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Episode #079: Maremma – Exploring Tuscany’s undiscovered coast

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In Italy, summer means one thing – the beach! And with miles and miles of coastline to enjoy (7500 kilometers of coastline in fact!), This week we head to the Maremma region in Tuscany. Covering almost a quarter of Tuscany, Maremma in the South West and has a stunning coastline known as the Silver Coast.

Show notes

In this episode, we talk to Emiko Davies, an Australian-Japanese food writer, photographer and cookbook author who was last year included in a list of Italy’s most powerful 50 women in food. Emiko’s second book Acquacotta: explores the Maremma coastline and shares recipes and stories from the area. We learn about the lagoons, cowboys and the many tasty treasures of this undiscovered part of Tuscany.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  1. Although it’s in Tuscany, the Maremma it’s actually closer to Rome at about two and a half hours drive from Florence, but only an hour and a half from Rome
  2. There is an archipelago of 7 islands off the Tuscan coast (CapraiaElbaGiannutriGiglioGorgonaMontecristo and Pianosa)
  3. Monte Argentario has the feel and look of an island but isn’t technically one as it is connected to land by sandbanks.
  4. The ancient Romans used to have fish farms in the lagoon of Monte Argentario and Empera Nero had a holiday home there as a child
  5. A lot of sea bass in Tuscany comes from Orbetello and they’ve also got a lot of eels in the lagoon with a local specialty of smoked eel
  6. There is a line from Dante’s Divine Comedy that is used to define the Maremma – he describes this area as starting south of Livorno
  7. Cecina is the first town that is considered the Maremma and it extends all the way down the rest of the Tuscan coast. It also extends inland to a certain extent, travel about an hour inland from the coast. And that is still the Maremma.
  8. There are 2 part of the Maremma – Maremma Toscana in Tuscany and Maremma Laziale in Lazio
  9. Maremma is an area that is not very well know and this can be explained by the fact that for many centuries, it was malaria-ridden due to all the marshlands in the area and the high humidity in the summer. For this reason, it wasn’t part of the Grand Tour of Italy – it was a place that people avoided until eventually the marshes were filled in
  10. You would really need a car to get around the Maremma –  unless you’re sticking to the coast where there’s a train that goes all the way down called the Etruscan line
  11. Maremma has its own cowboys the butteri
  12. Acquacotta is a vegetable soup from the region (literally translates to cooked in water) which can vary from town to town but usually involves Tuscan bread a day or so old. On the coast, you can find a version that has seafood in it, in the countryside a version that has a poached egg and in the Lazio region of Maremma they often add wild herbs
  13. Caldaro is fish soup, similar to cacciucco.  Caldaro is a dialect word for a cauldron or soup pot, and the soup used to be cooked right on the fishing boats
  14. The Maremma is better known for its white wine rather than its red wine like in other parts of Tuscany
  15. You generally no longer find the traditional foods in any of the restaurants – they now cater to a different crowd and there’s lots of seafood pasta, risotto and crudo (raw seafood platters)
  16. In Tuscany they don’t really do dessert – most of their sweet treats are eaten for breakfast or a snack

About our guest – Emiko Davies

Emiko Davies is an award-winning Australian-Japanese food writer, photographer and cookbook author based in Italy. Growing up in a diplomatic family, she spent most of her life living in countries other than her own, from China to the USA. After graduating from art school, she ended up in Florence, Italy, in 2005 to study art restoration and fell in love with a Tuscan sommelier. They have recently renovated a new home in a small hilltop town between Florence and Pisa with their two children.

Emiko has written four cookbooksFlorentine: The True Cuisine of Florence (March 2016 and a new edition in November 2020), Acquacotta (March 2017), Tortellini at Midnight (March 2019) and Torta della Nonna (March 2021), published by Hardie Grant. Her next book on recipes and the history of Venetian cuisine, Cinnamon & Salt, will be out in April 2022.

For many years she wrote a regular column for Food52 where you can find over 200 articles on regional Italian food, as well as restaurant reviews for The Good Food Guide, Australia’s leading restaurant guide. She is a judge for the Guild of Fine Food World Cheese Awards, develops recipes and writes travel guides for publications such as Financial Times, Corriere della Sera, YOLO Journal, Good Food Australia, The Canberra Times, Saveur, Conde Nast Traveler, Gourmet Traveller, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Newsweek, delicious magazine and more. She was recently named one of 50 powerful women in food by Italy’s leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera.

 

You can find Emiko on these channels:

Places mentioned in the show

Food and Drink

  • smoked eel – a local delicacy with eels found in the lagoon of Monte Argentario
  • bottarga – salted, cured fish roe which you can eat as antipasto or grated with pasta, a bit of lemon and olive oil
  • ficamaschia – a fish that’s rare to find that Porto Ercole feature in a sagre/food festival
  • acquacotta – a vegetable soup from the region
  • caldaro – a traditional Tuscan fish soup
  • cacciucco – a fish soup from further north in Tuscany – Livorno which shares some similarities with caldaro
  • fritto di misto – fried fish
  • spaghetti alle vongole – spaghetti with clams
  • spaghetti allo scoglio – spaghetti with mixed seafood
  • crudo – raw fish and seafood
  • crostata – an Italian baked tart or pie, generally eaten for breakfast
  • castagnaccio – a chestnut flour cake found in the wintertime
  • octopus and chestnut stew cooked in red wine – a local specialty showcasing how the countryside meats the sea
  • cicchetti – found in Venice bars, loosely translated as “small bites” – great for grazing

Resources

  • Sagre – is a local food festival in Italy
  • Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy) – is a long Italian narrative poem by Dante Alighieri, the famous Italian poet, writer and philosopher, usually known simply as Dante
  • Viennale – Venice film festival

 

Resources from Untold Italy

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Transcript

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