It’s impossible to sum up all the culinary delights of an Italian city in just three dishes. But when travelers have only a limited amount of time to visit, it’s important to make sure the absolutely-can-not-miss dishes are at the tippy-top of your dining priority list.
This is how I try to help you find the best dishes in Florence.
There are a million incredible things to eat in Florence that I haven’t mentioned. Wild boar, also known as Cinghiale in Italian, roams the Tuscan hills. This is transformed into one of your favorite pasta sauces. Crostini di fegatini? It’s a traditional and delicious way to start any Tuscan meal. And gelato? I don’t have to tell you how much i love gelato . Yes, there are many delicious things to be enjoyed, but you can’t see it all in one day.
This list of three must-try things in Florence will help you to have three unforgettable culinary experiences during your time in Tuscany.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina
The bistecca ala fiorentina is Florentine’s most famous dish. It is important to know the details about the cattle breeds and how to cook it in order to make it a true bistecca ala fiorentina. But, it is also well-known for its size.
First, some history.
Grilling meat is an ancient cooking technique that can be found around the globe. Grilling beef steaks is a tradition that has been practiced in Tuscany for many thousands of years. However, the term bistecca alla Fiorentina didn’t make it into the local vocabulary until the 16th Century. According to legend, some English tourists arrived in Florence for a wedding and asked for more beef steak when they needed it.
It was Italianized to “bistecca”, and it remained. It was not until the 19th century according to some historians, but it is still an English translation. Bistecca alla Fiorentina can be found on many menus in the city today.
Only one breed of cattle can produce true bistecca – the Tuscan Chianina. These large, mostly white cattle are rare. Some include the Maremmana, another Tuscan breed, as an approved source. A T-bone, also known in English as a steak, is a cut that comes from the loin of a young animal. One steak usually weighs between 2 and 3 pounds. They are thick. They can be described as having “two fingers” or three fingers thickness, which roughly translates into 1.5-2 inches.
This Fred Flintstone-sized steak is ready to go straight on the grill. It takes only five minutes to cook each side. After it comes off the grill, a bistecca will be seasoned with salt and olive oil. It is served rare, as there is no alternative.
Yes, one bistecca alla fiorentina can serve several people. Take a few friends along and share one with white beans. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not. You probably earned it with all the stairs at Giotto’s Bell Tower or Uffizi Gallery.
You would think bread is bread. Not even close. You can taste the difference if you have ever tried baguettes in Paris. The bread in Tuscany is unique, and some might even say unappetizing.
It is made without salt.
A typical loaf of bread isn’t salty, so it might be hard to realize the impact that salt can have on the final product. It makes a big difference. You’ll be stunned the first time you grab a piece bread from a table while you chat and you won’t hear what your tablemates are saying. Or was it just me? Although I don’t like to eat it without toppings, having read the history and uses of Tuscan bread has made me more respect for this humble staple.
Another story describes a blockade of Arno River by Pisa’s army that prevented a salt shipment reaching their arch-enemies, Florence. One story claims it was the high price of salt that caused frugal Florentines not to include it in their bread. We know Florentines have made their salt-free bread pane toscano for hundreds of years, regardless of the reason.
Pane toscano on its own is not a great choice. It’s something you have to learn to love. As I mentioned, I’m not a big fan. However, I adore the way Florentines use that bread in their quintessentially Florentine meals.
Salting bread doesn’t affect the flavor of a dish. It allows the other ingredients to shine, with the rich texture provided by (usually) stale dough.
Panzanella, a classic summertime salad, is made up of pane toscano chunks mixed with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and sometimes onions. It’s also seasoned with olive oil, vinegar, basil, and olive oil. Pappa al pomodoro, also known as pappa col pomodoro, is a tomato soup that thickens when pane toscano is added. Ribollita, my favorite winter stew, is made with white beans, dark kale and cavolo nero. It’s topped with good olive oil and mixed with any other vegetables you like.
These dishes can seem as if they are a stand-alone masterpiece. They do. They would not be possible without pane toscano, a salt-free base.
You may think that I am a broken record if you read the first “Must-Eat Italy” article on What to Eat in Rome. But it is true: Many of the dishes we now consider to be popular in Italy were originally cucina povera or “peasant cooking”. Lampredotto, which is made from a cow’s stomach.
You may recall from high school biology that cows have four stomachs. When the fourth is cooked in a seasoned broth, it becomes lampredotto. It’s then chopped and placed in a sandwich roll.
There are many lampredotto kiosks throughout Florence. Judy, my friend swears by the one located just outside the Mercato Centrale at the corner of Via Sant’Antonino & Via dell’Ariento. But there are many to choose from.
Although eating offal might not be something you are used to, it is worth a try. A panino di Lampredotto is worth the effort. The rich broth and salsa verde make it a worthwhile experience. ).
As I mentioned in my Rome article, cucina povera has become a popular food. However, if you are a carnivore, it is best to eat all parts of an animal. Panino di Lampredotto, a Florentine traditional food, is a popular peasant dish and an environmentally-friendly way to eat meat. It’s also delicious. It’s easy to fall in love with it.
It’s your turn now!
Tell me: What three must-eats would you recommend for Florence? Which three things do you look forward to most when you visit Florence?