Our favourite shortcut into regional Italian cuisine.
Everywhere you go in Italy celebrates unique foods, traditions and dialects. Shift from high Dolomite peaks in the north where cows graze on green valley slopes to dusty Mediterranean olive groves in southern Sicily, and then fit everything in between.
We love sampling regional specialities and discovering a wealth of diverse foods on our travels, this is our fast track and favourite thing to order, wherever we end up... un tagliere.
Tagliere /tah-li-eh-reh/stems from 'tagliare' - to cut. That's just what this is, a wooden board of sliced meats, cheeses and pickles.
Ordering a tagliere is always a little bit of a gamble, but in Italy you can never go wrong - the culture of food is embedded in Italy's national pride and the love that goes into their produce is what makes food a celebration, and what makes it sublime.
Let's look at a some regional taglieri throughout Italy:
Un tagliere Toscano:
Un tagliere in Tuscany will always go heavy on the meat, their pride and joy cheese is one - Pecorino but they have so many gorgeous meats to show off: salame di cinghiale (wild boar salame), coppa, Prosciutto Crudo di Parma, finocchiona (fennel seed flavoured salame). The Tuscans love to combine salty flavours with sweet so expect local honey and perhaps pickled vegetables like 'giardiniera' - pickled in vinegar, served with their course breads which remember, have hardly any salt.
Un tagliere dell'Emilia Romagna:
The central-eastern province of Emilia Romania is considered one of Italy's finest foodie regions - it seems unfair to pick only one but let's just put it there: Emilia Romania has the highest number of geographically protected culinary products (DOCG) in the country and is home to medieval Bologna - top of the foodie iceberg.
We're talking home of Parmigiano Reggiano, squacquerone and provolone, other lesser-known cheeses may feature on your wooden board like Fossa di Sogliano, a creamy cheese matured for three months in oval holes dug out of rock!
Moving onto meats - expect mortadella (Bologna's gigantic Polony, known fondly as 'la bologna'), Prosciutto di Parma, peppery pork Salame Felino or Culatello di Zibello - a beautiful small Prosciutto made from pork thigh.
Here too, you may find honeys or fruit compote, fresh figs or a slice of melon and of course you'll be offered a bright red glass of sparkling Lambrusco.
Un tagliere del Trentino Alto Adige:
In the northern provinces of Italy, milk is rich from lush grazing where Alpine flowers and herbs make an appearance in flavours and recipes throughout the province. There's a deep, ancient love of using nature's bounty and many cheeses will feature foraged herbs as well as breads and cured meats, even drinks the Spritz Hugo! Speck is protected geographically here and probably is Trentino Alto Adige's most renowned cured meat. You'll find smoky, fragrant Speck in many dishes but on a local tagliere you'll find it thinly sliced and cut into pieces. Kaminwurzen are this regions thin, flavourful salame and you'll see other meats like Prosciutto di Cervo (wild deer ham) or dried sausages depending on where you are. Cheeses may be Stelvio DOP - made from whole milk with a strong, aromatic flavour or milky Alta Badia, taking it's name from where it is made. Goat chesses are popular here too but the thing I love most is Schüttelbrot - crunchy, thin rye bread with fennel, caraway and blue fenugreek. Combine this with sliced gherkins or radishes, thinly sliced rye breads and you've got something extra-ordinary...
Have you had 'un tagliere' in Italy? We'd love to see! Tag @mangiamangia.blog and tell us all about it on Instagram.