Fagioli are beans, a much-loved accompaniment to the main course, especially favored in Tuscany, whose citizens are known as mangiafagioli or bean-eaters. There are many kinds of beans grown in Italy, including some that have been brought back from near extinction. Green beans are fagiolini, by the way.
When presented with this dish, you may also be invited to season it with olive oil.
Certain areas where beans grow best are famous throughout Italy. You may never have heard of Bigliolo, but folks come from all over Italy for their yearly harvest festival. Bigliolo’s rich, alluvial soil poor in calcium makes the beans tender, creamy, and without much of that indigestible skin. They are cranberry beans, which loose their cream and cranberry colors when cooked.
In the region of Umbria you might find Fagiolina del Trasimeno, a slow-growing bean favored by the Etruscans that you don’t have to pre-boil and have oodles of taste. Although rare, you can find them for sale at the Madrevite Winery in Umbria near the border with Tuscany.
Onions are similarly diverse, and each region in which they grow well has a special type the locals cherish. You may have heard of the sweet Topea onion from Calabria. Even the little Molise region has it’s say, Isernia is famous for its onions as well. There are hundreds more. Onions alone make up the contorno called cippolini agrodolce, sweet and sour small onions.