Tuscany often feels like a dream come true whether you have long wished to visit this region of Italy or happened upon it during a tour or cruise stop. This is a place that invites you in – to explore, to greet its peoples, to fall under the spell of its history and art, and to savor the food. It’s the latter we will touch on in this article. If you wish to immerse yourself in delicious local fare, this is the place to be, from tasting local wines, to cheeses, cured meats and pasta.
Like all areas of Italy, pasta takes a special place, and this is especially so in Tuscany. Here pasta has its own traditions. Forget spaghetti and meatballs. Think flat wide ribbons of pasta served in dishes with a wild boar ragu, a local treat called pappardelle. Or try pici (thick, hand-rolled noodles) served with garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes.
Pasta – yumm!
Soup may be simple or grand. But in the case of pappa al pomodoro, it is both. Made of thick Tuscan bread, the soup also contains fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, and various other fresh ingredients from the garden or local market. Even though it is usually made with stale or leftover bread, this soup is indicative to the area in that it uses local ingredients to their best. Enjoy it hot, room temperature, or chilled.
Another soup to try: ribollita. It can be made as well with leftover bread and is a vegetable-based soup usually containing cannellini beans, leafy greens (eg. kale), onions, carrots, celery and tomatoes. A fun fact is that ribollita means “re-boiled’. The original recipe grew from adding stale or next-day bread to leftover vegetable soup.
If you are a vegetarian, you will love these two dishes.
Tuscan bread is fairly unique in that it does not include salt. The origins of this practice came from the imposition of an indirect tax on salt by Pope Paul III in the 1500’s. To think how something like a tax changed the whole landscape of bread in this area (and Umbria) in Italy! But then we all know from history how taxes can spur momentous events.
Tuscans also have a bread and salad dish called panzella. It is made with stale bread, onions and tomatoes and often includes cucumbers. Combined with fresh basil and dressed with olive oil and vinegar, it is extremely popular both here and in nearby Umbria. By now you will notice that many dishes use Tuscan bread to its fullest plus fresh and local ingredients.
Join a cooking class
Perhaps you are thinking Tuscany is a vegetarian’s dream. But Tuscany is farming country with lush rolling hills. Pick up cured meats at the market or indulge your tastebuds with bistecca, or beef steak. The Tuscans cook it simply ( as with most of it cuisine), flavored only with salt, pepper, and local olive oil.
Breathtaking view of Tuscan countryside
Dessert can be the favorite part of a meal. Finish off your meal with cantucci (almond biscotti) or slices of schiacciata all’uva (flatbread containing grapes) paired with a local cheese. This bread closely resembles a focaccia bread but with grapes, preferably Concord or another sweet variety, which makes this bread very seasonal to the time of year these grapes are harvested: usually September. Some bakers add aniseed, a popular Tuscan flavoring.
Wine is perhaps the first delight that comes to mind when thinking of Tuscany, food or otherwise. It is a wine-growing region famous for its Chianti. Other notables are Brunello di Montacino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Vin Santo, a dessert wine. Brunello is a red, rather expensive but magnificent. Vino Nobile is also a red (as is Chianti) from Montepulciano in southern Tuscany. But Chianti wines are possibly the best known, and a wine you are sure to enjoy on your Tuscany culinary adventure.
You must have a glass of Chianti
Plan Your Visit
You can visit Tuscany on a cruise, guided tour, or custom tour. A cruise will not be ideal as you will only spend a day (or two at most) in the region and there is so much to see and do – Florence with its history and art, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, beautiful Siena, wine-tasting – and more. You will just see and experience enough to know you must return!
If you want a unique culinary experience ask your travel expert to either design a custom tour of the area, register you for a culinary tour with cooking classes, and/ or a truffle-hunting/cooking adventure. It’s an immersive experience that will have you embracing Tuscany to your heart and your taste buds!