Good food is an important component of enjoying any trip, and sometimes it even becomes the main travel goal. In Tuscany there are countless dishes that are worth a trip: food specialties linked with the stories of towns, cities and valleys, which are part (maybe the best part) of the local culture. Here is a list of 5 summer food escapes: five top dishes in five great destinations.
1. Ricotta and spinach ravioli in the Maremma True, you can have ravioli throughout the region, but the most famous and the biggest in size comes from the Maremma. Tortello (or raviolo) maremmano is a big raviolo (about 6 cm) filled with fresh ricotta and spinach, which can be enjoyed simply with melted butter and sage or with a meat sauce made from beef, wild boar or hare. There are many “sagra del tortello” around the region, where you can taste this speciality and mix with locals from May to August. Some examples are the Sagra del Tortello in Scansano, Grosseto, Monterotondo, Castell’Azzara, Massa Marittima and Gavorrano.
2. Cacciucco alla Viareggina Cacciucco perhaps comes from the Turkish world “kuciuck”, which means minute, small, and describes a dish in which ingredients are made into small pieces. It's a popular seafood soup from the coast of Livorno and Viareggio, but each town has its own recipe. It has been said that the true original one comes from Livorno. Authentic Cacciucco Livornese is very thick and dark. Its consistency is like a stew: it’s made from many kinds of fish and molluscs, but not with refined seafood. Forming the base of the dish is a mixture of garlic, pepper and sage. The soup from Livorno contains octopus and cuttlefish, some mantis shrimp and different kinds of small and medium size low value or trash fish. Cacciucco alla Viareggina is lighter and has a red broth. It doesn’t contain sage and is always flavoured with a generous amount of shellfish and seafood, which gives it a slightly sweet aftertaste. You can find it at many restaurants along the coast.
3. Cinque e cinque in Livorno Cinque e cinque is a sandwich from Livorno made with bread (or focaccia) stuffed with chickpea cake or Torta di ceci: a sort of pancake made by mixing chickpea flour with water, salt and olive oil. That’s it! The name "cinque and cinque" comes from the days when people would go to the bakery and buy five Lire of bread and five of Torta di ceci. For “cinque e cinque,” a special small long loaf of bread is used, called francesino or a round focaccia. Add a little ground pepper and eat it hot. One of the most famous places in the city to savour “cinque e cinque” is next to the beautiful Central Market of Livorno.
4. Potato tortelli in the Mugello The Mugello is an area in the outskirts of the charming city of Florence. Immersed in the beauty of nature, it’s a region with several notable historical monuments (some of them recently earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status: the Medici Villa of Cafaggiolo and the Castle of Trebbio). The tortello di patate is a true culinary masterpiece of this area. They are soft, square, yellow ravioli filled with mashed potato cheese, garlic and parsley. Tortelli di patate are normally made using white potatoes cultivated at Firenzuola in the Upper Mugello and are topped with ragout, or served plain with olive oil and lemon. There are countless food fairs where you can taste this local specialty from April to the end of August in many towns such as Luco di Mugello, Ronta, Panicaglia, Grezzano and Sagginale.
5. Testaroli and panigacci in the Lunigiana Testaroli and Panigacci are specialties from the Lunigiana, an isolated valley area along the border of Liguria and Tuscany. Testaroli are an unusual type of fresh pasta made from an egg-free dough that is squished between the testi (special cast iron baking dishes) like a crepe and then briefly plunged into boiling water before serving. The name is derived from the testo, a special pan made of two terra-cotta halves or two cast iron halves. These are heated over a fire and then the paste is poured inside; this soft paste is made out of water, flour and salt. Testaroli, on the other hand, are used just like pasta and are most commonly served with a pesto sauce or with a heavy mushroom sauce. You can find them in Pontremoli and in other towns or cities far from the coast. Panigacci is a type of round bread, unleavened, cooked in the special testi. They are crunchier and usually served alongside salumi - cured meats and cheeses. You can find them easily in Podenzana's restaurants or at the "Sagra del Panigaccio" on August 4-9 and 13-16.