Fish to fry

San Vincenzo’s Festa della Palamita

Emiko Davies
April 26, 2012

One of Tuscany's best food festivals in spring is Tutti Pazzi per la Palamita, celebrating the bounty of the Etruscan coast and the talent of the local chefs and fishermen in San Vincenzo (Livorno) on May 5 and 6. Here Emiko Davies gives an inside look at this great seaside sagra that continues to attract hordes of fish-loving foodies from across the region.

 

Something wonderful happens along Tuscany's Etruscan coast in the spring. It's the season for palamita (bonito fish), and there's no place better to get a taste of it than at the degustation style street-food festival appropriately named Tutti Pazzi per la Palamita.

 

A member of the mackerel and tuna family, this tasty ‘poor relative of the tuna' is commonly found throughout Italy's seas, feeding on anchovies, sardines and other small pesci azzurri (literally ‘blue fish'; the term refers to the shimmery blue sheen of silver-skinned fish that sardines, anchovies, mackerel and bonito have in common) or ‘oily fish' in English.

 

Palamita travel the length of the Italian peninsula throughout the year. In autumn, you can find them in Liguria, in the summer they head to Naples, while the spring season brings them to Tuscany, where they are such an important part of the traditional food and culture of the coast between the Giglio and Capraia islands that they are protected by a Slow Food presidium (see http://bit.ly/JhcFpW).

 

Held each May in the port town of San Vincenzo for the past 11 years, the Festa della Palamita celebrates not only palamita but also their smaller oily fish cousins that are the traditional catch of the fishermen of this part of Tuscany. Long known as an integral part of the peasant cuisine of the Etruscan coast and the Tuscan Archipelago, these pesci azzurri may be cheap and plentiful but they pack a punch in terms of flavour and nutrients, such as omega-3.

 

The restaurants, bars and fishing clubs of San Vincenzo open stalls along the streets of the port and the esplanade, each vying to outdo each other with a specialty, such as pizza with salted sardines, freshly caught and grilled anchovies or perhaps palamita in porchetta served in a bread roll, a dish created by Ristorante Askos that will trick you with its texture and flavour of Tuscany's favourite roast pork. New to this year's list of local restaurants is Fulvietto Pierangelini's Il Bucaniere.

 

The restaurants' dishes are judged by a panel of Tuscan food bloggers, journalists, and finally by the public, who meander through the streets, tasting the specialties on offer, with some of the excellent local wine by the glass in hand. What are you waiting for? Discover why this is one of Tuscany's best food festivals.

 

 

HOW IT WORKS

Get a Palamita Pass for 5 euro, which covers five individual food tastings. The Calice Pass for 3 euro allows three wine tastings. For the full programme, check out www.palamita.com (in Italian).

 

 

HOW TO GET THERE

Easily accessible by train or car from Livorno or Pisa (www.trenitalia.it), and not too far a drive from Siena or Florence, San Vincenzo is on a stretch of beautiful Etruscan coast where medieval towns, rocky ruins and turquoise bays dot the coastal landscape that provides some of the most exciting array of Tuscan produce.

 

 

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