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Bella Italia

My husband and I travelled for two weeks, through the splendid hills and valleys of Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany, adamant about immersing ourselves in the culture, the way of life of the people, food and wines of each area.
Photography by Heaven on Hearth

The history of the towns and cities that we visited was quite riveting, like reading a story from a book. It took us back in time and caused us to dig deep, trying to remember the history lessons that we took while at school. It was the first time that I had travelled to Italy during the month of May and my findings were quite unexpected. I noted that not only was the vegetation somewhat drier than September, it was also just as warm as at home. The weather was absolutely beautiful, with a constant light breeze, cooling the hot rays of the sun. It was indeed glorious.
Entering into Panzano in Tuscany
As we drove along country roads, we were treated to spectacular views of beautiful landscapes, groves of olive trees mingling harmoniously with vineyards large and small, sometimes stretching all the way down to a nearby lake. Cyprus trees lined the winding roads and properties along the country side, as we passed also vineyards and farms selling wines, olive oils, goat cheese, honeys and wax candles.

Each day was a new experience with new wonders to see.

As a lover of food, I was eager to learn more about the traditional food and dishes of each area as well as the wines. Fresh, seasonal ingredients were always used, so I was in for a treat each time.

Food and flavors were basic, clean, light and simple. So few ingredients to bring out such bursts of flavor. 

Breakfast is a quick coffee or cappuccino, which I learned, Italians do not drink cappuccino after 11am. Something sweet, like cakes and tarts or Tuscan bread with lemon, strawberry and acacia honey or homemade strawberry or kiwi jams, or perhaps a slice of cheese and salami. 
Lunch is said to be the biggest meal of the day, but I found that they had a tendency to eat light. Like a plate of smoked and dried meats or cheese, a plate of mozzarella and tomato slices, drizzled with olive oil, a small bowl of spaghetti with ragu or even a panini.
Slices of Dried Cured Meats with Tuscan Bread 
Spritz or Aperol Spritz, a lovely drink that I enjoyed in the evenings before dinner, is an aperitif that is served in Umbria and Tuscany.  It’s Prosecco, a dry Italian sparkling wine, Aperol, similar to Campari, just lighter in taste, color and alcohol content with a splash of soda, half a slice of orange and a few cubes of ice served in a wine glass.
Canapes served with an Aperitif
In Italy, an aperitif was served with chips, canap├ęs or olives, or even all of the mentioned. It was such a wonderful and delightful way to start the evening. I also noticed that there was always time for an aperitif. Starting from just before noon, people were drinking.
Aperol Spritz
To make a Spritz you will need the following:

3 parts Prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 part soda water
ice cubes
half an orange slice

Dinner was a treat as we usually went all out, starting with an appetizer, like a plate of smoked and dried meats, bruschetta, which was surprisingly served mostly with a selection of DOP olive oils and not with tomatoes. Other toppings were mushrooms, chicken liver and zucchini.
Bruschetta with Sweet Tomatoes and Fresh Basil
Another appetizer that was absolutely delicious was a sandwich, which could have been a meal in itself. It was made of a flat bread, called Ciaccino, which was fried, arugula, Stracchino, a fresh cows milk cheese, rather delicate and light in flavor with a creamy texture and Coppa, a cured meat.
Ciaccino with Arugula, Stracchino and Coppa 
Please check back on Wednesday as I continue my Italian culinary journey!

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