Food is one of the reasons to visit Tuscany. Its centuries-old gastronomy, the jealously guarded local recipes are one of the region’s highlights. Not to mention the top-quality products that you find in every bakery, market and delicatessen.
Traditional specialities include the famous ‘bistecca alla Fiorentina’ to the summery panzanella and the many mouthwatering salumi. These tastes are a part of Tuscan tradition, and to miss them is to miss out.
Food in Tuscany and where to taste it
1. Tuscan Salumi
Tuscany is a master of salumi (cured meat made from pork) and the sheer variety of offerings is astonishing. Every area has its own speciality. From the classics, like ham (prosciutto toscano DOP) and salame toscano, to the fennel-seed flavoured finocchiona or sbriciolona. From strongly flavoured soppressata (made with left-over part of the pig, like the heart, head and tongue), to lardo di colonnata (cured pork fat). Tuscan Sausages are a must too, preferably grilled.
Best place to have it: Everywhere. The Chianti region, Florence & Siena, in northern Tuscany they have their own varieties (like the dark savoury Biroldo in the Garfagnana, and the Fasciata in Lunigiana).
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2. Florence’s favourite soups
Ribollita and pappa al pomodoro are two of the backbones of Florentine gastronomy. “Cucina povera” indicates traditional peasant cooking, dishes often made with very simple ingredients and the “leftovers” in the pantry. These two soups use stale bread as their main ingredient. Ribollita is a winter favourite, made with Tuscan kale and cannellini beans, while pappa al pomodoro is a feast of tomatoes and garlic. Comfort food at its healthiest.
=> Discover what’s special about Tuscan bread
Another bread-based dish, the summery panzanella is as simple and delicious as it gets. Tuscan (stale) bread gets soaked in cold water and then squeezed dry. You add plenty of fresh onion, tomatoes, basil, and splash it with vinegar and Tuscan olive oil. Refreshing and filling.
Where: mainly Florence and surroundings, Chianti area
4. Crostini Toscani
This is one of Tuscany’s beloved festive starters: Tuscan bread topped with chicken liver paté. Sometimes the slices of bread are soaked in broth or milk first to make them more tender, and served hot. These are traditionally eaten on Sundays and holidays. But on restaurant menus the ‘crostini toscani’ are usually part of the so-called ‘antipasto toscano’ in every menu.
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5. Bistecca alla fiorentina
Tuscany loves its meat. And Florence has the reigning champion of steak cuts. The prized Fiorentina, the thick Florentine t-bone steak cooked on a wooden fire which is seared on the outside and red in the middle. (If you wince at the thought of rare meat, it’s probably not for you.)
Where: Florence and surroundings
6. Cacciucco fish soup
A fish dish to die for, Cacciucco hails from Livorno. This thick fish soup for which at least 6 different varieties of fish must be used – mussels, prawns, palombo, clams, cuttlefish, octopus, scorpionfish, tracina and gallinella. The fish is cooked with abundance of tomatoes, herbs and garlic. Served with toast and rubbed with garlic slice of bread.
=> See other typical Tuscan fish dishes
Where: Livorno, Versilia coast.
Pici are hand-rolled thick spaghetti made in Siena and the surrounding area. Traditionally they are made without eggs, using only flour and water. The quality of this pasta is best complemented with savoury game-based sauces like hare or wild boar. But they also work very well with ‘cacio e pepe‘ (abundant pecorino cheese and black pepper).
Where: Siena and Sienese area.
8. Pecorino cheese
Pecorino Toscano DOP cheese is Tuscany’s signature cheese. The most famous variety is produced in Pienza, south of Siena. The delicate flavour of a young pecorino (made from ewe’s milk) goes well with pears and vegetables and is a tasty accompaniment to fava beans in Spring. The more mature pecorino is often served with local honey or jam, often offered as a starter with salumi.
Where: Everywhere. Different varieties and ageing process around the region.
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9. Schiacciata all’olio
Tuscan bread is unique because it is unsalted. Schiacciata on the contrary is a flat bread with plenty of salt and olive oil sprinkled on top. A favourite as a snack mid-morning or afternoon on its own or stuffed with ham, mortadella or salame. Unforgettable.
Where: Everywhere. It varies in consistency depending of the area. In some areas it is called ‘focaccia’.
10. Tortelli alla Maremmana
The ‘Maremma-style tortelli’ are in fact fresh ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese, one of southern Tuscany‘s traditional dishes. They can be served with a meat-based sauce or with sage and butter.
Another delicious variety of ravioli is the one made with potatoes, a typical dish of the Mugello, the Casentino, mountainous areas of Tuscany. Served with mushrooms or ragout.
11. Peposo dell’ Impruneta
Another meaty dish, perfect for a cold winter evening. The queen of all Tuscan stews, Peposo dell’Impruneta is beef cut in small pieces, slow-cooked in copious amounts of Chianti wine and black pepper. Savoury, filling and everything you want a good earthy stew to be.
You’ll find other traditional meat stews all around Tuscany (stracotto, spezzatino, made with beef meat and sometimes vegetables).
12. Trippa alla fiorentina and lampredotto
Florentine Tripe and the infamous lampredotto (boiled cow’s stomach) are two of Florence‘s unique and mostly talked-about foods. You find many ‘trippai’ stalls around the city where you can try the lampredotto sandwich (served with salsa verde) and a plate of tripe cooked in abundant tomato sauce. Authentic Florentine food for the more daring palate.By Schellack at en.wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, Link
13. Cantuccini, ‘biscotti di Prato’
A truly Tuscan biscuit. These dry and crunchy biscuits, made with almonds are a symbol of conviviality, something to offer at the end of a meal. They are the perfect match for the local Vin Santo sweet wine, and some people dip them in the wine while others wouldn’t dare. You can decide what works for you.
Where: they originated in the town of Prato but you find them everywhere.
14. Ricciarelli from Siena
The other famous Tuscany sweet treats are the almond-based ricciarelli biscuits, made in Siena with a recipe that comes straight from the Middle Ages. Soft almond paste, covered in icing sugar, a sweet explosion that melts in your mouth.
The other Sienese sweet treats that have become synonymous with Italian Christmas are Panforte and Cavallucci biscuits.
=> Discover more about the typical Tuscan sweets and desserts.