Monday, January 13, 2014

Creamy, delicious, silky smooth...fat?

Lardo, in all of it's fatty glory
Let's talk lardo.

There are few things in this world more decadent then eating thinly sliced, white ribbons of cured fatback on a piece of warm bread.  The fat melts slowly over the bread, turning into glossy, opaque slivers of deliciousness that have notes of rosemary, herbs and sometimes cinnamon.  A foodie dream or a cardiologist nightmare?  You can argue both sides, but a recent trip to the ancient mountain village of Colonnata, the home of the most famous lardo in Italy, lardo di Colonnata, meant that lardo would be consumed in large amounts.

Lardo is one of the most unique Tuscan salumi that I've encountered.  A few years ago when studying abroad here, I remember looking at the slices of lardo atop the salt less bread typical here in Tuscany with a raised eyebrow.  Already counting the kilos I had been packing on studying food in Tuscany, I was more then a little dubious, but the food student in me couldn't resist the IGP protected product with a history that goes back for centuries.

After my first bite, I was hooked.  It quite literally melts in your mouth, covering your tongue with smooth fat and spices.  Lardo is made of cured pork fatback, using salt, herbs, including rosemary, and spices, like cinnamon.   In little Colonnata, the winding streets that run alongside the sharp white marble mountains of Carrara are filled with one larderia, where you cure and sell the famous star of Colonnata, after another.

one larderia of many

Where the magic happens

We sat down to a lunch of mixed antipasti, which obviously included lardo, and then a grilled steak covered in the silky white slices of fat melting over the meat.  It was decadent and delicious, and I couldn't help but think about all of the people in the world on a diet after the New Year.

Ready to bring home!
Fortunately, Colonnata has a lovely little piazza and some tiny alleys to wander down as you attempt to burn off all of the lardo consumed.  Making left turns and right turns absentmindedly, we ran into an older gentleman in front of his larderia who offered to bring us into his little production facility and show us how it is done.  Being next to mountains made of marble, it isn't surprising that the village seems to be made of the stone, and that lardo di Colonnata needs to be preserved in huge, white marble vats, that keep it's moisture and humidity at a specific level that give it it's unique taste and texture.  He explained to us that spices ranging from coriander to cloves are used, and that the lardo has to have a certain percentage of cholesterol not higher then that of other white meats.  I'm dubious on this last totally unsupported fact, but it did make me feel a little better after lunch.  And looking at all these happy elderly people in the center of the lardo universe made me feel even better as no one around me seemed to be keeling over due to eating too much lardo.

Everything is made of marble!
Aside from cured pork fat consumption, Colonnata is a really charming small village.  Much like arriving in the Cinque Terre, the road driving up the mountain is a bit of an adventure as you wind up and down a one lane road littered with marble dust and large chunks acting like road barriers on the side.  In the spring and summer, tours can be arraigned to visit the marble caves that have been supplying the precious material to the world from ancient Roman times.  Nestled in the Apuan Alps, looking down over the marble sea of mountains, it definitely worth a trip - but come with an empty stomach.


  1. Hi Christine, i have been reading a few of your post's and have enjoyed the life you bring to each place you share. whe i looked at the marble photo above i recal my train trip from Rome to Cinque Terre in 2012. I recall the amazing mountains stripped and falling due to the mining of this amazing stone. I was left feeling sorry for the beauty of the mountin now gone and just a white mess spreading accross the vally up from the village now holding yards of this marble waiting for sale. to knowing that most of the history and its monuments were created from this.
    its always interesting when you have both sad and amazement in one object.
    I am looking forward to seeing you in July.
    take care

  2. What a lovely blog this is, really inspiring! I spend time now and then in Menton just across the border in France and I love to explore Liguria as well. You give me a lot of nice ideas in your blog. Have you discovered the blog that I run together with my friend Elisabeth about Menton and the surroundings in both France and Italy? It is bilingual, we write both in Swedish and in English, see

    Regards from Ingrid in Menton