Top 5 Things to Eat in Tuscany

Most of the questions I get about Italy are about where to stay, where to eat, and what to see. Given Italy’s diversity, I think another good thing to know is what to eat in each region- what not to miss in each area that you would not be able to experience elsewhere!

I grew up split between Tuscany, where my mother is from, and Romagna, where my father grew up. To me, Tuscany is synonymous  with grandmother’s cooking, and the comfort food of my mother’s side of the family. Tuscan cuisine is fiercely flavorful, but made with very poor ingredients, historically harvested or foraged in the vicinity of the family’s house. It is really hard to boil it down to only 5 dishes- actually almost impossible! I am taking the inland route of Chianti and the Apennines,  and I am picking my favorites: leaving Tuscany without having tried these dishes is a real shame!

  1. Bistecca alla Fiorentina, aka Fiorentina (Florence-style Porterhouse Steak). This is the most characteristic dish of Tuscany. Tuscan butchers pride themselves in butchering the beef differently than in other regions, and the resulting cut is very characteristic! Legend says that a real Fiorentina cannot be less than 1kg (2.2lbs), will include the t-bone and and can only be cooked rare/ medium rare. Fiorentina will be shared among the table, sliced, and each will get a chance to try the different pieces. It might not be the best steak you’ll eat (hey, you’re used to US steaks, among the best in the world!), but people come from all over Italy to have a Fiorentina in Tuscany and you won’t forget the experience!
  2. Crostini Neri. Tuscan bread is another staple of the local diet, and something Tuscans are really proud of: they don’t put any salt in it to prevent it from molding when kept for multiple days. A use for stale bread, and possibly the best use for it in my opinion, is with crostini neri, the dish of big occasions, prepared for Christmas lunch and the Sunday meals when all the family comes together. My Grandma Fernida made the best crostini in the world, the taste of coming together as a family! The pate’ is made with chicken livers, capers and anchovies, and spread over the Tuscan bread first grilled and then soaked in chicken stock. You will find it everywhere served as an appetizer, and you just can’t miss the wonderful flavor profile!
  3. Finocchiona. This is a “fresh” salame that substitutes to the characteristic black peppercorns with fennel seeds, a very characteristic ingredient of Tuscan cuisine since it is found growing wild everywhere! Fennel gives the salame a very strong flavor, and it will be hard to find it in restaurants- but stores, little alimentari will make you an impromptu sandwich with only bread and finocchiona- a treat!
  4. Pappa al Pomodoro- a bread soup with tomatoes. Another fantastic use for Tuscan stale bread is the pappa col pomodoro, a rich bread soup made with a lot of garlic, tomatoes, fresh basil and tomatoes- and dressed with extra virgin olive oil and black peppercorns. This is a soup you can eat with a fork!
  5. Coniglio (rabbit), Cinghiale (wild Boar) and anything with porcini! I know this is a bit cheating, but how else to include them all?? You want to eat something hunted, something foraged and something raised at home- because these characteristics encompass the real soul of Tuscan cooking.

Have a great time in Tuscany then, and eat a lot!

15 Responses to “Top 5 Things to Eat in Tuscany”

  1. I think it depends on when you are in Tuscany. I am a great lover of ribollita and will eat it everyday in fall and winter, but last week when the temperature was 98.6F I declined! Panzanella is a great summer thing in Tuscany (and Umbria.)

    My local dive carves la Fiorentina to order from Chianina, Danish beef or Italian non-Chianina beef. The chef says it must be at least 3/4 kilo, but he won’t cook it less than rare. I eat it once every couple of years with friends and I like it on rucola with a drizzle of oil. Yep!

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your list! If you had made a top 6 list, I would add white beans, they don’t call Tuscans “mangiafagioli” for nothing. Those creamy white beans are really delicious.

  3. Judith, I agree, I love ribollita, but it is so seasonal… and Amy, I pondered over fagioli for a long time, too!! Hard to cut them…
    What would be your top 5 for Tuscan food? This is a question for everyone!

  4. Aaaa Vanessa!

    This post is dear to my heart! I spent one superb week in Regello (close to Firenze) in the summer of 2006 – and since then I’ve never been the same!

    The Bistecca a la Fiorentina NEEDS to be eaten in Florence – out of the Chianina cow – that’s grown only in that region -

    Cheers!!
    Gabi @ Mamaliga.com

  5. oh man….i do not think i could do a 5 item list….your 5 work..yet white beans, wild boar…and truffles in season can’t be missed!

    maybe it could be a 10 item list?…i mean there is lunch AND dinner..right? :)

  6. Congrats on the foodie blogroll and nice blog you have!

  7. Welcome to foodies! To mamaliga I spent a week in Regello also, was it thte same cooking school? As for saltless Tuscan bread, I thought that several hundred years ago the Tuscans fought the salt tax so still don’t salt their bread. But then, the bean-eaters may just be telling tales.

    I’ve visited Florence many times and love that they work to live and don’t live to work. I once ordered Bistecca alla Fiorentiina and my cohort ordered it well-done. The chef woudn’t do it of course (thank goodness, poor Chianina was killed once already), so I chose another entree.

    Luckily fagioli a’l uccelletto was at hand. Thanks for your great blog. Dee

  8. Dee, this is hilarious, in fact I think this is the way it went: They started fighting the salt tax and then realized then when they didn’t put salt in bread, it would not go moldy- so they stuck it up the man TWICE! Ah!! Mangiafagioli it is!

  9. That’s where the term bread-winner came from as well, as I heard from a baker near Regello. Wartime rations. Good luck on your blog. Visit mine from time to time, I’ve only been going since June of last year and it’s been a learning experience. Dee

  10. Being from the Tuscan coast, Livorno, I really dislike the internal-centric nature of your post. Cacciucco, stoccafisso, baccala alla Livornese, Cuscussù and triglie alla Livornese are all Tuscan dishes that surpass, in many ways, the typical provincial and limited cuisine of Florence.

  11. It’s obvious, Alfredo, that any restrictive list leaves out some dishes. And I make it clear what kind of dishes, from what part of Tuscany, I am picking. I do not intend to say they are better or worse, I mean to say these are typical Tuscan dishes that the average tourist, who is more likely to visit Chianti than Livorno, will be likely to find available. Personally- I am for the seaside, so any dish with fish I find delicious!

  12. Thanks heaps to the author!

  13. I think it depends on when you are in Tuscany.
    Visit my blog, “Food of Tuscan Farmers” you find there real tuscany recipe.

    Aurelio Barattini

  14. Ok, Vanessa understand. Just wanted people to know that Tuscany has a seafood cuisine.

  15. The “SALT tax” originates from the war between Pisa and Florence in 14th century.Pisa was on the Sea and was an important port…..so the pisani blocked ship with the salt for Florence.

    And now not only in Florence but in all central Italy the bread is unsalted “sciocco”.

    Tuscany days ” pane e companatico”, the Bread is unsalted,the rest of food (“companatico”) is insttead with salt……like finocchiona,salame,tuscany ham different between northern Italy’s ham SAN DANIELE without salt

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