A Gourmet’s delight…the foods of Umbria & Tuscany
I have never enjoyed food as much as I did when I spent a month in the Umbria and Tuscany areas of Italy. From the day that my friend Douglas and I set our feet on the Roman soil until the day that we flew home to North Carolina we delighted in the variety and freshness of the food that was offered.
Neither of us drank alcohol, much to the dismay of the Italians who couldn’t imagine a meal without wine...but the bottled sparkling water (called “agua con gas”, to my amusement) was a fine accompaniment to any repast.
We were lodging in Monasteries (7 of them in all) and the typical breakfast was a HARD roll and a pot of very strong coffee. We augmented this with fresh fruit and it would be enough until lunchtime. We quickly learned that our best bargain, food wise, was to get carry-out at a local “mercato”. We would often opt for the delicious Tuscan bread, cheese and grilled vegetables. These we would eat in the open air as we watched the locals and the tourists parade past us.
We did eat a few dinners out but came to realize that the best meals offered were right at our Monasteries. They were inexpensive but superb and would consist of three courses...first would be pasta, rice medley or a hearty soup. Then a platter of fish or meat (usually veal, chicken and once, rabbit) with vegetables and then the final course of fresh fruit and cheeses. Always a surprise and always delicious.
We decided to treat ourselves to a night out when we were in the small, isolated town of Gubbio. The sisters at that monastery had recommended a spot just around the corner. It was poorly lit and you could barely make out the small sign with the name of the restaurant. Imagine our surprise when it turned out to be the most elaborate meal of our trip. We could barely move after 3 hours spent on course after course of rich food !
Nothing that we were to experience in Rome, Florence or Venice came near to the excellence of that meal...but, to be honest, we never again spent $90 per person as we had in that little town. I wonder if the sisters got a kickback?? I hope so.