Everybody goes to visit the splendid tourist attractions of Florence and Rome, yet fewer visitors take the time to go beyond the cities to explore the wonderful countryside of central Italy.
If you ask Italians, they will tell you that there is no geographical entity similar to central Italy. Well… They are right because regions like Sardinia, Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzi, Molise, and Marche have little in common. Italy is a diverse country, and central Italy is as diverse as it gets.
If you ask Italians, they will tell you that there is no geographical entity similar to Central Italy. Well… They are right because regions like Sardinia, Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzi, Molise, and Marche have little in common. Italy is a diverse country, and central Italy is as diverse as it gets.
What is common to the area is the strong presence of history, evidenced by the abundance of medieval hill towns. Every small district is full of natural and artistic surprises.
But the true surprise for the visitor will be the food, simple and abundant local produce. There are rich cheeses and grilled meats; crusty bread and hearty soups with legumes; porchetta (a whole pig stuffed with rosemary and fennel), and pork, lamb, and game (boar and hare). Last but not least, there are black truffles and porcini mushrooms. What a treat!
The cooking style in central Italy is closer to what is perceived in the world as "Italian" cuisine than the style in other parts of Italy. The food here has a more rustic approach, a simple but hearty style of cooking, with a predominance of local produce. Hot summers facilitate tomato growers, so tomato based dishes are more common than in the north.
Farming traditions are still strong and many crops are characteristic to these regions, including farro (spelt), saffron in the Abruzzi, truffles in Umbria, black cabbage in Tuscany, and chestnuts everywhere on the steep slopes of the Appennini mountains.
Meat is important to this region, and it is here that pork products, salami, sausages, and cured meat are at their best. "Affettati" cold cut meats appear on every restaurant's antipasto cart. Beef is also good, especially when it comes from cattle bred in the Tuscan border. Grilled meat platters are common, beef from "Chianina" cattle in Tuscany, pork in the Abruzzi mountains, and lamb in Lazio.
Fish is mostly shellfish like clams and mussels. Famous is the pasta allo scoglio (on the rocks) dressed with all sorts of mollusks and crustaceans, as well as "caciucco," the Tuscan fish soup.
There is little space for butter in the kitchens here, and the recipes are mostly based on olive oil produced abundantly on the hills.