During the summer of 2015, my family went on a trip to Italy. As my grandparents were eager to show us where they grew up, we traveled all over the country, from the tiny town of Calvene, where my Nonno (grandpa) was born, to my Nonna (grandma)’s hometown of Campobasso. Between those, one of the places we stayed in was San Gimignano, in Tuscany.
Because we had previously stayed in Verona, where the bread was delicious, I was expecting more of the same for the bread in Tuscany. After all, at this point in my life I figured that bread was bread, and the place it was made wouldn’t have any effect on the product. So I was quite surprised when I tried Pane Toscano.
As you can see, the loaf is quite pale. I didn’t think much of this at first, since I figured that the bread must have had a lighter bake, and I tend to like products like that. But then I tasted it. It was incredibly bland, almost like chewing on a sponge. My Nonna must have seen my face, because she explained that the bread in Tuscany was made differently than other Italian bread, as Tuscan bread did not have salt in it. At the time, I realized that the lack of salt accounted for the bland taste, but now I also know that it caused the pale color as well.
While we stayed in Tuscany, I gathered that the bread was not salted as it was meant to be eaten with salty meats and cheeses, so something bland was needed to offset the taste. But a good while after we returned home from Italy, I learned that there was a little more to it than that. During the Middle Ages, there was a heavy tax on salt, so the Tuscan bakers decided to just make their bread without salt, and even long after the tax was lifted, the bland-tasting bread remains the norm. It’s not super popular with the rest of Italy, though, because when I mentioned the bread to a cousin of mine who lives in Campobasso, she made a face and said “Oh…no, I don’t like the bread in Tuscany.”
I’ll probably blog more about my trip to Italy, as there’s just so much to talk about.
(Photos courtesy of https://bewitchingkitchen.com/2010/01/25/bba-38-tuscan-bread/ and http://www.salad-in-a-jar.com/family-recipes/crusty-round-bread-made-in-a-bread-machine )