As I was travelling back to the UK straight from Toledo I stocked up on treats to take home.
Toledo is very famous for marzipan and was one of the first places in Europe to make it. The theory is that it was introduced by the Arabs, possible as early as 850-900, though more probably around 1150. In fact The Book of One Thousand and One Nights mentions eating almond paste as an aphrodisiac. As it now has PGI status, production is strictly governed by the Mazapán de Toledo regulatory council which stipulates that almonds must be at least 50% of the total weight.
One of the most famous places to buy it in Toledo, and in fact the whole of Spain, is Pastelería Santo Tomé www.mazapan.com at 7 Plaza Zocodover where they have been making marzipans since 1856.
At Christmas, people come from all over Spain to buy it.
As well as Delicia Mazapan, another popular sweet are Pastas de Mazapán con Piñones; balls of marzipan studded with pine nuts.
You can also buy nun-made cakes and pastries directly from convents. Convento Gaytanas at 2 Travesía Gaitanas sells ‘dulces típicos de Toledo’.
Next stop for me was the deli, Casa Cuartero www.casacuartero.com at 5 Calle Hombre de Palo (since 1920).
I had to choose which cheese, oil, wine, venison, wild boar sausage, game pates, gourmet preserves, mantecados (shortbreads), artisan turrón (nougat), arrope (grape syrup) or honey I wanted to take home. So you can imagine, I left a significant chunk of my wages here.
I would have spent more on fresh produce at the Mercado de Abastos at 2 Calle Coliseo but was disappointed to find it had mainly been taken over by a supermarket.
Other than food, Toledo is famous for metal-working. Even though I wasn’t buying I found it interesting to have a look round Simón Artesanía at 1 Plaza San Vicente where they have specialised in damasquinados (damascene) since 1963. Damascening is the art of inlaying steel with gold and silver threads and this is one of just a few places that still sell genuine handmade pieces.
Another byword for quality that is familiar to so many is Toledo steel. Sword-making is now virtually a lost art but I’m told Mariano Zamorano Swords Factory www.marianozamorano.com at 19 Calle Ciudad is striving to keep the old skills alive. I didn’t have time to go but this video will give you an idea. Otherwise, like most of the damascene, all the swords you see in the shops will be machine-made.
Tapas bars next…