodpeckers, Lapland or snow buntings, Siberian jays, purple sandpipers and grouses can be found while white tail eagles tower the whole area. During the summer, thousands of birds take shelter from the austral Winter around Tautra, or rest during their migration such as large flocks of pink-footed geese in the Spring on their way to the arctic Svalbard Island, making Tautra one of the best locations in Norway for bird watchers.

One of the best microbreweries of Norway [ & homemade waffles & jams]

All these birds probably gather around Tautra for the quietness and serenity of the place. Marked by the Cistercians, as much in the old times as today, the 70-inhabitant island is a place to unwind and slow down.

The Klostergården is located on historical grounds right by the ruins of the former 1207 Cistercian monastery. Run by the Anderssen family since 1805, the son, Jørn has added a microbrewery to the bed and breakfast, café and restaurant, and farm shop with its homemade jams. Always passionate by the brewing process, maybe it is his studies in chemistry that gave him the love for experimentation. With about 20 different beers, the choice can be difficult and a tasting is in order.

Past the good and rather widely known ambers, stouts, porters…, it is the Norwegian traditions and local ingredients that really make the difference.

From a farming family, Jørn is very proud of local products and uses locally-grown barley resulting in 100 percent Trøndelagmalt, as highlighted on the bottle of his German-inspired Bayer. Jørn literally smokes some of this malt to recreate the intensely-flavoured dark Alstadberger. Based on a millennium-old and very local recipe, this Christmas’ favourite has hardly been commercially available and went almost extinct. The full-bodied Alstadberger was mostly brewed for private use. “Its surprisingly sweet aftertaste pairs really well with blue cheese”, details Jørn, “just like the Devil’s Apron, actually”.

If tradition is the pillar of the Alstadberger beer, innovation is the one of Jørn’s Devil’s Apron stout, brewed with sugar kelp seaweed from the fjord bordering his family farm. Jørn adds roasted malts at the end of the brewing process to keep the astringency down and to get chocolate, caramel and liquorish aftertaste, and a little bit of seawater to enhance the taste. The 7.2 percent pitch-dark beer is simply excellent!

Jørn sneaks out while we cannot prevent ourselves from finishing his outstanding bottles. When he comes back, he carries a couple of translucid flasks and a large grin. He has been pushing his experimentations into the whiskey area… Simply named Whiskey 1, his first try that had spent 7 years in the barrel sets the bar quite high for the tasting of his newest attempt. His single malt, which grains are grown by his neighbour, and aged for three years in an American oak barrel exceeds expectations.

Before or after that extensive tasting, a homemade waffle and coffee or a beer with a cheese plate and some homemade jams are good lunch options at Klostergården before exploring more of the island, probably by bike!

Serenity at the Tautra Maria Cloister

We are seated in the warm pine chapel of the modern Tautra Maria Cloister. The nuns are in the choir, wearing their traditional black scapulars over their white tunics, silent. The large bay window on the fjord calls for contemplation. Our meditation is interrupted only by the loud shriek of a seagull that soon flies by. The nun seated at the organ gives the tone. Her sisters mimic it by voice. The organ resonates and the chanting commences.

The Tautra Cloister is the daughter house of the Abbaye of Cîteaux, France, founded in 1098 by Benedictine brothers seeking a life in strict accordance with the Benedictine rule in the then wild marshlands of Burgundy. Their order is wholly directed towards contemplation, and a hidden life of solitude and silence. Fast growing during its first century of existence, establishing over 500 Cistercian monasteries throughout Europe, including one in Tautra, today only about 175 monasteries remain worldwide, housing altogether roughly 4,000 monks and nuns. Chased away by the sixteenth-century Protestant reformation, the old monastery at Klostergården is only a rubble of stones. In 2007 though, the architectural award-winning new Tautra Cloister housing the church we are seating in got consecrated, precisely 800 years after the first Cistercian monks arrived on the island.

Today, 7 Cistercian nuns live a life of manual work, manufacturing soaps and candles for their shop, and spiritual readings punctuated by seven daily prayer times that are open for you to join.

Insider’s tip:

  • Make sure to arrive before 5pm in order to check out the store run by the nuns of the Tautra Maria Cloister, before attending Vespers. With 7 prayer times a day from vigils sunrise to compline at night, if you miss vespers, you should find a time that works for you.
  • Spend the night at Klostergården, a simple and hospitable bed and breakfast to take in the serenity of Tautra Island. It is also the perfect opportunity to taste their jams, homemade with local fruits and spices on home-baked bread or with local blue cheese.

Day 2: History Day [the founding battle of Norway & WWII]

The best part of staying on a farm is to taste the homemade products, and the jam frenzy breakfast of Klostergården is definitely worth it! Pear and beetroot with star-anis, pumpkin with ginger, tomato with almonds… they all pair really well with the award-winning Gangstad Gårdsysteri cheeses (which farm visit is one of the highlights of Day 4…).

Leaving Tautra Island, the road passes through more fields, along lakes and past a millennium-old tinghaugen, the place where Vikings from the region used to gather to settle disputes and bring justice. Despite their blood-thirsty image, Vikings back home enjoyed a relatively peaceful life in the respect of rules. The tinghaugen is a bit of an introduction to what awaits by the end of this day on the grounds of the 1030 battle of Stikelstad, the founding battle of Norway marking the end of the Viking Era.

The Falstad Centre [WWII Nazi SS prison camp]

The shipyards of Trondheim combined to the narrowness of Norway at this latitude makes the area very strategic. This fact did not escape the Nazis. Hitler was also personally convinced that the Allies would attack in Norway, and not in Normandy as they did. As soon as the country was under German control in April 1940, about 300,000 to 400,000 Nazi soldiers were stationed in the north, as well as Hitler’s treasured Tirptiz, one of his most powerful battleships – even if she was somewhat paralysed by the Norwegian resistance and the actions of the Theta Group in Bergen. Placing the Norwegians above the Germans racially, and counting on the Nordic brotherhood to subdue the invaded (or according to the Nazis, to protect them from a British invasion), the Nazi leaders had a plan to reshape Norway into a model Aryan society, and more specifically to build a truly Aryan city around Trondheim: New Trondheim.

This created a bit of an ambiguous position for the Nazi regime when it comes to the 44,000 Norwegian prisoners, as they did not want to alienate the nation. Their strategy in Norway was in consequence different from the extermination policies in Eastern Europe. About 400 prison camps appeared throughout the country, Falstad being the second largest in Norway and the place where most buildings remain today. Enhanced by a virtual reconstruction of the SS Strafgefangenenlager Falstad with augmented reality, digital landscapes shown on an iPad complement the three original buildings creating a bridge between past and present, duty of memory and current human right challenges.

As Christian Wee, director of the Falstad Centre explains: “The main building was not erected by the Nazis”. In 1895, the Falstad Institution for the Upbringing of Troubled Boys opened. Within a few years, it was turned into a prison for the ones who could not be saved: this was the perfect building for the Nazis and they converted it into a pure SS prison camp entirely staffed by Germans, the SS-Strafgefangenenlager Falstad. 4,200 prisoners from 15 different countries were held here between 1941 and 1945. The Slavic prisoners were treated the worst, especially between 1941 and 1943 when Falstad was one of the most brutal camps of Norway. 200 were executed in the nearby forest. “They were Norwegian political prisoners, prisoners of war and many Slavic forced labourers from the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia”, Christian describes as we pass by what looks like a never-ending list of names simply black on white. The name Håkon Bleken stands out: “yes, he is the father of the painter” Christian confirms. “There is actually an exhibit of Bleken’s art in the Commander’s House”.

Taking a bucolic path down to cross a peaceful stream while picturing the war camp thanks to the augmented reality, the luxurious commander’s house appears amongst trees. Built by prisoners, engineers and architects, in 1943, it is back in its original state today with its bowling alley, cosy living room and lavish sauna from where the screams of the camp could be heard. Surrounded by the greenery of Trøndelag, we walk through the house, silently, to the recorded bird songs from today’s conflict countries, conscious of this ever-present link between past and present that makes a visit to Falstad so confronting and powerful.

With a rise of far-right parties all over Europe, and far-right terrorism such as on the island of Utøya in 2011 that took 69 lives and deeply marked Norway, Falstad has rethought the role of a war memorial. The Falstad Centre goes beyond the duty of memory and attempts to attract a younger audience to educate about human rights and democracy, a much-needed action in today’s society.

Insider’s tips:

  • Plan for enough time to take in the Falstad Centre, between its more classic memorial to its excellent exhibits that will make you reflect. A coffee shop and restaurant are onsite.
  • A bold move by the Falstad Centre was to convert some rooms into an accommodation on the newly built second level of the main building (hence these rooms have never been occupied by WWII prisoners nor perpetrators). The goal of this initiative is to really immerse in the site and this heavy part of history, to take time to see Falstad at your own pace, taking it in bits by bits.

Munkeby

From Falstad, we take a small detour via Munkeby, as reflecting on the ruins of the “place of the monks” to the sound of the nearby river may be just what we need before plunging into the Viking history of Stiklestad. The hiking path leading the pilgrims from the place where Olaf the Holy perished to the Nidaros Cathedral where he is buried is indicated by trail markers. The third and northernmost Norwegian monastery established by the Cistercians in the 12th century was ideally located at the crossroads of a trade route to Sweden, and on the popular pilgrimage road from Trondheim to Stiklestad, our next stop.

Insider’s tips:

  • Munkeby Herberge is a local farm with basic dorms for pilgrims and a small farm shop where one can order a few simple sandwiches or cakes.
  • A new monastery is in construction a few kilometres away from the ruins. Monks are not very open to visit, but one can buy their cheeses, based on the French Cîteaux Abbaye cheese.

Stiklestad

Stikelstad is where Olaf the Bloody, the Viking who raided France, the UK and other European nations, turned King Olaf, the baptised leader who wanted to Christianise and unify his country, fell, to become Olaf the Holy, the eternal king of Norway. Check out this article to explore the battlefield that has become an important cultural centre with its reconstructed Viking farm and the places of worship revered by many pilgrims from all over Northern Europe.

Insider’s tips:

  • Stay at the Scandic Stiklestad hotel to take in the site and enjoy a Stiklastadir beer brewed at the Inderoy Gardsbryggeri brewery in Inherred (part of Day 3!) at the Skalden restaurant of the hotel, a stone’s throw away from the landmark church of Stiklestad.

Day 3: The Golden Road [the Tuscan Norway]

Past Stiklestad, the E6 highway hugs the coast of the Trondheim Fjord for a few kilometres before continuing North, all the way to the North Cape. We leave it behind to follow the fjord onto the Inderøy Peninsula, home to proud organic farmers. In order to appreciate their products even better, and to take in the landscape, we decided to bike the hilly Golden Road, instead of driving it.

Our route starts in the village of Straumen, Inderøy’s main town with its cute wooden houses, its Muustrøparken with its nature-inspired bronze sculptures by the local artist Nils Aas, its International Centre for Photography in the former sawmill, and stores selling local products.

The Butcher’s: Inderøy Slakteri

At Inderøy Slakteri, meat from local farmers is sold or prepared with traditional recipes, such as the spicy Grillpølse sausage or the Ostepølse sausage with cheese, both award-winning as the best of Norway! For the truly Norwegian way, have some slices of moose meat with a cracker and pine jelly from Romstad Gård.

The brewery: Inderøy Gårdsbryggeri

Since the 1830s, Per Morten Kvam’s family farm has always been run 100% organically: sheep, milking cows, cereals, vegetables… and hop!

When the Golden Road was established to highlight the high-quality products of the farmers of Inderøy, drinks were missing… In 2007, Per Morten and his brother, Steinar, raised up to the challenge, setting up one of the first microbreweries in Norway. Today, they produce more than 25 types of beers, from the Gårdsøl German-inspired brew to the only 100-percent purely local beer in Norway produced using the farm’s own hop and malt: the Gåppålur.

As superlatives are important to Norwegians, the world’s almost Northernmost apple cider is also produced at Inderøy Gårdsbryggeri! Well, it used to be the northernmost until a neighbour started planting some trees 50 meters further north… And, the sweet Viking wine, Mjød.

The farm pub, by the cows and overlooking the fjord in the distance is the ideal place to taste some brews that are also easily found in the local restaurants.

Berg Gård aquavit

In 1986, Svein Berfjord from northern Norway fell in love with the Inderøy area. With his wife, he bought their farm Berg Gård where they have been raising lamb and free-range pork sold in their shop. The lambs are even slaughtered onsite, reducing their stress and avoiding transport.

In 2015, Svein added another activity on the farm: an aquavit distillery. Based on Norwegian potatoes and matured in wooden casks, contrary to aquavits produced in other countries, the Norwegian aquavit has gained a reputation for excellence. Beyond the Taffel aquavit that would be the basic one that Swedes and Danes drink down quite fast, Svein has been producing Aquavit nr. 1 first since 2015, using the traditional spices: caraway and juniper grown on his farm, anis, star anis, citrus, coriander and fennel. The mix of spices left him perplex: why not try with local ingredients instead? And Svein started experimenting by distilling the nature around his farm: dandelion, spruce-tree shoots, meadowsweet, angelica… This is how Den Gyldne aquavit was born: produced solely from spices and herbs harvested along the Golden Road, this botanical aquavit is the first made of 100% Norwegian ingredients. Simply excellent!

Svein’s eyes lit up when he thinks of all the other ideas he has. Sea buckthorn, rowanberry and willow herb are part of his summer aquavit. In his cosy candlelit tasting room surrounded by aquavit oak barrels, one inscription grabs our attention: “Stiklestad 2030”. The playful Svein grins at us. It seems that we will have to come back in a few years for the millennium celebrations!

Insider’s tips:

  • Book ahead for an amazing aquavit tasting, or walk in on Fridays and Saturdays after 16h.

Øyna restaurant in the Landscape Hotel

After completing the biking loop, passing along fields, by a fishermen’s village, forest and farms, a dinner based on local products is simply a must. At Øyna, only local food is served. If not from the Inderøy Peninsula on which the panoramic view dives in, ingredients come from the region of Trøndelag. One of the highlights is the wild halibut fished in the fjord we are overlooking from the panoramic terrace, paired with one of Inderøy Gårdsbryggeri’s beers.

Husfrua Gårdshotell

A stone’s throw away from the Landscape Hotel, the Husfrua farm shares the same panoramic views on the Trondheim Fjord. This traditional Trøndelag rural accommodation with its long and narrow construction to let as much light in as possible houses rooms, and a glamping tent has been set a bit further away. The delicious breakfast is prepared in the 1867 cosy main wooden building with free-range eggs, local products and freshly baked bread.

Insider’s tips:

  • God mat lokalt is a must-stop, preferably when leaving the Inderøy area. Co-owned by 9 local farmers, products from 70 Trøndelag producers can be purchased, easily accessible under one roof: reindeer sausage, cheese, bread, jams, juices, vegetables… Make sure to stop to stock up for your next picnics!

Day 4: Biking along the Borgen Fjord [& more excellent food!]

To burn off the delicious breakfast and stay active, biking the Borgen Fjord in search for more local gems is the ideal plan!

Gangstad Gårdsysteri

After hugging the fjord and gaining some altitude to appreciate the views even better, we arrive in a lovely courtyard surrounded by traditional Trøndelag long and narrow farm buildings that are open to visitors. On this warm summer day, we rush to the ice cream parlour. Prepared with fresh milk from the farm, we cannot go wrong! We don’t even consider the sorbets even though the berry flavours look very tempting. The cream-based liquorice and the yogurt-based local sea buckthorn are simply delicious, and probably some of the best ice creams we have ever tasted.

Astrid Aasen runs the dairy. It is a family business: her son Ole Morten took over the 40 milking cows and she buys his milk and more from the surroundings to craft award-winning pasteurized cheeses. About a dozen different cheeses are produced. The most popular ones are the Nidelven Blå blue cheese and the Granstubben that is eaten melted. Other cheeses are mostly inspired by feta, Camembert (even though it tastes like a Brie), Brie or salty Boursin.

Gulburet

Leaving the main road for some peaceful gravel roads, we hardly lose track of the fjord. Our next stop is Gulburet, a lovely 250-year-old family farm where we take time to enjoy lunch under the tree amongst the centennial yellow and red homestead buildings. The Gulburet’s lunch plate consists in a yummy selection of the best products around: the farm’s pork sausage and roast beef with a delicious homemade mustard, the Gangstad cheeses to accompany the homemade carrot jam and apricot and cranberry compote, and a salad from the garden. The thirst-quenching beer on tap, whether cream or dark is the perfect drink on this warm day. For colder days, the lovely interior space above the farm shop is very cosy thanks to the personal touches of Liv Elin and Arve Olsen.

***

Straumen is not that far anymore, and the last few kilometres of the 37-kilometre (23-mile) loop are easy to bike. From this point, two main options remain open: either driving back to Trondheim, or continuing North East along the lesser-known East bank of the Snåsa Lake to uncover some of the South Sami culture… Stay tuned for more…

Travel tips:

  • Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area (short tutorial)!

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