This was the 10th year of Il Desco started in 2004 and now supported greatly by excellent businesses such as Sapori e Saperi (Flavours and Knowledge) Lucchesi experts in all food products produced in the province of Lucca, particularly in the Garfagnana. Indeed a great deal of the wonderful food on show is from that area of the Province of Lucca.

Il Real Collegio (Royal College) in the centro storico of Lucca was in the mid 18th Century part of the l’antico convent della basilica di San Frediano. Through many changes since that era the place, now governed by a Board of Directors, is to be maintained as a place of scholastic and cultural hospitality for the commune.

This year the display of wine and olive oil in particular was smaller due to the poor harvest, yet I did notice my friend Renzo Baldaccini display his excellent oil. However, the stalls displaying cheeses, cooked and raw meats, salami, fagioli and farro, varieties of flour, various cooking and tastings and many other prodotti tipici from nearly fifty stall-holders, exhibitors and other collaborators filled the two beautiful cloisters of the Collegio. These other organisations enthusiastically promote a greater understanding of local food with initiatives such as I Fagioliadi (SlowBean producers), SlowFood for Kids, SlowKitchens for restaurateurs and Vetrina Toscana (Tuscany’s shop-window). Beans are a great staple diet of Tuscan cuisine and bases for soups with several local varieties such as: Cannellino (from San Ginese and Sant’ Alessio), Malato (San Giuseppe), Rosso and Aquila or Lupinaro(Lucca).

Vetrina Toscana is a very useful booklet that contains most of the recommended restaurants, osterie, locande and botteghe in and around Lucca, as well the regions of the piana, the Garfagnana and the Versilia. Indeed, unsurprisingly, I met browsing the exhibition Pasqualino Gubitosa who owns and runs an excellent restaurant of the same and his great friend Carlo Logrande who also has a similar restaurant in Lucca’s centre La Norma, both specialising in ‘Cucina Siciliana e Toscana’. Although well known to locals, both restaurants are off the main streets and often are never discovered by tourists or casual visitors to Lucca and remain hidden gems.

Il Desco again proved to be a great success each weekend and we look forward to next year when it falls neatly between the harvest and Christmas periods.

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