“One hundred tastes of the Apennines,” in Anghiari

"The Hundred Flavors of the Apennine Region"--One of the many event signs leading us to the next venue for tasting

Pat Hanna, my friend from Santa Brigida in the mountains above Florence, was free to come to Spello for a visit, and we immediately decided to head for a field trip to Anghiari. That weekend, a special “tasting event” was being held to feature artisan food products from Italy’s Appennine mountain range—an attraction calling to both of us. She drove to Spello in her car, and was more than willing to drive us to the event—a special treat for me still shuffling around in the boot cast, and always without a car in Spello. Anghiari is northeast of Arezzo, in Tuscany, and was quite a long back-track for Pat, coming from Florence. Still, she was interested in going anyway, and we decided to go together and spend the day.

We left and hit the highway, and then had our share of wrong turns and missed off-ramps, until we finally could see the church spires of Anghiari approaching high above us. This small hill village was the site of the Battle of Anghiari between troops from Milan and Florence, in 1440, which was the inspiration for a Leonardo da Vinci painting that is now lost, but is known to have existed through the many copies of the original made by other artists of his time. Anghiari is particularly know for its many antiques dealers, and there is a school there for learning the art of furniture restoration and decoration.

When we arrived, and miraculously watched someone drive away and free up a very convenient parking place that meant I didn’t have far to walk, we were immediately greeted by booths and grottos filled with vendors giving away tastes and samples and selling their products. It seemed every garage and grotto and covered space in Anghiari had a booth inside, and we set out to find every last one of them—breads, pastries, prepared meats, pastas and sauces, cheeses, and so many more specialties.

A specialty meats vendor, with pancetta, proscuitto and salami

Another vendor of meats and cheeses, and eager to give us samples

A butcher removing the last bits of prosciutto from the bone

These cookies are made from almond paste, egg whites and sugar--so good!

Little guy on Dad's shoulders, in a wild boar hat

All types of pecorino cheeses (aged little, some or a lot)--made from the milk from sheep ("pecore")

Some of the cheeses bear the mark of the woven baskets where they were formed and aged

Everywhere we went, the vendors were friendly to us, offering us small slices of their cheeses, prosciutto, and salami or a cookie. It was a carnival atmosphere there, with the tiny streets and walkways filled with people enjoying the event, following the signs to the next venue, and pausing with their strollers or in groups of their friends.

We passed a doorway with evidence of a recent marriage for the occupants

Prosciutto waiting to be sliced, or purchased whole

Pat lining up for samples, and to purchase some pecorino for home

From the border between Umbria and Tuscany, black and white (under glass) truffles!

This guy was waiting for ANY "flavor of the Apennines" to fall his way

Until the sun had set, we wandered and followed the many signs, up and down stairways, through arches and doorways, and tasting our way through the hill town, finding new specialties we hadn’t seen or tasted before then, and finally carrying our bags of irresistible cheeses, condiments and sausages back to the car, for the trip home.

Crunchy grissini--breadsticks

Some new combinations of flavors in special sauces--Pat tries them all

This is a porcelain Madonna--but I could not help thinking of Snow White and the seven dwarves

In a small museum we came across, an old Anghieri "ambulance," for the tiny streets

Some decorations for the polenta booth--dried ears of corn

Polenta samples on the way--with truffles, with porcini mushrooms, with onions

Cutting a wheel of Grana Padana, cheese similar to Parmiggiano Reggiano

Pancetta, waiting to be sliced

Our last stop was the chestnut roasting operation, which was meant to satisfy a crowd. With huge piles of firewood stacked nearby to keep the fire going, men took turns rotating the huge perforated drum by hand over the embers from the wood fire, and knew just how long to turn the chestnuts before pouring them out for the crew who put the hot chestnuts into newspaper cones to carry away. These cost a few Euros, but were a very popular snack on a chilly autumn evening, and the line was long waiting for the next batch to be passed out.

"Marronni" waiting to be roasted over the fire

Turning the chestnuts over the fire to roast them evenly over the embers

With one last wrong turn on the highway, we ended up going the wrong way until we could take the next exit—where we found an open LPG station (called “GPL” here) and Pat could fill her car for the ride back to Spello, and later the ride home to Santa Brigida. Her car is a hybrid, using “GPL” as the primary fuel, and with a back-up gasoline tank, if needed. With the vast difference in price, she was very glad to have found the GPL station instead of having to use much more expensive gasoline. For once, it was a fortuitous error to have gotten on the superstrada (a main highway) going the wrong way! After a quick fill-up, we reversed direction and were back in Spello for dinner in no time.

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