Florence, Italy: 7 Reasons to Visit Tuscany in Autumn
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Ahhh...Tuscany in Autumn
There is a slight nip in the air and people are beginning to don their fall jackets and leather boots. In September, the Chianti is infused with the intoxicating perfume of ripe grapes. Of course, there are many more reasons to visit Tuscany during this special time of year, but I am going to focus on 7 that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.
1. Tartufi Toscani (Tuscan truffles)- The aroma is enough to make your mouth water. These fancy fungi grow beneath the soil and are sniffed out by specially trained dogs. Pigs were used in the past, but they also like to eat truffles, so now they use dogs. The feature photo has two types of truffle that come from Tuscany. On the left: Tartufo Bianco (white truffle) that sells for 2000,00 euro a kilo during the autumn, but may shoot up to 3000,00 - 4000,00 euro a kilo during the winter. On right: Tartufo Nero (black truffle) that sells for much less, only 600,00 euro a kilo. Keep in mind that truffles weigh next to nothing, so a small piece may run about 50,00 euro. What do you eat this with? Well, it tastes amazing when it is sliced (paper thin) over a fine piece of meat (like a steak) or grated on pasta or eggs. I have even heard of black truffle on pizza!
2. Funghi Porcini (Porcini Mushrooms)- Earthy, aromatic and meaty in its consistency, fresh porcini mushrooms are divine. Never wash mushrooms! To clean them, use a cloth and carefully remove any dirt. Porcini can be diced or sliced, sautéed and eaten in risotto, pasta, or over meats. It can also be thinly sliced and eaten raw, seasoned with some olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar.
3. Cavolo Nero (black kale)- Super healthy, full of anti-oxidants and flavorful, this "winter veggie" is mostly used in soups, like ribollita . Cut the stalks short since they tend to be a bit tough, wash them and either boil or steam them until tender. Drain and toss in a hot skillet with some salt, pepper, and olive oil. Serve as a side dish or on toast (as a crostini).
4. Fichi (figs)- I've always considered figs to be the luxurious divas of all fruits. There are two kinds of figs: decadent black and elegant white and BOTH are delicious. They taste wonderful by themselves or as a side to Gorgonzola, honey and walnuts. Fig and ricotta cheese is also a classic combination, so look for those two flavors in gelaterias and combine them on your cone or in your cup.
5. Castagne (chestnuts)- There is nothing like the warm scent of roasting chestnuts on a chilly evening. Street vendors all over Europe sell them in paper cones and people walk around, munching as they window shop. Ahhhh...Here in Tuscany, they also make chestnut flour that is used in making desserts.
6. Melograno (pomegranate)- Every time I eat one of these, I am reminded of how Hades tricked Persephone. These fruits are beautiful in color and form and taste great. They're also good for you. Last Thanksgiving, we went to a friend's house and her boyfriend decorated the turkey by placing pomegranate seeds all around it. Looked and tasted wonderful.
7. Schiacciata all'Uva (schiacciata with grapes)- This traditional flat bread is usually topped with rock salt or vegetables with savory spices. After the grapes are harvested in the fall, however, just about every forno (bakery) or pasticceria (pastry shop) in town makes this very special version of schiacciata. Normally, black grapes are used, but I found a place that makes it with white grapes. Mmmm...
Thank you for reading!
C. De Melo
Author & Artist