The sweet peaches, he vermouth, zuccherini Vernio, the unsalted bread, dried figs of Carmignano, meat Chianina, the mortadella, Carmignano DOCG wine. Prato and its province are a mine of surprises for those who love good food and for those who, like us, You are always looking for agribusiness products to remember and, especially, to taste. If, then, wine and food environment is enriched by the Medici villas, parks, medieval churches and old houses, then one can not say that the one that winds around the hills of Prato is really a journey not to be missed.
The idea of traveling in this stretch of Tuscan land, a stone's throw from Florence, we came when we realized our travel route between Lucca and Pistoia. Prato gave us the feeling of a city that alone deserves a visit, without knowing how much there was in magnificent surroundings. The opportunity to deepen their knowledge of Prato and around us was offered by Showcase Tuscany, the project of Region and Unioncamere Toscana bringing together over a thousand restaurateurs and almost three hundred food shops that use and enhance regional products.
TO SEE: VILLA FERDINANDA – The hunting house of the Medici family history is one of the most beautiful places in the surroundings of Prato. On a hill overlooking the Ombrone valley, and from which you can see the dome of Florence Cathedral, This large villa now houses visitors in large frescoed rooms, It preserves a historic wine cellar and a restaurant (Biagio Pignatta). Villa La Ferdinanda was built in 1596 by Ferdinando I de 'Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and it is about 400 meters from the medieval village of Artimino: the main floor, the loggia of Paradises, the chapel, the audience hall, the apartments of the Grand Duchess. In 1737 the Medici dynasty is extinguished, the villa passes into the hands to the House of Lorraine and begins a long period of decline, until the early 1900s when they begin the interventions of recovery. Since 1989 was purchased by Olmo Group, that now operates thirty years.
Four hundred meters from Villa Ferdinanda, there is the small village of Artimino, the municipality of Carmignano. A tiny group of houses surrounded by defensive walls, on top of the panoramic hill of Montalbano. A few dozen meters from the main gate is the ancient church of San Leonardo, one of the best preserved examples of Lombard Romanesque architecture of the eleventh century, in Tuscany.
KNOW: THE WINERY ESTATE ARTIMINO – Besides being a charming hotel, Villa Artimino It is also a winery that produces wines of the Tuscan tradition. There are about 80 hectares of vineyards on 700 hectares total: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malvasia, Merlot, Syrah vines. The most representative wines of Tenuta Artimino 1596 is the Carmignano DOCG, obtained with precision, environmentally friendly farming techniques. Poggilarca, Grumarello, bird's eye are some of the most interesting labels but the wine we liked most is the Eye of Partridge, a sweet wine from the jam and honey scents, with a finish from roasted aromas and almond. Perfect with a nice fishing Prato or the Tuscan cantucci.
WHERE TO SLEEP: L‘hotel Paggeria Medicea, Artimino, born thanks to the work of restoration of ancient apartments owned by the Medici family of Florence. In these rooms, finely furnished, They have been preserved chimneys, terracotta floors, washbasins in the characteristic stone. Surrounded by an elegant garden, The hotel has 37 rooms. Breakfast is served inside the rooms on the ground floor or in the garden.
WHERE TO EAT: RESTAURANT THE DEER – The meats are the specialty of Restaurant Roebuck, this elegant and modern, Prato, lovingly run by chef Thomas Gei, president of Fipe for the province of Prato. With the chef learned to prepare three Tuscan recipes chosen among the great classics: pappa al pomodoro, steak Florentine and brogues (a beef stew, seasoned with onion). A large fireplace with wood burning embers and always characterizes the kitchen of Thomas Gei, where to go out preparations expressed as French and Tuscan meats (Florentine steak and cut Chianina meat), the fish of the sea Tirreno (such as shrimp, mackerel, lobster, Octopus), along with dishes from the hinterland traditional and elegant establishment, such as risotto with quail reduction Marsala wine. Good selection of wines. The roe deer is also a pizzeria.
KNOW: THE LAWN OF PEACHES – Who has never eaten a sweet peach, stuffed with cream and wet nell'alchermes? Here are called peaches of Prato and the pastry New World It is at the origin of the whole history of this delicious cake made from soft dough brioche, soaked in Alkermes liquor, filled with custard with a sprinkling of sugar and a candied orange. The pastry chef Paolo Sacchetti, in the laboratory in the historical center of Prato, It produces these peaches along with his team of pastry chefs who have decided to recover and, in a sense, encode that sweet, named him “Prato fishing”, despite the sweet peach is widely distributed throughout Italy from north to south, with variations depending on the region. If you want to try to do it too peaches of Prato, I refer you to RECIPE on the site and VIDEO RECIPE step by step performed by maestro Bags.
TO SEE: MEADOW. A WALK IN CENTER – Arriving in Prato, by car or by train, is a must visit to the historical center, small but rich in monuments. One for all, the wonderful cathedral of St. Stephen. Among the most interesting items: the thirteenth century bell tower, to a design by Guidetto from Como and the pulpit, made by Donatello and Michelozzo. Within this Romanesque-Gothic basilica, the Assunta Chapel, the waist Holy Chapel. In the columns and in the arches, stand out the two-color stones: bands of limestone and serpentine. The beautiful altar chapel is decorated with frescoes by the great painter Filippo Lippi. A visit not to be missed, both by day and by night, thanks to the beautiful lighting of the square.
WHERE TO EAT IN PRATO: that dolphins – The restaurant Da Delfina, Artimino, It is a place of historical memory, one of the Tuscan traditions Cathedral. This restaurant has a wonderful view of the village of Artimino and Villa Fernanda, where you feel at home, pampered by the excellent cuisine of chef Carlo Cioni, niece Delfina grandmother to servant became a successful restaurateur. Here the highlight is the Tuscan ribollita: a plate without codified recipe which follows the course of the seasons and the availability of field herbs that nature provides. A dish of memory that anyone walking around here must try. Other suggested recipes: bean soup with farro, The pumpkin risotto, but also cold meats, the rabbit galantine; among the second: scamerita the spit, pheasant with sausage and chestnuts, the peposo or Florentine steak. Obviously, the dishes take an even more delicious flavor thanks to the stories and memories that Charles shares with diners.
KNOW: THE MILL AND FLOUR BARDAZZI GREAT LAWN – There is something special, magical and unique observing a millstone that grinds the wheat grains. To Molino Bardazzi, In the small village of Vaiano, next to the river Bisenzio, the sound of the beans and the smell of flour bring you back in time, thanks to the work of Mark Bardazzi, who has inherited a business from the first half of the twentieth century. In 1938, the first structure of the mill (1919) It was converted into a mill tower and equipped with all the machinery to work the wheat. These machines and this production system still survive today in a mix of old and new. vintage scales, millstones natural stone, wooden floors, modern machines for refining to sift the flour and milled grain. The mill produces eight types of flour, from double zero type to that integral. The Molino Bardazzi adheres to GranPrato project, Born in 2011 to enhance the entire production chain: cultivation, production of flour and bread. It is based on a philosophy that reduces the chemical fields, adopting good agricultural practices, preserves and select the best types of grain, It promotes the use of yeast and sourdough. The initiative must Association GranPrato, which brings together farmers, millers and bakers.
KNOW: THE MEADOW MORTADELLA – Product IGP from 2016, Mortadella di Prato is a niche in the universe of Italian salami. It produces exclusively in Prato and neighboring communities and its origins date back to 1500. Today the mortadella of Prato is having some success, although for a long time it has been forgotten by the people of Prato. We visited one of the historic producers, in the small town of Vergaio: butchers and salumificio Mannori, active since 1950. Producers of Mortadella di Prato today are very few, Just 7 and they gathered in an association that promotes this product around Italy and even in the world.
The regulations impose the use of Italian pork: shoulder, trimming of ham, Pillow, capocollo, lard and bacon. The meat is ground and mixed with spices (coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves). In the phase of tanning, They are used black pepper, Salt, garlic and liqueur Alkermes, capable of giving a taste and color unique to this product. The dough is stuffed in a natural hog casings and cooked ion steam oven for 10 hours until they reach an internal temperature of 70 degrees. Once cold can be sold sliced or in vacuum packs. The taste of Prato Mortadella is particularly, nothing to do with ordinary mortadella IGP, and I suggest you try it, either alone or in unusual combinations, such as dried figs.
KNOW: Zuccherini OF VERNIO – Angela Vannucchi, Giuliana Guidoni, Rosa Maria Morganti are part of “Association fork fork”, that works to preserve the traditions of the local cuisine. The sugary Vernio is one of those traditions that the cooks are committed to pass in time, with demonstrations, lessons and show cooking, including also a book that should be out in 2019. Not knowing the exact history of these sweets (made with flour, butter, sugar, anise seeds and icing sugar), everything is related to the oral tradition that dates back to the early 1900s and that traces the recipe at the end of 1800. This sweet, called the “sweet candy”, It was prepared on the occasion of marriages and for festivals. From Vernio, this cake has spread to other municipalities in the Val Bisenzio and the entire province of Prato and even today, the Vernio sugar are prepared for Christmas. If you want to try, and I'd recommend it, here is the RECIPE of sugar and VIDEO RECIPE step by step. In The House Bandite you can take cooking lessons, but also have lunch or dinner with local products.
KNOW: DRIED FIGS CARMIGNANO – Siro Petracchi He has made the cultivation of a profession figs, He is supporting himself and his family. He lives and works in Carmignano, the capital of the tradition of dried figs. Obtained by the species “ficus carica”, these dried figs are a product peculiar, I personally do not know, a Slow food and traditional food product (Pat) Tuscany. The plants of Siro are organically grown and grow on clay soils. The ripe fruits that are obtained are collected in summer, cut in half, open, left to air dry and seasoned with aniseed (“appicciare”, Tuscan dialect). At this stage, It follows the sulfidation, ie a treatment based on sulfur which causes bleaching of the skins. The natural sulfur is an antioxidant that causes a kind of fig burn. To taste, dried figs of Carmignano has a sweet taste, with a note slightly acidulous, but not cloying: much less sweet and caramelized figs normal. Is’ a food from high energy and nutritional value. On the market, dried figs is agri-food excellence of the Prato area, linked to a long tradition that now involves dozens of manufacturers.
KNOW: THE LAWN AND VERMOUTH Of alchermes – There is not only in Piedmont boast a great and historic liqueur like Vermouth, but there is also the territory of Prato. In this journey with Showcase Tuscany we could visit a small handicraft factory, producing precious and traditional liquors, like Vermouth, Alkermes and the other flavored liqueur drinks, Gin from the bitter and bitter. The name of the laboratory is never Work and it is located in the village of Tavola, not far from Poggio a Caiano. Here, since 2007, but concentrated in a few square meters of space, the holders Cristina and Fabio carry on a tradition that, for Vermouth, It dates back to 1750. The ancient recipe of refined white Vermouth includes Tuscan white wine, various herbs (genziana, nutmeg, elecampane, bearish, cloves), spices, sugar and alcohol. One of the recipes that are the pride Opificio Nunquam is Alchermes, the same used to prepare the sweet peaches and which is used in the preparation of Prato mortadella. It is a flavored liqueur whose creation is traced to the noble family Medici, who jealously guarded the recipe. The red color comes from the use of cochineal as a colorant: Cochineal is an insect that lives on cacti and the dried body of this insect was formerly used as a dye for fabrics. The Spaniards called it “alquermes”, referring to the term in Arabic “red”, which means Scarlet, rosso, hence the name of the liqueur. Today, industrial Alchermes are red due to the use of synthetic and very few dyes that are the Alchermes, such as Nunquam, still using cochineal. The alchermes has an alcohol content 35% vol. and its medicinal recipe is rich and complex: It is composed of alcohol, sugar, cinnamon, coriander, bearish, cardamom, star anise, vanilla, Orange Zest, cloves and cochineal, as a colorant.
KNOW: THE BAKERY FOGACCI – Enrico Fogacci is a whimsical baker Prato with goodwill, by the great sensitivity, lover of the traditions of its territory, with the desire to grow and raise awareness of the craft and the art of bread. Its small and old oven is lit each night, to give a fragrant bread Prato, made with high quality ingredients and made with passion. The bakery Fogacci born on January 17, 1931, the day of the Feast of Sant'Antonio Abate, protector of animals. Built with refractory bricks is a place that smacks of old, of experienced, where the yeast worked by Enrico Fogacci (President of Assipan Prato) and his team is the real engine of all productions: the particular “draft Prato” (of peasant origin, with sourdough and long rising), the buns Sant'Antonio, crushed to Prato. In this oven, Henry told us, They worked many southern bakers, especially when the boom of the textile industry had turned the Tuscan labor from the work of the bakery. Today the textile does not live longer periods of great splendor and richness of the past, what Baker has returned an attractive profession, although, As always, exhausting and great sacrifice.
TO SEE: MEDICI VILLA DI POGGIO A CAIANO – This is another jewel of fifteenth century architecture of the province of Prato, together with the Villa La Ferdinanda, Artimino. The complex of Poggio a Caiano, It was commissioned by Lorenzo de Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent). Construction began in 1483 and ended, after a long break, in the second half of the sixteenth century. In 2013, It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage property and considered. Since June 2007, in the second floor of the villa, there is the Museum of Still Life, which gives space to about two hundred paintings from the Medici collections: you can not take a walk admiring the still lifes that have imprisoned on canvas birds, dogs, cats, fruit, vegetables, cristallizzandoli forever. Some of these also represent a valuable sampling of the species of fruits from the area.
WHERE TO EAT: THE FOUNTAINS – You do not say, Having regard to the inner position, but Prato is a city where the fish is a popular food. This is evident, in particular, the restaurant business, living this reality for decades. The fish, Prato, It became a tradition when many workers in southern Italy and the Tuscany coast moved inland in these areas to work in the big textile factories. Since that time, the fish came rightfully list of typical dishes. To restaurant Le Fontanelle, opened in 1987, where Valentino chef d'Aloisio serves genuine cuisine of the sea, focusing on the freshness of raw materials and on the genuineness of the preparations. Fish carpaccio, shrimp and raw shrimp, truffles Sea, fried anchovies with onions and sour, octopus and squid with steamed potatoes, peppered mussels. And then: grilled fish, crazy water, baked, up lobster and lobster Catalan. Sweets and ice cream made by craftsmen on offer. Well-stocked wine list. An address not to be missed.
THE FARNETE – In the small village of Comeana, in the province of Prato, the The restaurant Villa Farnete combines sea food and land dishes in a modern and creative. Stefano Grassi and Richard Pecchioli are the two creators of this restaurant, which it is also a hotel and a reference point for events and ceremonies. From its terraces you can enjoy a view of Prato and Florence. From the kitchen come out well elaborate dishes, with selected raw materials, like the octopus sandblasted, with potato cream and mayonnaise; spaghetti with clams with bread cream; tortello artichokes with pecorino cheese cave and pumpkin cream; The scallop salad with shrimp and fruit; braised venison with mushrooms and chestnut sauce.