Monday, December 27, 2010

Antica Macelleria Norcineria Marianelli


The small medieval village of Montopoli in Val d'Arno, is home of one of the oldest and most traditional butchery in Tuscany. 
Antica Macelleria Norcineria Marianelli celebrated this year one hundred years in business. It was founded in 1910 by the Marianelli family, today Luca Marianelli and his sons still running this Tuscan jewel.
This butcher shop is a Norcineria, which specialize in pork meat. It is also one of the numerous "food heaven" that Italy has to offer. 
Three of their products have won a Slow Food special award in the category food biodiversity.
My favorite is the ancient Nodino of Montopoli, the other two are the Stradivario ham, aged in ashes and the Costolaccio pancetta, aged in local wine.
The ancient Nodino is a traditional salumi from the village of Montopoli, recipe dates back to the middle age. Today the Marianelli family carries on the tradition using only local spices, exposing it to tramontana wind and then, slow aging it in tufa cellars.
The village of Montopoli Val d'Arno is located in the province of Pisa, halfway between Pisa and Florence. 
Get to know Luca and his family; masters Norcini for five generations. For any questions please write me an e-mail; tours@utuscany.com

Ciao, 
Gianni.











Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thanks everyone for a great 2010 season!


I just want to thank all of our guests that join us on our 2010 tours and all of our fans. Without all of you I could not realize my dream of doing what I love.

This past September has been a great in Tuscany, very few rainy days, and temperatures were comfortable throughout the whole month.
This year we have had three groups for a total of twenty wonderful guests. The photo was shot at Capanne, my hometown's Gelateria, owned by Giovanni Zappolini also simply known as "Corbellini".

Giovanni used owned a stationery shop for years in the small village of Capanne but he always had a deep passion for food and hospitality. Couple of years ago, he decided to turn his store in a gelateria, investing large amount of money and lots of sacrifices. Today is still running it by himself, making traditional Tuscan gelato from scratch.

We will be soon releasing dates for our 2011 tours. We are going to have new activities, brand new upgraded locations and new towns to explore. 

Send us an e-mail at tours@utuscany.com if you want to subscribe to our newsletter, to receive news, info, recipes and more on our tours and Tuscany. You can "like" us on Facebook simply searching Undiscovered Tuscany,LLC.
We are also on twitter at http://twitter.com/utuscany

Join us, the trip of a lifetime awaits you!

Gianni

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Un Negroni



Negroni is the only Tuscan cocktail recognized by the IBA (International Bartender Association).
It is made of one part of gin, one part of sweet vermouth, and one part of Campari
( a traditional Italian bitter), served in an old fashioned glass, on the rocks, and garnished with a slice of orange.
It is today, the most popular aperitif cocktail in Italy.
It was invented in 1919 at Caffe' Casoni, today called Caffe' Giacosa, a beautiful and historic bar in downtown Florence.
Count Camillo Negroni invented it by asking his bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to strengthen his favorite cocktail, the Americano, by adding gin rather than the normal soda water. 
The bartender also added an orange garnish rather than the typical lemon garnish of the Americano to signify that it was a different drink.
The legendary drink was born and everyone started ordering it "Americano alla Negroni". The name was soon changed to Negroni.
Negroni is considered an aperitif, a pre-dinner cocktail intended to stimulate the appetite. Negroni, gained popularity very quickly, becoming one of the most famous
cocktail world-wide. 
It is now, one of the twenty three official pre-dinner IBA cocktails.
Next time you are in Florence, make sure to stop at Caffe' Giacosa in Via della Spada and order a Tuscan classic: " Un Negroni"....

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lunch in Montaione


Montaione is a lovely medieval village, located between Pisa and Florence.
We visit Montaione in our way to San Gimignano, a very popular tourist destination, just to show our guests a typical Tuscan village where traffic, buses and souvenir shops are truly unknown. 

Here, we always have a picnic lunch, enjoying it on a bench under trees with a mind boggling view of the Tuscan countryside. 

Early in the morning, I make sure to get sandwiches, beers and soft drinks at an amazing bakery called "Il Gastronomo", located in the small village of Capanne, near Pisa (where my mom and dad live).

Sandwiches are simply fresh oven baked Schiacciata bread and Mortadella. This is for me one of the best sandwich I have ever had in my entire life, and the funny thing is, that it is just bread and deli meat. 

No cheese, no condiments, no produce...schiacciata e mortadella with one the most spectacular view is something that can not be describe by words or pictures, but you have to live it and experience it with all of us!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

La Spuma



Spuma is a traditional Tuscan nonalcoholic beverage. It is a soft drink, very similar to a soda. There are two kind you can choose from, one is called spuma bionda, which is blond in color and it tastes like a ginger ale, the other is called spuma al cedro which is green in color and it tastes like a citrus soda.


It used to be the favorite soft drink choice, inexpensive and locally made, nowadays unfortunately replaced by the globalization of Coca Cola brands.
However, you can still order spuma in every coffer bar in Tuscany. It is a drink that everyone enjoy, from kids to adults. Old men playing cards at the bar usually top off a glass of wine or beer with some spuma, calling it miscela.


It is a great alternative of water and it is a very popular drink during hot summer days.
Spuma is one of the greatest and most traditional soft drinks deeply rooted in our culture. It is highly addicted (I remember as a kid, drinking it by the liters and not even realized that) and probably not the healthiest beverage on earth but I strongly suggest to order, one or two glasses when you are in a coffee bar (simply called bar) in Tuscany.


Salute!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Testaroli con Pesto




Testaroli  is propably the oldest type of Italian Pasta. Testaroli were know since the Roman Empire and Testaroli with Pesto sauce are a traditional dish of Lunigiana, a beautiful area in the North-West part of Tuscany, bordering Liguria, where pesto was invented. 
The name Testaroli comes from "testo" which was a domed griddle (made with cast iron or stone) on which the pasta dough was cooked.


The dough is just flour and water, in the past only water and Farro from Lunigiana were used (a typical grain  of the area) . 
The procedure is interesting because the dough is first cooked into a crepe and then cut into strips then diamonds (or squares) and finally boiled like pasta. They have a unique consistency, almost like gnocchi and soak up the Pesto sauce wonderfully.

Testaroli is a dish which belongs to the so called "poor cousine" and is a part of cooking tradition of Lunigiana. Discover this wonderful dish and be part of our culture! 
Viva la Toscana!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Isola d' Elba - Elba Island




Isola d' Elba or Elba Island is the largest Island in Italy after Sardinia and Sicily. It is located just twelve miles away from the coastal town of Piombino in the province of Livorno, Tuscany. Elba island is part of the Tuscan archipelago along with the smaller islands of Pianosa, Capraia, Montecristo and Giglio. It is best known for its connections with Napoleon Bonaparte, which he was exiled and remained on this island for three hundred days.
The ever present evidence of over four thousand years of history and culture, combined with an extraordinary wealth of natural beauty, make this magical island unique.
Elba is capable of offering a mild climate and a multitude of diverse landscapes and scenery: romantic fishing villages, small towns on rocky hill-tops, ancient castles, green valleys and enchanting bays combined with beautiful sandy beaches. Elba island is also famous for its great quality wines. Elba DOC wines are made from local varietal, like Aleatico, Ansonica and Trebbiano Toscano. The food could seriously leave you speechless, the freshness of the ingredients and the simplicity of its cuisine make this island a true gastronomic paradise.
Specialties are Cacciucco (Fish stew cooked in wine), Riso al nero di seppia (black squid ink risotto) and Stoccafisso all' Elbana (Stockfish prepared with anchovies, capers and olives).
Visit one of the most beautiful Island in the Mediterranean and get to know the undiscovered beauty of Tuscany: Isola d'Elba.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Crostini di Fegato


One of the most traditional appetizer in Tuscany are Crostini di Fegato, Chiken liver crostini.
This is a very popular starter especially served during holidays, like Christmas and Easter. It is a very simple and delicious way to start a special meal.
Usually Crostini di Fegato are served along with different types of Crostini (artichokes, smoked salmon and butter, tuna etc.), cold cuts like Tuscan prosciutto, soppressata and finocchiona (a traditional Tuscan salame with fennel seeds). All of this make the traditional Tuscan appetizer called Antipasto misto Toscano.

This is another delicious food that bring back lots of memories. Every Easter, my family and I used to spend the day at my mother's aunt house. My grandparents, Remo and Bruna would always join us. I remember a lot of food that would always start with Crostini di Fegato, made by Nonna Bruna, and end with Chocolate Easter eggs. Choice of beverages, beside water (not that much) was always red wine (Sangiovese made from local farmer) and Vinsanto at the end of the meal. My grandpa, Remo, always warned me about drinking too much water. He would say all the time, " be careful, water make you rusty"....ahaha!

Undiscovered Tuscany and I want to wish everyone happy Easter to you and your family. If you would like to make this delicious starter, here is our recipe, enjoy!

Crostini di Fegato (Chicken liver crostini)

Preparation time: 20 minutes.
Cooking time: 20 minutes.
One carrot.
One onion.
One stick of celery.
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil.
1/2lb chicken livers.
White wine or stock.
One dessert spoon capers.
4 anchovy fillets.
Freshly chopped sage.
1.5oz butter.
Salt.
1lb unsalted bread.


Cut the onion into rings and fry in the oil the chopped carrot and celery. Clean and wash the chicken livers, chop them roughly, add to the fried ingredients and brown well. If they dry out too much, moisten with a little stock or white wine, but allow it to evaporate well. Cook for twenty minutes, then remove from heat. Add the capers, anchovy fillets, chopped sage leaves and butter. Using a large kitchen knife, chop the entire mixture very finely. Lightly toast the slices of bread and spread with the liver paste. If the slices of bread are crisped under a grill, they may be moistened with a spoonful of stock before spreading with the liver mixture. I like my
crostini crispy, however, so prefer not to do so.

BUONA PASQUA!



Thursday, March 18, 2010

Livorno and its Ponce


Livorno is a port city on the Tyrrhenian Sea (part of the Mediterranean Sea) located
on the western edge of Tuscany. It is the capital of the province of Livorno and the third-largest port on the western coast of Italy, having a population of approximately 160,000 residents.
Livorno was defined as an "ideal town" during the Italian renaissance. Today, it reveals its history through the structure of its neighborhoods, crossed by canals and surrounded by fortified town walls.
Worldwide famous liqueurs as Tuaca and Galliano are produced in Livorno. Also, speaking about beverages, few things are more representative of this town than the popular drink called Ponce.
If the name sounds familiar to English-speaking readers, it is because it most likely comes from a local adaptation of the word punch, probably introduced in Livorno by the many English sailors who gathered there when the harbour of Leghorn was one of the most important ones in the Mediterranean sea.
Two versions of Ponce are available: ponce a vela (sail) and ponce al mandarino (mandarin). The first is a mixture of coffee and hot liquor (very similar to the Irish coffee, but without cream) with the addition of a small piece of lemon cut in a sail-like shape, the second one is the result of a chemical manipulation of a mysterious orange (the colour of mandarin) rum-like liquid warmed-up to iron-melting temperature.
Because of such a high temperature of serving, ponce is drunk in small thick-bottomed glasses (like shot glasses).
Both drinks are among the best solutions to all problems in life, and are particularly welcome in cold winter nights, when the "purest" Livornesi meet at the legendary Bar Civili. Fueled by a few ponci, debates on the highest topics soon flourish, usually around the issues of money (lack of in particular), soccer, politics, and few others.
Visiting the Bar Civili and having a traditional Ponce alla Livornese is a great experience, strongly recommended to all of those interested to understand these unique city and its characteristic locals.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The White Truffle of San Miniato


San Miniato is a small medieval town sitting atop a hill surrounded by vineyards just 40 kilometers from Florence, located in the province of Pisa. San Miniato is one of the most abundant white truffle area in Europe. The white truffle (which is usually a pale ochre in colour) also called Marzuolo truffle, is the most valuable variety known.

Truffles are a type of mushroom that grows underground. Traditionally, truffles require animals to assist in its pollination because of their location away from the wind. Animals, usually pigs, are also used to help hunt for the truffles as the mushrooms are believed to emit a smell similar to a pig sex hormone. Dogs, however, have recently become more frequently used when hunting as the animals don’t eat the find as much as the pigs.

Because of the challenge in finding truffles and their rich taste, truffles have become an expensive foodstuff and a favorite of haute cuisine chefs. In Tuscany are used in making risotto or simply shaved on homemade pasta with a little bit of butter. White truffles are always consumed raw, because the heat destroys their delicate and unique flavor.

San Miniato, hosts a white truffle festival every November. The festival devoted to the culinary commodity brings together the best of the local cultivators to share their wares. Standard truffle products (fresh truffles, truffle oil, and special equipment like shavers and containers) are available as are more unique delicious products like cheeses and salamis filled with truffle shavings, truffle honey, and chocolate infused with truffles. A few food stands at the festival serve rich Tuscan wine in plastic cups with a range of truffle dishes to fill your stomach including truffles on top of sunny side up fried eggs, truffle pizzas, and of course truffles shaved over homemade pasta in a light oil. All restaurants in the small town offer special truffle menus with your choice of dishes or affordable three-course truffle meals.

Experiencing fresh white truffles from San Miniato, is a truly unique culinary and almost mystical experience. Get to know Tuscany's greatest culinary treasure -The White truffle of San Miniato, Il Tartufo Bianco di San Miniato!



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Schiacciata di Pasqua


This cake comes from Tuscan country cooking, and in particularly from the provinces of Pisa and Livorno.
It was traditionally made from Lent to Pentecost, when there was not much to eat.
It arises from bread dough enriched with eggs, sugar, and flavorings. It is a very balanced cake, with low fat and not many calories.
It is one of the most popular cake served on Easter in Tuscany. It is a delicious treat, often accompanied with chocolate Easter eggs and Vinsanto (Holy wine).
Schiacciata di Pasqua (Easter Schiacciata) is one of those traditional and ancient delicacy still enjoyed today. Ingredients and preparation are still the same ones used hundreds years ago.

One of the best pastry shop where you can get this delicious cake, is located in a small town of La Rotta, near Pisa, where my parents grew up. Pasticceria Leoncini is where every year, on Easter, my family and I would get this cake.
This is one of the food that we want to promote and protect, just because it represent everything about this wonderful Italian region; simple greatness.
Join us and truly discover how we live! A presto!
Let me know if you would like to have Schiacciata di Pasqua recipe.
Contact me at tours@utuscany.com

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Panino con il Lampredotto



Panino con il Lampredotto
is one of the most popular street food in the city of Florence.
Trippa (Tripe) and Lampredotto (Offal) are two dishes that perfectly represent the Florence popular culinary traditions, eating them is an experience you can’t miss.

Trippa, is the part of the digestive organ found between the esophagus and the stomach of the cows. Lampredotto, also comes from the stomach of a bovine, but is more tender, thin and flat, and it’s not white, but light brown.
The meat is simmered in a broth of herbs and vegetables, then cut up into small square slices and served on a traditional round crusty panino, called Semelle. It is also usually served with a green sauce, salsa verde, made from basil, garlic and olive oil.

The sandwiches are sold at typical Lampredotto stands, called Banchini dei Trippai, where you can stop, get your sandwich and wine (served in a plastic cup) and enjoy the city and a Panino con il Lampredotto. Probaly the best Lampredotto stand in Florence is Nerbone. Nerbone is located in San Lorenzo market, and it has been a city's institution since 1872.

Get to know this magnificent city through its traditional food, interact with the locals, discover sites left behind from the mass-tourism, experience the best of what Florence and Tuscany has to offer. Join us! A presto!



Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Devil's Bridge

The 'Maddalena's Bridge' connect the two banks of the river Serchio in the small town of Borgo a Mozzano, near Lucca.It is located on the ancient Francigena road. In the medieval times it was an important pilgrimage road, connecting Rome to Canterbury (England).

The bridge construction goes back to the era of the Countess Matilde di Canossa (1046-1115), that had large influence and power on this zone of Tuscany, the Garfagnana, but its current aspect is due to the reconstruction carried on by Castruccio Castracani (1281-1328), Sir of Lucca at the beginning of the 14th century.

The bridge is known as Ponte del Diavolo (The Devil's Bridge) in force of a popular legend, reinforced from its strange aspect: a master mason begun its building but soon noticed that he would not be able to complete the work for the fixed day and frightened of the possible consequences invoked to the Devil asking him help. The Devil accepted to complete the bridge in a night in change of the spirit of the first that will cross it. The contract was signed but the constructor, full of remorse, confess himself with a religious of the zone that advised him to let cross the bridge for first to a pig. So the Devil was defeated and he disappeared in the deepness of the river.

This remarkable example of medieval engineering, is one of the many sites that you will discover with us at Undiscovered Tuscany.

Tuscany goes far beyond beautiful landscape of rolling hills dotted with vineyards and olive trees, art treasures and architectural landmarks. Let us show the undiscovered beauty of this wonderful Italian region. A presto!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

La Cecina


Cecina
is a thin, crisp, pizza-like pancake from the Tuscan coast. It is simply made by stirring chickpea flour into a mixture of olive oil, salt and black pepper, to form a loose batter, and baking it in the open oven.
The word Cecina comes from the Italian word Ceci that means Chickpeas.
It one of the most traditional food of Tuscany, and it is really hard to find it anywhere else outside the region.
La Cecina is traditionally cut into irregular shaped triangular slices, and then stuffed into Focaccia bread or between two slices of Pizza Margherita.
It is one of the most popular traditional Tuscan snack food, and it sold in Pizzerias and bakeries.
In the town of Livorno, Cecina is usually served between two slices of bread, and it is one of kids favorite food to eat for Merenda (snack-time).
Cecina also make a wonderful appetizer, along with cold cuts like, prosciutto, mortadella and Tuscan soppressata.
We offer visits and hands-on cooking classes to Tuscan pizzerias and bakeries, to show our guests how these traditional food are still made today. All of our partners are located in small towns off the beaten path.
We want to provide our guest the highest quality in travel, our goal is to make them experience the authentic Tuscan everyday life.
Join us for a trip of your lifetime, get to know one of the most beautiful place on earth:
La Toscana!

Here is La Cecina recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup chickpea flour
2 cups water
2 TSP olive oil
Dash salt and black pepper

Preparation:

Mix the batter (it is very watery) and let set for 2-4 hours.

Fire your oven so that is is hot and ready for fire-in-the-oven
cooking. Maybe two Mississippi's. This is a good brick oven recipe
because it cooks best with top and bottom heat.

Pour a liberal amount of oil in a baking sheet with 1" (or so) sides.
Add enough batter to make a 1/4" - 1/2" thick flat-bread, and bake for
10 minutes. It should be brown on top. Cut and drizzle with olive
oil, sprinkle with black pepper and serve immediately.
Bakeries have seasoned cast iron pans, so that Cecina does not stick
to the bottom, but a steel pan should work as well.

Chickpea flour is both healthy (a good source of protein) and tasty.
Buon appetito!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Upcoming 2010 Tours


We are booking our upcoming 2010 tours of Tuscany and we are very excited to announce our new itineraries, accommodations, and much more.

Our new day trips are the Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera, the Montecarlo (Lucca) wine country, the seaside resort town of Viareggio, the town of Barberino in Mugello, home of the largest designer shopping outlets in Italy, and much more.

Undiscovered Tuscany will also offer our guests private cooking classes at the property with local chefs, visits to local olive oil factories, food markets, wineries, ceramics factories, chocolate and gelato stores.

Our new accommodation is Casa Vacanza. Casa Vacanza is a gorgeous old country farmhouse, which has been completely renovated in the rural Tuscan style with terracotta floors. Casa Vacanza is divided into six comfortable apartments (double occupancy).
Casa Vacanza offers our guests a large and private living space, satellite TV, WIFI internet access, air conditioning, telephone. Also, the property offers a swimming pool with solarium, tennis courts, walking trails, free bicycles rent, a bar-lounge area, and a restaurant.

The property is located on the Lucca hills near the town of Altopascio on the famous Francigena road rich of history and culture.
The Via Francigena is an ancient road between Rome and Canterbury, passing through England, France, Switzerland and Italy. In mediaeval times it was an important road and pilgrimage route. To pilgrims headed south, it was the Via Romea; to those headed north, the Via Francigena.
You can see pictures of Casa Vacanza by clicking on this link http://www.utuscany.com/casavacanza.htm

Join us and you will get to know our passion for this wonderful land. Our high quality services and highly selected suppliers will make you feel part of our culture and never want to leave us.

Here is a sample itinerary :

Day 1
Pick up and transfer to Casa Vacanza. Meet your hosts, enjoy the surroundings and a typical Tuscan dinner.

Day 2
Visit to Olive oil factory, Sonnino winery and gelato store in Montespertoli in the Chianti. Lunch with private tasting at the Sonnino castle.

Day 3
Visit to Cecchini Butchery shop in Panzano (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKeBpGlJ5dw) and Villa Calcinaia winery. Lunch with tasting at Villa Calcinaia wine shop.

Day 4
Visit the Italian riviera Liguria region and the Cinqueterre historic towns. Lunch at local restaurant in Riomaggiore. All-day train and walking paths pass included.

Day 5
Visit to the city of Florence and central food market. Visit to the Accademia (home of Michelangelo's David) and lunch at wine-bar in downtown Florence.

Day 6
Visit to San Gimignano and one of the best winery in area for the production of Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG.

Day 7
Visit to a local winery in the Montecarlo hills area. Visit to the city of Pisa. Farewell dinner at a local restaurant. Tour of the leaning tower.

Day 8
Breakfast and transfer to airport.

Tour includes:
- Double occupancy single apartment accommodation in Casa Vacanza
- All ground transportations
- All visit to wineries and olive oil factory with tasting included
- All breakfasts, lunch and dinner included (wine and some liquor included)
- Pick up and drop off either Pisa or Florence airports
- Myself as a personal tour guide
- Cell phone (with free incoming calls)
- All taxes included

Contact us for pricing (our best ever!) and dates available at tours@utuscany.com

Became a fan of Undiscovered Tuscany, LLC on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook badge at the top of this page, also follow us on twitter at http://twitter.com/utuscany

Ciao e a presto!

Gianni Vanni

BENVENUTI IN TOSCANA!

Hello and welcome to Tuscany.
Join us for the trip of your lifetime. A Presto!