2012: # 1 OF A SERIES:
Our trip to Tuscany began as all our trips have, with research and more research. Experience has shown us that a thorough plan with a trip itinerary provides the foundation for a more enjoyable and relaxed trip. However, this year our research took us "outside the box" of traditional tour guide books to books such as” A Culinary Traveler in Tuscany" by Beth Elon among others.
As we read and studied our books, we noted with particular interest the author's mention of local osterias and trattorias in the many hilltop and seaside villages of Tuscany. As our research continued, we found that our itinerary was being developed based on places where we thought we might like to eat. The more we researched, the more anxious we became to start our trip. Our taste buds longed to savor the flavors of authentic traditional Tuscan cooking. And so begins this, the first in a series of blogs designed to share with you our joy as we ate our way through Tuscany "from one meal to the next".
The flight was smooth and we touched down at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport right on schedule. Having cleared customs and picked up our rental car, we headed up the A -12 on our way to Sovana, a medieval village in southern Tuscany. The village itself is small and is home to two interesting churches: St. Maria and the cathedral of Santi Pietro e Paolo. These are a "must see" if you visit this wonderful village. Sovana is also home to the first eating stop on this year's trip, Taverna Etrusca.
But, before the long anticipated evening meal, a riposo was in order to be followed by a visit to the neighboring town of Sorano, an ancient Etruscan settlement sitting high on a tufa ledge. The drive to Sorano
was a welcome challenge, with breathtaking roads cut through tufa rock complete with Etruscan tombs and arched niches for urns and ashes. It was well worth a few "s" turns to visit this very beautiful village of arches, alleys and flowers.
Returning to Sovana, we enjoyed a walk around the village ending with dinner at the Taverna Etrusca.
Facing the Piazza del Pretorio, the Taverna welcomes its visitors to a warm and comfortable dining area. Though renovated, the charm and authentic atmosphere of the medieval period of history has been maintained. The restaurant participates in the '0 km" project, which means they buy local food stuffs whenever possible, assuring freshness and the best local ingredients.
Having been seated at a comfortable table for two, we began our perusal of the menu as we enjoyed a delightful puree of potato served in a martini glass. Blended with tasty herbs it was a delightful preparation for the marvelous culinary adventure we were about to take. The menu provided a multiplicity of choices. Our waiter demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the menu as he answered our questions about various selections.
Our decisions were difficult because there were too many good items from which to choose. After what seemed like forever we were ready to order. Edie chose gnudi con tartufi neri. Gnudi is considered by some to be a type of gnocchi, while others describe it as “the filling without the ravioli”. The ingredients in this gnudi were ricotta cheese, spinach and a little flour. A delicious sauce of delicate herbs completed this fantastic dish. I ordered pici (farro) al maremmeno served con ragu al cinghiale e scorza d'arancia caramellate. Pici is thick rolled pasta sort of like fat spaghetti, made with faro flower and in this case served with wild boar sauce with caramelized orange zest. This dish is considered to be a local variation of pasta con cinghiale served in the Maremma region of Tuscany. To complement our dinner choices, we ordered a bottle of a bianco di Pitigliano (a white wine from the nearby community of Pitigliano). The perfectly cooked al dente pasta was showcased in sauces which featured tastefully combined herbs and spices. For the contorni, we shared a serving of spinachi con bianco uva passa and pinoli (spinach with white raisins and pine nuts).
To satisfy our sweet tooth, for dolce, we concluded diner with crema cotta con cardamom agrumi con carmella crocante; an absolute delight for our taste buds.
We capped the evening with a relaxing stroll through the village as we listened to the singing of the birds and the tolling of the church bells. It was a sweet serenade to the end of a perfect day in Tuscany. The adventure would continue the next morning with a trip over country roads through the Maremma to the coast and then north to the city of Viareggio on our way “from one meal to the next”.
Edie and Dave