We're in Italy, so you can't help but expect incredible food, and luckily the Maremma doesn't disappoint.
For centuries, the territory has asserted itself as an independent entity. Sure it has plenty of dishes that are typically Italian in their simplicity and honesty, but the Maremma also defines itself by the dishes and products that are its own.
Whether these are influenced by the Aldobrandeschi Counts, the Sienese rulers or the Spanish invaders, Maremmani food is deliciously unique.
It's also bound by centuries old traditions. It's a family business and the secrets of good cheese, wine, meat are handed down from generation to generation.
Every year, cities across the Maremma celebrate their local products with dedicated festivals and sagre. Not only are these festivals the perfect time for tourists to enjoy food at its most seasonal and best, it's also a chance to soak up the traditions of the locals around you.
For the Maremmani, the produce they grow is a part of themselves and their heritage. Many of the farms, vineyards and olive groves in the territory still use ancient recipes to produce their products, often in the same kitchens and using the same tools their ancestors used.
And when you arrive in the Maremma, why not take a food and wine trail? Gorgeous scenery aside, these trails are for those who want to meet the winemakers who have lived and breathed their vines for generations and who want to buy directly from the farmers who have been making olive oil and other local products with the same recipes for centuries.
As you follow the trails, you realise that you're not just being directed to the farms and vineyards, but also to the best cellar doors and restaurants and the stores that sell beautiful handicrafts. You are experiencing the flavours of the Maremma in their entirety! All you need is a car and you can get all the maps and information you need from your local tourist information centre.
They’re not just a French delicacy, the Maremmani love them too! These edible funghi grow in the woods around Tarquinia and Castell’Azzara and cost a pretty penny. Truffles or tartufo are usually reserved for special occasions when they are lovingly shaved over pasta or omeletes.In July, Castell’Azzara hosts its annual Festa del Tartufo d’Estate. It’s a rare chance for locals and tourists alike to try this luxurious treat.
This cured ham could possibly be Italy’s national dish. In the Maremma, they leave their prosciutto crudo to age until it turns a deep red and becomes deliciously salty. With a slicing machine in every household, the Maremmani rarely dine without a piece of prosciutto in a slice of bread or wrapped around some cantaloupe.The best Maremman prosciutto is made in Manciano and Monte Amiata where they rear special pigs.
The Maremma’s chestnuts or castagne are so good, they’ve earned IGT status, which is a special recognition that attests to their integrity and genuine roots. They’re mostly grown in Monte Amiata throughout autumn and winter, and are a base for a number of local desserts and cakes. Scarlino, Arcidosso and Santa Fiora all celebrate the chestnut with their own festivals throughout the year. My favourite is the Festa del Marrone in Santa Fiora, which has plenty of activities for the whole family.
Porcini are an acquired taste. They are regarded with the same luxurious gaze as truffle in the Maremma and every local has their own special spot in the forest which they find the best porcini mushrooms… and they’re not telling you where. Personally, I think they’re in Monte Amiata, where the forests are dense and damp.In Santa Fiora, porcini are given pride of place during the Festa del Fungo Amiatano in October. Throughout the rest of the year, Maremmani enjoy their mushrooms in a beautifully rich and aromatic zuppa di funghi. I’ve included the recipe on my recipes page.
The Maremmani take their cheese seriously. It all starts with the milk. There are a number of diactic farms across the province that specialise in showing tourists how all the local dairy products are made. In the supermarket, you’ll be hard pressed to find milk that isn’t the local latte maremmana brand. Most Maremmani dabble in cheesemaking at home, but to buy the best cheese you have to go to the Torre del Formaggio in Manciano, where you can get everything from hard goats’ cheeses to soft pecorino and unctuous gorgonzola.
Now this is something all Maremmani are proud of. Saffron or zafferano is one of the province’s biggest exports. The type of plant they grow here is a completely local variety and has the most beautiful purple petals. You can buy this precious spice from dedicated stores in Scansano, Castel del Piano, Campagnatico and Massa Marritima.
Bottarga is a type of cured fish primarily produced on the shores around Orbetello Lagoon. Every year fisherman catch and cure hundreds of kilos of bottarga to sell across Italy and the rest of the world. When the fish is dried, it becomes extremely pungent and tastes a bit like caviar. In fact it’s actually called poor man’s caviar. Most Maremmani shave it over pasta. It’s an acquired taste, but you can try it in Orbetello in October during the province’s biggest culinary festival, Gustatus.
In English lardo means lard. But this cured meat is nothing like those gelatinous lumps that people in movies use instead of butter. Lardo is the fat from the belly of the pig, which is then salt-cured and mixed with spices and herbs. When it’s ready, it’s sliced into the thinnest slivers and placed over a piece of hot toast so that it melts. In one word, heaven, trust me.Most of the Maremma’s lardo comes from the Colonnata or Monte Amiata. It’s salty and deliciously spiced. You have to try it.
A list of the Maremma’s local products wouldn’t be complete without a mention of their local wines. Maremmani reds are simply unforgettable and, if you’re not careful, can steal the show from even the most luxurious meal, while the whites of the region are far subtler, bringing out the best in seafood and sweet treats.There are a number of festivalsheld each year to celebrate various local wines. The true gourmet can also go on food and wine trails to see where the vines are grown and visit the wineries that produce the best local wines.