by Carla Capalbo
Would-be travelers’ dreams of Tuscany are permeated with visions of salame, bruschetta, gelato, and robust red wine. Gourmands with a taste for the cuisine of Northern Italy may have installed drool buckets by their beds as the Italian departure date nears, but getting their hands on those fabled comestibles once en route is not as easy as uno, due, tre. What you want are those family-run trattorias and wineries, those village markets heaped with fresh local produce, those hard-to-find shops laden with delectably smelly cheeses and hand-pressed olive oils. Well, Carla Capalbo’s Food Lover’s Companion to Tuscany is reason for to rejoice for traveling Tuscan tasters. After two years traversing Tuscany, testing trattorias, noting markets and festivals, Capalbo has put together a loving tribute to the food of Tuscany. Going province by province, the guide takes you from Lucca and the Garfagnana through Florence, Pisa, and the Island of Elba. It visits Mount Abetone, Livorno and its coast, Chianti Classico and its wines, Siena, Mount Amiata, and the hills and valleys of Arezzo. There’s an appendix with Tuscan market days listed town by town, a glossary, an index of wines, and another of wine grape varietals. A quick flip reveals a Florentine shop specializing in chocolates, the Mansi Bernardini estate with its fine Luccan olive oils, and Signora Renata Ginestri, baker of some of Tuscany’s best breads. There’s Da Antonio (a fine fish restaurant in the heart of Chianti), Tenuta Fontodi (the excellent and handsome vineyard outside Panzano), and Caseificio Cooperativa Val D’Orcia (a cheese cooperative in the hills of Contignano specializing in Pienza-style pecorini). Perusing is addictive. Just don’t read the book when you’re hungry.