Florence Blog

Find here all the interesting news, tips and thoughts about Florence. Reading this page should give you an idea what to see, where to go and eat in Florence. And some info on the lovely apartment you are about to rent!

Useful Resources on Tuscany - 4

Posted by on Jan 9, 2012 in blog, Useful | 0 comments

With the new year comes a new set of useful pages from around the world wide web regarding Tuscany. I went searching and squeezing Tuscan juice for you. Some is to keep in your bookmarks list, some is made of more ephemeral joys to be consumed at the moment, such as splendid pictures or videos worth seeing. It must be said, this issue was a no-sweat, as so much great stuff is happening in and about Tuscany. Pick your favorites and let me know what you would like to see more of in the comments section at the bottom.

Uffizi Gallery presents sculptures from the collections of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany
The Grand Duchy’s collection is large and composed of pieces coming from villas, private homes, gardens, and other museums and galleries. The exhibit closes on the coming January 29, and is titled “Volti Svelati”, revealed faces, including a large variety of Classical sculptures portraying politicians, important figures, athletes and common people.

National Geographic Photo of the Day of Tuscany, Italy
This is what happens in Tuscany: you drive, you see this wonderful landscape, and you take the picture of the day for National Geographic! That is why a camera is the most special ingredient when Touring this special land. Fill your eyes with it!

Scaloppine alla Boscaiola Recipe
Just like the author knowledgeably states, whatever is “Alla Boscaiola” means in the lumberjack style, and since lumberjacks used to spend months in the woods, where mushrooms thrive, many of their recipes included this delicate wild “fruit”. The recipe comes from the area around Lucca, and is a hearty dish perfect for the coming colder days. Porcini are the best variety to use.

What The Fall Season in Tuscany Holds for You
The fall season has just bid us farewell, but it will be back in just nine months. So while you get ready to go skiing on the Tuscan mountains, you can have a read about the many surprising activities and places to experience in Tuscany.

A Short Tour of Chianti
A flip camera, a summer day in Tuscany, and the Chianti area. This amateur video makes you long for the warm season, when everything is green, windows are open and cicadas fill the afternoon air. Summer is near, and Tuscan villas in Chianti are just the place to be.

48 Hours in Siena
Two full days in Siena: it might be little time, but Lonely Planet writes a nice condensed version of a visit to the city of Palio. Among the highlighted spots are Piazza del Campo and the Public Palace, the Santa Maria della Scala and the Archaeological museum.

The Florentine
I never knew that Florence had a newspaper written in English. The Florentine is found online with plenty of information for English speaking people. Expats will find great job and accommodation info, including housing classifieds and holiday rentals Florence. A curiosity: did you know that two of the main ingredients for Bombay gin come from Tuscany?

Tuscany Farmhouse Offer
Unwind in Maremma for the week end until February 26, 2012. The seaside is set just a short drive a way (20 minutes) and the property is as peaceful it can ever be. Wine and olive groves surround these comfortable apartments including all the charm and comforts. The offer costs 100 Euros per day and is valid for minimum two nights. More details here.

Tuscan Villas to Get Married
Talking about Maremma one cannot do without mentioning villas on the Tuscany coast, especially beautiful and scenic. Getting married in a villa in Tuscany is a special treat to remember and this article helps you choose the best property to do so. This is the right time to start searching!

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Posted by on Jan 3, 2012 in blog, Wine | 0 comments

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is one of the most famous and culturally significant wines in Tuscany, a region famous for its wine-making prowess. It is not to be confused with the Montepulciano grape variety which is used throughout many regions of Italy and is used to make wines such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano actually derives its name from the Tuscan region in which it was created. This distinctive red wine is truly one of Tuscany’s treasures.

Montepulciano is a village in southern Tuscany that has a rich history of wine production. The region’s wine has been praised as far back as 16th century. Montepulciano’s wine was even heralded by 18th century Enlightenment thinker Voltaire, who specifically praised Montepulciano’s wine in his most famous work, Candide. While the wine has experienced some changes throughout the years, today Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is established as a Tuscan masterpiece that is enjoyed across the world. A visit to Montepulciano today not only affords one that opportunity to sample some of its terrific wine, but also to experience the fantastic scenery and captivating history of the region.

Because it is such a unique and important product for Tuscany and Italy, today Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is closely regulated by Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), a government initiative to guarantee the origin of certain foods and wine. As a result, authentic Vino Nobile di Montepulciano must contain a minimum of 70% Savgiovese grapes, up to 20% Canaiolo grapes as well as any other combination of red grapes at the wine maker’s discretion. Accordingly, the product is a consistently unique and distinctive wine that still offers wine maker’s the opportunity for creativity and innovation.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a dry red wine that is said to have aromas of cherry, plum, herbs and tea. Its color is a dark maroon-red. The wine is the perfect pairing for another of Tuscany’s most famous dishes, bistecca alla Fiorentina. Other outstanding pairings with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are pork and lamb. In general, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a tremendous compliment to a variety of classic Italian and Tuscan dishes.

For anyone visiting Tuscany, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a wonderful opportunity to experience the culture and craftsmanship of one of Tuscany’s most famous regions. While there are certainly more famous Tuscan wines, few are as emblematic of the high quality wine that the region offers.

Warren Howe is a writer for Vintage Cellars, a wine storage speciality business and custom wine cellar designer. Vintage Cellars is a leader in high quality wine cellars, wine accessories, and wine storage cabinets.

Happy New Year 2012!

Posted by on Jan 1, 2012 in blog, Useful | 0 comments

A Happy New Year 2012 from ThriftyTuscany.com!
Click on the picture to see it full size, or visit Tuscany A picture a Day on Facebook.

Useful Resources on Tuscany - 3

Posted by on Dec 29, 2011 in blog, Useful | 0 comments

Now on the third appointment with some useful resources on Tuscany. If I keep it up I will have to create a dedicated category!
After the very interesting post by Adria on the influence of Tuscan cooking in world cuisine, it is time to space around and see what others have to say about Tuscany.

Hans Kruse Photography of Tuscany
While perusing the net about Tuscany I stumbled upon this splendid photography page dedicated to Tuscany. I had to go “oh my God!” for their beauty. Actually there are six full pages to enjoy. Long way to go for my Tuscany pictures page!

The Sword in The Stone of San Galgano
I bet you all know about the legend of the King of England that could be enthroned only after pulling out a sword in the stone. This is the story of a medieval knight that stuck its sward in it repudiating war and violence to become a saint. A small chapel rises around the sword, and a wonderful abbey is located in sight.

Trapped in Tuscany
A reverse expat story. Playing on the “Trapped in Boston” joke, Tullio Bertini tells the dramatic story of his odyssey. Born in Boston, son of Italians, he was brought near Lucca by his father, who hoped to start anew. But the war broke out and after many perils and being liberated by the US army, he went to California with his family to live a successful life.

Christmas in Tuscany: the best pictures
Some of the nicest Christmas pictures from Tuscany brought to you by one of the official Tuscan region blogs Around Tuscany. Enjoy!

Five Great Restaurants in Florence
When in Florence..eat well! Never mind spending a tad more. You can go crazy for once in your life! These are five among the best restaurants in the Tuscan capital, and each one offers a very distinctive characteristic making it unique. If you are in the mood for an out-of-the-world experience, Enoteca Pinchiorri awaits you.

New Year’s Eve in The Tuscan Maremma
I love these guys, as they always have good ideas worth sharing. Tuscany is a large region, and Maremma is a the splendid southern portion. It is the wildest part, with vast prairies, beautiful seaside and mainland towns, where to spend New Year’s Eve the way you love it.

Skiing in Tuscany
Abetone, Amiata, Lunigiana and Garfagnana are four mountains you can find in Tuscany. The best slopes are on Abetone, but the others provide a fun ride for beginners. In addition to skiing there are a great many other attractions, such as sports, thermal baths and sightseeing.

The Genius of A Place
Genius Loci, the soul of a place. What is that compels you to be all of a sudden quiet (or cheerful, anxious, relaxed, etc.) upon finding yourself in a place you never visited before? It is the essence of the place, its morphology, colors, smells, and a million different details this documentary tries to capture in Tuscany.

Ok, not a novelty on Experience Tuscany, but what can I say? I love when others talk about the things I love, and I love Castagnaccio. Plus the picture is so yummy!

Capoeira in Tuscany
Tuscany is a land that preserves a continuously changing static nature. Its core of traditions and historic folklore allows for layers of great interaction with external influences, and Capoeira is one of these. Here is a quick overview of where you can learn and practice this splendid Brazilian martial art in Tuscany.

The next round up will be in 2012. Happy new year!

Tuscany, France, and Germany: Where Cultures Collide

Posted by on Dec 24, 2011 in blog, Useful | 0 comments

This great article is a guest post submitted by Adria Saracino. Thanks Adria!

To call Tuscan cuisine unique would be an understatement. After all, it is this region of the world that gives us chianti, hand-rolled pici, and Florentine steak—just to name a few celebrated favorites.

What few people know is that Tuscan cuisine is so unique it has been a driving force in determining cultural gastronomic associations for centuries. The region’s long, tumultuous history of arranged marriages, wars, and alliances gave Tuscany the perfect opportunity to spread its influence across the world. One of the most prevalent influences is the effect Tuscany had on other cultures’ cuisine.

Through the years this influence has sometimes been forgotten. Some cultures have adopted these traditions so fervently that the present-day masses tend to think they were the original creator. Here are some of the foods, techniques, and dishes that are surprisingly of Tuscan descent.

History and French Influence
After successfully driving the French out of the region in 1799, the Italians were forced to relinquish control of Tuscany in 1801 when it became the Kingdom of Etruria under Napoleon. All of this occurred shortly after the French Revolution and during the rise of Napoleon’s dictatorship. In 1808, Tuscany became part of the French empire.

The Kingdom of Italy wasn’t actually established until 1861 after a series of uprisings drove the French away. Tuscany, at this time, was incorporated into the new nation.

But the French Revolution wasn’t the only major event that lent the perfect opportunity for Tuscany to spread its cuisine. A long history of Italians sharing the French throne helped Tuscany leave a mark on culinary history. One of the most notable periods was in 1533, when Caterina de’ Medici married King Henry II of France.

It is said when Caterina moved to France, she missed Italian cooking so much that she ordered Florentine cooks from her home to live with her in France. This resulted in her introducing a host of new ingredients, techniques, and cooking equipment to France. Experts credit Caterina with introducing beans, broccoli, green beans, peas, artichokes, ice cream, macarons, some pastry crusts, and even forks to the region.

Besides ingredients, she also introduced cooking techniques that would mark the course of France’s culinary history. Italian cooks are thought to have encouraged the French to move away from boldly-spiced dry rubs for meat preparation to delicate sauces. One of the most popular is the infamous French roux béchamel.

Foreign language learning aficionados, not to mention foodies, will get a kick out of this: béchamel, a “white sauce”, of milk thickened with butter and flour, is actually derived from the Italian Besciamella sauce. This is surprising, considering France is now known for revolutionizing the concept of the five “mother sauces”: espagnole, hollandaise, tomato, velouté, and—you guessed it—béchamel.

That is not the only “French” sauce Caterina is behind. The popular Canard á l’Orange, or duck with orange sauce, is in fact Florentine. Florentines used citrus in the 15th century to preserve meat, and it was said that this was one of the dishes served at Caterina and Henry’s wedding.

How Has Tuscan Food Been Influenced?
Though Tuscany has a long history of influencing international cuisine, it did not escape the assimilation of other country’s traditions and methods into its own culture. For example, the classic Florentine steak and zuppa inglese dessert are of British origins. Both of these were prepared for the British colony living in Tuscany at the beginning of the 19th century.

Likewise the delicious fish soup from Livorno, Cacciucco, is said to have either Turkish or Spanish origins. Kuçuk in Turkish means chopped up in pieces, while in Spanish cachuco is the name of a small fish. Since Livorno was a free port during the Medici dominion, it was the perfect location for a nice Renaissance melting pot.

Of Italian descent, Adria Saracino is a writer, travel aficionado, and self-proclaimed Francophile. She can often be found practicing her hand at the language, using pimsleur French or chatting in the language with other Francophiles.

Useful Resources on Tuscany - 2

Posted by on Dec 22, 2011 in blog, Cultural Events, Useful, wedding, What to Do in Tuscany | 0 comments

I did not think I would make it to another edition of useful Tuscan resources, but a week later here I am with another list of great links encompassing a wider view on Tuscany. Cooking classes for celiacs, photography seminars, rock star concerts, witty websites, at exhibits, and expatriate entrepreneurs are just some of the highlights of this web snooping series. Peruse it, find what enlightens you!

10 reasons to visit Tuscany in winter
Is there any good reason to be in Tuscany during the cold season? This article gives you ten. Thermal spas, snow covered Florence and Siena, ski trips, romantic winter seaside towns, nature walks and more to take in all the beauty of Tuscany.

Travel Photo of the Week on National Geographic
It is a remarkable picture of one of the most celebrated spots in Tuscany. It is the cypress grove rising between Torrenieri and San Quirico d’Orcia in the Siena province. Passing by here you can spot someone taking a picture any day of the week. No idea why that handful of trees was saved from razing and their land being farmed, we are just glad someone did it this way!

“Treasures of Tuscany” head shows there’s life after politics
A US expat story. After the Clinton-Gore administration failed to bring Gore to presidency, one of the appointees decided to rebuild her life between Italy and her country with an innovative concept. She now helps travelers discover the delicacies of Tuscan cooking through an epicurean voyage!

Gluten-Free Tuscany
Celiacs, or people affected by gluten intolerance, encounter plenty of difficulties in their diet when far from home, and even more so in a wheat-crazy land such as Tuscany. Bread, pasta, and cereals are the staple here, almost making Tuscany a no-no for celiacs. Zenfully delicious gluten-free tour of Italy’s Tuscany region is what your gluten-intolerant self was waiting for!

Photo Venture of Tuscany
2012 is the time to be in Tuscany taking pictures. This looks like a wonderful workshop to take part to, dedicated to all professions, and mastery level. No classroom boredom, but on-the-field experience sharing your skills with photographers from many backgrounds.

Under The Tuscan Gun
Take a handsome Tuscan fella, i.e. Gabriele Corcos, take Debi Mazar, no presentations needed, add love, passion for traveling, cooking, Tuscany and a good doses of entrepreneurship. Here you have Under the Tuscan Gun, a resourceful, witty, and unexpected take on culinary lessons, love for the (Tuscan) land and ways to reinvent olives into a thriving business.

Tuscan Wedding Photo Collection by Italian Wedding Photographer Rochelle Cheever
If you are thinking of getting married in Tuscany, this is an inspiring article you should read. Apart from the wonderful pictures it includes, it also gives ideas on location, dress, flower arrangement and wedding cake.

The Tuscan pine nut cake – a recipe with a story
Pine nuts: little, delicious, weirdly shaped pebbles of oily joy! I still remember as a kid often hitting my fingers with a stone trying to crack their shell open, just to get the fresh fruit right out of a pine cone. Therefore this is one of my favorite Tuscan dessert recipes. It also includes raisins, and yellow cream, all layered in crumbling “pasta frolla”. Heaven!

Haloes and holiness
Not in Tuscany, but about A Tuscan master. Fra Angelico is on show in Paris, France, at Musée Jacquemart-André. This is a wonderful occasion to discover more on the relatively unknown artistic side of the author.

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers Announce 2012 Dates, First European Tour in 20 years
Save the date, the first and only one in Italy during this unique tour. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers will be hitting the Lucca scene on June 29, 2012. Tickets are already on sale.

Was this inspiring, useful, entertaining or just dull? Let me know. Til the next one!

How to Save Money on Holiday Accommodation in Tuscany

Posted by on Dec 21, 2011 in blog, Useful, Where to Stay | 0 comments

Holidaying in Tuscany can be an experience that is never forgotten. This beautiful area is filled with historical sites, beautiful surroundings, and some of the finest foods in the world. It is a top destination for travelers all over the world, with many returning each year.

Taking a holiday in this beautiful area does not have to drain your bank account. The two largest expenses associated with any type of holiday are lodging and food. The great news is that when you stay in Tuscany villas instead of hotel rooms you can reduce the expense of both.

This is a farmhouse in Cortona, Tuscany. It sleeps up to 6 people and is available at great daily prices.

Renting a villa as your holiday accommodation will allow you to enjoy all of the luxuries of a hotel stay with the additional benefits of:

• Increased privacy. A villa will not require you to pass through a crowded lobby to arrive at your room.
• More room for you and your loved ones.
• More occupants can stay in one villa reducing the need to rent several rooms. Larger villas often have several bedrooms, allowing an entire family to stay in one place.
• Villas have a place where you can dine-in. Taking just one meal a day in your villa can reduce your overall costs by a significant amount.
• Many villas have washing accommodations.
• Various entertainment options are available when poor weather occurs.

Villas are usually located within the tourist areas, so visitors will not feel secluded from the events taking place in the area. Many Tuscany villas are located on properties that have swimming and sun bathing areas, entertainment areas, and dining establishments. Much like a hotel, everything you need is available, but at a discounted price.

Villas offer the visitor a way to relax in a “home like” atmosphere, while still feeling indulged in luxury. An eat-in area allows for a reduction in dining costs by providing the visitors a way to have one or two small meals at the villa instead of purchasing each meal of the day.

This is a farmhouse in Chianni, Tuscany. This farmhouse sleeps up to 7 people and can be rented for an astonishingly low weekly price.

Travellers can also reduce their expenses by not having to pay for washing services, something that no one ever considers until they need fresh clothes.

Visitors to Tuscany can also reduce the expense of their holiday accommodations by:

• Making reservations at least one month in advance.
• Not travelling during peak tourist seasons.
• Creating travel packages online that offer discounts for multiple bookings, such as air fare and villa and car rental.
• Purchasing fresh foods in the local market and eating breakfast or lunch at the villa to reduce costs. The fresh food will taste wonderful, and the money you save can be used for more important things like entertainment.
• Search online for discounts or specials to local area attractions.
• Rent a larger villa and travel with friends to reduce the overall cost to everyone.

A holiday in Tuscany should be filled with enjoyment, not worrying about expenses. Taking advantage of Tuscany villas instead of renting an overpriced, small hotel room, will allow you to enjoy more when you are visiting. In many cases the money you save on your holiday accommodations will allow you to extend your stay, giving you more reasons to be happy.

Capon Broth Cappelletti

Posted by on Dec 17, 2011 in blog, Recipes | 0 comments

As Christmas is getting closer and closer, I imagine this recipe will be quite useful to those in search of an idea for their Holidays table. It is a typically Tuscan recipe. Capon broth is exquisite and can be used in multiple ways in your kitchen. It also has purifying properties, making of it an excellent first course without any additional ingredient. One common Tuscan way of using it, however, involves pasta and especially Cappelletti. This is a kind of filled pasta similar to tortellini for taste and consistency. As a matter of fact, Tortellini pasta is also often used. Cappelleti with capon broth is a first entry dish that usually follows a Tuscan crostini appetizer. It is a very inexpensive dish; children like it and is very healthy for them, as it does not entail frying and includes only low fat ingredients.

These ingredients are for six people
Broth ingredients: One capon, one onion, one carrot, some celery stalks
Cappelletti ingredients: One kilo of capon meat, two eggs, 150 grams of Parmesan cheese, 100 grams of mortadella, 150 grams raw ham, 300 grams of egg pasta layers.

Broth: Submerge the capon in a pot with cold water together with an onion, a carrot, and a celery stalk, bring to a boil and keep it so at least an hour and a half. Then set the meat and vegetables aside and filter the broth.

Cappelletti filling: Remove the fat, nerves and tendons from one leg and the breast of the capon. Set the meat in the food processor, then mix in the eggs, grated Parmesan cheese, raw ham, mortadella, salt and pepper. Blend everything in the food mill.
Lay the pasta sheets and prepare the Cappelletti using the filling you just made. Cook al-dente in the capon broth, and serve hot.

A suggestion to make the broth leaner: prepare it the day before consumption, then set the pan in the fridge or in a cool place to allow the fat to solidify and separate from the broth. Removing it with a small strainer will be very easy. This way the recipe will be more digestible and light.

As previously said, the broth itself can be an entry without any pasta addition. It is also customary in Tuscany to drink it in a consommé cup without the cappelletti.

Useful Resources on Tuscany

Posted by on Dec 14, 2011 in blog, Cultural Events, Florence, Useful | 0 comments

With today’s post I would like to start a somewhat regular appointment on the blog to collect all the most interesting web resources that I can find online about Tuscany. There is a lot out there that continues to interest and fascinate me, more than I will ever be able to blog about. Nevertheless, I wish to share it with readers of Experience Tuscany. This is the first attempt at something I would like to call a “Tuscany info roundup“. I tried collecting ten of the most interesting information that was twitted in the last month about anything and everything concerning Tuscany. It includes info on events, art exhibits, personal experiences, news, books and videos.

Spend your Christmas in Tuscany among hundreds Traditional Markets
A nice article including many of the principal Christmas markets in Tuscany. From the German one in Florence to the famous market of Marradi passing by Pisa, Lucca and Massa Carrara. A collection of handcrafted Christmas objects to decorate your house or to gift someone, including many traditional foods to savor.

Artistic decorations in the center of Siena
In collaboration with Santa Maria della Scala in Siena is this exhibit in the Podestà Courtyard of the public palace in Siena. The main theme is Christmas, and combines the work of elementary school kids of the city with that of Wassily Kandinsky.

Tuscany’s gifts to the world
In case you need some reminder why Tuscany should be your next vacation destination, this article gives six excellent reasons. Historic towns, breathtaking landscapes, delicious cuisine, art and festivals of all kinds are the main themes of this article.

Etruria Resort
A little over a year ago this fantastic resort opened in one of my favorite towns of Tuscany, Montepulciano. This little jewel in the Valdichiana already enjoyed the vicinity of the thermal town of Chianciano, but it lacked a wellness center of its own. I personally visited this hotel and I was impressed by its beauty and fascinating attractions, such as the sauna carved out an ancient Etruscan tomb.

Florence and Tuscany Travel Pack
Who says that Tuscany can only be visited spending a high budget? If you love globe-trotting, this seems to be the ideal guide for you. It is a compact guide of Tuscany and Florence with lots of tips, maps, atlases,
pictures, and must-see sights with concise descriptions.

Italian man kills two Senegalese traders in Florence
This sad sad news hit everyone when this crazy man killed two Senegalese 20-year-olds in the lively San Lorenzo market in Florence. A far right extremist, he decided to outburst his hatred killing two and wounding three others prior to killing himself in a parking lot. The city of Florence is shocked and observing one day of mourning.

La Dolce Vita - You’ve come a long way baby
She is an expat living and working at her handmade jewelery in Florence. Reading this article from hers made me think of all those that pursuit their life endeavors abroad. Some make it, some other get ground away in the process. Having someone at your side can make a great difference, but you have to be able to keep the right ones.

ITALY 2011
A personal article from an art blog by an artist retelling some glimpses of her travel experiences in Tuscany. San Gimignano, Florence, Pisa…I love her passion in describing works of art.

Giotto’s Campanile (or Bell Tower), Florence
Get a flip camera, go live in Florence and take movies and pics of one of the most wonderful cities in the world. This is how this fantastic site was born, and this video is just a short but intense film about Giotto’s bell tower and the splendid landscape from up there.

The Artisan Shoe Maker - Mondo Albion in Florence
I was trying to shelter from a summer downpour when I entered Mondo Albion in Florence and remained completely mesmerized by the craftsmanship of this man. He is one of the last shoemakers, and his comments are very interesting, especially under the light of the last sad happenings in Florence.

Tomato Cardoons Recipe - Gobbi Rifatti

Posted by on Dec 9, 2011 in blog, Recipes | 0 comments

I can’t believe how long it’s been since the last recipe! Reviewing my list of Tuscan recipes I see the last proper recipe I published was on October 28th about pasta with pumpkin and mushrooms. This fact calls for immediate publishing of one of my favorite recipes: cardoons with tomato sauce, which I prepared and ate just today.

There are two or three variants to this recipe, and as usual one is lighter but less flavorful, the other is very tasty, but very heavy too. So I will go for the just middle and provide a recipe including some light frying only, but still plenty of taste. Cardoons are a winter vegetable typical of this season. It is in the same family of artichokes, but less bitter and more tender. These veggies have not much taste and nutrients, so they require all the Tuscan culinary tradition of adding condiments to otherwise unfulfilling foods.

As a result cardoons are often fried with egg batter, can be the main ingredient of a sformato (flan), part of an egg omelet, or lightly sautèed, then stewed in meat or tomato sauce. This double cooking process gives the name of “rifatti”, or done twice, which helps drench the vegetables with the sauce juices. This is the recipe I will be telling you about today!

If this is the first time dealing with cardoons, a little warning is a must: these are quite labor intensive vegetables, so give yourself enough time to go through each step comfortably. I estimate a preparation time of one hour and a half, but smaller quantities should decrease the time of about half hour. Make sure you have a large frying pan to hold all your cardoons on one/two layers.

Ingredients: One bunch of cardoons or about a kilo, 500 grams of plain tomato sauce or tomatoes, two garlic cloves, one small bunch of fresh parsley, one small white or red onion, few leaves of basil (not a vital ingredient), flour as needed, a few table spoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt as needed, half glass of milk (optional).

Preparation: Clean the cardoons. Remove the leaves, separate all the stems in the stalk, remove all the dirt, scrape the tiny thorns on the sides of the stems, then proceed to removing all the fibers that run along the back of each stem using a knife to scrape and pull them. This is a long process. Keep a bowl of water with some lemon slices in it, and set the clean cardoons in as soon as you are done cleaning each one. This will prevent blackening.

Meanwhile, set a pan with salted water on the stove, and when it boils set in all the cardoons. Boil for twenty minutes or until you can stick a fork in with a little effort. Immediately remove from boiling water and pour into cold water. Now prepare the tomato sauce in a pan mincing one garlic clove and the onion, and saute in one tablespoon of olive oil. When golden, pour in the tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes. Add salt to taste, basil if you have it, then let simmer half covered over low heat.

Dry the cardoons with a kitchen cloth or paper towels, then dust with flour and set aside. Dust one by one on a plate to avoid flour lumps. Mince a clove of garlic, the parsley, and quickly saute in a large frying pan with three tablespoons of olive oil. Pour in the cardoons and let golden on all sides. Do not make more than two layers of cardoons, so they will cook evenly. When they are all done, pour the tomato sauce over the cardoons and let simmer over low heat until tender. If the tomato sauce is too thick, mix in a little hot water prior to pouring it on the cardoons.

This is a rich side dish perfect with eggs or stewed meat, washed down with a gentle Chianti.