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My Ultimate Italian Meal, Part I: Setting and Antipasti

Crostini with tomatoes, one of many fine and simple meals we have during my "Trails and Tables of Tuscany" trip
Dec 08, 2014

My Ultimate Italian Meal, Part I: Setting and Antipasti

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Although I lead what I call “hiking in Italy” trips every year, the reality is they are hiking, touring, and eating trips to Italy. Lots of eating.

Antipasti of salami and prosciutto gets us going on another fabulous Italian meal. Read more at paulgerald.com.

Mangiamo!

Here is the link for the 2015 trip, Hiking and Touring in Tuscany and Cinque Terre. I usually tell people it’s “light to moderate hiking with severe eating.” Without doubt, my favorite thing about the trips is watching the looks on people’s faces when they sink into these meals.

So I’ve decided to put together a post or three about my Ultimate Italian Meal. This time, we’ll be off to the place for dinner, sample some olive oil, and then have antipasta. Next time around it’ll be the pasta itself, and in the last post we’ll have meats, sides, salad and sweets.

So, off we go, for my Ultimate Italian Meal.

Getting ready for an olive oil tasting in the Chianti Hills of Tuscany. Read all about Italian hiking and eating at paulgerald.com.

This is actually the view from someone’s home!

It could be that we’ll eat in the place above, a private home and olive mill in the Chianti countryside. More on that in a bit, but meanwhile we might meet in the streets of a local village, after hiking through the hills:

Sitting down for a dinner on the street in Cinque Terre, Italy. Read all about Italian hiking and eating at paulgerald.com.

Dining on a walking-only street.

Or perhaps in a little courtyard in the walled city of Lucca, after two days hiking in the Garfagnana Valley or the Apuane Alps:

Dinner in a square in Lucca, Tuscany. Read all about Italian hiking and eating at paulgerald.com.

Maybe something a little more quiet?

Or maybe we’ll be in Florence for the evening, on a rooftop terrace …

Rooftop dining in Florence. Read all about Italian hiking and eating at paulgerald.com.

Shall we dine on top of the world?

with an amazing view

Sunset during rooftop dining in Florence. Read all about Italian hiking and eating at paulgerald.com.

Florentine sunset.

dining in comfortable luxury.

Rooftop dining in Florence. Read all about Italian hiking and eating at paulgerald.com.

Luxury and comfort in the sky.

But first, we should certainly have some olive oil. Nothing makes me happier than watching people have real olive oil for the first time, when they realize it’s supposed to have taste on its own, and that taste is amazing. It only adds to the pleasure when you’re getting it from the person who grew and picked the olives. (We often have a full olive oil tasting and class during the trip.)

Olives on the tree, just before picking time, in Tuscany.

Just about pickin’ time!

Though it’s a year-round process, the actual making of oil is super simple. You pick them, dump them into one end of a series of machines

Olive oil, coming up!

Olive oil, coming up!

and a few hours later, out comes this amazing substance.

Olive oil straight from the press, Tuscany.

What olive oil looks like, right out of the press.

Olive oil, pre-filtering, in Tuscany.

Just needs a little settling and filtering.

Then, they let it settle a bit, filter it, and bottle it.

Bottling olive oil in Tuscany.

The magician

Olive oil, and the hills from which it came, in Tuscany.

And off we go, to the table!

And now we’re ready to have some, so let’s get to the table.

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At this point, there will be meat, bread and cheese in abundance. There will definitely be oil and garlic on toasted bread, and bruschetta with tomatoes, maybe crostini with mushrooms, or olive paste, or lard. Yeah, lard, with a slice of cheese over it.

Antipasti of salami and prosciutto gets us going on another fabulous Italian meal. Read more at paulgerald.com.

Mangiamo!

We might have salami, prosciutto, sheep cheese, sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, peas, and wine. We’ll definitely have wine.

Sampler plate of Tuscan cuisine, at a side-street cafe in Siena.

A selection we had at a side-street cafe in Siena.

And there could be baked goods in the vein of pizza

Crostini with tomatoes, one of many fine and simple meals we have during my "Trails and Tables of Tuscany" trip

So simple, so good.

It could be casual, picnic style, like at a winery after a walk through the vines and groves and hills:

Picnic lunch during my "Trails and Tables of Tuscany" trip

Just a little picnic break

Or it could be a little fancier, in someone’s home or a trattoria out in the country.

Antipasta course during my "Trails and Tables of Tuscany" trip

A little fancier setting, but still simple food.

And there might even be a handsome shepherd, right there in the kitchen, making cheese … and friends. He might have just been showing us his favorite trails in the woods and singing a shepherd song for us. I’m serious.

Shepherd making cheese in the Casentino Forest Reserve during my "Trails and Tables of Tuscany" trip.

Not the shepherd our ladies expected to meet!

Aged pecorino cheese, part of a country-home lunch during my "Trails and Tables of Tuscany" trip.

Mmmm, cheese.

So, are you hungry now? Tune in next time, and we’ll get into the pasta. But here’s a teaser first:

Taglietelle with ragu, a filling lunch during my "Trails and Tables of Tuscany" trip.

Come on back for pasta, ya hear?

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Paul Gerald

I am the author of several books on hiking, camping, eating breakfast and chilling out. I am also a freelance travel writer, publisher, hiker, and inveterate traveler.
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