What foods to try on a short trip to Tuscany

Friday, 4 May 2012 1:04 PM

Tuscany is one of the best places to visit if you are a fan of Italian food. However, where you go in the region will determine what types of cuisine you try. Here is a guide on what you can expect to taste in Tuscany's three main areas - the seaside, countryside and mountains.

The seaside

Tuscany has a unique landscape as it is situated on the coastline and boasts steep rugged mountains in the Alps. However, if you only have a short amount of time to spend in the region and you love seafood, it is worth heading straight to the coast.

Here, you'll find a huge variety of fish dishes, with sardines, sole and anchovies on the menus at most restaurants. The area is also a great place to sample local meals with calamari, clams, mullet and squid, so make sure you tuck into something you've not tried before and try cooking something new in your Tuscany villa rental.

For example, stuffed squid is a popular traditional dish. Alternatively, you could opt for something more rustic - a common element in Tuscan cooking - and sample a fish soup called cacciucco. There are several varieties of this type of soup; however, it is most often made with white wine, parsley, garlic, tomatoes, bread and pecorino cheese, which is also produced in Tuscany.

The countryside

Pecorino cheese is made in the countryside area of Tuscany, and, as a result, it is often served in the region, either on its own as a table cheese with vegetables and fruit or grated on to soups and stews.

Another starter - or antipasti - that you're likely to try in the countryside is finocchiona, a fennel-flavoured salami and crostini - toasted bread - with pate.

First courses are often either a panzanella - a bread and tomato salad - or hearty soups, such as ones made with borlotti beans that are intended to fill the diner up. Indeed, while the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside enjoy warm weather in the summer, it is milder in the winter and these dishes are aimed at keeping locals warm and well-fed during the colder months.

The region is also renowned for its olive production, with groves upon groves located on its hillsides. Try the extra virgin oil from the Chianti region, which is also famous for producing the well-known red wine of the same name.

Tuscany has an abundance of vineyards, so you can be sure the wine you sample during your short stay will be some of the best you've ever tried.

As the availability of olive oil is plentiful here, expect it to be used to cook or flavour several - if not most - dishes. It is eaten with grilled meats, used to cook vegetables, enjoyed simply with bread or poured over soups.

The mountains

Tuscany boasts some of Italy's most beautiful mountains, and you'll find snow-capped peaks if you head here on a short getaway. This is probably why recipes are often hearty and wholesome, filling and warming you up within seconds.

Meat is commonly used in dishes in the mountains to give people energy, and sausages, pork and beef are popular in stews that are mopped up with thick, stale chunks of bread.

Food from the Maremma countryside is also famous, so it is worth looking out for chestnuts, olive oil, honey and cheese, as these are specialities here. Try the acquacotta soup, which is made with onion, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil from Maremma, carrots, celery, pecorino cheese, bread, basil and an egg - although there are several variations throughout the region.


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