Food and Wine in the Lake Garda and Franciacorta areas
Food, wine and tourism – In the last few articles on this blog, we have dealt with two areas in the north of Italy which are considered tourist attractions of paramount importance: the first, Lake Garda, has always been characterised by a highly-variegated, international type of tourism, while the second, Franciacorta-Lake Iseo area, is distinguished by niche tourism and is more associated with the wine-producing activities carried out in Franciacorta.
In this article, the rich, succulent food and wine varieties found in these areas will be focused upon, and, as in every Italian region, has its own specialities, deriving just as much from the mingling of the different cultures that, over time, have settled here, as from the exceptional local products coming from these territories.
On Lake Garda, recipes and flavours from three rather different Regions, Veneto, Lombardy and Trentino Alto-Adige, come together to create a unique blend, where each region adding its own traditions and ingredients. Ranging between the Carne Salada (cured salted beef) from the Trentino region, an aromatic speciality obtained from beef rump that can be eaten either raw or cooked, and the lake fish, that fully-respecting its age-old tradition, proposes recipes featuring whitefish, pike, perch and carp, a variety of salmonid fish with soft, delicious white or pinkish flesh, that is an endemic species, found only in these areas.
Of course, first course proposals include not only Pasta and Rice dishes toppedwith lake fish-based sauces but also Tortellini. The tortellini made in the nearby town of Valeggio is rigorously handmade and can be served with either melted butter and sage, or in broth, to make a healthy meal that nourishes both mind and spirit!
There is also a wide selection of cheeses to choose from, in fact, it is worth remembering that around Lake Garda there are many mountains and plains that, since time immemorial, have been used for pasturage purposes and more specifically for cattle grazing. Many varieties of cheese come from this area, including the famous Formagella Tremosine, Garda (a semi-fat, hard paste and semi-cooked cheese),
The locally-produced, prized olive oil, honey, jam, cold cuts (with salami reigning supreme) and desserts are worthy of note, upholding age-old traditions, handing down old, simple recipes that have always been appreciated.
Yet if the Lake Garda area has an enviable reputation in terms of quality and variety, food and wine from Franciacorta and the nearby Lake Iseo are no less impressive… Aole fritte or in carpione (fried or marinated alborelle), Perch risottos and fillets, delicate Lake Fish soups, but also Spaghetti or Tagliolini with Lake Shrimps. The species of fish coming from Lake Iseo include trout, tench, whitefish, perch and the most prestigious char, delicacies that can be both oven-baked and grilled, often accompanied by Polenta, absolute must-try dish. Without forgetting Agoni sott’olio (twaite shad in oil), locally known as Lake Sardines.
Many fish-based recipes are accompanied by Franciacorta wines, while there is no shortage of meat-based dishes served alongside by the full-bodied, locally-produced Curtefranca (the red wine variety produced in this area): a jewel in the crown of local cuisine is Manzo all’Olio (Olive Oil-Stewed Beef), not to mention Spiedo (Spit-roasted Meat) and Cotechino (a large, fresh, rich pork sausage), traditional dishes that can be found just as frequently on display on stalls in the numerous typical village festivals asin Michelin-starred restaurants in the local area.
Best cuts of meat, perfectly accompanied by high-quality dairy products, all bearing the PDO mark, coming from local high-altitude pastures are an absolute must: Taleggio, Rosa Camuna, Formagelle, Silter, cheeses produced both locally and in mountain pastures, homemade butter and many other products besides, all of which have their own unique characteristics.
Finally, if there’s wine, a meal would not be complete without a glass of Grappa, the steam-distilled spirit obtained from fresh Franciacorta grape skins, with its unmistakable flavours and fragrances, regardless of whether you prefer a velvety smooth, decisive or a soft taste. In Franciacorta, Olive Oil PDO, fruit and, in particular Forest Fruits, Jams and Honey must be tried and which make breakfast time in the many hotel facilities scattered all over the local territory, even sweeter.
In short, these two areas of Italy really have so much to offer with their mountain, hillside and lakeside products, as well as their two cultures, the food and wine originating from which are created by the blending and continuous exchange of populations that are very different from one another, yet which, at the same time, share the passion for quality, authenticity and wholesomeness!