Osmica: the coolest culinary tradition you’ve never heard of!

One of my favorite things about living in Europe has been not only getting acquainted with new regional cuisines, but also discovering all the unique histories and local traditions concerning food, many of which go back centuries.

Just within the past year (thanks to a Slow Food seminar) I discovered another one, called ‘osmica’ in Slovenian or ‘ozmica’ in Italian (pronunciation: ohz-MEET-zah). It’s from the Karst region, which is along the Italian/Slovenian border near Trieste. The name originates from the word ‘osem’ which means ‘eight’ in the Slovene language. This is the number of days that the original osmice (plural) were allowed to be open.

This page may contain affiliate links; if you make a purchase through them, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.

It all started back in the 18th century, under the Habsburg rule of Maria Theresa. Taxes on the local peasants in this region were high, leading to significant unrest. As an attempt to placate the population, small local farms were allowed to sell the food and drink they produced, tax-free, directly to visitors for a period of no longer than 8 days at a time. They had to hang an ivy branch at the roadside and on the house, identifying what they were doing both to locals and authorities.

While the 8-day restriction has been loosened in modern times (they can now open for a period based on the quantity of wine they produce), the rest of the tradition remains intact. For instance, they still hang the ivy branches!


But it’s important to realize that these are not restaurants; there is no table service or printed menus, and they are generally not open for more than one month at a time. They are first and foremost small farms, who benefit from the osmica status through the opportunity to sell their products to visitors for a limited period. What a neat concept, right?

So, what can you get at an osmica? First of all, wine. The most common varieties are Malvasia (white) and Refosco (red), but a range of other varietals can also be found at some of the more wine-focused osmice. The food on offer varies according to the season and farm, but the mainstays are freshly baked bread, boiled eggs, olives, cheeses and meats such as prosciutto or salami. It’s a simple menu and with the exception of the wheat for the bread it’s all produced locally, often by a single family – no factory farms in sight!


Osmica Budin is a very nice one; it’s modern in style, comfortable and airy with a lovely garden. It was quite busy when I was there but they have a nice selection of food and drinks, and a beautiful view. Check it out in the video below!

To me, what makes osmice special is their atmosphere. While they vary in size, they are all simple affairs where everyone, whether family, friends or strangers, generally sits down together at long tables with bench seating. Both indoor and outdoor space is available, and some of them have beautiful views over the countryside or even to the sea. It’s the Karst region’s answer to the Bavarian beer garden, but with artisanal products that were made right in the surrounding area!

But how do I find these special little open houses of local flavor, you ask? Do I have to wander village streets looking for ivy branches, or what? Hardly! The modern era has made it easier than ever to find open osmice, through – you guessed it – the internet! Just go to and you’ll find a handy list of osmice which are open that day and the coming days/weeks, along with location/contact information and usually a few photos. Easy peasy!

The preservation of food traditions such as osmice contribute a lot to the appeal of this area, though it’s far from the only reason you’d want to visit. Trieste is right down the hill, the Istrian peninsula and its hill towns and beaches are just a short drive away, and even Ljubljana and some of the northern Adriatic islands can be reached within a 1-2 hour drive. So there are a lot of reasons to go there. If you do, enjoy a glass of Malvasia for me!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Like what you’ve read so far?

Sign up to receive updates (no more than once per week) when new content is added!
No selling or sharing of email addresses.