Thursday, April 05, 2007

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.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Eating on vacations is difficult. While it's nice to get out for a meal here at home, it's no fun having to eat out all of the time. Not for me anyway.

6:17 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

Ginnie, you are helping me to remember the magnificent foods we had in Italy last October; everything as fresh as could be and the finest quality. I often have digestive troubles and while over there, I ate anything and had no problems whatsoever. We didn't drink any wine either; choosing to spend our money in other ways. I told my doctor it had to be the lack of additives and preservatives in the food that made it possible for me to eat it all.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

It sounds fabulous and delicious. Sometimes those little, out of the way places have the best kept secrets.

3:23 AM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

Mmmmm, I love thispost, I love Italian food, I love Italians :)
A name I had picked out for my girls was Tuscany..I loved it, but my hubby thought it a bit "way out"compared to the other kids' names..I still adore it you know :)

4:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trying and savoring new foods is just one of the many bonus's of travel. Sounds like you really took advantage of the local cuisine. And what great memories you brought back.

6:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Italian food in Italy is a culinary experience worth living and re-living!

1:17 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Ummmm. This made me hungry. I'll never forgot the risotto. Ummmm. A whole month - how delectably wonderful.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Melly` said...

Oh - I could do that maybe! Grill the veggies from the garden on the BBQ and serve with bread, cheese and olive oil! Maybe some yummy pastrami?

3:47 PM  
Blogger KGMom said...

Oh, I so agree about the wonders of food in Tuscany--can't vouch from Umbria. We passed through it too quickly. I would imagine the locals would have been astounded at your eschewing wine. But, agua con gas works great too. I found that drinking a liter of such water helped with the high heat of August, when we visited.

9:07 AM  
Blogger dmmgmfm said...

I would love to go to Italy. It seems as if I've always yearned to go. I'm not sure why that is, but your posts have added to that desire. Maybe someday...

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my life goals is to eat food in Italy...maybe while in a gondola!

7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have spent some time in Italy as I onced worked for an Italian company and have eaten some of the best food in the most out of the way places, like in a tiny village half way up a mountain where the owner was so pleased and surprised to see us he gave us wonderful wine jugs and dishes as souvenirs.

7:27 AM  

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