A lovely Saturday afternoon drive in the Tuscan mountains.
As today was such a gorgeous day and it seems that Summer is coming to an end, we took a drive into the mountains along the Consuma Pass which joins the provinces of Florence and Arezzo. Consuma is only 26km from Florence and the drive is so beautiful. It is also a favourite of motorcycle riders who channel Valentino Rossi as they hug the curves at speeds that make you think you’re in the middle of the Motor GP. I’m surprised there are not more accidents on this road.
Along the winding roads, postcard views of vineyards and olive groves stretch as far as the eye can see with cypress trees showing the division of properties. As you climb the mountain you find yourself in the middle of a thick forest full of beech, fir and chestnut trees and where at the lower altitudes, cherry trees, blackberries and blueberries grow. Here is also home to many wild boar and deer.
As you approach the Consuma, you pass Vallombrosa, home to a beautiful national park and probably more famous for the benedictine Abbey, home to the Vallombrosan monks.
Today we were on our own mission – lunch at the ‘Chalet il Valico’, a legendary and very popular place to stop and savor the local delicacies. The car park is always full of hungry travelers and the motorbike riders admiring each other’s bikes. We had come here to eat the home made Schiacciata filled with warm porcini mushrooms cooked simply in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. The mushrooms have so much flavour and the texture, once cooked and combined with the olive oil soaks into the spongey interior of the the tuscan bread / Schiacciata (focaccia in other regions of Italy). Porcini mushrooms are still to be found in abundance and I must say, I have loved them since I first tasted them when I was twenty-two.
Bar Consumi, which is the first bar you will pass on the left as you arrive in Consuma is also very popular for their food and there are great debates over who serves the best porcini and schiacciata between Bar Consumi and the Chalet. Everyone has their favourite.
Baked in the oven, Schiacciata is quite flat, and either cooked in long planks or large rectangles, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. It is wonderful when eaten warm fresh from the oven. You can choose from a soft crust or as I prefer, crispy. At the chalet, there is also a choice of home made pizza and freshly made-to-order panini with prosciutto, mortadella or pecorino.
After our lunch we enjoyed an espresso (mine a macchiato) with the home made crostata filled with fresh blackberry jam. All in the name of blog research of course!