The richness of Italian cuisine lies in its diversity. Italy is a small country (less than half the size of Texas) but it has twenty distinct regions that each have their own cooking styles and customs.
While studying abroad in Florence, I fell in love with Tuscan cuisine. The flavors of Tuscany are strong and straightforward and are based on peasant traditions. The meals were created to be simple and inexpensive. Today it remains largely the same- but by choice instead of necessity.
Eating is one of the greatest joys of traveling in Italy so if you plan on visiting Tuscany soon, check out my recommendations for traditional foods to try during your visit!
Traditional Tuscan Foods to Try
- Pappa al pomodoro: a rustic tomato and bread soup
- Bistecca Fiorentina: the florentine T-bone steak. This must be served rare. If you prefer to eat your meat well done you should orders something else!
- Cantucci: crispy almond cookies that are typically served for dessert with a glass of vin santo.
- Potato tortelli: pasta stuffed with potato
- Lampredotto: slow-cooked tripe that is served on a roll and is often served with salsa verde
- Ribollita: a hearty soup stew that is loaded with beans and vegetables and thickened with leftover bread
- Panzanella: You may be beginning to notice that it is a mortal sin to throw away stale bread in Tuscany. This salad is prepared using stale bread, tomatoes, onions and basil.
Interesting things to note about Tuscan Food
Before I arrived in Italy I spent most of my spare time dreaming about the bread and pasta I was going to eat upon my arrival so when I first tried Tuscan bread I thought someone was playing a joke on me. It turns out that Tuscan bread is baked without salt. How could the Tuscans omit such a critical ingredient? There are several theories for why the bread is made the way it is. Some say the Florentines decided to go without it because of the high tax levied on salt during the middle ages and it became tradition. Others say that the flavors of the Florentine cuisine requires saltless bread. Regardless of the reason, my recommendation is to save the bread you get when you sit down at a restaurant for dipping into the flavorful sauces.
Typically, most people associate salami with pepper. However, pepper, similar to salt, was taxed heavily during the middle ages so the Tuscans had to make due with what they had a lot of. Since fennel grew wild in the Tuscan countryside they incorporated it into their salami. This variation of salami proved particularly useful for low quality winemakers. Legend has it they would serve the salami to customers prior to serving it to mask the taste of their low-quality wine to help them sell the product.