Tuscany is a region in central Italy known for its breathtaking rolling landscapes dotted with medieval villages, rich cultural heritage, fabulous wines, and of course, its delicious cuisine. The flavors of Tuscany are all about simplicity, quality ingredients, and respect for tradition. It’s a cuisine that has been shaped by the land, the climate, and the history of the region and its people. Tuscany, though, continues to evolve while staying true to its roots.
For foodies, Tuscany is an absolute paradise, offering a wide variety of dishes, wines, and culinary experiences to discover and savor. Whether you’re a fan of hearty stews and roasted meats, fresh vegetables and herbs, or sweet treats and dessert wines, Tuscany has something to please anyone’s palate.
We’ll take you on a journey through the flavors of Tuscany, exploring traditional dishes, wines, and desserts, as well as hidden gems that you might not have heard of. We’ll share with you our recommendations for where to try the best Tuscan foods, and we’ll give you some tips on how to experience the local food culture like a local. So, buckle up, pack your bags, and get ready to taste your way through Tuscany – needless to say – come hungry!
Traditional Tuscan Dishes
When it comes to Tuscan cuisine, there are some dishes that are simply a must-try. If you will, take note that not many of these dishes use high-end ingredients, lending to the rich heritage of “cibo povero” – or “peasant food”. Aside from the aristocracy, Tuscany was largely a poor region that lived off the land, making use of every scrap they could. But don’t think that doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in flavor. These traditional dishes have a long history and have been enjoyed by generations of Tuscans. If nothing else, make sure you test these three pillars of Tuscan cuisine:
The crown jewel of cibo povero, and a classic flavor of Tuscany,Ribollita is a hearty bread and vegetable soup (yes, I said bread) that originated in the Middle Ages. The name “ribollita” means “reboiled,” referring to the fact that the soup was typically made with leftovers from previous meals that were reheated and reboiled with new ingredients. Today, ribollita is made with a variety of vegetables such as kale, beans, carrots, and onions, as well as stale bread and a touch of tomato paste. The soup is slowly cooked for several hours until it becomes thick and creamy, and is often served with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
To taste some of the best ribollita in Tuscany, head to Trattoria Cammillo in Florence, where they serve a delicious version of this classic dish. Or pop in to Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco, where their cibo povera is as impressive as its location in a 14th century tower .
Pappa al Pomodoro
Pappa al pomodoro is a Tuscan soup made with tomatoes, stale bread, garlic, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil. The dish has humble origins and was originally eaten by the poor who couldn’t afford to waste bread that had gone stale. Today, pappa al pomodoro is considered a delicacy and is often served as a starter or a main course.
To try a mouth-watering pappa al pomodoro, visit Osteria Le Cantine in the hill town of San Gimignano, where they make this soup using only the freshest ingredients.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a juicy, grilled T-bone steak that comes only from the Chianina breed of cattle, which is native to Tuscany. This dish has a long history and was originally served to wealthy Florentine families in the Middle Ages. Cooked over fire with a distinct flavor provided by the rosemary and aromatic smoke from local leaves. Today, Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a staple of Tuscan cuisine and is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Do yourself a favor and make this your splurge meal while in Tuscany.
To taste the best bistecca alla fiorentina in Tuscany, head to Antica Macelleria Cecchini in the town of Panzano, where the butcher Dario Cecchini is famous for his high-quality meat and his passion for traditional Tuscan cuisine. Maybe not a place to bring your vegetarian friends, though. This place is all about the meat.
If you’ve heard one thing about Tuscany, it’s the wine. One of the true flavors of Tuscany, the region is home to some of Italy’s most famous and beloved wines, which are renowned for their quality, flavor, and complexity. From bold and robust reds to crisp and refreshing whites, Tuscan wines are the perfect complement to the region’s delicious cuisine. Here are three wines that you should try during your Tuscan foodie adventure:
Chianti Classico is perhaps the most famous Tuscan wine, and for good reason. This red wine is made from Sangiovese grapes, which are grown in the Chianti region of Tuscany. The wine has a long history, dating back to the 13th century, and was originally made by monks who lived in the region. Chianti Classico is known for its bold flavor and tannic structure, which pairs perfectly with hearty Tuscan dishes.
To taste the best Chianti Classico, visit Castello di Ama in the town of Gaiole in Chianti, where they produce some of the most highly regarded wines in the region.
Brunello di Montalcino
Brunello di Montalcino is a luxurious red wine that is made from Sangiovese grapes grown in the town of Montalcino. This wine has a rich and complex flavor profile, with notes of red fruit, leather, and tobacco. Brunello di Montalcino is often aged for several years in oak barrels, which gives it a smooth and velvety texture.
To try a superb Brunello di Montalcino, visit the famous winery Biondi Santi, which has been producing this wine since the 19th century.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a crisp and refreshing white wine that is made from Vernaccia grapes grown in the town of San Gimignano. This wine has a long history, dating back to the Middle Ages, and was enjoyed by popes and nobles throughout the centuries. Vernaccia di San Gimignano has a delicate flavor, with notes of citrus and almond, and pairs well with seafood, pasta, and salads.
To taste the best Vernaccia di San Gimignano, visit the vineyards of Teruzzi & Puthod, where they produce a wide range of high-quality wines.
Tuscan cuisine is not only famous for its savory dishes and delicious wines but also for its mouthwatering desserts. From nutty and crunchy cookies to rich and fruity cakes, Tuscan desserts are the perfect way to end a meal on a sweet note. Here are three desserts that you should try during as you explore the flavors of Tuscany on your foodie adventure:
Cantucci, also known as biscotti di Prato, are almond-based cookies that are perfect for dipping in Vin Santo wine. This crunchy and nutty dessert has a long history, dating back to the Renaissance era, and was originally made by Tuscan bakers who used almonds and flour to make a long-lasting and satisfying snack.
Panforte is a dense and chewy cake that is made with nuts, dried fruits, and spices. This dessert has a long history, dating back to the Middle Ages, and was originally made by Tuscan nuns who used honey, almonds, and spices to create a delicious and nourishing snack.
To try the best panforte, visit the town of Siena, where this dessert is a local specialty. You can find it in most pastry shops, but, in my opinion, the best one is made by the Pasticceria Nannini.
Vin Santo is a sweet dessert wine that is traditionally paired with cantucci cookies. This wine has a long history, dating back to the 14th century, and was originally made by Tuscan monks who used grapes that were left to dry in the sun. Vin Santo has a rich and complex flavor, with notes of honey, caramel, and dried fruit, and pairs perfectly with nutty and crunchy desserts.
To taste the best Vin Santo, visit the town of Montepulciano, where this wine is a local specialty. You can find it in most wine shops and restaurants, but my personal favorite is made by the Avignonesi winery.
Tuscany is full of culinary treasures that are waiting to be discovered. Beyond the popular dishes and well-known restaurants, and much talked about flavors of Tuscany, there are many hidden gems that will surprise and delight foodie travelers. Here are three hidden gems that you should explore during your Tuscan foodie adventure.
Lesser-Known Flavors of Tuscany
While ribollita, pappa al pomodoro, and bistecca alla fiorentina are some of the most famous Tuscan dishes, there are many lesser-known dishes that are equally delicious and worth trying. For example, lampredotto is a traditional Florentine street food made with tripe that is simmered in a broth with tomato sauce, onion, and celery. Another lesser-known dish is cacciucco, a hearty fish stew that is popular in the coastal town of Livorno.
To taste these lesser-known Tuscan dishes, visit local trattorias and osterias, where you can find authentic and affordable food. Some recommended places to try lampredotto are the Lampredottai food truck in Florence and the Da Nerbone sandwich shop in the central market. For cacciucco, visit the Trattoria il Pape in Livorno.
Local Food Markets
Tuscany is home to many vibrant food markets that offer a wide range of fresh and local products, from colorful fruits and vegetables to artisanal cheeses and cured meats. These markets are not only a great place to buy ingredients for a picnic or a home-cooked meal but also a fun and lively place to experience the local culture.
Some recommended food markets to visit in Tuscany are the Mercato Centrale in Florence, the Mercato delle Erbe in Bologna, and the Mercato del Pesce in Livorno. These markets offer a diverse range of products and are popular among locals and tourists alike.
Specialty Food Shops
In addition to food markets, Tuscany is also home to many specialty food shops that offer high-quality products made by local artisans and producers. These shops are a great place to find unique and authentic food products, such as artisanal pasta, truffles, olive oil, and wine.
Some recommended specialty food shops to visit in Tuscany are the Gustorotondo in Florence, the Bottega del Buon Caffè in Florence, and the Tartufi Nacci in San Miniato. These shops offer a wide range of products and are run by passionate and knowledgeable owners who can provide you with valuable insights into the local food culture.
Tuscany is a culinary wonderland that is sure to delight foodies from around the world. From hearty soups and succulent steaks to sweet desserts and rich wines, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
In this guide, we’ve explored some of the most iconic Tuscan dishes and wines, as well as some lesser-known gems that are worth seeking out. Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or just starting your culinary journey, Tuscany is sure to leave a lasting impression.
So, what are you waiting for? Book your tickets, pack your bags, and get ready for a gastronomic adventure that you won’t soon forget. And if you’ve already experienced the flavors of Tuscany and have some foodie recommendations of your own, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below.