Search This Blog

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Miele Millefiori (Wildflower Honey), Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy

My friend Barbara recently came back from a trip to Italy and she brought back this honey for me. During her time there she visited the province of La Spezia in the Liguria region of Northern Italy. In this region you'll find a rugged section of the Italian Riviera and a cluster of five villages- Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore- that are known collectively as Cinque Terre, "The Five Lands." The coastline, the villages and surrounding land are part of the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site created in 1999.

The Village of Riomaggiore
It isn't hard to see why this area was designated as a World Heritage Site. Over the course of generations inhabitants have built into the rugged, steep landscape creating a magical place. Adding to the charm is the fact that you can not easily reach Cinque Terre by car (Monterosso al Mare is connected to the E80 via a narrow, steep and winding road that has been described as "absolutely not practical"); the area is more accessible by sea or train (built in 1870). There are also mule paths that connect the five villages, and link them to the Via Roma, the main road that connected all of Italy to Rome. Many of the original mule paths are now within the national park system and continue today as hiking trails that offer spectacular views of the sea and the region. You'll notice that houses in these villages are painted a variety of colors. The story goes that when the men went out to fish they wanted to be able to identify their own homes easily, so they each painted their homes in a different, bright color.   
Italy, Cinque Terre is found on the coast in the North

Cinque Terre has been mentioned in historical documents from as early as the 11th century. The villages grew under the rule of the Republic of Genoa and defensive structures and fortifications were built in the 16th century as a defense against the Turks. The completion of the railroad in 1870 made the area less isolated and efforts in the 1970s to promote the area to tourists made it a major tourist attraction.

The terraced lands around Cinque Terre produce wine (Cinque Terre and Sciachetra) and olives, and the area is known for its Genoese pesto sauce, focaccia bread, lemons, seafood (Monterosso is particularly known for its anchovies), grappa and limoncello- the last two being a type of brandy and a sweet liqueur flavored with lemons, respectively. Of note, Corniglia, one of the five villages, is also known for a gelato flavor made with local honey called (rather descriptively) as "miel de Corniglia."

The Village of Monterorosso la Mare

My honey, however, is from the village of Monterosso al Mare, the western most of the five villages. It is easy to distinguish Monterosso from the rest of the villages because it is the only one with a sandy beach and has the bell tower of a San Francesco church as a prominent feature.

There are many micro-climates in the area and as a consequence there is an abundance of floral diversity: oak, Aleppo pine, chestnut, sea fennel, rue, heather, rosemary, lavender, myrtle, red juniper, madder, honeysuckle and sarsaparilla, to name a few honey sources. As you can imagine this lush landscape produces a variety of honeys, notable among them are: heather, acacia, chestnut and wildflower.

Wildflower Honey, Monterosso al Mare, Italy
My honey is harvested by Cantina Sassarini and from what I can gather, which isn't much since I don't speak or read Italian, is that the Sassarini family also produces pesto, wine and olive oil. Giancarlo Sassarini is the apiarist of the family and produced my honey. However, the jar suggests that the honey is distributed by Brezzo S.r.l., a large player in the Italian honey market. I found a website for the Brezzo family business and they package and distribute a variety of honey from Italy and France.

My wildflower honey is opaque and has a dull golden, tan color. It has already completely crystallized, but not in big chunks, more with a uniform consistency that you see in whipped honey. It has the heady smell of summer flowers that reminds me of dandelions on a hot summer day. It twirls easily on my toothpick, a little in sheets. The crystallized consistency gives it a bit of texture, but this melts quickly. It isn't overly sweet and has distinct floral overtones with a subtle hint of molasses, then a clean sweetness with a menthol-herbal aftertaste. This is a somewhat complex and very tasty honey. Given the texture it would be perfect on toast, but may not be runny enough for drizzling on plain yoghurt. It would also add a subtle floral flavor to teas, but may be overpowered by a strong tea.

I couldn't find an online seller for this honey, so you'll just have to make a note to stock up next time you are in Cinque Terre!  

No comments:

Post a Comment