If you’re reading this you love food. And you’ll also know that Tuscany, in central Italy, is a place that takes it’s food very seriously, with tons of typical delicacies on every menu.
Here, every area and small town has its very own specialities and traditional dishes, jealously guarded and passed on generation after generation.
Delicious meals can be had everywhere from a simple stall, to a Michelin restaurant (of which there are many!). And you’ll always find something to satisfy your palate whether you’re after a quick panino or a dish of pappa al pomodoro.
So let’s take you on a journey around the 6 Hot Towns for Foodies in Tuscany. Forks at the ready!
Best 6 Towns in Tuscany for foodies
Our journey starts in Florence, which is definitely the capital of Tuscan food. The ‘cradle of the Renaissance’ is also the cradle of ‘buona tavola’ – good food – and here you can find hundreds of traditional trattorie, enoteche and restaurants that have been here for generations. Not to mention artisanal gelaterie, and pasticcerie for your sweet tooth.
What should you try while in Florence? Well, if you like meat, opt for the famous Bistecca alla fiorentina, a t-bone steak cooked (rare) on a wood fire. Or be daring and join the locals for a panino al lampredotto (sandwich filled with boiled cow’s stomach). You’ll find all sorts of stalls around the city from Porcellino market to San Lorenzo market). Trippa alla fiorentina is another delicacy, soft tripe with plenty of tomato and parmesan cheese.
Vegetarian? You’re in the right place. Ribollita is the earthy soup that country people used to prepare with stale bread, beans and Tuscan kale. Served with abundant local extra virgin olive oil. Pappa al pomodoro is another favourite soup, and you can try fritto misto di verdure for a full fried adventure.
Enter an artisanal forno (bakery) and get a schiacciata all’olio (a sort of salty flat bread, glistering with olive oil) for a heavenly experience. Of find a friggitoria for the typical coccoli: to play it safe, head to Il Coccolo in via Palmieri.
HOT SPOTS FOR FOODIES IN FLORENCE: San Lorenzo Food Market, historical trattorie like Trattoria Buca Lapi, Buca Mario, Coco Lezzone, Cinghiale Bianco, Da Burde. Il Coccolo friggitoria.
Check out the Florence Gourmet Food Tour for a full immersion in Florentine flavours: with a local guide, you’ll be exploring Florence’s more tasty spots, and try truffle panini, artisanal chocolate, gorgeous ice cream, schiacciata and local olive oil.
When in Siena look out for the traditional pici. Pici are the thick artisanal spaghetti made in this part of the world. Great served with “cacio e pepe” (local pecorino cheese and abundant grated black pepper), or with a game based sauce (wild boar and hare). If you’re a fan of garlic, try the ‘pici all’aglione’.
Don’t leave without sampling the sharply flavoured Pecorino cheese (sheep’s milk cheese), served with locally produced honey for maximum delight. In and around Siena you’ll find the famous salumi (cold cuts) made with cinta senese, the prestigious pig breed from the area.
As desserts go, Siena is the hometown of the famous ricciarelli biscuits. These are typical of the Christmas period, but here they are available all year round. Made from soft almond paste, they melt in the mouth. So go to the pasticceria Nannini and buy some to bring home with you. Cavallucci biscuits and the Panforte (a flat dark cake with candied fruit and honey) are delicious too made from recipes that date back to the Middle Ages.
HOT SPOT FOR FOODIES IN SIENA: La Nuova pasticceria, Forno Il Magnifico, Pasticceria Nannini for sweet treats.
Visit Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni, on a Full-Day Guided Tour from Florence: you’ll be driving around the gorgeous Chianti countryside, explore an ancient cellars and taste some delicious local food and wine.
The busy port of Livorno isn’t the prettiest Tuscan destination. There’s not much to see in terms of architecture or pretty views. But when it comes to fish dishes, this place is magic.
The king of these fish dishes is the traditional fish soup known as cacciucco. A few different varieties of fish go into this thick, tomatoey soup (At least 6, and 13 if you look at an original recipe). These include shell fish, octopus, clams, cuttlefish, dogfish and red fish. It comes ladled atop a big slice of toasted bread rubbed with garlic. And paired with a light red wine. One of Livorno’s top places for cacciucco is the Trattoria Galileo.
While in Livorno you must try the traditional way to drink coffee: a hot invigorating “ponce”, made with coffee, rum and lemon peel. Just perfect after an abundant meal to help the digestion.
TASTY TIP: If you’re staying anywhere around Livorno and Pisa, look out for cecìna, the flat bread made from chickpeas. Delicious. (It’s called cecìna in Pisa and ‘torta di ceci’ in Livorno, where they have it in a sandwich, called ‘5e5’).
=> Discover what’s special about Tuscan bread!
=> Explore the tasty side of Livorno with this Livorno Market and Food Tour, that combines architecture, history, local flavours and traditions!
4. Versilia coast – Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi
If you love fish, Viareggio and adjacent Forte dei Marmi (the popular seaside resorts in the Versilia) are for you. Together they boast an impressive list of Michelin starred restaurants: Il Piccolo Principe in Viareggio, is a high-end fish tasting experience. While in Forte dei Marmi you find the excellent Da Romano, Lux Lucis, Bistrò, Lorenzo.
Stars aside, the Versilia is a great place to try all sort of fish related dishes: spaghetti with clams, seafood risotti, mussels, prawns, swordfish, cuttlefish, cod (the traditional ‘merluzzo alla livornese‘ is made with capers and tomatoes) fritto misto (fried fish that usually includes cuttlefish, prawns, flying squid). The list is endless, and your appetite will need to be too.
5. Greve in Chianti
The Chianti wine region is a must for food and wine lovers. A land where fresh ingredients, fresh vegetables, mouthwatering affettati (cold cut, cured meat), excellent olive oil, top-quality meat make an appearance in every menu. And Greve in Chianti is one of the region’s capitals of food.
At the stylish butcher Falorni, where curing meat and ageing ham is an art, you can find all that your carnivorous heart desires, from fennel-spiced finocchiona to the classic salame toscano, delicious sausages, and tartare made from the prised chianina cow breed. Chianti wine abounds and is a perfect match for the meaty dishes.
Nearby Panzano is home to another famous butcher, Cecchini, who has opened a couple of restaurants next to his shop. Try his lardo, or cured pork fat, irresistible when spread on a warm slice of Tuscan bread.
6. San Gimignano
The scenic hilltop town of San Gimignano is not only famous for its Medieval towers. Here you can taste one of the best gelatos in Italy, at award-winning Dondoli in Piazza della Cisterna. In his ice cream parlour, frequently visited by celebrities, Master Sergio has created unusual flavours such as cream with saffron and pinenuts and Vernaccia Sorbet!