A Celebration for the Senses

One of the things I love about living in Anghiari is that it’s a small town with a big city vibe.  It’s rare to go for more than a few weeks without some event or celebration.  And they almost all center around food, which makes it even more appealing to me.  Italian celebrations and food go hand-in-hand.

They have an event every year called the Centogusti, or One Hundred Tastes.  It showcases local food products from the area and the whole town turns into a gourmet market.  Anghiari has all these garage-looking things on the ground floor of many buildings.  They may or not belong to the person who owns the building – they are often independent properties from the building they’re in.  Kind of a garage condo.  They’re always closed up tight, their contents a mystery.  But during the Centogusti, many of them are transformed into temporary storefronts where you can taste and buy salami, cheese, jams, spreads, chocolate, truffles, honey, any type of pork product you can imagine, wine, and many other things that will delight you.

This past weekend was the Centogusti and the weather was absolutely perfect for strolling and tasting.  Beautiful skies, not windy, sunny, with temps in the mid 60s.  We’ve been here for this event a few times before, but this time we are living here so we can actually buy things without having to figure out how to get them back to Atlanta.  We can also take note of farms or brands that we like and go visit them to replenish our supply.

We are not in wine country here, but we did discover a local winery just outside of town that has some pretty darn good wines.  We also discovered the famous red onion of Valtiberina which is a very old variety that is known for its mild flavor. They’re only grown in this area and not produced for mass consumption.   We had to have some of those to see how they compared to the Vidalia.  They are good, but not nearly as mild as the Vidalia.  We tasted salumi and cheese to our heart’s content and I had a cup of hot chocolate.  Hot chocolate here is just that – chocolate that’s melted.  They serve it in a small cup with a spoon.  It’s glorious.  Thick, rich, dark, creamy, warm chocolate that you kind of drink and kind of eat.  Yum.

Along the city walls, with the fabulous view over the Tiber Valley, was the brustichino (pronounced brus-ti-keno) stand.  Brustichino is grilled bread with olive oil poured over it.  It’s very popular at this time of year when the new oil is just coming in.  Brustichino is a way to showcase the oil.  These were served panino style with sausage.  Two pieces of lightly grilled bread doused in olive oil with slices of grilled sausage between them.  I am absolutely certain that St. Peter hands these out as you cross the gates into heaven.  And these things weren’t grilled in a toaster oven.  They were grilled over a wood fire.  The assembly process was very organized and exact.  There were two grill guys, one for bread, the other for sausage.  Then there were two women inside the adjacent tent – one dousing with oil and putting the sausage on and the other wrapping them up and handing them to the hungry masses.

You had to eat them in the wrapper or else you would have a trail of oil dripping down your clothes.  And to keep the fire at just the right temperature, they had a separate big fire going with huge logs.  As it burned down, they would scoop the hot ashes and put them under the bread and sausage grill.  Perfection.  On the other side of the operation was a chestnut roasting set-up.  A big steel drum was over another just right temperature fire and was turned repeatedly to make sure all the chestnuts got their turn over the fire.  Then they scoop them into brown paper cones for one and all to enjoy.

In addition to all the food and drink, there is a guided nature walk on Sunday morning.  We did it and that will be a story for another day.  I will say that it’s a wonderful way to appreciate not only the bounty that comes from this land but also to see the sheer beauty of the landscape from many different perspectives.  It’s a centogusti for all the senses.

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4 thoughts on “A Celebration for the Senses

  1. Julie Ralston says:

    That grilled bread, olive oil and sausage thing had me drooling! And, what beautiful cheese. Such a bountiful place…ready for our next viaggio!

    1. Cathy says:

      You know how I love my sausage! I could eat one of those things every day and be a very happy girl. Hope you’re planning your trip now – it’s never too early to start!

  2. Myra says:

    I was lucky enough to be there during the Centogusti a few years ago. It was so special being able to taste all of the wonderful artisanal products. And it was vacuum sealed so I was able to bring some salumi and Cheeses home. And the Brustichino! What a production! This all just emphasizes the importance the Italians place on the all natural quality of what they eat. I love it!!

    1. Cathy says:

      I remember that, Myra. It was so windy and cold that day. This year the weather was perfect. It is all about the product and how wonderful it is. The thing that always amazes me is that for this quality of product in the US you would pay dearly. Here it’s affordable and is available to everyone.

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