As the minibus climbed higher into the hills on its ways to the beautiful Versilian village of Gombitelli, the views of the valley and sea below began to take on a slightly misty look. This is the famous “Tuscan haze”, where at this time of year, the amount of pollen from the greenery everywhere gives each landscape the sheen of Renaissance art.
Artistry comes to mind too in the skill and commitment demonstrated at the Triglia family butchery, the Salumificio Artigianale di Gombitelli
. They put on a generous and stimulating open air tasting session as part of the Versilia Blog Tour
I’ve just returned from.
I was pleased that that tasting involved plenty of behind the scenes stuff too. A futuristic little (maximum four persons) lift takes you down to level -1 to see the meat storage zone. A bespoke blend of herbs and sophisticated techniques is the science underlying the prosciutto, salsiccia and especially all the lard products. I’m not great with meat fat but Italians love it for the flavour it grants to food, and the Crema di Lardo, with a delicate taste suited to use in dishes or on its own, is a Triglia family specialty.
At the tasting a mind-boggling array of different preserved meats was on offer across two groaning tables of food, as well as some simple but beautifully prepared salads of tomatoes and chickpeas. One striking speciality of the establishment
is a chestnut-infused ham which combines two of the most celebrated regional foods to great effect.
The family cite the total lack of air pollution as one factor in the purity and taste of their creations. Situated 492 metres above sea level at its highest point, the village represents the perfect microclimate for sausages, hams and “lardo rosa”, literally pink lard.
The village appears in documents as early as the Seventh Century, but an interesting quirk in its later history led to its status as an “Isola Linguistica”, or language island. The village had become almost deserted when a group of German settlers, mainly blacksmiths’ families, moved in after the armies of Charles V, and were so influential as their numbers grew that now a unique Germanic dialect is spoken in Gombitelli.
Today only about 130 people live in this idealised hamlet in the province of Lucca. During the al fresco tasting session by the side of the country road, only one or two vehicles passed by in 90 minutes. The peace and clear air combine with the Tuscan cuisine and history to make a charming lunch, with a bit of learning thrown in.