Gastronomy and typical dishes
Versilia is characterised by a variety of landscape that changes, in a few km, from sea to hill, to mountain. It is a unique environment that confirms the gastronomic variety of meat and sea dishes. Its cooking is made of simple and genuine ingredients and it goes along with the most elaborate one that had to consider the tourist phenomenon. In fact, it requires a cooking more suitable to people with different tastes and coming from different parts of Italy and from abroad.
Among the first dishes of the coast it is worth mentioning risotto with cuttle-fish and beetroots, “cacciucco” (a sweet-smelling fish soup, less spicy than the one from Livorno, cooked in a vessel made of cast iron), octopus that is cooked without tomato but with lemon and parsley to make it more suitable to all tastes. Some other main courses are the tasty soup of mussels, “tabaccolara spaghetti” (made with the left over of the fish) or “coltellacci spaghetti” (made with razor-shells). A delicate dish of sea cooking are “cee”, small eels, that in the winter were fished in the river with a net called “ripaiola”. Nowadays their fishing is forbidden, therefore the “cee” served in restaurants are breeded and comes from Spain.
Among the second courses, Versilia is famous for grilled fish seasoned with the vintage olive oil. Among the sweets there are “befanini” that are cooked in special moulds connected to Epiphany, “ciacci”, “scarpaccia” (a salted cake stuffed with vegetables) and rise cakes with custard or chocolate.
Hinterland gastronomy, instead, is characterised by a simple and poor cooking that, even using simpler ingredients, can make authentic taste masterpiece. As common habit in Tuscany, the seasoning is still olive oil of Camaiore or Massarosa oil-mills. The same oil is used to make dishes that combines the merit of digestibility to that of characteristic taste and flavour. Chestnut are the basis of several typical dishes and they are used either entire or as flour. As a matter of fact, grinding chestnut in order to have a white and sweet flour was the best way to keep them and satisfy one’s appetite during the long and cold winter months. “Polenta” made of chestnut flour with bones and pork pieces was the winter dish of Apuane and Garfagnana. The strong flavour of Gombitelli bacon-fat and “biroldo” from Camaiore (a salted meat made of pig blood and seasoned) satisfy the more exigent palates. Among the main courses we suggest home made tortelli (“tordelli”), delicious ravioli stuffed with meat, polenta with mushrooms (“pallette”) or with cabbages, frantoiana soup, pasta with beans or chickpeas and spelt or black cabbage soup served with slices of toasted bread (“bruschetta”).
Among the second courses there are rabbit with olives, the inevitable mixed grilled meats, fried artichokes, fried quarters (chicken legs), pickled olives, fried eels and frogs (from Massaciuccoli area), as well as barbecue steaks that are another boast of Tuscany traditional cooking.
Unlike olive oil there are no important wines in Versilia: white wines come from Candia hills around Massa (Trebbiano and Fermentino), red wines come from the hills around Lucca or from Montecarlo. Both wines are DOC.