Renaissance means rebirth, and where better to have your palate revitalised than in the ancient cities, villages, rolling hills and green valleys, of Tuscany – the cradle of our civilisation’s reboot.
From the time of the Etruscans, through to the Roman Empire, the coming of the Lombards, Napoleonic days, to the present, Tuscany has been renowned as the food and wine heartland of Italy.
Ideally positioned in this culinary heartland is the elegant Karma Borgo di Colleoli, a sprawling historic manor house transformed into a luxurious 5-star rated resort.
With Karma as your base, you can enjoy the cuisine in picturesque locales ranging from the bustling capital of Florence, beneath the sunburnt roofs of Sienna, historic Pisa, to the isle of Elba where Napoleon spent time living in exile in the 19th century.
Tuscan cuisine is based on the concept of cucina povera or “poor cooking”, with simple inexpensive ingredients but bold flavours.
There are too many regional cuisine delights to make a dent in them here, but don’t leave without trying white truffle from the San Miniato hills, Cacciucco alla Livornese – a simple fish soup or a Lampredotto sandwich, made from cow stomach cooked in a broth and then served with salsa verde or/and spicy sauce.
Then there’s Ribollita meaning twice boiled – a hearty bean soup, and Pappa al Pomodoro – the ultimate in Tuscan comfort food. It’s a tomato soup with a base of stale bread, whose exact recipe changes from village to village, but has three main ingredients which are mandatory for a good result: crunchy bread, juicy ripe tomatoes, garlic, salt and the best Tuscan olive oil.
Festive occasions in Tuscany begin with chicken liver pâté crostini, soothed with a knob of butter and topped with capers and anchovy paste.
Italy’s wine superstar
Obviously, wine will also play a big part because you’re in Tuscany and the region is renowned for some of Italy’s finest wines led by Sangiovese with Brunello Di Monticello the star. Also, worth sampling are the region’s Super Tuscans which can put a dent in the wallet but they’re arguably the unofficial stars of Italian wine. They can be derived straight from the Sangiovese grape but can also be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah as well as other grapes. There’s even a couple worth seeking out that are similar to classic Bordeaux blends which are truly sumptuous wines.
As for the near-perfect food accompaniment for a Super Tuscan, try a Bistecca alle Fiorentina, traditionally a three or four-pound T-bone from the Val di Chiana (Chiana Valley), seasoned with salt, black pepper, and olive oil and cooked on all sides over a charcoal fire.
To get around, consider walking or even renting a Vespa, but plan to make Karma Borgo di Colleoli your base for at least a few days, take some local cooking classes and get to know the locals.
Above all, plan an alfresco extra-long luncheon on a long trestle table with family or new friends under the shade of Tuscan Cypress Trees – it will make for an unforgettable experience that will reward all your senses.