CACCIUCCO alla Livornese
This rather challenging word is pronounced Catchooko and conjures up a delicious fish soup not unlike the Provencal Bouillabaisse, a speciality of the Livornese or Leghorn cuisine. It is usually composed of six or seven different kinds of fish, added to the soup according to the amount of cooking time each requires, together with a tomato sauce liberally spiced with peperoncino. Typically a cacciucco alla Livornese would include octopus, squill, shrimp and mussels as well as “scorfano” which my dictionary assures me is a rock or scorpion fish, a fish so ugly it is often used as a derogatory term to describe someone ill-favoured by nature. Legend would have it that cacciucco was invented by a livornese lighthouse keeper who was forbidden by law to fry fish as the oil was required for the beacon warning sailors off the rocks. Another story is that it was the dish offered by fellow fishermen to the family of a man lost at sea. For centuries Livorno was a port welcoming Armenians, Greeks, Portuguese, Dutch, English and Germans and for a long time housed a thriving Jewish community so the word cacciucco could have many origins. It is even suggested that it was originally a Vietnamese recipe, brought back to Livorno by sailors returning from the Orient. Although it is a fish soup, Cacciucco is always accompanied by red wine. Served on toasted country bread rubbed with garlic, it is a meal in itself. Although featured on many menus,
Trattoria da Galileo (Via della Campana 20/22) e La Barcarola (Viale Carducci, n°39) that is one of many famous for its cacciucco.
PRAY THE SANCTUARY OF MONTENERO
Grazie, a Madonna who has dispensed graces liberally ever since the seventeenth century when the first sanctuary was built (although the present structure dates back to the fifties), as testified by the over seven hundred ex-votos in the gallery alongside the church. Many Madonnas in Italy are surrounded by ex-votos, usually silver effigies of whatever part of their bodies the Mother of God has been instrumental in healing, resulting in a great many silver legs and arms and even stomachs crowding the sky above her halo. In Montenero the ex-votos are naïve paintings depicting the miracle the Madonna’s intervention has wrought, saving people from drowning in lakes, burning in fires or falling off ladders. The most famous exhibit in the collection is a waistcoat and red velvet slippers worn by an unfortunate girl who was abducted by the Turks as an addition to their harem in the eighteen hundreds and subsequently rescued thanks to the Madonna di Montenero by her brother. (In a story by Giuseppe Marotta in his book “L’Oro di Napoli”, later made into a film with Sofia Loren, there is a wonderful story culminating in the commissioning of an ex-voto by a man whose faithless Montenero is just south of Livorno, a sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna delle
wife has returned to the fold, depicting a giant pair of horns being lifted by an angel from the husband’s head.)
Bolgheri and environs are full of charming little pensiones and Bed & Breakfasts ideal for getting away from it all for a romantic weekend.
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