Notorious for keeping the best of their country's produce to themselves, it's not always easy for visitors to Italy to sniff out its best-kept food secrets. The Salotti del Gusto, quite literally a moveable feast, is a showcase of the finest Italian producers from around the country. Over the course of a year it travels from region to region, offering a riotous display of cheese, wine, truffles, and just about everything in between. The most recent incarnation took place in the sylvan setting of a fifteenth-century Medici hunting lodge outside of Florence, where Italians came from far and wide to partake in the best their country has to offer. Non-Italians are also welcome of course, but with no marketing in English (or any other language) they’re few and far between, and you’d best have your Italian/ English dictionary at the ready to keep your tartuffi bianco straight from your tartuffi nero.
"The Salotti del Gusto travels from region to region proffering a riotous display of cheese, wine, truffles, and just about everything in between"
It was refreshing to see the Italian reputation for intractable culinary conservatism being somewhat challenged by young producers working with the latest biodynamic farming techniques, or unconventional production methods that would have had their mammas tutting with disapproval in the not-too-distant past. The overall sense was that, while still firmly rooted in tradition and regionalism, there is also a desire to look forward: a new-found confidence in the future.
Gathering up a collection of our favourite things from the Salotti, we set off in a classic Jeep Wrangler for a whirlwind tour of the stunningly beautiful Artemino estate, which still produces its own wines and olive oils, though the Medicis have long since left the building. The bucolic grounds couldn’t be more perfect for picnicking, and with the Salotti in residence there’s really no excuse not to.
Salotti del Gusto Tuscan picnic:
Ca di Frara Oltre Il Classico Rose Riserva
This delightfully crisp sparkling 100% pinot nero (pinot noir) is almost absurdly good value for a wine produced with such care. Its fresh berry notes and well-balanced acidity will enliven any summer gathering and Ca di Frara's aim of becoming the world's first carbon-neutral winery means you can indulge guilt-free.
The Savini family have been scouring the countryside not far from Artimino for generations in search of the ever-elusive tuber. Fashioning everything from black truffles to parmesan spread to truffle beer (surprisingly delicious), they have somewhat cornered the Tuscan market. Die-hard tartufi aficionados can arrange private hunting tours with the unflappably cheerful Cristiano Savini and his truffle dogs.
Caseificio Marovelli Cheese
Expect nothing less than cheeses produced in the unwavering Italian tradition of dedication to quality ingredients. Their fresh cheeses are light and grassy, with a sense of terroir that derives from their small dairy farm in Garfagnana, while those matured or 'tanned' with straw, chestnut or olive leaves have added depths of flavour, and the maturation is gently influenced by these sympathetic additions.
Text by Neil Wissink