We converted this summer break into a fascinating trip to Tuscany, one of the most emblematic y beautiful regions of Italy. We wanted to learn more about art, countryside and most of all, Chianti wines and extra virgin olive oils! What a delicious treat! There are many similitudes that make us feel at home as well as surprising differences that have charmed us.
Spain and Italy are Mediterranean countries that share the same healthy and delicious food: olive oil, wine, bread, ham, cheese, almonds, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and other fresh vegetables and fruits… Using good quality and fresh products, the main cuisine represents a mixture of all those ingredients with little transformation. Very interestingly, the result in cuisine in Andalucía and Tuscany is quite different and we experienced many new delicious flavors!
Here we have tomato toast with Serrano or Iberian ham; there they have “bruschetta de prosciutto”. Made of almonds and sugar, we have “turrón” and marzipan; they have “cantuccini”, a dry biscuit… In Italy, pizza is omnipresent; here bakers make “ayuyo”, olive oil bread covered with tomato paste and oregano… The ingredients are the same but the textures and flavors are different!
The wines we tasted were all very good. We have especially appreciated Chianti Clásico and Brunello de Monteccino. “Enotecas” are everywhere. These are like wine bars with a wonderful collection of wines that you can taste by the glass, half a glass or a quarter of a glass… We discovered La Cantina in Greve in Chianti, which is especially very good. They offer small tastings so you can enjoy more or less quantity with a wide range of prices and excellent quality wines. There were so many wines that we felt that we really needed a few days to get a nice overview! It also felt like going to a live wine library where you can study about the wines and come back many times to look for references… It is a wonderful place to learn a lot about all the different wines, as they are organized by area, DOP and age. Also as you can sample several wines, if you really like one, you can decide to buy a bottle. It was one of the most enriching experiences!
And of course we have tasted a lot of olive oils and they were excellent! Tuscan good quality olive oils have a distinctive aroma and flavor that transports you to nature. They are fresh and grassy, pungent with a clean after-taste. Olive oil is present everywhere, accompanied with balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano, fresh basil and other herbs: you can make your own salad dressing! The salads are delicious composed salads where you can choose what ingredients you want in. Usually they are made with tasty tomatoes, cucumber, finely sliced fresh fennel, red cabbage, mozzarella cheese, arugula, black olives, and a long etc. We were thrilled by the variety of vegetables and different tomatoes that are available!
Some restaurants are specialized in olive oil dishes and menus. They offer full menus including starter, main course and dessert using only a certain variety olive oil, for example, frantoio menu or lecchino menu. By combining an olive oil variety with a special dish they can marry the flavors at their best! Olive oil is also used to make ice cream and as a topping over ice cream and it is delicious!