Food festivals, a journey through the flavours of the Etruscan Coast
The sea and the wind, the woods and the hills impart authentic flavours in the local meat and fish specialities, enthralling every palate.
The Etruscan Coast is the tract of land in Tuscany, between the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Mediterranean maquis of the Pisan hills and the Val di Cornia, where unique attractions and traditions thrive and are complemented by local flavours waiting to be explored and savoured.
Fish lovers will find a true gastronomic paradise in the villages along the coast, where the scenic views are the perfect backdrop for food festivals and tastings. The Slow Food backed fish, Palamita or Bonito, is often served in San Vincenzo, especially during the “Un Mare di Gusto” festival, a highly recommended experience. After a day spent visiting the village or enjoying the golden, dog-friendly beaches in the area, nothing could be better than relaxing in one of the delightful little restaurants offering traditional, local food. An irresistible pleasure is the delicious Fried Fish Festival in Piombino, when cooking aromas mixed with the sea breeze waft into Piazza Bovio, the panoramic terrace overlooking the blue expanse of the sea. The Festa del Pescatore held in Cecina Mare in the month of September, when local fishermen cook and sell their catch to the public, is also a highly recommended experience.
Not far from the coast, the iconic avenue of cypresses praised by Carducci leads to Bolgheri, where the excellent wines of the area are the perfect accompaniment to traditional recipes, such as the renowned “boar’s head”. To end the meal, nothing could be better than a glass of “shepherd’s liqueur”, accompanied by the local “corolli incesi” biscuits
Along the coast just as in the hinterland there is no shortage of meat specialities. In addition to the bonito and sea flavours of San Vincenzo, the Festival of the “Bestia alla Brusta” fills the air with joy and the inviting aroma of grilled meat. The hillsides of the village of Sassetta are the venue for the October Festivals dedicated to good food, including the Chestnut Festival and the “Tordata“, a traditional event held in the town square, where a large spit spreads the aromas of the roasting meat in an amazing spectacle for the eyes and tempting the taste buds of visitors.
The intense and unmistakable flavour of wild boar is exalted in festivals in the inland villages of Suvereto and Riparbella, which is also famous for its Pappardelle with Wild Boar. The festival is the perfect opportunity to savour dishes in the friendly, rustic atmosphere of the village and enjoy the music, excellent wine from local cellars and lots of good humour. Zuppa alla Riparbellina is a traditional soup with s simple, authentic, country flavour that has to be experienced.
In Suvereto, the Wild Boar Festival is a wonderful opportunity to take part in the life of the village and enjoy the thirteenth-century costume parade and Historical Procession and the market stalls, where local artisans show off their skills as they create outstanding artefacts; the aromas of local products (such as olive oil, wine and the inevitable game) fill the alleyways and streets, inviting visitors to have a taste. The nearby village of Guardistallo is well worth visiting in the second weekend of October, when one of the simplest, most beloved of cold weather dishes is celebrated in the Sagra della Polenta. The village, part of the network of the Association of Polenta Festivals in Italy, is known for its polenta served with a sauce of mushrooms or wild boar and with the local extra virgin olive oil, one of the excellent products of the Etruscan Coast.
Returning to the coast, the festival celebrating the Tortello di Donoratico more than satisfies the needs of filled pasta connoisseurs. Not far away, near the coastline of Cecina, the pine forest, “La Cecinella”, is filled every summer with gastronomic events, such as the Wild Boar Festival, the ideal venue, a stone’s throw from the sea, for enjoying the local cuisine and the salty air.
Highly prized, and a delight for vegetarians, is the violet artichoke, which derives is authentic flavour from salinity of the soil and the particular microclimatic of the plain of Venturina Terme where the crop is grown. The Artichoke Festival, Sagra del Carciofo di Venturina Terme, one of the most popular events, takes place in the hamlet of Riotorto, near Piombino, and the food and wine event, Carciofo Pride, when local restaurants serve delicious, artichoke based dishes, takes place in Venturina Terme.
Those with a sweet tooth will find Schiaccia di Campiglia irresistible! This simple, wholesome dessert, traditional to Campiglia Marittima and made from extremely fresh pork lard, eggs, sugar, flour and a sprinkling of pine nuts, exalts timeless flavours.
After a day spent on the beach, in the marvellous thermal baths or exploring archaeological parks, villages and museums, the many typical flavours of the Etruscan Coast add the finishing touches to drinks with friends or romantic dinners, and make any stay in Tuscany truly memorable.