What is one of the best destinations that come to mind when you think of a foodie holiday: somewhere where you can enjoy the fantastic scenery whilst daydreaming about your upcoming meal? Without a doubt, Italy will have crossed your mind the moment you asked yourself those two questions. In fact, you might have already been thinking of doing your research into the small group tours of Italy readily available. But Italy is a big country, and if you’re undecided about which region you would like to explore this time around, I can let you in on a secret: nowhere can beat Tuscany. |
One of the main reasons why you may have thought to steer clear of small group tours of Italy’s Tuscan region are the infamous mediocre meals at tourist trap restaurants. With us, there is no need to worry about that. In fact, I am here to recommend a few essentials that you should savour throughout your holiday.
Italian starters tend to be delicious sharing platters, rather than individual plates. This is a wonderful way of transforming eating into a friendly social event where you can bond with your fellow travel companions whilst raving about the dishes in front of you. Lardo di Colonnata, pork lard cured in local marble, is a very popular starter, usually served with crostini, a thin, crusty, brittle bread that also features as the base of crostini toscani, on top of which there is chunky chicken liver pate.
Throughout Italy, primis are normally medium-sized pasta dishes, but experienced foodies on our small group tours of Italy will be on the lookout for equally traditional but more unusual choices. Flavoursome comfort food is one of Tuscany’s specialties. Some of the best examples are ribollita, a heart-warmingly robust potage made with leftover bread, cannellini beans, carrots, cabbage, and chard, among other seasonal vegetables, and panzanella, a lighter, more summery cold salad consisting of balsamic vinegar-soaked bread, fresh onions, tomatoes, and basil, dressed with stunning olive oil.
In case you’re still hungry (as any proper Italian would be!), the secondis are the pinnacle of the meal. The renowned bistecca alla fiorentina (not for the squeamish, as it is beef steak served very rare accompanied by beans and roast potatoes) is perfect for sharing among friends, as it tends to weigh between three and four pounds. For the more adventurous, cinghiale in umido is a magnificent, thick wild boar stew that will leave you wanting more.
One of the most common surprises among those who join our small group tours of Italy is that, in Tuscany, dessert is not quite the dish that they are used to back at home. In fact, although there is at least one typical cake from the region (castagnaccio) made from chestnut flour, it is much more common to simply finish a meal with some cantucci: hard almond biscuits best known abroad as biscotti, and a glass of vin santo, a sweet dessert wine, to dip them in.
Without a doubt, eating all this delicious food is one of the highlights of any Italian holiday. There is, however, an additional component to the meals, and the trip in general, when you travel as part of one of our small group tours of Italy: the joy of potentially getting to know new people who share the same passions as you and are equally happy to spend their evenings unwinding around the dinner table.
Antonio Nobile is Tour Operator & Researcher at Caspin Journeys, a specialist provider of small group tours of Italy, England and Spain. Following in the footsteps of the company founders Pino and Caroline, he has exceptional insider knowledge and a personal devotion to all the tours he organises.
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