Food secrets of Tuscany revealed
Posted on Thursday 19 April 2012
in Car Hire, Italy, Florence
By Dylan Thomas
Tuscany has lured Kiwis to its festivals, markets and charming villages for decades, and its food is notorious for boasting some of the richest flavours in all of Europe. Best explored on the road, this Italian region provides the perfect opportunity for travellers to hire a car and eat their way through true European cuisine. Frances Mayes, author of The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, recently spoke with Fodor's Travel to provide a how-to guide for foodies making their way to this culinary capital.
A relatively small region, Tuscany boasts numerous landscapes that have inspired artists and poets for centuries. From the mountain views around Mount Amiata to the stunning scenery in Montepulciano, this region is bustling with different varieties of Italian fare inspired by the surrounding environment.
Florence is a perfect hub for foodie beginners
Mayes recommends staying in Florence and Siena for the first leg of wine holidays and culinary adventures, as both cities are teeming with food offerings. After booking a night at any one of the many Florence hotels, Kiwis should take to the streets and partake in their own unique food hunt. Near the Etruscan tombs is a small bar that sells some of the most delicious varieties of biscotti, including the local favorite, almond. During the summer months, villas dotting the outskirts of Florence are buzzing with life as families create their own dinners from recipes passed down for generations.
Kiwis looking for an authentic home-style meal should go to Trattoria La Casalinga, which features classic Florentine cooking and a huge menu fit to suit any craving. Foodies and first-time visitors to Tuscany will have hundreds of options in this small restaurant, but instead of getting overwhelmed with the options, they should ask their server for their personal recommendation. Chances are high that many of them grew up in Florence and know how to eat a proper Italian meal.
Learn how to shop the Tuscan way at local markets
Every Thursday morning in Camucia, restaurant chefs and Italian moms preparing for the evening meal flock by the hundreds to get the freshest meat, seafood and produce. Spanning over several blocks, the open market is a great place to people-watch, but passionate (and brave) Kiwi chefs may want to have a go at bartering with the boisterous vendors.
The market is perfect for curious mouths that want to sample every bit of flavour that Tuscany has to offer. Vendors sell cheese, artichokes, preserves and cure meat by the kilo and often provide samples for visitors who know little about culinary varieties. Author Mayes highly recommends trying a panino or porchetta for a truly divine experience. During the summer, vendors also provide beautiful floral arrangements created from wildflowers grown in the region.
Getting adventurous in Tuscan restaurants
Italian chefs are undisputedly the best artisans of pasta dishes. In Tuscany, Kiwis will have the opportunity to enjoy hundreds of varieties of pasta cuts, flavours and designs while gazing across the breathtaking Italian landscape. Arrabbiata, or angry pasta, is a popular menu item among locals who love spicy foods, as it features hot peppers and zesty tomato sauce. Carnivorous eaters will be happy to try the alla fiorentina, which is a massive steak usually served very bloody.
Gelato can be enjoyed throughout the year, but most locals tend to snack on the smooth, creamy treat during the summer. With hundreds of different flavours, this sweet Italian delicacy is ideal after a long day of exploring, and many shops have unique offerings such as liquirizia (licorice) and riso (rice).
Kiwis who love a good and simple pizza are in luck, for the classic margherita is one of the staple foods in Tuscany. Although they are made of just cheese and tomato sauce, these pizzas are anything but plain and burst with flavours made from the freshest ingredients.
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