Archive for the ‘Tuscany’ Category

Before long we set out again, driving past one fortified village after the next until we reached the coast to take the car ferry across to the Island of Elba (still part of Tuscany). We stopped at one of the many motorway buffet restaurants for lunch, which turned out to be a vegan’s paradise! I could choose from bowls of various beans (dried legumes simply boiled in water – nothing else added); a variety of grilled vegetables; fresh salads; choice of olive oils; seeds and fresh herbs.

It is a mere 10 km hop from the main land to the island. Over the centuries Elba built up many layers of history. Due to its strategic position, a succession of different Mediterranean inhabitants left their cultural stamp on the island: from the Greeks, Ligurians, Etruscans, Romans, Saracens, Pisans, barbarians and the wealthy de Medici (banking) and Appiani (trade and industry) Tuscan families who built sumptuous villas. In fact, the Appiani family’s wealth increased further with their revenues from the island’s iron mines – the rich source of iron ore being the very reason why there were so many invasions through the ages of Elba. Napoleon was exiled here for 10 months, serving as sovereign of Elba. For the defence of the island, especially during World War II, forts, batteries, bunkers and long tunnels were constructed – sometimes using the ancient mine tunnels dug centuries before. Some of those have been restored, providing beautiful walkways from coast to coast through the mountains!


Paved walkway through tunnel

The island is covered with forests, so it’s not surprising that mushrooms and chestnuts feature strongly in the cuisine. For the mountain communities chestnuts in all its forms (fresh, dried and ground into a flour) used to be a staple food until about a hundred years ago. Today, the island is well-known for its sweet breads: here is my version of a delicious Chestnut-cherry cake.

We stayed in a comfortable, down-to-earth hotel, where the rooms (bungalows) were built along the cliffs, with the sea just metres below. Long intertwining and low growing tree branches hug the bungalows protectively as though a big storm was on its way. The only sounds were the cheerful singing of birds in the trees and the gentle waves against the rocks. The sea vista was the typical postcard type: turquoise to light green waters, and where colourful villages cling to the coastline.

The accommodation package included a 4 course dinner, which at first I had my reservations about. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only were the dishes super healthy, but it was easy to veganize them. The first course from the menu was usually a light fruit or vegetable juice; followed by a vegetable soup or salad; then a starter of raw or pickled vegetables (olives, artichokes, eggplants) and ending with grilled vegetables or a small pasta (or gnocchi) dish.

One day we drove around the island visiting various coastal towns, until we stopped for lunch at a restaurant built on the rocks. A calmness and serenity envelopes one’s soul at this peaceful spot: clear water gently crushes on the rocks no more than a couple of meters away and greedy seagulls call from above. We tucked into a meal of grilled tomatoes with capers; herb and leaf salad with pine nuts and grilled courgette ribbons served with olive tapenade.


Lunch on the water

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Owls & deer

After spending 5 weeks in a rambling, large villa in Montalcino from where we explored the surrounding area, we moved into our next villa. This time it was in Castellina in Chianti which will be our home for the next 3 weeks. The accommodation was a collection of farm buildings, carefully remodelled and modernized. Our villa looked like it used to be the stables: the front door were huge curved double doors which led into a lounge, a dining room, an open loft up a steep ladder-type stairway; a narrow modern kitchen, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The windows were covered with delicate, old lace and ancient window shutters were recycled inside as headboards for the beds and old window frames now sport mirrors.

Castellina in Chianti lies in a valley where several small villages are joined together with narrow winding roads. Before it became a Roman stronghold in 100 BC, this also used to be an Etruscan village in the 7th century BC called Salinvolpe, and numerous burial chambers have been discovered in the surrounding area. See my description of Etruscan life here. Today, this is a major wine-growing area, but since I don’t drink alcohol, I enjoyed the area’s other claim to fame and that is its olive oil. It was so cheap, I even used it in my baths. Interestingly, Ancient Greece exported large quantities of olive oil to Italy in exchange for grain long before Italy started to produce its own olive oil. In Roman times olive oil started to form a cultural divide: the consumption of animal fat (butter and lard in those times) were characterized with northern civilizations (the celts and germanic tribes). In fact, according to Greek writings men who ate and used butter rather than oil were regarded to belong to the Barbaric world.

This area gets very hot, with temperatures in the late thirties and even 40 degrees is not unusual. Most of the time there is not even a breeze, so the air is heavy with the smell of jasmine creeping onto the rough walls everywhere, or, just outside the formidable city walls, one smells the gentle fragrance of the deep purple lavender that is blossoming at the time. Everywhere people were walking around licking their dripping ice-creams.

The many “osteria” (family eating houses) in Castellina offers traditional home-cooking. Since they are small eateries, it wasn’t very difficult to request a special vegetable dish be prepared for me. Note that, in stead of stating one is vegan, it’s better to ask for: no white or red meat, no fish and no dairy products. There is a vibrant market with fresh produce once a week in town: I just stuff my shopping bag with whatever is in season and be inspired by the sponteneity of the moment to slowly form an idea of what would be on the dinner table that night. It is customary when one receives visitors in the late afternoon, to serve them “Cantucci” (like “biscotti”, only smaller but cut thicker) biscuits which are dipped into Vin Santo (a sweet dessert wine). Here is my sugar-free and vegan version of ‘Cantucci’ served with apple nectar.

Another town in the area is Greve in Chianti, which we actually preferred to Castellina in Chianti. It is one of the oldest towns in the Chianti region and used to be a hospital for pilgrims. In the Middle Ages wealthy Florentine families built their large villas there. Greve was neat as a pin with lots of flower boxes on the window sills, a large cobbled square and meandering lanes. Every last Sunday in the month a local organic market is held on the main square, the Piazza del Mercato. There are some really small towns in the area with only about 30 inhabitants; some of these 11th century towns have been bought up by business people who turned whole towns into hotel resorts. In most cases, the renovations have been sympathetically done to retain a distinct historical feel. One can wander around the restored communal bakehouse, the olive press, wine press and caves, wells, chapel and herb gardens.

I can’t wait for my cooking course that starts tomorrow, in the tiny 11th century hamlet of Adine. I came across a contact for the course only a few weeks ago when I chatted to a waitress in Montalcino and said I wanted to do a Tuscan cooking course. She promptly directed me to her aunt-in-law’s cooking school.

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Tuscan cooking course

Perhaps the highlight of our 8 week stay in Tuscany was the cooking classes I took over the course of 3 days. The cooking school was called “Tutti a tavola” (‘everyone at the table’). The classes started at 4 o’clock in the afternoons and ended at around 10 or 11 at night. The classes were held in two villages about 40 minutes drive from our villa. The drive itself was rather fun on a winding road (sometimes with hairpin bends) snaking past vineyards, olive groves and time-stood-still villages. On the first day the cooking class was held in a village, called Adine of only 5 houses and a church dating from the 11th century!! The church is still in use, but for special occasions like weddings and baptisms only. We were 7 in the class on the first day, and 3 on the next two. Luckily the two tutors spoke excellent English, so it was easy enough to ask questions and get the most out of the course. We were given a printed apron each that we could keep as a souvenir, and every day we received a neatly bound menu of the dishes we were going to prepare that day.

This was totally my environment and I drank in every word from the tutors. What struck me was the incredible passion these people have for food – for good food with the freshest ingredients and how easy it is to make anything yourself. At one stage three of us – one of my classmates, the tutor and I – were excitedly talking about how we all read recipe books in bed like reading a novel! Family recipes and ingredients, various cooking methods and our own flops, growing your own food and so forth were all being discussed excitedly about between mouthfuls of tasty morsels. Each day on the course we prepared at least 7 dishes. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and could not wait for the following day! The next two days of the course were at a farm deep in the Tuscan hills: one turns off the winding minor road onto a gravel farm road from where one turns off again onto a seriously bumpy road until the road ends at a large farmhouse. It is usual for 3, even 4 generations to live together and grow and press their own grapes, olives and cultivate everything they eat including having their own pine nut trees.

Now and then we could put our feet up as we sat outside in the garden amidst pots and more pots of geraniums spilling red flowers over the sides, or we would sit under a canopy of grape vines enjoying our first and second courses. The tutors talked to us about life in Tuscany: the hard work that is always rewarded with their own wines, olive oils and abundance of produce that is bottled. One then understands how a life being lived so simply, so close to what their patch produces can be a life lived in riches with the satisfaction of providing the most nutritious, most tasty meal to their families. I can’t wait to try out the thin crust pizzas (we used home-made tomato paste and fresh slices of tomatoes in stead of cheese), oil-drenched focaccia or grilled vegetable filled pasta dishes we made in the quintessential Tuscan kitchens with their brick floors. Above all, I was also glad that all three tutors were in their late 60’s and 70’s (although they looked far younger due to their good life): the recipes they pass on are still the old trusted original ones passed on to them by their mothers and grandmothers. I did not want to take cooking courses by a well-known chef in one of the nearby restaurants where the chef imprints his particular take on Tuscan cuisine. This was also an easier environment for me as a vegan: because we were so few, the tutors happily veganized the recipes, or we made double recipes with vegan choices; my vegan-ness was also respected that when the others prepared the meat dishes I could stand back or rather busy myself with the vegetable preparations for the next dishes.

The stuffed pork the group made is a typical Tuscan dish. I decided that eggplant makes a nice substitution, which I stuffed with the same stuffing of various herbs, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. Delicious. Look here for my recipe of Tuscan-style stuffed eggplant.

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Towers & wells

Farm views from Torre Grossa

San Gimignano today is a touristy, but an extremely pretty town. Its main “porta” (main entry gate) makes an incredible entrance with its huge and very high wooden doors. It underlines the medieval history of this pedestrian-only town. (It reminds us of another town we visited, Monteriggioni: although smaller than San Gimignano, the wall surrounding the town was totally complete. One could walk right around the town on the wall like a sentry soldier.)

The Etruscans established a small village on this site in 300 BC, which overlooked the Val d’Elsa. In the 10th century the town adopted the name of the Holy Bishop of Modena, Saint Geminianus, who had defended the town from Attila’s Huns. The first walls were erected in 998, when San Gimignano was put on the map as a commercial centre and pilgrim route, which was called the Francigena Way. Apart form the usual agricultural fare, the area’s olive oil and fine wine were highly prized. The cultivation of Tuscan saffron – an expensive, luxury product – made a handful of families extremely wealthy. To express their wealth, they constructed tall tower houses and were able to pay top artists of the day to adorn family churches and palaces with artwork (paintings, frescoes and statues). Soon the construction of tower houses took on a competing side. The feuding families that ruled the town (the Ardinghelli’s and Salvucci’s) vied with each other, each trying to outdo the other by building taller towers on top of their “pilazzo’s” (huge multi-storey villas) and those of other towers. In the height of its commercial success, the town boasted 76 magnificent towers but today only 14 remain.

View of main street and porta

Climbing to the top of Torre Grossa, the tallest tower in the city that is also open to the public, is well worth the stiff climb. At the top you are rewarded by the eye-popping views of the surrounding coutryside in the distance, rolling hills and patchwork of farms. Skirting past the huge bronze bells the height of a tall man, one looks down on a sea of terracotta rooftiles and peach coloured buildings of all shapes and sizes. The bell tower gives one an eagle’s view of the labyrinthian alleys, streets and covered walkways of the town way below. From this vantage point, where modern advertisements for ice-creams, names of shops and even people disappear, the town looked even more medieval than walking its cobbled streets. From such a
height even the normal street sounds disappear and one is only aware of the multitude of swallows that fly in crazy patterns just above one’s head, chirping noisily – almost sounding as though they dare each other to fly even faster, flitting in and out of the loggia openings of the towers.

Piazza della Cisterna from Torre Grossa

Back down on the village’s streets, we walked past numerous wells that were all highly decorated and beautiful buildings (now people’s apartments) – some covered with ivy or wisteria while others were left bare where peeling coloured plaster lay bare the patterns of stonework underneath. The triangular Piazza della Cisterna has a lovely well at its centre and makes a good meeting spot to wait for shopping wives/husbands. We found a peaceful restaurant off the busy little lanes, that was situated on the edge of the town walls with a drop-down view right from our table. The olive groves that surround the town look like regularly spaced green cotton balls from up there. The easiest menu option for me was in fact to have two starters: “Carciofi sot’olio” (artichokes bottled in oil), drained and chopped up in a salad with fresh tomato, capers and loads of fresh herbs and drizzled with balsamic vinegar; and simply grilled eggplant chunks with garlic and black pepper.

We sauntered along the curving hand-hewn stone walkways after dinner just as the sun was finally setting. It was truly magical as the already peach-mango coloured buildings were tinted an even deeper orange. After a day spent exploring two medieval villages amongst crowds of people, we looked forward to the silence and solitude of our villa on a farm.

Tomorrow I might try my hand coming up with a vegan, healthier version of the traditional biscuits found in San Gimignano called “ricciarelli”. They are a kind of soft amaretti biscuits, flavoured with aniseed and orange zest.

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Florence is certainly one of Italy’s most beautiful cities. Florentia (‘the flourishing’), was established in 59 BC by Julius Caesar. It is not surprizing therefore that this amazingly historical place is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of the stunning buildings one sees today were built during the Renaissance period and decorated by very rich families. The de Medici family was the most notable, who were bankers to the Pope and after them, the Lorraine family were the most influential in shaping the city. Talented artists were attracted with commissions for their works in architecture, sculpture, art and literature. In fact, it was due to the writings of Dante that his particular dialect was later chosen as the official Italian language. The city is in clear contrast to Siena where development, maintenance and beautifying of buildings were held back in the 15th century. The buildings in Florence however are still grand and were beautifully built with medieval brickwork and painted with various patterns, pictures and flowers. Different from other Italian cities the roofs have large overhangs which was an expensive way of building. Colourful rows of shutters compliment the windows and well-preserved statues are to be seen everywhere in niches, the roofs, in hidden courtyards and the squares. Neptune’s fountain by Ammannati is an incredible work of art.

Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore

The city is compact within its city walls and a joy to walk around in. The old town is extensive with cobbled streets in every direction. It comprises the absolutely breathtaking “duomo” (the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore), with its very recognizable landmark of Brunelleschi’s magnificient cupola. The cathedral and its beautiful sculptural pillars were constructed with light pink and lime coloured marble and decorative insertions. The dome was the largest span in the Renaissance period.

Richly decorated walls, villa in Florence

Many remnants of wealthy families’ huge “palazzos” (villas) are to be seen all over the city: many have been converted into department stores, apartments or hotels. Life in Florence centres very much around the piazzas (squares) with its many restaurants and cafés. Walking along the narrow streets, is like being in an outdoor museum where the walls are covered in frescoes, statues everywhere to be seen and paintings of the Madonna. How fortunate for these people to live amidst so much history and beauty, yet carry on with their modern lives. We often saw men in their suits cycling across some piazza with a laptop under the arm, or a well-dressed woman cycling with her high heels and Gucci handbag.

Ponte Vecchio

We walked across the fabled Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) with its incredible colourful buildings on each side. Overlooking the large Boboli gardens, is the Pitti Palace, the last residence of the de Medici family, in the Oltarno district across the Arno River. A definite highlight was taking a horse-drawn cart-ride through the old city, the hooves sounding heavy and loud on the cobbles, ecchoing in the narrow streets. A few times the coachman gave the horse free reign along the alleys, making the ride quite exhilarating: this is what it must have felt for the de Medici family if they were late for one of their numerous social engagements!

Florence is well-known for its utterly delectable ice-creams. I took note of the incredible flavours, and came up with my own Vegan ice-creams here, excerpts from my recipe book: BENESSERE well-being: vegan & sugar-free eating for a healthy life-style, available from iBooks.

A vegetarian restaurant (more a café, really) with good vegan choices, is the “Il Vegetariano“. There is a salad bar and fresh dishes are prepared every day. Consult the black board to see what’s on offer that day. (Note: vegan is “vegetaliano/a'” but vegetarian is “vegetariano/a”.)

There are however lots of choices in the regular restaurants and below are some samples of what to expect. I usually still ask if dishes contain eggs or dairy, since you never know if the chef tried to put his own stamp on the traditional dish by modifying it!

ANTIPASTI (starters)
Bruschetta elsewhere in Italy, but called Fettunta in Florence – ask for any topping that excludes meat and dairy; Funghetti / carciofini sott’ olio (mushrooms / artichokes in oil, usually with garlic and herbs)
Panzanella (stale bread soup, which contains only tomatoes, basil, onion, olive oil, vinegar, stock from water and salt); Pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans, made with dry white beans, garlic, rosemary, sage, chili, tomato purée, olive oil and salt); Minestra di farro (spelt grains and red beans with garlic, sage, tomato purée, olive oil, chili and salt); Minestrone toscano di verdure (Tuscan vegetable soup) and Pappa al pomodoro (Florentine tomato soup (check if the stock used was only water and salt or made with consommé which is a meat stock).
There are various choices here; or request your own vegetable topping.
CONTORNI (side dishes and vegetables)
Carciofi ripieni (filled artichokes – ask for the ingredients); Melanzane / Pomodori in forno (baked eggplants / tomatoes); Fagioli all’uccelletto (beans in tomato sauce); Verdure grigliate (grilled vegetables – the safest choice: I usually bring my own sprouts with and tip this over the dish for my protein); Tuttoinsieme (which means all-together, a dish that could include potatoes, baby marrow, bell peppers, tomatoes, onion, salt, pepper, chilli (not very strong), herbs and olive oil).
DOLCI (desserts)
There is usually not a large choice, but one that is completely vegan is Castagnaccio (chestnut cake – just make sure they don’t serve this slice of cake with cream on the side). The ingredients are chestnut flour, raisins, pine nuts, very little sugar, rosemary, olive oil and water! It sounds like a weird combination for dessert, but it is surprizingly delicious.

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Manuscripts & panforte

small fountain in a courtyard

Siena is a fascinating city with many layers of history. The medieval-styled city is extensive and was built over 3 hills. However, it was the Etruscans, migrating from the Aegeo-Asian area at the end of the 12th century BC who were most probably the first inhabitants and founders of Siena. The Etruscans believed strongly in the afterlife, and therefore they buried their deceased in deep caverns with a host of objects for use in the afterlife. The Etruscans were well-known for their subterranean cities with labyrinthine tunnels dug deeply into the hills, with the city built on top. Modern day Siena was clearly shaped by the erstwhile Etruscan civilization: surnames that are similar today to those of important Etruscans who lived at the time (known by their tombs) as well as the influence on its cuisine, customs and even DNA of present Sienese bear testimony to Etruscan heritage as tested with bones found in the tombs! Then came the Romans who established a military outpost in 30 AD which they called Siena, and from there the village developed into an important trading post. The Lombards arrived in 600 AD and on their heels came the Franks, also putting their mark on the growing town.

The city of Siena is divided into 17 ‘contrades’ or communities, each having their own flag, symbol, fountain, motto, holy patron and even public holiday! The communities vie with each other in friendly but fierce sports such as horse racing, bow-and-arrow contests and some medieval sports such as flag waving. The ‘contrades’ are all named after an animal, such as: the Caterpillar, Giraffe, Dolphin and Scallop shell to name a few.

street in the Dolphin 'contrade'

Siena has some impressive walls around the city and a few very large churches (apart from countless small ones). The pedestrian area is extensive and all along the narrow cobbled lanes modern shops occupy the old structures in a juxtaposition that seems perfectly natural. If one slowly walks down the little alley ways and keep your eyes peeled for small detail, you will be able to detect an amazing amount of history. We walked for instance in a tiny street with shops and apartments. I started to notice the interesting rectangular key stones above the doors: scratched into them were pictures of who used to work there hundreds of years ago. Instead of sign-boards, the shop owners and merchants advertised their wares and skills by a picture-gram of who they were. I saw a skull with bones which depicts that undertakers once occupied the site; others would be horse shoe smiths, bakers etc. Soon, one forms a different picture of the street as it possibly once was, despite the cell phone, gift shop or hairdresser signs you see today!

Duomo in Siena

The main square, Piazza del Campo, forms the main centre with the Torre del Mangia (a tower built in 1848 and at 102 metres high was visible from our villa in Montalcino 42 km away) and the Palazzo Pubblico as the prominent buildings on one side. The Duomo or cathedral is a beautiful building, with both Gothic (pointed windows) and Romanesque (semi-circular doorways) architecture. The facade looks like an exquisitely baked layered cake with its dark black-green and white marble in alternating horizontal bands. While the ceiling was painted in bright colours, the floor was laid out in black, white and white-grey marble mosaics depicting biblical stories. The floor panels (about 50 of them) were huge – easily 3 by 3 meters in size. They are so precious that for most of the year they are covered in thick paper and cardboard to protect them from shoes. The cathedral houses a magnificent collection of manuscripts in glass cases: handwritten calligraphy from the 15th century that was utterly amazing in its meticulous execution of colours, pictorial detail and written typography.

In the 12th century a series of aqueducts were built to bring water into the city which connected with over 25 km of underground water tunnels built between fountains in the city. These water tunnels are called ‘bottini’ and one can go on tours to view them. One of the main fountains and also the most beautiful, is the Fonte Gaia at Piazza Del Campo. It was completed between 1409 and 1419 with white marble panels showcasing fine Italian sculpture. There are fountains to be found all over Siena, which used to serve as basins of water for washing, cooking, drinking and agriculture. Today they are places for community meetings and outdoor baptisms.

Fonte Gaia on Piazza del Campo

The regional cuisine is rather meat-based, but there are a number of dishes that can safely be ordered in a restaurant that are vegan. Examples are ‘Fagioli all’uccelletto’ (Beans in tomato sauce), white beans cooked in a vegetable broth and tossed in herbs and olive oil; handmade pasta and some soups, such as ‘Ribollita’ (Tuscan vegetable and bread soup) and ‘Minestrone’ (vegetable and pasta soup). Siena is also home to ‘Panforte’ – a delicious dense cake-confectionary filled with dried fruit, nuts and spices. It is very sweet with sugar, honey and sometimes also glucose added. Here is my healthier, coffee-chocolate spice version of sugar-free ‘Panforte‘, taken from my recipe book: BENESSERE well-being: vegan & sugar-free eating for a healthy life-style (Quinoa Publishing).

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Montepulciano sits very high above the cliffs – a true fortress that looks quite forbidding from a distance. The town is located in the Val di Chiana of Tuscany. Surrounded by a patchwork of vineyards, it looks like Montepulciano is permanently tucked in by a vast bed quilt. The town has a distinct Medieval feel with a wealth of Renaissance-style palazzi and churches to explore.

Patchwork surrounding countryside

The town was built on the site of the ancient Etruscan town of Nocera Alfaterna dating from the 9th century, hence all the Etruscan artifacts and tombs in the area. The Etruscan civilization was very advanced for its time, and the Roman civilization adopted a lot of customs from the Etruscans. The Etruscans lived between 2 and 6 hundred years BC. Their buildings and houses were so well-built, the technique was only repeated in the 15th century again!! Women wore make-up and had beautiful evening clothes, fine shoes and complicated hairstyles and special hair combs. They were a peaceful civilization and scenes depicted on their pottery show their advanced farming techniques, sport activities and leisure.

Etruscan tombs in Montepulciano were dug into the soft tufa rock. These were used in later centuries to link up with tunnels dug even deeper, linking palaces and grottoes. It is astonishing to realize that an impressive multi-leveled underground city existed below the town.

Tunnels and tombs under the city

Today, the ‘cantine’ or wine cellars, are often a linked maze of basements and underground tunnels that are remnants of those that connected the abodes of the wealthy and even the churches. Walking through the tunnels is quite a surreal experience, when every now and then one comes across a water well underground! One of those tombs and tunnels have been converted into a deli shop selling spices, oils, preservatives, sun-dried tomatoes, dried crispy mushrooms and soft, moist dried fruit. We tasted the various olive oils and in the end walked out with 2 different olive oils, dried chestnuts, a bag of colourful pasta shapes and a small bottle of balsamic vinegar. Some interesting artisan shops in Montepulciano are a copper smith, a shop selling the most beautifully woven fabrics and a ceramics wholesaler selling huge round platters painted in vibrant colours.

Typical foods of the area include ‘pici’, which is hand-rolled pasta that resembles spaghetti but is only thicker. The dough is usually made from flour and water only, so that makes a good vegan choice at restaurants. The addition of egg is not usual, but some families started to add that, so ask first. Although meat sauces are also served with ‘pici’, some traditional vegan sauces off a typical menu to enjoy with ‘pici’ are: breadcrumbs, black pepper and olive oil; spicy garlic and tomato and porcini mushroom (but make sure it’s not a cream-based sauce). The area also produces lentils, chickpeas, broad beans, emmer and barley.

Typical farm house of the area

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