January 4: Does Italian food really have to remain regional? Shaun Richardson

Although I have often stood fairly accused of being a coffee snob, I was disappointed at the quality of the coffee in the Hotel Meridiana. Italy is the heartland of great coffee, a country where a fantastic espresso is literally on every corner. That being said, we abandoned Meridiana after the first morning and set off to find a decent cappuccino. We carefully scouted the concierge at the hotel, and asked where we should go for a “buon’ cafe”. We were not let down, and headed to Cafe Maggini across the street, where a spectacular coffee with an artful chocolate flower on top was to be had for less than one Euro.
Due Cappuccino a Cafe Maggini
Whilst coffee had forced me out, the Meridiana breakfast had satisfied my cravings for Tuscan bread and Nutella, and it was the unsalted, delicious and truly regional Tuscan bread that perplexed me about Italian regional food. Throughout the trip, we enjoyed the Cinghiale ragu widely available in Tuscany, the Ribollita, the Bisteca Fiorentina, all of which were only local dishes. But I kept wondering why no one has thought to ship raw ingredients and labor, or used some basic economic incentives to meet the needs of other regions? I don’t get it: how can Italian regional food be so fantastic, and yet how can the Italians not want to move products and labor between markets to spread this wonderful food around to other areas?
We did see some glimmers of movement however. During lunch after our tour of Florence, we stopped and got magnificent sandwiches at a hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop, accompanied by an Italian beer. Without doubt the beer was not local, Peroni is owned by SAB Miller. While the sandwiches were delicious, the tomatoes were from Sicily, as were the Eggplant. The result was absolutely delicious, perhaps not truly regional and perhaps better for it? Even so, I am in love with a country that takes its regionalism so seriously, and produces such delicious foods and wines with a sense of place, and a story to their very existence.

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About SSU Tuscany Tour

This blog is maintained by the participants of the SSU Tuscany Wine Tour
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