Not Just any Sunday Drive

We had great intentions this weekend, but sometimes plans don’t always go to plan. What was the plan? Well this weekend Dave and I thought that we would head to Verona, about a three-hour drive from where we are in Viareggio. The plan was to leave relatively early on Saturday morning, so it could be a leisurely drive and we could do some exploring on the way. As it would happen we were invited out to dinner on the Friday night for  Indian. For those who have not been to Italy, finding any food that is not Italian is almost impossible! So if someone invites you for a curry dinner there is no way that you turn them down! There was plenty of curry along with plenty of red wine, grappa and gelato. You guessed it, we didn’t wake up as early as we had intended so Verona was no longer on the cards. Instead a drive followed by some lunch which then lead us into dinner, followed by a little walk. Here in Viareggio it was the last weekend of the Carnival , so we thought it would be rude not to join the street party festivities that were taking place. Once again another fun evening!

After a brunch which consisted of Baked Beans on Toast (just recently an English food store opened up here so small luxuries like this are now available) an omelette and some strong coffee it was time to meet some new friends and take a drive into the Apuan Alps behind Viareggio.

The famous Carrara Marble being mined from the mountain side.

Dave taking a drink from the fresh spring, it was the lightest freshest cold water that I have ever tasted!

Our Italian friend and wonderful tour guide Michele.

Once we had looked around the old redundant Marble mine it was back in the car and off to Castelnuova di Garfagnana to have  a bit to eat at Osteria Il Vecchio Mulino. Our friend Michele, who has his own restaurant in Viareggio is a friend of Andrea Bertucci who owns and runs what I would call a foodies delight! We had no idea what to expect when he said we would stop there for a small bite to eat.

From the outside it’s a rather unassuming place but once we walked though the doors it was a feast for ones eyes. Shelves packed full of Wines, local Olive Oils, plump looking sun-dried Tomatoes, Beans, Farro, Coffee  galore and not to mention Maldon Salt (one of my loves) which up until now, I have not been able to find while living in Italy.

We sat down at a rustic table in the corner and one of the woman ask Michele if he would like the tasting menu. Excellent.

First the wine comes then placed on the table are simple recycled paper place mats. A cheese board is next and then a simple paper plate. I like what I see already!

The first dish soon arrives, the in-house made bread (to die for) with local Garfagnana Beef and cured Trout… Simply divine.

Next up to delight the senses was a savoury Farro tart, which somewhat reminded me of a frittata. At the same time that this came out so did the Polenta. This was not like any Polenta I have tried before, it was creamy and rich and it was served simply with an extra virgin olive oil from Lucca.

And still the food kept on coming, this was followed by a perfectly seasoned, velvety Farro and bean soup.

By now we were starting to feel rather full but there was no stopping there we still had a range of cured meats to come accompanied by fresh silky smooth ricotta and mozzarella.

Cured raw beef, prosciutto crudo, porchetta, a sausage that I cannot recall the name of… I have the memory of a gold-fish for words in another language… No wait it’s  called Biroldo which consists of pigs blood, heart, tongue and some spices. It’s cured so it is served ‘raw’. Mortadella and salami are also on the chopping board. Full yet? This was served with a clean, crisp tasting salad.

To finish was a local pecorino cheese (sheep milk is used for this cheese) with honey. I got to have Daves share and was rather happy about that!

After we had eaten all that was at the table and consumed the coffee that was brought to us it was time to leave. I was still smiling as we left. Everything about the just over two-hour experience that we had was great! I could not fault a thing! A real gem within the Alps.

The only trouble when food is that good and there is so much of it is that you then just want to curl up in a ball! But first we had to drive home. It was  a pleasant drive through several small towns, with a stop in Barga for a small walk as an attempt to burn off a little bit of lunch and to watch the sun set at the end of a wonderful day.