Golden Focaccia Genovese

When travelling to Liguria, in addition to the beautiful sea and warm sunshine, visitors will surely take notice of a ubiquitous treat enjoyed by locals as breakfast, an appetizer, or a snack throughout the day: focaccia. Though many varieties exist in Italy, the most traditional and delicious iteration of focaccia has its home in Liguria. Focaccia genovese, a golden flatbread with a fluffy center and a crisp crust, is considered to be the simplest variety of focaccia, but also the richest. Authentic focaccia genovese is one to two centimeters thick, is only seasoned with coarse salt and a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil, and is covered with characteristic holes that serve as pockets to trap the delicious oil.

The historical origins of focaccia are quite ancient. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks all used barley, rye, or millet flour to bake flatbreads over flames similar to the modern process of baking focaccia. The word focaccia itself derives from the Latin word focus, which means “hearth” and “fireplace”. In ancient Rome, focaccia was considered to be such a rich delicacy that is was often offered as a gift to the gods. During the Renaissance, focaccia was enjoyed with wine and other treats as part of wedding celebrations. Legend has it that since these celebrations occurred in church, focaccia eventually became a popular treat during funerals too. This tradition was quickly put to an end by a local bishop as it was deemed too joyous for such somber occasions. In addition, the portable, delicious flatbread was typically considered the food of travelers and fishermen up until modern times.

Though several regions in Italy produce their own variations of focaccia, the Liguria region is considered to be the traditional home of this tasty bread. Here, focaccia is accompanied by coffee for a typical Genoese breakfast or by a small glass of wine for a midmorning snack. In addition to the focaccia from Genoa, the cheese-filled focaccia di Recco is quite popular as well. This simple focaccia composed of very thin unleavened crust filled with fresh stracchino cheese that melts as the focaccia bakes in a wood oven. This type of focaccia is such a local delicacy that it was granted IGP status by the European Union, meaning that authentic focaccia di Recco can only be made in the town of Recco.
Traditionally, focaccia made in northern Italy was usually brushed with lard or butter during the baking process, while focaccia made in Liguria and in southern Italy was, and continues to be, brushed with extra-virgin olive oil. The exact date of the origin of focaccia genovese is not known, but the oldest historical document that mentions this delicious Ligurian flatbread dates back to the year 1229. Focaccia di Recco, on the other hand, dates back to the 12th century and it is believed that its origin coincided with the Crusades.

Two additional varieties of focaccia are also quite popular in other parts of Italy. The first originates from the province of Bari and can be enjoyed throughout the Puglia region. This variety, focaccia barese, is quite unique for two reasons: boiled potatoes are added to the dough to make the focaccia even softer and it is topped with fresh cherry tomatoes. The second type is found in the province of Messina on the island of Sicily. Known as focaccia messinese, this variety has a thick, soft base that is topped with endive, diced tomatoes, anchovies, and cheese (usually tuma, though mozzarella can also be used). Other types of focaccia found in Italy are topped with a variety of other ingredients including rosemary, sage, onions, olives, salumi, cheeses, and other herbs and vegetables.

Though focaccia genovese may be considered simple compared the other varieties listed above, it is the high-quality ingredients and expert preparation that render focaccia genovese so incomparably delicious. Authentic focaccia genovese can only be made with finely ground type 00 flour, extra-virgin olive oil, and coarse salt. The key to focaccia’s unique taste rests in the baking process, which occurs in a wood-oven and brings all of the exquisite ingredients together. Truly, the best slice of focaccia is the one that has just been pulled out of the oven—nothing quite compares.

So the next time you find yourself in Liguria, be sure to enjoy some authentic focaccia genovese made with extra-virgin olive oil. We hope your slice is fresh out of the oven and perfectly golden!

Tuscany Fall Wine Tours

Widely considered one of the world’s most cherished travel destinations, Tuscany offers a wealth of unique activities and experiences sure to please any first-time or repeat visitor. Located in central Italy, Tuscany’s claim to fame is its rich history, prided traditions, artistic influences, stunning landscape views, and of course its delectable cuisine and unparalleled winemaking. This quintessentially Italian locale is home to some of the most widely renowned wine production destinations in the world.

When planning an escape to Italy in the Autumn months, no Tuscan adventure will be complete without taking a tour of one of Tuscany’s traditional vineyards. The colors of the landscape, the mild climate, and the abundance of freshly harvested foods make tours of Tuscany in the fall an experience not to be missed! From the world famous Chianti region to the home of Brunello wine in Montalcino, any wine lover will delight in experiencing a true Italian wine tour on a brisk Fall day.

Harvest Time

The magic of Autumn in Tuscany is centered around the abundant harvest of products that help to shape the identity of Tuscan cuisine. From porcini and mushrooms to olives and truffles, September through November means Fall flavors have arrived! During September, the month that begins grape harvesting in the region, wineries both large and small are in full swing, giving visitors a unique and exciting look at exactly how fine Italian wine is made. For the wine enthusiast, grape harvesting can be one of the most unique experiences one can have. The gorgeous colors of Fall provide the perfect backdrop for a stunning, vino-filled getaway!

Grape Celebrations

The local harvest events celebrate both current life and new adventures, as the growers of fine grapes in the region begin to harvest thriving fruit to then turn into new wines. The Tuscan region boasts plenty of events and celebrations centered on vendemmia, an Italian word which means the picking of grapes during the Fall season. During this exciting time of year, winegrowers gather in Tuscany’s quaint villages and town squares to show off their highest quality wines. Touring the Tuscan regions during vendemmia guarantees a traditional, immersive experience for all wine connoisseurs.

Immersive Experience

When the weather cools and the fall breezes begin to sweep through the vineyards of Tuscany, the Summertime tourist crowds dwindle, allowing Autumn visitors a more intimate wine tour experience. A visit to a Tuscan winery promises more than a quick taste. As with the winemaking process itself, when it comes to soaking up the winery experience, the slower the better. Tour the cellars, walk the vineyards, and maybe even take part in the harvesting process!

Fall Foods

As the seasons change in Tuscany, the local cuisine reflects the flavors of vegetables, game, and wines that reflect the autumnal palate of Italy. On fall wine tours in Tuscany, many wineries offer local meats, warm baked bread, freshly pressed olive oils from the season’s most recent harvest, and nutty aged cheeses, all paired perfectly with wines that bring out the flavor of each dish. Should one choose to have dinner nearby, expect hearty stews made of local meat, wholesome risottos, squash and pumpkin soups as well as earthy bites made with the season’s freshest mushrooms and truffles.

Colorful Views

With longer days and a comfortable temperature, Autumn is the perfect time to travel to Tuscany to experience hands-on tours of winemaking. Colors fill the Tuscany landscape as nature prepares to shed its harvest in preparation for Winter.

As the sun sets on a gorgeous Autumn day in Tuscany, the gentle rays of light bask the vineyards, setting the stage for an unforgettable, post-card-worthy moment of bliss. With a glass of vino in hand, wine enthusiasts will never forget the Fall colors and flavors of the Tuscan countryside.

The Legend Of The Pazientina Cake, A Delicacy Of Padua, Veneto

Padua_Pazzientina_Cake_blgPadua, in Veneto, is a very important city of Italy. It can be easily compared with all the big three (Rome, Venice, Florence) because its culture, its historical heritage and its city center are all extremely fascinating. Many illustrious personalities like Dante, Galileo and Petrarch have left their trails in this city. Padua is renowned for the Cappella of Scrovegni, the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua and many other majestic buildings like Il Palazzo della Ragione (The Palace of Reason). Continue reading “The Legend Of The Pazientina Cake, A Delicacy Of Padua, Veneto”

The Tropea Onions Have Many Different Uses & Benefits

Calabria_Tropea_Red_onions_blgYou’re right, onions make you cry and in many cases can leave you with bad breath, but they are one of the most important vegetables in the Mediterranean diet. In Italy, there are many different types of onions for example, from Suasa, in the Marche region, or Breme, in the Lombardy region. Besides them, the red onions of Tropea, in the Calabria region, stand out all over the world for their sweetness and authentic flavor. Every respectable cook should have at least a couple of Tropea onions in his own kitchen. Continue reading “The Tropea Onions Have Many Different Uses & Benefits”

Italian Food: The History Of The Famous Pasta alla Carbonara

Bowl of delicious spaghetti Carbonara. Italian food.Pasta is one of the most worshipped meals in Italy. Easy to prepare, healthy and one of the specialities of the “Nonna” or “Mamma”, Italy’s unofficial pasta masters. The more you travel through Italy, the more you realize how many different kinds and varieties of pastas are available in every different region. Carbonara is well known all over the world and it is one of the essential dishes of Lazio and Abruzzo food culture. Continue reading “Italian Food: The History Of The Famous Pasta alla Carbonara”

Honeymoon Inspiration: Piedmont Is The Perfect Destination Choice!

Small town on the hills of Piedmont, Italy.The untouched Piedmont region can be considered a wonderful off-the-beaten path destination since most of the region lies outside of the focus of Italy’s mass tourism. It is known for its breathtaking mountains, charming villages, magnificent lakes, exquisite cuisine, and noteworthy wines. Turin, the first capital of Italy, is home to the Shroud of Turin, the largest Egyptian museum in Europe, lavish royal palaces, and eminent chocolate shops. Nearby Asti is known for its ancient structures, such as historical churches and the outer city walls, and for producing sweet wines, including Moscato d’Asti. Piedmont also offers a perfect destination for those seeking relaxation on the second largest lake in Italy: Lake Maggiore. Stresa, Arona, and Verbania are wonderful towns for enjoying a romantic picnic along the lake and taking in stunning panoramas. Continue reading “Honeymoon Inspiration: Piedmont Is The Perfect Destination Choice!”

Gluten-Free food in Italy: a new path to Italian flavors

ItalyGluten-Free, a land whose cuisine is known world-wide thanks to gluten-rich staples such as pasta and pizza, is actually quite celiac disease friendly. Nearly one percent of Italians test positive for celiac disease, which is an intolerance for gluten, a protein found in wheat.  This percentage is on par with the global average, so the increase of gluten-free options is not driven by a higher affected population in the nation. Rather it is actually wheat’s pervasiveness in Italian cuisine that has increased public awareness of the disease and has spurred the growth of the gluten-free market in the southern European peninsula.  In fact, currently there are roughly 4,000 restaurants in Italy that offer senza glutine (gluten-free) options, and the number of cities throughout the country without a gluten-free restaurant is sharply decreasing.

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The Ancient Chocolate of Modica

The south-easterModica Spicy Chocolaten Sicilian city of Modica is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning Baroque architecture.  Along with seven other towns in the Val di Noto, like Ragusa and Catania, Modica was rebuilt in 1693 following a powerful earthquake that devastated the area. The construction after the earthquake resulted in remarkable city planning and the culmination of Baroque style of art and architecture in Europe.  Though Modica is stunning and filled with beautiful architecture, this city tucked away in the Hyblaean Mountains is also internationally famous for a much sweeter reason: chocolate.

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Perugia’s Fair of the Dead

Perugia fair of deadIn the Italian region of Umbria, fairs are common events and they have a rich history that dates back to medieval times.  The earliest fairs in this area were celebrations of Ognisanti (All Saints Day) at the beginning of November.  These fairs developed into bustling markets that allowed commerce between medieval towns to flourish, and they also provided the opportunity for people to gather provisions for the winter.  In modern times, these markets have greatly expanded, but much of the original spirit remains.

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The Charming Hills of Piacenza

Piacenza Hill Country and CastlesWhen most tourists plan their itinerary around Italy, they think about the usual cities, such as Rome, Venice, Milan and Bologna, among so many others. There are smaller destinations along the way that will truly give you an untouched and authentic feeling of what Italian culture and history is all about. Continue reading “The Charming Hills of Piacenza”