Travel Tips

A tour in the hearth of the culinary tradition of Tuscany

by Gabriele Monti December 3rd, 2012

The gastronomic heart of Tuscany is found on the Tuscan hill: the Apennines with the flavours of the mountains, and certainly by Tyrrhenian Sea with seafood. Tuscany is mainly a hilly land and with lots of vineyard and olive trees, sunflowers, fruit orchards, woodland and pasture. A lot of elevated ground of various kind distributed over a vast territory. It is mostly cultivated and full of small scattered villages such as the Chianti area. This land is covered in lush green raging from chestnut trees to the blonde cereals in Garfagnana, then it is sometimes barren and mostly made of clay such as the Maremma which is also wild and fascinating.

It is equally varied in its basket of agricultural products that benefits from a benevolent climate influenced by the sea and by a widespread environmental integrity. Wine and oil are the main typical Tuscan food: the former with labels that will make you dream, such as Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino, the latter with a production that has no equal for culinary tradition. Then we should talk about the cattle breeding. Both traditional breeds of cattle, Chianina and Maremma, provide meat for the grill and the classic cooking in clay. Also pork is important, namely Cinta Senese. Breeders are there to restore an antique flavour of meats to be used fresh or cured as prosciutto and finocchiona. As for the cheese it is worth to mention the local productions of Marzolino of Chianti.

Other agricultural products are also worth to mention as they are really outstanding For example the beans of Sorana and Pratomagno, are so important for traditional Tuscan cooking, and they are fundamental for the pasta e fagioli.
There is also the Garfagnana spelt. A wheat with an ancient history, it used for soups and it is worshipped by the health-conscious. Going along we should also mention the the saffron of San Gimignano, which was a source of great wealth in medieval times, and today it is used to rediscover of ancient recipes.

The food and wine tour begins in Florence, which provides a complete overview of the regional cuisine ranging from ribollita, Florentine steak, pappa al pomodoro to pappardelle with hare and the devilled chicke. There is also a great tradition of grilled dishes such as truffled pasticcio pie and the use of offal deriving from the medieval cuisine. There is so much choice in a region that has a very long vocation for tourism and gastronomy. Along the sea we find Prato with its Medici villas and the Carmignano wine, and the cantucci biscuits. Then It is followed by Pistoia and Lucca, famous for the olive oil production, and the traditional cuisine from Versilia and Garfagnana.

By the shore of the Tyrrhenian Sea lays Massa-Carrara, on a double gastronomic border, with accents of the Liguria and the Lunigiana cuisine. Walking down the Via Aurelia through the scenarios of the Maremma you will touch Pisa, Livorno and Grosseto with a cuisine between the sea and the inner land. The standard fare is the famous fish soup and wild boar based dished, in its various preparations. If we move inland, near the territory of Siena, it lies the southern portion of the Chianti hills, with all that follows in terms of wine and oil. Further south there are undulated, barren and clay perfumed hills. Here you will find the most popular sheep in the region of the Mount Amiata, where the woods come to the border with Umbria. From there you can start investigating Arezzo and its province including Val di Chiana which is the home of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and the mountains of the Casentino. Here the cooking is done mostly with meat, mushrooms and game.

Rustic Italian food

Montalcino Wine Tour from Florence or Siena

Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino wine estate visits

wine in tuscany
ash barrels with 2011 Brunello di Montalcino

Montalcino is a pretty hill top town in the province of Siena Tuscany. It takes about 2 hours from Florence and 1 hour from Siena to get there, so it makes an ideal day trip from one of these 2 main towns.

The main attraction of Montalcino is its world renowned red wine. As many traditional Tuscan wines the main grape used here is the Sangiovese variety which produces 2 main wines: Brunello di Montalcino DOC and Rosso di Montalcino. The latter is normally a younger wine with lots of freshness and berry tones. The regulation of the consortium to make Rosso di Montalcino are less strict compared to the Brunello, in fact Rosso di Montalcino will spend only one year in the wooden barrels before bottling.

The real king of the these gentle and sunny hills is Brunello di Montalcino. The wine is aged at least 5 years in large oak or hash barrels. Compared to its younger version it has more complexity and structure. Sometimes it has mineral and pleasantly bitter tones and it is the perfect match for meat dishes such as the succulent heavy weight Fiorentina but also recommended with Pecorino di Pienza, or the peppery prosciutto toscano.

Abbadia Ardenga and Altesino winery

During our tour we would recommend to visit 2 wineries in the area such as Abbadia Ardenga and Altesino winery. The former is an ancient 15th Century fortified abbey with secret underground passages and a passion for wine making dating back several centuries. Here at the winery you will taste 4 wines with the accompaniment of local food. Our tour will continue to another nearby wine estate namely: Altesino Winery. Here our guests will have Tuscan style lunch which will include tasting of Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello. The lunch ends with Torta della Nonna accompanied with Vin Santo.
Upon request we can also visit the town of Montalcino with a qualified guide to discover the history of this beautiful hill top fortified settlement. Our guests can also learn about the disputes between Florence and Siena for dominance during the renaissance.

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Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Not far from Montalcino, and a easy reach from Siena it is also possible to visit wineries making vino nobile di Montepulciano made nearby in the homonymous town. The noble wine of Montepulciano is also made from Sangiovese grapes (minimum 70%) and aged 2 years or 3 years for the reserve. For those looking for a younger wine it is also possible to taste Rosso di Montepulciano, which is less sophisticated yet easily enjoyed on it own or with a light lunch.

Pecorino di Pienza.

Many foodies know Pecorino very well for its fragrant spiciness and full body. Pienza not far from Siena and Montalcino is another gourmet destination where interested travellers can visit the production of this cheese which is aged for at least 90 days in barriques of ash wood.
For those interested in food and wine tour from Florence and Siena, the area has plenty to offer. The main dedication of the area is red wine which can be matched with cheese and ham experiences. However In Tuscany the wineries are the one which should be of main interested of the food traveller, of course with the possibility to match the experience with local food such as the wonderful Fiorentina steak.

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vin santo grapes in Italy

The cuisine of Emilia Romagna

A short guide to the food of Bologna, Modena and Parma

by Gabriele Monti  November 8th, 2012

Tortellini alla Panna

Lovers of Italian food have labelled the Regione Emilia-Romagna as “the bread-basket of Italy.” It’s easy to see why. The historic cities of Parma, Modena and Bologna are famed  for their food, from the air cured and delicate prosciutto (Parma ham), parmigiano reggiano (parmesan cheese) and traditional aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar) – some of the quintessential ingredients  of Italian cooking. The verdant Po Valley has given rise to agricultural practices that produce some of the most flavoursome and robust ingredients in the country.

Starters.

When visiting Parma, Modena and Bologna, the starters are most likely to be slices of Parma ham, culatello, Salame di Felino, and shavings of Parmesan cheese. Parma ham has a delicate sweet savouriness that it is unique to this air cured ham. Culatello has also a unique and distinctive savouriness and every bite keeps giving our flavour, with hints of aromas like black pepper. Parmesan cheese is the quintessential savoury flavour, unique and inimitable, due to the long fermenting ageing.

 

First courses: Pasta Dishes

Fresh egg  pasta in Emilia-Romagna is an artistic affair. Indeed, the cooks of this region are believed to be the masters of fresh pasta, producing distinct varieties of stuffed tortellini, and Tortelloni. Such pastas are recognised by their intricate and delicate shapes, as well as their rich fillings, which usually include pork or soft ricotta cheese.

Tortellini or Cappelletti

These attractive little pasta dumplings are filled with the best meats of the region – prosciutto, mortadella (a local variety of sausage) and ground pork. There are many old legends as to how tortellini originally came about. The most popular tale comes from Modena, near the Castelfranco Emilia. Lucrezia Borgia checked into an inn there, and the host was so captivated by her beauty that he spied on her through the keyhole of her private room. He only got a glimpse of her navel, but was so thrilled by this sight that he immediately went to the kitchen and attempted to recreate it in the form of pasta. And thus tortellini  were born. For the real connoisseur they are only  served in the famous Emilian capon broth, but a cream version is also available in most restaurants.

Tortelloni

This is a larger version of tortellini, squares of egg pasta (in Emilia Romagna is commonly called sfoglia) are folded into triangle and folded one more time into a hat shape. They are commonly filled with spinach, ricotta cheese and a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.  They are  served with a sauce – butter and sage being a local favourite, but also with a nice tomato sauce with a leaf of basil.

Passatelli

To your surprise this time it is not going to be a pasta dish. Passatelli is the poor man meal made into an elegant and refined dish, and if you visit Bologna in the winter months, it would be a sin not to have passatelli. This dish consist of dumpling made of bread crumbs, egg,  and parmesan cheese. This is worked and turned into a dough and pressed through a die to obtain the classic shape. The dumplings are then served in a rich capon broth.

Zuppa reale

Along Passatelli, Zuppa reale is one of the less known dishes of the Emilian cuisine but well worth the hunt. Zuppa reale is a sort of spongy omelette like cake which is cut into cubes and served in the capon broth. The ingredients are flour, eggs, a lot of parmesan cheese, butter. The dough is cooked in the oven until golden crispy and spongy inside, then left to cool a little and cut into bite size dumpling.

Meat Dishes

Emilia-Romagna has a thousand-year history of raising swine – making it one of the most distinguished Italian regions for pork. Local pork dishes are layered in flavour, rich and hearty, and are perfect for chilly winter evenings. Veal is also a popular meaty option.

Zampone from Modena

Emilia-Romagna is famous for its decadent range of preserved meats and salamis. Zampone of Modena  is a unique local treat that is often eaten at Christmas time. This winter sausage was born in 1510. Modena was under siege at the time, and food had to be preserved. As a result, ground pork, rind and other cuts were salted and stuffed into a de-boned pig’s trotter. These days, zampone is served with lentils and washed down with Lambrusco DOC.

Cotolette alle Bolognese

Tagliatelle alla  Bolognese (it’s actually called tagliatelle al ragu in Italy) is not the only famous dish to emerge from Emilia-Romagna’s historical capital, Bologna. This original veal parmigiana consists of breaded veal topped with shavings of parmesan cheese. It can be  also layered with prosciutto, but for an authentic and complex speciality white truffles are added as a final touch.

Bollito Misto

As the tortellini go with the broth, the meat is normally eaten as a second course. When visiting Bologna you should ask for the Carrello dei Bolliti, literally the boiled meat trolley. The waiter will oblige and push to your table a serving trolley full of succulent boiled meats. Here you will find capon, boiler chicken, beef briskets, as well as beef tongue for the  more daring. The meats sliced thinly and served with salsa verde or mostarde. Salve verde is a condiment made with a base of parley and cooked carrots, boiled eggs, olive oil, vinegar, the recipes varies from location to location. Mostarda is more typical in the northern areas of Emilia Romagna and consist of fruits cooked in a light mustard sugary syrup.

 

Desserts

Many sweet dishes of Emilia-Romagna originated from traditional festivals highlighting the weeks before Easter. People would often indulge in sugary treats on Shrove Tuesday before the period of abstinence marked by Lent.

Tagliatelle Dolci

This sweet resemble to original pasta dish is one such Shrove Tuesday invention. Strands of tagliatelle are deep-fried, and then coated in honey. This is a popular dessert throughout Bologna. It can also be topped with sugar, cinnamon or lemon zest.

Zuppa Inglese

This directly translates to “English Soup,” but it actually refers to the Italian version of English trifle. During the 16th century, the rulers of Ferarra met with Elizabethan statesmen from England, and this contact introduced them to the delicious custardy dessert. The Italian diplomats fell in love with it, and attempted to make it using local ingredients. The Emilian version consists of pan di spagna (sponge cake), or savoiardi (finger biscuits), thick custard and Alchermes, an aromatic herb liqueur.

These are just a few of the dishes you will discover on a gastronomic journey of Emilia-Romagna. Its culinary legacy is sometimes rustic, but also elegant and refined – and is considered one of the best in all of Italy.

Digestive liquors

A meal in Italy is not finished without a shot of your favourite digestive. In Modena we have the dark and aromatic Nocino made from unripe walnuts which are steeped into pure alcohol, and sugar. The liquid is aged into oak or hash barrels for a minimum of 6 years. In Parma you will be likely to be served Barniolino. This liqueur is made from the berry of the wild growing hawthorn berries steeped into alcohol and sugar. The liquid has hints of strawberry  and cherries  with a pleasant bitterness.

Wines of Emilia Romagna.

Wines in the region and often sparkling red, this is unique characteristic of our products. In fact Lambrusco (Modena) and Gutturnio (Piacenza) are wines that in the tradition where double fermented in their bottles. This would give rise to a first alcoholic fermentation and then a second one which gives the bubbles to the wine. Lambrusco is a wine that is enjoyed young, often the year after the harvest, and it certainly lends itself to accompany the rich local cuisine. Remember that the perfect lambrusco is a dry wine, with an evanescent froth, purple in colour (Grasparossa variety) with hints of violet flowers.

 

 

A food tour in the Bologna province

by Gabriele Monti November 6th, 2012

Picture of Parma hams in Langhirano

The protagonist of “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” a university student in the 1930 dines at “Pappagallo” and drinks coffee from “Zanarini,”  the same historical buildings  and establishment  that you might find in Bologna today. The City name is “the  learned ” thanks to the university funded in 1088 and “the fat” because of its agricultural wealth, splendour and culinary heritage, not to mention the sympathetic and friendly inhabitants.

The Bologna glories start from the ancient city. The two towers near Piazza Maggiore,  S. Petronio and the University are inviting you to walk under the arcades, to discover a town centre still full of charm. One of the first discoveries are  the attractive food delicacies of the area. A wealth of products which has not match elsewhere.

The local cuisine has an exclusive sense: the gastronomic tradition of Bologna is both wealthy and celebrated.  Over time the tradition has expanded, the name “Bologna”, referring to the cuisine is now a synonymous of flavour and generosity. The Bolognese  sauce along with the tagliatelle  are still the building elements of Italian cuisine. Another cornerstone of this cuisine is  the tortellini. They are still hand crafted one by one, produced according to ancient recipes  (filed at the local Chamber of Commerce). Then there is the lasagne, thick and succulent as the colours of the Baroque painters seeing in the museum galleries. There is also the “Fritto Bolognese” fried vegetables sumptuous arpeggio between sweet and salty.  Another dish is The Pinza a farmer sweet described for the first time in 1644.
Outside the city gates we have the  circle of the Bologna hills that are just there to be discovered. An extended natural park and reserve. The beautiful countryside around the town of Monteveglio is particularly recommended. An ancient walled town, where you can find  an abbey dedicated to of S. Mary.

The province of Bologna is cut in two by the Via Emilia.  To the north lies the vast Padana plain defined by the River Reno, which stretches and leads to Ferrara. In the opposite direction leading south you will find limestone hills called Gessi Bolognesi, then continuing  there are the mountain of the Apennine range. In the plain there is a  thriving farming and horticultural industry, producing one of its leading product known as  Mortadella di Bologna IGP (the of queen of  Bologna). The same area also produces the potato of Medicina and the green asparagus of Altedo IGP, as for the wine we have the  Montuno Doc produced from vineyards growing along the course of the river.

The vineyard becomes the protagonist on the Bolognese hills between the Panaro and ldice rivers. It is the area of the Colli Bolognesi Doc, which is divided into seven sub-denominations or geographical micro zones. In average vineyards are located  between 100 and 300 meters above sea level, the soils is loose and clay is plenty.
Among the white wines, we have the native Pignoletto, along with a robust red Barbera.

Towards the eastern boundary farmers grow  Albana di Romagna DOCG and DOC wines of Colli lmola.  On the west, the tourist will find the ROUTES OF CHERRY AND CASTLES which is leaving the capital Bologna and leading to Vignola where  the most beautiful places in the area can be admired.

Here the food is a mix of the classic Bolognese cuisine (fresh pasta and salami), with the attractions of autumn fruits such as mushrooms, truffles, chestnuts from the Apennines. Continuing on the mountain, an important destinations for the gourmet traveller is Savigno.  It is named “The City of Truffles (white)” with a major festival and exhibition market in autumn. Also you can visit Castel di Casio, another center for the collection of precious fungi in valley of the Reno. Another renaissance town is  Castel del Rio, in the upper valley of Santerno, from here you can also continue up from Imola Montanara along the road that leads to the impressive peaks a between Tuscany, the capital of the Chestnut (IGP) and Marrons.

The Gourmet Region: Emilia Romagna

The Emilia Romagna, when looked on a map, has boundaries made in linear fashion, a sort of harness between the Po’ and the Apennines with the watershed that diverge slightly towards the bow of the Adriatic coast. Inside we have the two pillars that identify homogeneous parts for landscapes and traditionally run longitudinally through the Via Emilia.  It is in fact the Roman road, which separates the plain from the mountains. Roughly at the height of Imola  we have the historical border  which divided Emilia under the Roman control from  the sphere of influence of barbaric domination, in this case Romagna.

These are the elements that represent geographically and historically our cuisine, it is surprising because of the presence of so many aspects in one small relatively area.  In the same region we have the northern European ancestry. In fact it is one of the reality Emilian gastronomy mainly  based on the rearing of pigs and the use of animal fat. The region has also a Mediterranean tradition such as sheep farming and olive oil. In Romagna has an alternative to bread. The Piadina is a dumpling cooked on cast iron skillet, on also known as piada, and often eaten with ham, salami or soft cheeses. Probably eating flat breads has a Byzantine origin.

In Emilia we have  an astonishing line up of salumi, in Romagna on the other hand a pecorino cheese that acquires a unique flavour by ageing it in a pit. Emilia’s  cooking is rich and persuasive, in Romagna the flavours are a more vigorous and earthy. This is the results of centuries of history and also the differences have been diluted and new realities overlapped to create this modern geography of food.  Indeed such is the variety of products that you want to proceed in a systematic manner. It is worth to travel along the Via Emilia looking out the window with the curiosity of the connoisseur.

The first appointment is Piacenza: salamis in the Apennines (coppa, salami and pancetta) and fine wines, including red and sparkling Gutturnio. The cuisine has influlences from the nearby  Lombardy, Piedmont and Liguria regions. Parma follows: the land of a great gastronomical heritage, just think of the Parmesan cheese, Parma ham and Culatello from Zibello with an aromatic Malvasia to be their frame. It is art. A culinary tradition that has caught on all over the world. Then it was the turn of Reggio Emilia, which is the cradle of the  Parmigiano Reggiano and the beginning of Lambrusco production area, a sparkling red wine, which is dear to many Italians. In Modena again salami and Zampone are the kings. On the hills, we have the  Lambrusco grasparossa and the famous Vignola’s cherries. The sharp end of the Emilian cuisine is in Bologna, where the pasta is in the form of tagliatelle, tortellini or lasagna, and the sauce is meaty and it accompanies pasta with dignity.

In the north of Bologna we find Ferrara, with the sumptuous salama da sugo and the wines of the Bosco Eliceo. The grapes are cultivated on the sands of the Po Delta.
By the time we get to  Castel San Pietro Romagna begins, mixing the flavours of the Apennines and the Adriatic sea. Ravenna, with the olive oil of Brisighella and the first vineyards of fine Albana wine.

Forli and Cesena, where component of the cuisine are mainly form the Apennines, with meat and game reminiscent of Tuscan cuisine, and finally Rimini, with plenty of tomato fish soup with strong vinegar and pepper flavours, opening the way to Central Italy, leading to the valleys of Montefeltro in Le Marche region.

In Emilia Romagna there are  13 designated gourmet routes that the tourist can follow, they are well designed and fully operational, The Enoteca Regionale di Dozza (BO) is the headquarters of the gourmet experience with a calendar full of events, from town festivals to street food fairs.

 

The art and architecture of Parma

by Marcelo Pinto November 3rd 2012

Parma stands austere and sophisticated in the territory bounded on the east by the Enza river and to the west by the river Stírane. The city lies among hillsides and rolling green hills that inspired Verdi’s melodies and atmospheres of the nineteenth-century such as La Certosa di Parma by Stendhal. Parma is in fact like a queen with its role of prima donna at the time of Marie Louise of Austria.

To explore the city, it is like to take a trip down memory lane. You will find yourself in the aristocratic and the magic atmosphere of the glories of the Lordship and prosperity of the Farnese Duchy.

The starting point of this journey in time is the Palazzo Ducale (Tel. 0521.282861, hours: Mon Sat 9.30~12; Admission: € 3, reduced € 2).

Palazzo ducale is located north of the city; the beautiful building is built by Vignola in 1564 on the behalf of Ottavio Farnese, but today’s appearance is due to numerous alterations of Bibiena first and then Ennemond Petitot.

Inside, a spectacular staircase leads to several rooms in which we have mythological representations. In the large park, the trees are alternating marble statues creating a perfect “French Style” backdrop, distinguished by the temple of Arcadia and the Fountain of Trianon, which represent the rivers Taro and Parma. The main entrance is dominated by Silenus, a marble made complex created by the Parisian Jean Baptiste Boudard copy of the original sculpture. Along the hallway there is a line up of numerous mythological statues.

A lovely example of architecture and geometry of late fifteenth century. Il Palazzo Eucherio Sanvitale (info: Tel 0521.230267; opening hours: winter 10~13 and 14~16, entrance free).

Often used for exhibitions and cultural initiatives, the building has a quadrilateral plant of which the four towers are joined by two arcades and frescoed interiors. Some of the art work is attributed to the Parmigianino. In the former Serra degli Aranci, has now been turned into a café and a bookshop.

In the vicinity of the Ducal Park on Via Borgo Tanzi 13, we find the the birthplace and museum of Arturo Toscanini (Tel. 0521.285499). Here you will find the collected memories and the main collections of the great conductor.

While leaving the Parco Ducale in a straight line and crossing Ponte Verdi you will reach the Palazzo della Pilotta (tel. 0521.233309, time: 8.30~14 Closed Monday and Sunday). It is one of the most emblematic buildings of the city. It has been  conceived as a place of service and linked to the Duke Palace. It has been concevied in 1583 by Ottavio Farnese as a  connecting link to the  Palazzo Ducale over the bank of the river. In reality it is a complex of several buildings, which has  remained unfinished. The  name derives from the Basque game of ball (Pelota) which was taking place in one of the courtyards.

In the interior of the complex you will find  the National Gallery,  National Archaeological Museum,
ta in 1752 by Don Philip of Bourbon, the, the Palatine Library,  the Teatro Farnese and museo Bodoni, the first museum of Printed art in Italy. The complex has  been renovated in the eighties, and you will find work of Italian masters such as  Fra Angelico, Correggio, Parmigianino, Guercino, Tintoretto, Canaletto and Tiepolo.

The National Archaeological Museum, established in the eighteenth century to accommodate Roman artefacts found in Parma. It was enriched later by the collections
Farnese and Gonzaga families. However  it was Maria Luigia to increase collections with rare coins and ceramics from different backgrounds.

The Farnese Theatre (info tel. 0521.233309) Located on the first floor
the palace of Pilotta and built in 1618 by of Ranuccio Farnese it had  scenic innovation for its time, such as the possibility of flooding the Cavea during performances. The interior reveals a large theater hall completely made of wood painted with imitation of marble. It has been refurbished and partly rebuilt after the bombings of World War II, according to the project of the Ferrarese architect  Aleotti. l’Argenta.

 

 

 

Planning a vacation in Emilia Romagna, Italy?

by Marcelo Pinto November 3rd 2012

A region such as Emilia Romagna can offer the discerning and demanding traveller a perfect vacation, not just something, but everything: art, culture, nature, history, leisure, wellness, relaxation, sea, mountains and good food.

Only a few other regions in Europe can boast all of this this: from the splendid city of art, dotted with monuments that trace back to ancient origins, small medieval villages clinging to the hills, The churches in the middle of green scenery, the myriad of castles imposing sumptuous amongst the green countryside.

It is not just for those seeking relaxation and tranquillity, there are dozens of places that offer health, beauty and activities. The Adriatic sea, equipped with beach resorts for the summer tourism catering for young people who are attracted to the vibrant night-life of the beach. The coast also has other jewels to offer, just think of the Regional Park of the Po’ Delta, one of the most important wetlands in Italy with unique flora and fauna and amazing scenery.

The hinterland and the Apennines, with miles of trails ideal for hiking or excursions into the woods, lakes and waterfalls, some are protected areas where nature is still intact. If that was not enough, the region boasts the best eno-gastronomic scenario, in fact one of the most sumptuous in the world: Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di Modena, Culatello, Felino salami, Cotechino di Modena, all awarded the PDO and PGI. They are also accompanied by robust and sincere wines such as Lambrusco, Albana, Sangiovese. These are just some of the delicacies that made the Emilia Romagna the kingdom of taste and good food.

Last but not least, we are in the land of motor sports, home to the factories of famous brands that have made the history like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Ducati. It is also where where major events are hosted at the Imola circuit in Misano Adriatico. Is this enough for a vacation?

 

Venice Food Crawl – The Culture of Cicchetti

A Cicchetti Tour of Venice

Cicchetti al bottegon

Emilia Delizia Venice food tour. Our company would be delighted to organise a Venice food tour for your group, family, friends or company incentive travel. Our culinary activities are great for those wanting to explore the best Italian food traditions.

Venice food tour highlights.

Imagine that you are exploring the sights of Venice, that magical place that has welcomed travellers and explorers since the Middle Ages. In this city without cars, you can walk for hours, enjoying both the well-known sights such as St. Mark’s Basilica, the Rialto Bridge and  the Piazza San Marco. Naturally, this is bound to leave you hungry and thirsty. What better way to combine exploration with refreshment than participating in the tradition known as the cicchetti crawl? Cicchetti are snacks, rather like Spanish tapas, served in wine bars and taverns. You can easily sample a world of traditional, delicious Venetian cuisine and atmospheric tavernas, for a modest expenditure, over the course of an afternoon or evening.

The delicious food of Venice.

Since Venice is a city dominated by the sea it is no surprise that its food culture is dominated by the sea also: by deliciously fresh and abundant seafood, including cuttlefish, octopus, cod, sardines and shrimp. Meats, both fresh and cured, are also widely used in Venetian dishes, as is pasta and risotto rice. Fresh local vegetables such as artichokes from Sant-Erasmo and, in the spring, white asparagus, when fried or grilled, also become delicious cicchetti.

A culinary tour of Venice’s cicchetti bars will reward you with a world of tastes. To begin your cicchetti adventure, look for places called bacari (wine bars) or osteria, both of which serve these traditional snack foods. Traditional cicchetti are simple: chunks of salami, pieces of cheese, fried olives and fried seafoods. Modern cicchetti include these dishes, but they also can be much more elaborate – dinners in miniature.

Cicchetti are accompanied by small glasses of wine (about the size of a double shot) known as ombra, or shade. These mini glasses of wine were long ago nicknamed ombra, after the wine sellers in the Piazza San Marco, who kept in the shade to keep the wine cool and fresh. Or perhaps you would like to drink an aperitivo – a pre-dinner drink designed to whet your appetite. In Venice, the traditional Spritz is often based on sparkling wine such as Prosecco (a dry white sparkling wine), mixed with sparkling water and flavored with bitters.These amari (bitters) include the ruby red bitters Campari or Select (made of herbs and fruits), bright orange Aperol (with bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb and cinchona), and Cynar (containing artichokes and several herbs). These aperitivo are fairly low in alcohol content, so are the perfect drink to choose while roaming between bacari.

Bacari and osterias in Venice.

Some of the best seafood-based cicchetti can be found in San Polo. Many osteria are near the Rialto Fish Market. At Cantina Mori (San Polo 429), which has been in business since the 15th century, you can try octopus and baccala’ (salt cod). Sarde in saor, or sardines fried in olive oil with onions, pine nuts and raisins, is found there also. Baccala’ is one of the most popular cicchetti; a creamy salt cod, it is served either on its own or on toast. At Pronto Pesce (319 San Polo), also near the Rialto Fish Market, you can savour swordfish croissant and scallops served in the shell – all served in a buffet style. If you prefer meat, try a hearty plate of polpette (meatballs), often served with an aioli sauce. Polpette, as well as prosciutto, pate and bread rounds topped with truffles, cheese and mushrooms await you at All’Arco (San Polo 436), near the Rialto Bridge.

Tidbits served on toast (crostini) or on squares of savory grilled polenta are also popular cicchetti. Try squid ink toast with or without curried shrimp at Osteria Bancogiro (Campo San Giacometto, San Polo). Risotto and pasta dishes are also delicious  – try the risotto Parmigiana or the ravioli at Osteria Vivaldi (calle della Maddonetta, San Polo). Tramezzini (little triangular sandwiches) may also accompany drinks in traditional bacari. Made from special, soft white bread, they are stuffed with a delectable variety of fillings including ham, olives, cheese or tuna.

Refreshed by cicchetti and an aperitivo or an ombra, you may now continue your explorations. This food tour is a delicious way to relax, recharge, and sample the best of Venice’s cuisine – and in doing so, getting to know Venice and her people, too. We offer cooking classes in Venice and check here for some ideas about eating like a local in Venice.

Where to Eat Cicchetti in Venice, our Bacari Food Tour.

You are likely to be that enthusiastic traveler, who has learned all about cicchetti. These are very nice snacks that you can eat as you sip your glass of wine. Sometimes it is great when you get a guide; who will take you to all the cool cicchetti joints. The case is different if you are the adventurous type. You simply like walking around, and finding out places on your own. With a simple glance at the main page of this site, you will notice that once you book a tour, a guide is assigned to you. You should not get hard on yourself. The Emilia Delizia Venezia Tood Tour cares about your well being, and is ready to show you the best places where you can quickly hop into and get your snack. As they say Venezia is the city without cars, you should be at least ready to know a place or two.

 

Cantina Do Spade Chicchetti Tour.

Mozzarella in Carrozza
Mozzarella in Carrozza

You should remember by now that the only place where you can eat your cicchetti in Venezia or Italy, is in a bacari and an osteria. Cantina do Spade is one of the oldest Venetial osterie’s. It is located several steps from Rialto. Once you have had your pleasant walking experience in Venezia. You should set the mood of your day to delightful. This place boasts to have served people for 568 years. Your mood will be set once you have sampled the wine tastings offered here. The next step is to try at least two cicchetti dishes. These are:

First is the Bussolai—they are round pieces from heaven.

Next is the mussel soup. If you have never seen it, a simple look at it would make your mouth water.

Tiramisú looks like a glorious cake with chocolate sprinkled on top of it. If you have ever taken the Spanish tapas, you’ll really wish you had discovered Tiramisú earlier.

The Mozzarella in carozza are another special piece. They come with this appealing golden color. They are really something to taste.

If you are a lover of seafood then you are in luck. They have squids in black with polenta; small octopuses; bigoli in salsa; and finally squid ink bigoli.

You should try to reserve a table at this place. If you don’t you will be missing out on excellent cicchetti, and a warm and friendly atmosphere.

 

Un Mondo Di Vino Bacari Tour in Venice.

At the height of your tour; you should also consider visiting the Un Mondo Di Vino wine bar. It is located in Salizada San Canzian 5984/a, 5984 Venezia, Italy. One of the reasons you should be here; even aside from the food offered is because; this wine bar has been rated as 184th restaurant in Venezia. A certificate of excellence is proof of it. If you are that person who moves across places looking for traditional cicchetti at bacaris; this is the right place. You will have saved your self hours of search. Most customers have claimed that you can only find the best Venetian cicchetti here. Once you are here; some of the things that you will experience are:

A wide range of seafood you can select from.

A satisfying environment—the breeze will hold you in comfort.

Also, there are great varieties of wine you can pick from, talk of wonderful wine tastings.

There is one experience here that you will never find anywhere else. The restaurant allows you to either sit or stand while standing, it is pretty much like a tradition. You are also expected to serve yourself.

 

Osteria Ai Storti Venice.

Osteria Ai Storti Venice
Osteria Ai Storti Venice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Similar to Catina do Spade; Osteria ai Storti is close to Rialto. After you have had your walking experience—which is always peasant at times, sometimes it is good to hop into a wine bar; where you get the best wine, and wonderful cicchetti. This restaurant creates a native feel; the staff are warm and welcoming. This is the best place for those who are interested in sampling the Italian culinary culture. If you are really into having the main course meal of cicchetti then your needs will be well catered for here. Fish is served in both the main and second courses. All the food comes with a fresh touch from the Mediterranean. There is a host here who is present to guide you in wine tasting. There is plenty of wine—red and white. You should remember that cicchetti goes well with a sip of wine. Don’t shy away from this wonderful experience. We are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but for this Venezian beauty, we make an exception. It is located in frequent tourist visited area. It is worth checking it out.

Most visitors have commented positively on the cicchetti served here. As one claims, “It was unusual seafood, those Venetian tapas were excellent.” As you can see, you will get the best tapas here; you will also get to dine with the locals, who you’ll get to love. Aside from even having a good culinary experience, being here will allow you to develop your social skills, and also help you appreciate the diversity in this place—Venezia is flooded with tourists. Lastly, the price of the food is pocket friendly. If you are a group then you are in luck. Also, the small size of this place is ideal for customized cicchetti meals. If you are a foreigner, don’t be afraid, someone will understand you.

Antico Dolo

Antico Dolo is located just around Ruga Rialto; this place is ideal for you during your tour. This place is located in the vicinity of fruit, vegetable, and fish markets. Everything is guaranteed to be fresh. All the meals have desserts (many varieties) that make sure you end your dinner in style. The cicchetti here is made with fresh products, there is no need for freezing. If you are always shying away from places that serve frozen food; then you should consider coming here. Lastly, there is a huge selection of both foreign and Italian wine.

Osteria Assassini

osteria assassini
osteria assassini

Osteria Assassini  is no ordinary bacaro it has a fair mix of both the traditional and the modern feel. At lunch time you have an opportunity to get served cicchetti by a host of professionals—who are good at making sure you get the best treatment. A good thing about this place is that the dish menus are changed on a daily basis. This allows you as the visitor to sample the best wines and dishes that go with them. It is open everyday except for Sunday; if you happen to be on tour on this day, then you are out of luck.

 

 

Venice
Venice – image source

Abruzzo Food Tours

Abruzzo food  and wine tours – Italy’s Secret Cornucopia

fish dining experience in abruzzo

Stretching from the steep, snow-capped peaks of the Appennines to the sandy Adriatic coast, Regione Abruzzo is one of Italy best-kept secrets. Indeed, until now, Abruzzo hardly featured on anyone’s Italian tourist agenda. But now, it’s become a hot-spot for travellers looking to go back in time and experience authentic, rural, medieval Italy, untouched by the excesses of modern development and tourism.

Abruzzo is an essential destination for lovers of food and wine. In fact, many renowned Italian chefs came to famous Abruzzese town of Villa Santa Maria to perfect their culinary crafts. Local food has harnessed the best of what the landscape has to offer, and it ranges from earthy, rustic mountain dishes to unique, fresh seafood cuisines.

But, undoubtedly the belle of the ball in Abruzzo is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine. It has achieved worldwide renown for being flavoursome, versatile and very affordable. It is one of the most ubiquitous wines of the region, and is grown in all four provinces of l’Aquila, Teramo, Pescara and Chieti. It stands as a testament to the innovations that are happening in regional viticulture, which constantly yield fresh and interesting results.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is easy-to-drink, and can be enjoyed at a young age. It is smooth, low in acidity, and displays a luxurious ruby-to-purple colouring. It has soft and slightly syrupy tannins, which contribute to an all-round flavour of biting cherry underscored by earthy dryness. It can be served with all kinds of tomato-based dishes, such as the notable Abruzzese pasta speciality, maccheroni alla chitarra with spicy tomato sauce.

Fontefico Vasto wine tours in Abruzzo

Abruzzo has held on to agricultural practices that originated in the Middle Ages. The rich, green pastures of the central highlands, in particular, have supported shepherding for centuries. This, in turn, has given rise to a culinary tradition rich in mutton and lamb dishes, the most famous of which is arrosticini.

Arrosticini are long skewers of rich mutton and exemplify the typically rustic country food of the mountainside. The meat, traditionally derived from castrated male sheep, is cut into small cubes and then pierced with a 25-30 cm long spit. Skewers are usually marinated in extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary, and then grilled until cooked.

The time-honoured method of grilling is conducted on an open- style barbecue, locally known as a rustillire or furnacella. The furnacella is designed to support rows upon rows of arrosticini, which can then be easily turned and grilled without falling into the fire. Locals use fattier mutton cuts, ensuring the meat stays juicy and full of flavour after cooking. These skewers are most delicious when eaten with the hands.

Things couldn’t be more different on the coast, where fishing dominates and is the livelihood of many local people. The coastlines of Chieti and Teramo, for instance, still practice some of the oldest fishing methods in the world. The trabocco is a significant example of this heritage.

A trabocco is an ancient Italian fishing apparatus that closely resembles a rickety pier and wooden shack. However, a closer inspection reveals an elaborate agglomeration of pulleys and levers that work together to capture large quantities of fish and shellfish. Long logs of weather-resistant Aleppo pine jut out of the shack at the end of the pier. These logs support large mesh nets that are lowered into the water to catch fish brought in by advantageous currents. Historians believe that this fishing system was first implemented by the Phoenicians.

Most trabocchi are often “pop up restaurants” that serve fresh catches of fish on a daily basis. The visitor can be sure of tasting only the best fish and calamari prepared in typical Abruzzo style. A typical dish is a brodetto, a delicious variation of French bouillabaisse. It is made of a rich rosa tomato broth, stewed with a variety of Adriatic seafoods, such as prawns, monkfish, rockfish and scallops.

Abruzzo is considered one of the wildest regions in Italy, with its vast natural spaces and expansive seascapes. This unique terrain has resulted in a distinctive food heritage that is steeped in centuries of tradition. Abruzzo provides visitors with the rare chance to experience a different side of Italy, and a way of life that has largely been forgotten.

 

2 gourmet food tours plus winery at Torrechiara castle in Parma

Tour of Parmesan, Parma ham and winery overlooking the beautiful Torrechiara Castle.

by Marcelo Pinto October 12th 2012

Parmesan production in details

Our best gourmet foods available in Parma are included in the tour. We will start the day with Parmesan, where our guides will go in details about the production of the famous cheese, as usual our visit will include the productions steps, the brine rooms and the ageing cellars, all with the final tasting. Participants will witness the creation of the cheese wheels from raw milk till it is turned into the aged product. This is a food cultural tour to enlighten those interested to see how cheese making happens.

Panoramic winery tour at the romantic Torrechiara Castle.

Just after the cheese production you will taken to a winery facing the marvellous Torrechiara castle (pictured below). Along the fantastic view you will have an aperivito based on 3 wines such as Malvasia (sparkling white) Lambrusco (sparkling red) and other DOC wines available from the winery. Each wine is accompanied with finger food such as reserve Parma ham rolled on bread sticks, vintage Parmesan and so on. After the tasting we will take a short walk to the Castle via the vineyard, where we will visit the castles (please note that it is closed on Mondays)

Parma ham visit with gourmet lunch.

The tour will continue with our Parma ham visit. Here we will visit a producer of the renowned ham, we will go down into details of each step of the production, we will visit the 4 pre ageing chambers, then we will move to the cellars where we will describe how the product achieve its PDO status. The visit will end with tasting of the ham plus other local cured meats such as culatello, the lunch will continue with a pasta main course and of course dessert.

Torrechiara Castle.

The castle is medieval manor overlooking the Parma valley. Dating back to the XIII century and fully restored. it was the home of the count Pier Maria Rossi. He was a valorous knight  fighting against the venetians on behalf of the Duke of Milan Filippo Maria Visconti. Later in life he build the Castle of Torrechiara from what was known as the ruins of Torrechiara, the remains of past strategic settlements.  The castle is dedicated to Bianca Pellegrini who was his lover at the time. In particular he built the Golden Bedroom for her, a beautifully decorated space.

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