Garfagnana and its foody tours
Where is the Garfagnana area
Garfagnana is a mountainous region crossed by the Lima torrent, a tributary of the river Serchio, lapping the city of Lucca. It is nestled between the Tosco-Emilian Apennines north-east of Tuscany and the Apuan Alps, offering breathtaking mountain landscapes. For years Garfagnana has been away from tourist circuits due to a slow and unpleasant road traffic that made the travel appealable by motorcycle and scooter lovers who could easily dodge the long, winding tails. Today, thanks to the massive intervention of the Province of Lucca, which has renewed the fabric of the road, Garfagnana is much more accessible and ready to welcome tourists eager to discover their traditions and typical products.
In the past, in fact, due to the position and the shape of the territory, the population has suffered a drastic decline, often leaving the small countries of service and business. Today the population is growing and young people have given new impetus to tourism and local productions, including the wave of fame of Slow Foods, which are numerous in this region.
On the other hand, if the Garfagnana did not suffer from the distance from the major urban centers and the absence of a capillary communication, especially before the advent of the internet, it would not have been so rich in traditions, legends, typicality as we know it today.
Today’s heritage is infinitely appreciated by both local and foreign tourism, increasingly attentive to the authenticity and genuineness of the products.
I will try to tell you some of the products that represent Garfagnana’s food basket and offer some tasty inspiration to organize your next visit to this beautiful area of Tuscany.
Traditional recipes and food festivals
When it comes to Garfagnana, we immediately think of spelt and chestnuts. They are both products rooted in the history of this land, because they were originally introduced in nature by the Romans. With the discovery of America corn was introduced in cultivation, later becoming an indigenous variety, best known as Formenton Ottofile , i.e. made of 8 rows of grains. These products have represented, for centuries, together with potatoes and pork processing products, the main food of the population.
The polenta of ‘necci’, or chestnut flour, with boiled pork bacon, is one of the ‘delicacies’ of the area, though not particularly attractive from a visual point of view. In October, Cascio, a small village near Castelnuovo Garfagnana, is celebrating the ‘Castagnata’, offering among other delicacies this traditional dish. In fact, the bones must be stored in special hemp bags and then boiled for hours before reaching the right cooking. The small village, delightfully preserved by the inhabitants of the area, becomes a festive place, giving the opportunity to taste local produce, specially prepared by the wise hands of many lords and volunteers in the area. Not to mention the ‘crisciolette’, a sort of piadina with white and yellow flour, cooked with typical iron textures and stuffed with rolled cheese or bacon. Peer lovers of this kind, the Crisciolette festival is usually held in Cascio in July.
Slow food presidia
As for the richest foods such as cheeses and sausages, the Garfagnana can show some excellence.
The so-called ‘biroldo’, sautéed boiled and made up of the finest parts of the head of the pig and its blood, similar to a slice of chocolate, is one of the most appreciated by the gourmet. To taste it there are two ways: to buy it from one of the local producers, such as the Ancient Norcineria of Ghivizzano, or to book a table at the Old Mill in Castelnuovo Garfagnana by the mythical Andrea Bertucci. Make sure you have your presence, because it will make every bite unique.
Bazzone ham, which takes its name from the local dialect for its particularly elongated shape. It is a chain product whose production dates back to the end of the 19th century, which uses only local raw materials. Pigs are therefore purchased locally and bred in the wild. I love this ham because it represents the perfect blend of sweet and typically salty ham typically Tuscan.
The Garfagnana cheeses then represent a small microcosm of perfection ranging from sheep cheese to mixed and goat cheese, seasoned and tanned in chestnut, spelt or grape leaves. Local producers love to tie their products to local culture and traditions. So how do you not tell the origin of the ‘Bagiolo’ cheese of the Dairy market Marovelli of Piazza al Serchio.
It is a soft dough cheese with a delicate taste of crispy crust. In a jargon of garfagnino a bagiolo is a kiss, which Mr. Giovanni, the founder of the company, who is still family-run today, gave his shy wife, who, according to the grand-grandson Romina, gave the insistence and gave him 6 sons.
The Garfagnana is a bit like this, dodgy in its landscape, sometimes sour and imposing but welcoming and hospitable at the same time.
Every season of the year is suitable for visiting this region for pleasant outdoor walks or excursions to the Apuan Alps, for a visit to the small enchanted villages perched on the slopes of the mountains, for the rich snacks and to taste unforgettable recipes porcini, spelt, chestnuts, salami, cheeses and a delicious mountain wine the more you put them.