We spent full 5 days in Tuscany, and yet we weren’t able to try everything we planned. For an average person it may sound abstract, but for us 5 days is usually enough to fly through the most interesting culinary positions of a given region and check out a dozen restaurants. In Tuscany, we had a lot of picnics, and sometimes hungry we jumped into the first cafe on the way and ate simple, delicious sandwiches. Somehow we managed to try just enough local specialties to tell you a bit about what and where to eat in Tuscany. Nonetheless we are far from being satisfied which has its advantages – we will definitely return to Tuscany to expand our culinary horizons! At the end you will also find some verified addresses, so the problem “where to eat in Tuscany” will be solved here once and for all!
What to eat in Tuscany?
Ribolita – a Tuscan, thick and filling soup. It’s made from beans, stale bread and vegetables. Soup, like soup – one would hardly expect exquisite dish made of beans and bread. We really wanted to try it as it sounded unusual but if you skip it you can forgive yourself. Anyway it’s nice to try something local and traditional, even if there is no fireworks.
La cecina – thin pies, usually round and cut into triangles, like a pizza, made from chickpea flour. Some say that it’s “Tuscan pizza”, but for us the pies were a bit too soft and greasy to describe them that way. A tasty, salty snack during the day, to a glass of wine or instead of bread to a cheese board. We noticed that when kept in the fridge it gets softer and soggier. A similar dish we had in Sicily, but the chickpeas fritters are fried there, so they are deliciously crunchy, more about Sicilian cuisine we wrote over here.
Schiacciata– Tuscan foccacia. We noticed that in Tuscany, it’s usually smeared with oil and sprinkled with salt, sometimes with addition of herbs. But it’s rather not as oily as regular one and kept simple not baked with many different versions and ingredients. You may not even be aware of eating it – schiacciata is used to make most of sandwiches in cafes and bakeries.
Pane Toscano– Tuscan bread without salt. Served on the side for most meals (except breakfasts) – so you’ll definitely come across it. Centuries ago, Tuscany wasn’t a rich region, and salt was a luxury good. For this reason, it was decided to bake bread without salt. Pane toscano is a nice addition to very salty cheeses and hams, we noticed that it hardens very quickly. We must honestly admit that we felt a slight relief when we went from Tuscany to Lazio – a place where bread is with salt. Pane toscano is such a culinary curiosity, something you need to eat in Tuscany, but we do prefer bread with salt in the end of the day.
Pasta ‘pici’ – Tuscany has several types of its pasta, but we managed to try only the most popular – pici. Pici is like spaghetti on steroids, it’s much thicker and have much more body. We ate with tomato sauce and enjoyed it very much.
Pecorino and pecorino garfagnana – pecorino is a cheese made from sheep’s milk, salty and intense in taste, usually hard, but you can also get it in the fresco version, which isn’t aged. Pecorino can be found all over Italy and it’s a very general term for cheese. Each individual region produces dozens of different pecorino cheeses, the most famous is pecorino romano. In this respect, it’s similar in Tuscany, many different types of pecorino cheese are produced there and we’ve tried about ten different types ourselves – from pecorino heavily aged to soft and fresh. Pecorino garfagnana is reportedly one of the best Tuscan pecorino, usually fresh version is sold. We love pecorino in any form or shape, as part of cheese board or shaved on your pasta.
Parpadelle al cinghiale– Wild game meat is a popular ingredient in dishes and sausages in Tuscany, and we like such approach very much. Parpadelle is a popular Italian pasta in the form of wide, flat ribbons, and parpadelle di cinghiale is a pasta served with ragu made of wild boar meat. The dish is hearty, rich and very tasty.
Lardo di colonnata – lardo is simply cured pork’s fat that we consumed in large quantities in Tuscany. Fat is a carrier of taste and it shouldn’t be a surprise every dish with the addition of lardo is delicious and aromatic. Lardo di colonnata is reportedly the best lardo from Italy. It’s made natural and spend few months curing in marble coffins from Carrara. They are often served on small crostini sandwiches, which you also have to eat in Tuscany. We were able to buy a substantial piece of it at the market, and the seller recommended to fry eggs on it – delish.
Bisteca alla fiorentina – a steak from Florence, something you simply have to eat in Tuscany (as long as you’re not vege…). Bisteca alla fiorentina is a T-bone steak usually around or over 1kg. Bisteca alla fiorentina must be 4-5 centimeters thick from Chianina bread of cattle. It’s prepared on the grill and served medium-rare to rare, i.e. red inside (don’t you dare to ask for well done – it won’t be taken lightly). Bisteca alla fiorentina shouldn’t be seasoned before cooking, the salt can be used just before eating. We ate bisteca alla fiorentina in a really good place – in a restaurant belonging to Dario Cecchini (more on this in the restaurant section). Bisteca melts in your mouth it’s a dish you must definitely try in Tuscany (if you eat meat of course)! Watch out for tourist traps in Florence, it can be very expensive and average in taste.
Panino lampredotto – a sandwich with a cow’s stomach, namely the fourth stomach. It can be described as typical Florentine street food. The roll in which the sandwich is served gets a generous splash of the sauce in which the stomach is cooked, there are rather few toppings to the sandwich – where we had it the choice was – green sauce of herbs and vegies or spicy red sauce. We chose the green. Panino di lampredotto is surprisingly tasty and doesn’t have the strong smell of offal. Considering the fact Aneta liked it, who usually doesn’t touch such things – it seems that most of you would cope with it!
Salsicia di cinghaale – wild boar sausages, similar to ordinary salami sausages, but they are distinguished by a strong gamey flavor. Even if you think wild boar meat isn’t for you – it’s worth giving it a chance!
Salame al tartufo– Tuscany is also famous for truffles, and we were there in July, which is the full truffle season. We saw truffles salami in many places and finally the seller convinced us to buy a piece at the Florence market. It wasn’t cheap, but the older man argued that we would feel the difference, because this salami is produced using real truffles, not aromas, and has an authentic, unscented flavor. Well, the man was right and we wished we had taken more! We have already bought cheap truffle salami many times and definitely none equaled this Tuscan!
Sbriciolona di chianti – sbriciolona is a typical Tuscan salami, they are distinguished by the addition of fennel. The history of sbriciolona goes back to the middle Ages, when it was decided to replace expensive, rare pepper with fennel seeds. Sbriciolona is hot-dried salami, usually for a short period of time, resulting in a soft sausage. Typically, 70% of the shoulder meat and 30% of the bacon meat, which is coarsely grounded and use for production. Depending on the length of drying, sbriciolona often crumbles and falls apart when cut. We got sbriciolona di chianti at the market (apparently the idea of adding fennel started around Chianti), but if you have the opportunity – try any sbriciolona.
What to eat in Tuscany? – Dishes for which we must return
Panzanella – a salad made from soaked stale bread, tomatoes and onions, sometimes green cucumbers are also added. With our love of tomatoes and onions, panzanella sounds like the perfect salad. We hope to try next time.
Pappa al pomodoro – a thick, tomato cream soup. We bet there is no better tomato than the one from Tuscany!
Crostini neri – small, crunchy sandwiches with creamy chicken liver pate. Crostini is also served very often with lardo. Both types of crostini are a popular Tuscan antipasti.
What to drink in Tuscany?
Delicious Tuscan food is one thing, but what would it be without the accompaniment of excellent wine? As you probably know, we are huge fans of wine and in Tuscany, which is one of the best Italian wine regions, we simply couldn’t deny ourselves wine… a lot of it. We even managed to spend the night in the Agritourismo Godiolo, which is surrounded by vineyards (we also did not fail to taste their wines), and we went to Castello Banfi especially to buy a few bottles of their noble produce.
Brunello di Montalcino – the finest Tuscan wine is produced in the most picturesque part of Tuscany – in the Val d’Orcia valley. Brunello di Montalcino, produced near the beautiful town of Montalcino, is one of the three finest Tuscan wines. Brunello di Montalcino is a red wine with a deep taste and aroma, as befits the best wines – marked with the DOCG appeal. They are produced from the Sangiovese grape variety.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – also comes from the beautiful Val d’Orcia valley, more precisely in the vicinity of Montepulciano. Just like Brunello, it is mainly produced from Sangiovese grapes (70%, 20% Canoiolo Nero) and has a DOCG appeal. In short – another great red wine. A great addition to a cheese board or a Fiorentine steak.
Chianti Classico – it can be said that Chianti closes the holy trinity of Tuscan wines, and the two above are awarded with the DOCG appeal, which proves the originality, high quality and production in accordance with the rules. Chianti Classico, unlike the two previously mentioned wines, is not produced in the Val d’Orcia valley, but in the Chianti region, which is a bit greener part of Tuscany. Chianti Classico is made from Sangiovese grapes, as well as a blend of several other varieties, such as: canaiolo nero, trebbiano toscano and malvasia del chianti. All in all – another great red wine.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano – in the hot Tuscan sun, heavy red wines are not always the first choice. Fortunately, the DOCG Vernaccia di San Gimignano white wine is also produced there, which has a light and refreshing aroma. It is produced from Vernaccia grapes in the vicinity of the town of San Gimignano.
Tuscan red wines can be really pricey, but in our opinion it is worth trying at least a glass or two of one of these exceptional wines. If, however, you do not plan to spend a fortune – look for the red wine Rosso di Montalcino, which is not as noble as its older brother, but still tasty and quality.
Where to eat in Tuscany?
Officina della Bistecca – one of the restaurants belonging to Dario Cecchini, the famous butcher from Panzano in Chianti. Dario was the star of episode 2 of Season 6 Chef’s Table and we highly recommend watching this episode. Officina is located just above Antica Macelleria Cecchini, which is a butcher’s shop belonging to Dario. To get to restaurant you have to go behind the counter of the butcher’s and cross back of house area. Dinner at Officina della Bistecca is a paradise for every carnivore (they also have a vegetarian menu but doesn’t really make sense to eat veggies in butcher shop).
All served dishes are meat dishes (on the normal menu of course), and the atmosphere of the restaurant is very loose and family-like, all guests sit at one table. On the tables you have little bit of fresh raw veg in stakes (our part of the table throughout the evening was sure it was just a decoration…. Imagine lol), beans in sauce, bread and salt. Five main dishes are served as per menu and few additional little snacks. The way of serving is also interesting – waiters with platters full of meat serve a few pieces on each plate, and after a while they come back and ask if anyone is willing to have more (we took it all…even bones!!).
The only vegetable touch was baked potatoes served with lardo. The meat, literally every piece, had a perfect aroma and melted in your mouth. Dinner cost us 50 euros per person (Dario runs three different restaurants there at the same time, which differ in price and menu – Officina is the most expensive), but the price included a welcome wine and a two-liter decanter for dinner (to be divided into three people). If you are worried that you will not have enough wine, you can bring yours and you will not pay a cork fee for it. It seems to us that the price of this dinner is reasonable – practically only meat is served, wine is flowing all night, shots of grappa with coffee and olive oil cake which they packed for us to take away (not one piece but whole plate!) and Dario is like a rock star.
Address: Via XX Luglio, 11, 50022 Panzano In Chianti FI, Italy
All’antico Vinino – a place in Florence selling take-away sandwiches. Sandwiches for which a long queue is waiting patiently. They are all sold at a price of 5 euros and this is a really hard to believe price for a huge sandwich packed with ham and cheese of the best quality. Unfortunately, there are no vegetarian options. We decided on La Favolosa with salami, cream pecorino, artichokes and eggplant – this is our favorite, the sandwich was perfectly balanced and not too dry. The second choice is Schiacciata del Mela with speck, mushroom cream, truffle cream and smoked scamorza cheese. The second sandwich had a great aroma of truffles and mushrooms, but it was a bit dry compering to the other. Sandwiches from All’antico Vinao are definitely one of the best sandwiches we’ve ever eaten!
Address: Via dei Neri, 76R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Da Nerbone – a simple eatery at the Mercato di San Lorenzo market in Florence. There we tried the excellent panino di lampredotto sandwich with a cow’s stomach, as well as sandwiches with fatty, juicy roast beef. Sandwiches cost only 4 euros (but it should be noted that they are much smaller than those from All’antico Vinao), and larger dishes cost 8 euros. Really tasty, simple food!
Address: Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
La Cranceria – a place to which we were taken by aromas and empty stomachs, at the front it looks like a simple bakery with pizza and foccacia, but at the back there is also a big pub. We focused on the pizza, which is sold there in the al taglio version, which is cut into square pieces. In the Rome food guide, we mentioned that the best pizza al taglio is in Bonci but we changed our mind – La Cranceria has beaten them! Sliced pizza is cheap there, sold in so many variations that we couldn’t decide. The dough is deliciously crunchy and the toppings are of great quality. You can take-out, or ask to heat up and eat with a glass of wine at a small table.
Address: Via Fillungo, 247, 55100 Lucca LU, Italy
Osteria del Gatto – a traditional osteria where we were the only strangers within a crowd of loclas. The menu is simple, handwritten and the prices are affordable. We ate there Pici pasta with tomato sauce, seafood pasta and a board of fine Tuscan salami.
Address: Via S. Marco, 8, 53100 Siena SI, Italy
Bagni Sirena – we went to Solovay to experience one of the most controversial beaches in whole Europe, but about that another time. We got there at lunchtime and wanted to eat something. Rosignano is such a small seaside resort town with rather expensive tourist restaurants. It didn’t help that at the time of the coronavirus these tourists were simply not there and hardly any at all. Bagni Sirena has a terrace with a beautiful view of the sea, and also serves quite tasty and affordable (for Rosignano) food. Although at the beginning we were informed that they have little of the menu available, but the risotto with seafood, mussels and carpaccio of smoked fish suited us well.
Address: Lungomare Monte alla Rena, 5, 57016 Rosignano Marittimo LI, Italy