When someone says Tuscany (Toscana, for you Italian speakers) what comes to mind?
The rolling hills – check! Or the iconic cipressi (cypress trees) – certo! The world renowned wine (vino) – of course! And the fields of sunflowers – you bet! A squat, 300-pound tusked animal that wreaks havoc on the idyllic countryside? Not quite, eh?
Meet Toscana’s unofficial mascot: il cinghiale. The wild boar. Carino (cute), no? Sure he is. This little cartoon can be found all over Tuscany – on t-shirts, mugs, dishcloths, notebooks, you name it! I even found a sweet little cinghiale in peluche (a stuffed one!) to bring back to Canada with me.
These guys (the real live ones) exist in many parts of the world, but I’m here to tell you in a weirdly proud sort of way, that the biggest ones are often found running around the Tuscan countryside. What do they do? Well, they eat the grapes that had been earmarked for wine. Dig up peoples’ gardens. Run out into the road and cause traffic accidents. Aren’t really wary of humans. Can potentially harm someone who gets in their way. And to top it all off, they maybe gobble down an expensive truffle or two in their spare time…
On the up side, they taste delizioso on your plate…
If you ever get to Tuscany, be sure to indulge in one of my favourite pasta dishes which features the cinghiale: Pici al ragu di cinghiale. Pici pasta with wild boar sauce. Mmmm, buona! You can also get Pappardelle al cinghiale, but since Pici are Siennese and I’m slightly biased, I’ll tell you to forego the Pappardelle and hold out for the Pici.
The ever-famous cinghiale also appears in places other than on your souvenir t-shirt or your dinner plate. Meet Pietro Tacca’s bronze cinghiale statue in Florence. The original is stored in the Pitti Palace, but this replica lounges proudly outside the Mercato Nuovo in Firenze. Note the odd coloured nose on this guy; when passing, tourists and locals alike believe that rubbing its bronze nose will bring good luck. Needing all the good luck I can get, I too, patted the well-worn snout:
My worldly cinghiale friend also popped up in la Musee du Louvre in Paris. This time, he’s made from marble:
So, if you’re ever in Tuscany, don’t be surprised to see cinghiale on the menu, cinghiale on the t-shirts, cinghiale in the countryside and cinghiale statues in the cities. The cinghiale is, for all intents and purposes, Tuscany’s odd little mascot.