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30 November 2007

Truffles and more in Umbria, the heart of Italy

The region of Umbria is located in the heart of Italy, the capital is Perugia and gets its name for the tribe Umbri, who settled in the area in the 6th century A.C.

The bases of its gastronomy are an almost monastic simplicity and the richness and quality of its autochthonous products: pastas, vegetables, polenta, meat of pork accompanied of a good wine, these are the most popular plates.

In the course of the years, the region has not let its customs linked to the past disappear, but rather, has favoured the recuperation of the products and dishes that have formed the basis of eating habits since the Middle Ages.

Without doubt the leader amongst the most prized products is the truffle, authentic regional glory, and protagonist of countless recipes and plates of almost every restaurant and market of the region: "tartufo nero of Norcia and Spoleto" (Tuber melanosporum vittadini) (from November to March) and "tartufo bianco" (Tuber magnatum albi) (October to December).

Umbria is also considered as one of the historical oil producing regions: cultivation dates back directly to the Etruscans, who were among the first people of Italy to practice olive cultivation. Umbro oil has a robust body, green Emerald colour, intensely fruity and persistent aroma of fresh olives and of grass newly cut, with a point lightly piquant.

Other remarkable products are pork, whose upbringing already was realized in the Roman Empire, to feed Legions (prosciutto di Norcia, Porchetta al finocchio...), potatoes from Colfiorito, red onions from Cannara, Black celery from Trevi, cheeses (pecorino di Norcia, whose quality already was documented by Plinio the Old, S. I A.C, in his work Natural History), or lentils from Castellucio.

Worthy of a mention apart are the vineyards which, thanks also to a favourable landscape, arcilloso y rico en agua y un clima dulce, have allowed, since ancient times, the production of high quality wines.The great variety in flavour and typology of the wines brings to the attention the strong diversification in production, largely concerning the areas of Trasimeno, Orvieto, Montefalco, Assisi and the Perugian hills: white wine from Orvieto, red from Montefalco Sagrantino and "el Torgiano Rosso" are examples of good wines.

And what about pastries? Oh! Really nice. Standing out those elaborated with almond, sugar and spices, always in the oven, according to the most ancient recipes. The Torciglione, for example, is a sweet in the shape of serpent, which origin goes back to the pagan rites, (the serpent was adored as a divinity, as symbol of life and vigour, for the property that it possesses of changing the skin recovering the young aspect). Other typical recipes are the Torcolo di San Constanzo, the Panpetato, the Ciaramicola, the Rocciata di Assisi, the Brustengolo, the Cake di Orvieto or the Frittelle di San Giuseppe, all reserved to religious, agricultural or of the cycle of the life festivities , though nowadays, they are elaborated all the year round.

One trip to the heart of Italy that will fully satisfy to the most exigent gourmet.
An authentic piaccere!

Laura Gosalbo
November 2007

Truffe market in Gubbio 

Pecorino cheese and pork charcuterie

           Deli shop

Black celery market in Trevi

Delicious Tiramisú
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