Lunch at Al Barchetto

Not far from Bagni di Lucca on the road to Gallicano, Al Barchetto is a great place to have lunch. I have passed it many times and finally made my way there on a lovely autumn day.

The restaurant is set beside a fishing lake.

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The interior is bright and cheerful, and the service is much the same.

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We ordered the workman’s lunch for €10 and it was excellent.

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The restaurant has a tradition of home style cooking and quality service. Their hand made tordelli has been mentioned a few times by those in the know, so I am going to order that next time. We saw some very delicious looking meals being delivered all around us…maybe a few visits are necessary.

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The summer outdoor setting had just closed when we were there. In summer it would be wonderful to sit by the lake.

Al Barchetto. Via Magenta 71

0583 75773

The edge of Tuscany

Not far from Bagni di Lucca, there is a road through the mountains called Passo delle Radici. It is part of the border between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. It is a place of many signs.

It was a cold autumn day when we drove through the beautiful mountains. There was a distinct difference between the Modena side and the Lucca side.

Here is what greeted us from the road looking towards Emilia Romagna.

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This was on the Tuscany side of the mountains.

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In between is the tiny town of San Pellegrino.

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There is a wonderful olld church there with 2 pilgrims in an elaborate glass case. Click here to see an earlier post about them.

The views from the edge of town are spectacular and the drive up there is excellent. It is about 1 hour from Bagni di Lucca, taking things slowly to enjoy the view.

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Our first snowfall

The weather has turned cold and there is a fierce wind blowing through the mountains. There have been some dramatic skies and we thought we could see a light dusting of snow on the distant mountains.

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As we got closer we could clearly see snow on the top of the mountains.

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I think it is beautiful. Perhaps it will snow again tonight. It seems cold enough.

A chestnut festival… with mushrooms

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We recently attended the chestnut festival in Castelnuovo. It was a beautiful day and we were the first on the bus to take us from the town to the fortified area above the town where chestnuts were being roasted and crowds were beginning to gather.

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We were eager to try the roasted chestnuts and the fritelle made from both regular flour and chestnut flour. A little bonus was the warm spiced wine that came with them.

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Inside the main building was a display of local mushrooms, separated into edible, edible, but they taste awful and dangerous…don’t ever eat!

Here are some of the edible ones.

These may not hurt you, but they won’t be delicious.

Don’t pick and eat anything from the next group.

It was a great display. I would never be brave enough to gather mushrooms myself. I would only go with an expert, but it was really interesting to see the collection which had been put together with much care.

There was a sculpture display as well. This one left me feeling a bit twisted.

Don’t miss these local festivals. Each one is different and lot of fun.

Cucina povera…Garfagnana style

It has become fashionable to serve Cucina Povera, which roughly translates as “peasant food”. In tough times people had to do the best they could with humble ingredients (Italians are very good at this)…some they grew themselves and some they foraged for in the forests.

The Garfagnana area has seen some lean years in the past and the people here were very resourceful in their food preparation. On the weekend I went to the small, and very pretty village of Sassi, near Molazzana, in the mountains above the Serchio Valley to a restaurant called Il Totto, which specialises in the cucina povera of the area.

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The dining room was very cosy on a cold, winter day.

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We were early, but there were a couple of diners already enthusiastically tucking in to the local delights.

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We began with antipasti…onions, farro, bean salad, salumi and the delicious, crisp thin bread often served in the area.

My co-eaters were at Il Totto especially for the chestnut polenta, and a platter soon arrived.

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Along with the chestnut polenta came “ossi salati”, which literally translates as salted bones. Once most of the meat has been removed, pork bones are soaked in brine for several days before being boiled. It would have to be one of the least photogenic meals I have seen, but I can assure you, it was delicious.

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I was not, however, delighted with the chestnut polenta. My 2 friends went on to eat nearly 3 platters of it. I have decided it is an acquired taste, one I can happily spend the rest of my  life not acquiring. The old gentleman at the table beside us agreed with me. When he was a small child he had to eat it every day, and never wants to see it again.

Instead, I was served some regular polenta with cinghiale, wild boar…and it was very good.

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Il Totto is a delightful restaurant. The charming owner/chef, Signore Nesti, is helped by his friendly family members. It is well worth the drive on some narrow roads to get there.

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Telephone before you go to make sure they are open. 0583 760061 or 338 5854243

daltotto@libero.it

Un piccolo terremoto

There was a small earthquake near Castelnuovo in the Garfagnana yesterday at about 4.00pm.
We felt it here in Bagni di Lucca quite strongly. There was a loud noise and my house shook for a couple of seconds.

There are no reports of damage to people or property. People here seem to be fairly used to having the earth shake, but this was my first earthquake, and I have to say I didn’t like it one bit.

If I hear anything more I will let you know.

Lunch and a museum in the Garfagnana

On a gorgeous autumn day Heather Jarman and I went to the beautiful Garfagnana village of Sillico to have lunch at the lovely restaurant Locanda Belvedere.

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The chef, Roberta, cooked a delicious lunch for our group.

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It was still warm enough to sit on then outside terrace.

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The different breads were made using spelt and chestnut flour.

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We began with a ricotta and leek torte.

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And fried ricotta balls and pasta fritta.

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There were 2 types of pasta…..with mushrooms and a ragu.

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The waiter brought a tray of locally collected mushrooms for us to see.

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And then we ate the cooked mushrooms as a side dish with our rabbit.

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There was a selection of crostini to have with our coffee.

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We then headed up the hill to see some of Sillico and to find the museum which was kindly opened just for us.

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The museum is in a building beside the church and is full of interesting collections from the distant and not so distant past.

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There is an enormous collection of clocks, including this replica of one designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

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Then is was time to stand at the top of the village to admire the view over the Garfagana.

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You will need to book at Locanda Belvedere…..call Roberta or Clara……(39) 0583 662173

sapori-e-saperi.com