FOCACCIA – When in Italy, eat as Italians eat
If you ask an Italian for a slice of focaccia, they will certainly know what you mean. As a matter of fact, everyone from North to South knows the main features of this tasty Italian food. What you may don’t know, however, is that there are a lot of regional variations that change from one place to another. Here’s a practical guide to the endless shades of this beloved street food, so that you won’t be unprepared next time!
The name “focaccia” has a Latin origin and indicates a flat bread baked on hearth (“focus”). The first attestation of this word dates back to 1300 AD, even though the original recipe comes from the Etruscans. The basic ingredients of this typical Italian bread are: flour, water, yeast, salt and olive oil. Sometimes people think of focaccia as a kind of pizza, but the two share one main difference: focaccia is left to rise after being flattened, while pizza is baked immediately. One of the most interesting aspects is that you can eat it whenever you like: during an aperitivo, as a snack or even as a ready-to-go lunch or dinner!
Now you’re ready to find out more about regional variations: here we are!
The most famous version is the one from Liguria region. You can also find it in supermarkets, but the original one is only there! It’s so good that locals even eat it at breakfast and dip it in milk or cappuccino! It’s recognizable from its typical finger-sized holes filled with olive oil and salt. If you want to try this at home, you can find the step-by-step recipe here. You can also find some enriched versions of this focaccia, for example the one with onions or with rosemary. Another typical Ligurian recipe is the famous focaccia di Recco: two layers of dough filled with Recco cheese – so tasty!
Another delicious version is the one from Bari, in Southern Italy. This comes from the old Phoenician culture: it was both a gift to the Gods and a special dish for all the social events. There’s a fun story behind this tradional focaccia and there’s even a film about it (“Focaccia Blues”): some years ago Mc Donalds’ opened one of its restaurants near a little focaccia shop; his Italian food was so tasty that Mc Donald’s had to shut down its restaurant because of the success of the focaccia over the American hamburger! The classic version of this Apulian bread has olives and tomatoes on it, but you can also find other variants! If you come to Bari try it in all its shades, you won’t be disappointed!
You can find one of the best focaccia in the world in Tuscany: it’s the famous “schiacciata” or “ciaccia”. This comfort food is one of the oldest street foods of the region. One of the most popular places to eat it is “All’Antico Vinaio”, whose slogan “bada come la fuma” refers to the hot focaccia they take out of the oven every day. In Tuscany you can also find a sweet version of the focaccia made with grapes: its origin is unknown, but people say that it was part of the rural culture and it has then passed on from one generation to another.
Piedmontese and Venetian focaccia
Last but not least, there are also some sweet kinds of focaccia. The Venetian version is very similar to the Italian panettone, with the difference that people eat it at Easter. As regards Piedmont, on the other hand, there are some local variants. The most famous is the focaccia di Susa: it is a sweet cake from this amazing northern valley.
All these are the most popular kinds of focaccia you can find in Italy… Have you ever tried some of them? If you liked this guide, share it and give us a feedback!