Another season's passed. I admit I already miss summer. A gelato doesn't sound as nice anymore and a glass of white wine on the garden terrace is a thing of the past.
But autumn is one of the most culinary vibrant seasons in the Maremman calendar. When we're not fishing, we're foraging in the kilometres of forests for treats that only pop up in autumn.
So here are my top tastes of the season and the best places to try them.
Porcini season here kicks off in October. You might find them for sale earlier, but as my father-in-law and most good Maremmani will tell you, they're not Tuscan. In fact, they're usually not even Italian.
I admit, I find porcini mushrooms slimy. I hate them in pasta sauces or soups. I feel like I'm eating gloopy glue. I don't, however, object to them sauteed or fried for a real crisp taste of mushroom with great texture.
For the best sauteed porcini, I head out of the official boundaries of the Tuscan Maremma and to Vivo d'Orcia near Siena. This small mountain town hosts an awesome annual Porcini Festival on October 13, 19 and 20, and its restaurants make the mushroom their star ingredient during the autumn months.
Photo: Bev Sykes
Wild boar or cinghiale
is my ultimate bugbear. I was on a job recently where my non-Maremman colleagues insisted on ordering wild boar ragu at every meal! I have nothing against the meat, but like vegetables, it has its season.
As you can tell by the odd gunshot sound, the caccia
or hunting season has just started. If you're going to order wild boar, order it now in autumn/winter.
Otherwise save yourself €12, head to the closest Maremman supermarket and buy wild boar pasta sauce in a jar because that's what the restaurant will be serving you.
Wild boar isn't ever served as a steak. It's usually part of a pasta sauce or braised with olives and tomatoes in a stew. Restaurant owners buy it from hunters who sell their part of the catch - it takes more than one hunter to catch a wild boar, so the meat is usually shared between eight or nine men.
The best wild boar is served close to my home at Il Miravale Restaurant in Manciano
Tortelli with cannella
A weird, but interesting foray into sweet with savory. Tortelli are big ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach and in the most traditional cases, a pinch of cinnamon.
And while most are topped with a bolognese sauce, some parts of the Maremma do them differently in autumn. They dress them with melted butter, cinnamon and sugar for a treat that is part dessert, part main.
This dish is the domain of sagre or food festivals, but you can try it out in Scansano
. It's an acquired taste, but I love it.
Photo: Stu Spivak
A true taste of autumn, this sweet treat is made from chestnut flour and has the same colour and texture as a good spice cake. The best chestnut cakes are made in Monte Amiata, where the chestnut not only holds god but also DOP status, which indicates its incredible quality.
For great chestnut cakes, I head to the restaurants in Arcidosso
where they serve them with a spoonful of crema pasticceria
(custard) and a dusting of icing sugar in the manner of all unfussy and unpretentious Italian deserts.
The cake is moist, but not sweet. It's flavoured with nutmeg and is surprisingly healthier than a flour cake. Goes greats with figs - another seasonal treat - too!
A good rosato
I like to save the red wine for the winter months when you can get away with making vin brule and no one complains about wasting good wine.
For me, autumn is a time for rosato, the under appreciated middle sibling in the wine family. Maremma Vigna Mia
make a spectacular rosato from Sangiovese grapes that's beautiful with autumn aperitifs and hard cheeses and has fantastically light floral and fruity tones.
The real treat is that you buy a bottle for €6.40 from most supermarkets and cellars. As my Melbourne-based sister always says: "It's a miracle there aren't more drunks in Italy when the booze is so cheap!".