Tuscany food has always been considered as ‘cucina povera’ or ‘cuisine of the poor’ closely interconnected with peasant traditions. The poor roots of this cuisine though caused by the poverty of the people of this region in the past, today has become the land of superb food and wine.
The Art of Cucina Povera – The poor man cookery style.
If you ask me to give few attributes to cucina Toscana than two will be the best to describe it, simplicity and ingenuity. As many other regional cuisines, the Tuscan was and continues to be attached to rural traditions using a range of excellent natural ingredients.
It’s not a secret that other Italians still call Tuscans ‘mangiafagioli’ (bean eaters) – an unjust label, but refer to the region’s simple ingredients. Not all the food in Tuscany has humble roots.
Florentines will tell you proudly that they invented many of the great dishes of French cuisine. Of course this is attributed to Medici family, more precisely to Catherine de’ Medici after her marriage (1534) to Henry de Valois, the future king Henri II of France. As an excellent connoisseur of Florence food she had transferred some typical Florence dishes at the France court.
Thanks to Catherine some Florentine dishes were assimilated by France court such as ‘papero alla melarancio’ (duck in orange sauce) which became ‘canard à l’orange’ or ‘zuppa di cipolle’ (onion soup), in France become ‘soupe d’oignons’. Beside these dishes Catherine also introduced to French court how to use two essentials of the modern table – the fork and the napkin.
Tuscan style cookery in the modern times.
Today’s Tuscan food contains plenty of sophisticated dishes that that wouldn’t dishonour to tables of restaurants in London, Paris or New York. Most of this food is seasonal and locally produced, and it only appears at the time of the year it is grown.
To give you an idea of Tuscan food delights, we can start from breakfast that consists of simply coffee and croissant (brioche). The lunch and dinner begin with starters or antipasti like bruschetta or Florence crostini (slice of toasted Tuscan salt less bread) topped with olive paste, chicken liver pate and a variety of hams, cheese and salamis.
The ample use of beans, lentils and legumes.
As the first course in Tuscany, pasta is less used than in other parts of Italy, instead soups are more popular as minestrone (vegetable soups), zuppa di fagioli (beans soup) or famous ribollita (reboiled) white beans and cabbage soup, papa al pomodoro (bread and tomatoes soup).
Among classic pasta meals we must mention ‘pappardelle alla lepre’ based on home-made pasta with a hare sauce. The game meat has very important role in Tuscan cuisine, particularly wild boar and hare. This list wouldn’t be complete without uncontested king of Florentine main courses, ‘bistecca alla florentina ‘ (T-bone steak).
The Tuscan sweets.
When we come to desserts than the winner is gelato (ice-cream). Gelato means ‘frozen‘in Italian, so it embraces the various kinds of ice cream made in Italy. It’s not a secret that the best gelato you can taste in Florence. There is also a Firenze Gelato Festival from in May from 23rd to 27th, important event to taste the best artisan ice cream. It’s worth mentioning some of the many regional specialities like ‘panforte di Siena’ a rich cake made of cocoa, walnuts and crystallized fruit dating from 13th century.
While eating well in Tuscany you can also drink well whatever the time of day and whatever the season. Good coffee is must have in almost every bar and café, from the breakfast cappuccino or café latte to the after dinner espresso. Don’t miss fresh squeezed orange, lemon or grapefruit juice (spremuta). Closer to sundown you may want one of the classic aperitif such as Campari or Negroni, during Happy Hour.
The Tuscan wines are the kings of the dining table.
While eating you will probably ask for a bottle of good Tuscan wine, like Chianti, Tuscany’s most famous red wine or some “super Tuscans’ reds. Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are the big names that perfectly match all Tuscan dishes. After dinner you will need one of the Italian digestives as Grappa, a spirit distillated from grapes, Amaro ‘bitter’ made of herbs and ‘secret ingredients’. Emilia Delizia offers Chianti wine tours from Florence via our sister site.
After all these food and drink offers we hope you are convinced that eating is a passion for Tuscany that visitor can easily share. We are sure it will be experience as memorable as visits to the best museums and galleries.
Easy Florence Travel Guide