One of the delights of a holiday in Tuscany is the local food.
There’s such a wide variety of fresh fish, cured meats, cheeses and delectable desserts that the only difficulty with food in Tuscany is deciding what you won’t want to miss out on. And this is before you’ve chosen from one of the many fine wines on offer to accompany your meal! To help you in your gastronomic journey, villas in Tuscany specialists Tuscany Now has put together a list of scrumptious treats which you won’t want to miss. Buon appetito!
Fish & Seafood
Almost every region in Italy produces its own version of Zuppa di pesce (hearty fish stew) but Tuscany’s is perhaps the best and is a classic primi (first course). Combining fresh mussels and clams as well as shrimp, squid and fish so fresh it almost leaps from the plate you’ll be appreciative of the Tuscan bread served alongside as you’ll want to mop up every last drop! Tuscany’s coast is on the Tyrrehnian sea and is part of the Meditteranean so your fish options don’t stop at fish stew. You’ll also find mullet, sea bream, sea bass, langoustines and cuttlefish served in plenty of restaurants. A popular secondi (second course) is Baccala alla livornese (salt cod with garlic, tomatoes and parsley) which takes the humble cod to new levels.
Don’t miss: Palamita Slow Food festival which takes place every May in Livorno. This event is a celebration of Tuscan Sea Palamita. A member of the tuna and mackerel family, palamita is a delicacy best enjoyed conserved in oil with bay leaves, pepper and chilli.
Tuscany is a meat eaters dream and perhaps its best known meat dish is the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a wonderful steak that traditionally comes from the prized, white Tuscan Chianina cattle. If you’re not a big fan of red meat, then pork is also popular too. Melt in the mouth prosciutto and salami can be found everywhere but also try the Bistecca di miale, a beautifully grilled pork chop. If you’re feeling more adventurous then Cinghiale or wild boar can be found foraging around Tuscany. Don’t try and catch them yourself though, simply enjoy a pasta dish combining pappardelle with a meat ragu made of wild boar meat.
Don’t miss: In mid-October Greve in Chianti hosts a chefs and butchers special event offering tastings of typical products and traditional meat dishes.
Tuscany produces several famous cheeses including Pecorino which comes in several varieties. Pecorino is a fairly salty cheese made from sheep’s milk and has been granted European protected designation of origin (PDO) status meaning that it must be made in the traditional way inside Tuscany. A twist on this more famous cheese is Porcorino, a rare and very local delicacy found only in a small area of Southern Tuscany. The cheese is made from pigs milk and is very difficult to find – it has a rich flavour described as being halfway between a pecorino and a Brie.
Don’t miss: The cheese rolling competition held in Pienza which is known as ‘cacio al fuso’ – literally, the cheese to the spindle. The aim of the participants in this popular festival is to see who can roll the cheese so that it stops closest to the spindle.
Desserts & Sweets
Those with a sweet tooth will certainly not be disappointed in Tuscany. For starters you will find a large variety of mouth-watering ice creams all year round, served with fresh fruit, chocolate, nuts or coffee. You might also want to try one of the Italian classics like tiramisu but, if you’re in Florence you also won’t want to miss cantuccini with vin santo. These are crispy almond biscuits dipped in sweet wine which will top any meal off nicely. Another dish to try is Panforte, a typical medieval cake which is a very dense (and very fattening!) fruit cake made with candied fruit and nuts. To complete the intense flavour combination, honey, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon are all added – very popular in Siena!
Don’t miss: The Easter Egg festival in Pratovecchio – a traditional fair that takes over the centre of Pratovecchio on Palm Sunday.
No trip to Tuscany is complete without sampling plenty of the local wines. Tuscany is home to some of the world’s most notable wine regions including Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. There is a vast array of wine tours you can book yourself on for when you visit but one wine you must taste is Chianti Classico, the ‘spiritual heart’ of Tuscan winemaking. The Chianto Classico region covers an area of approximately 100 square miles between the city of Florence to the north and Siena to the south. The wine produced here tends to be medium-bodied with floral, cherry and light nutty notes. Make sure you accompany with a good meal!
Don’t miss: The Castelnuevo Berardenga Wine Festival held in the village of Vagliagli contains numerous booths for tasting and buying the fine wines of the region. If that’s tantalised your taste buds then you may want to visit Tuscany Now’s guide to a private chef experience to help you make the most of your culinary journey through Tuscany!