Interested in Tuscany?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for Tuscany each week.
Topics include Dining Scene, Italy: For Foreign Visitors & more!
Tuscany covers a huge area of central Italy and the food traditions are very strong and fiercely regional: from la Crete in the south, a baked clay area of wheatfields, to the lush mountain pastures of the Garfagnana there is a wide range of traditional peasant foods. The basis of all Tuscan food is fresh local, seasonal produce: pork, beef, game, beans, olives, funghi including truffles in the south, porcini in the north. Generally light on sauces the meats are simply roasted or stewed. Side dishes (contorni) or simple vegetables or sformati (patties made with vegetables like quiche without the pastry) Most family smallholdings would keep pigs, rabbit and chickens and these feature heavily on menus in the country areas. Some local dishes include:
Prosciutto: cured hams are available in a vast range of flavours from sweet and moist to musty dry. An antipasto of sweet prosciutto with pecorino is a great start to a tuscan meal, together with various bruschette.
Stinco di Maiale (shin of pork) roasted in the wood fired oven
Rosticciana (pork ribs) roasted or grilled, try them simply with lemon juice
Salciccia (sausage, generally pork) the garfagnana sausage is spicy and meaty , eaten with beans
Tagliata di Manzo Fiorentina (beef steak florentine)
Tagliata di manzo al forno (a chunk of beef steak roasted quickly in a hot oven then sliced and drizzled with oil) usually serves 3 or 4 as a smaller roast would dry out.
Cinghiale (wild boar) roast or "in humido" (stewed) with olives
Coniglio (rabbit) al forno or in humido is a common country dish and excellent
Tuscan vegetables include: fagioli (beans) carciofi (artichoke) spinaci, and of course pomodori
Polenta: generally made with coarse maize flour, eaten as a boiled puré or fried to make tasty fritters: Topped with fresh porcini in season is a wonderful autumn dish
Farro: a grain similar to pearl barley is used in thick soups, with oil and tomatoes as a salad side dish.
Porcini: the king of mushrooms, eaten with beef, pork, on polenta and in a risotto...or on its own
Pecorino cheeses: sheep's milk cheese, fresh or "stagionato" for at least 12 months which brings out the sharp flavours: try it with honey and walnuts
Pastas: As in every part of Italy there are local varieties of pasta. Maccheroni is a flat broad ribbon or square usually eaten with rich game sauces such as lepre (hare) or cerve (venison) or porcini. Ravioli is traditionally filled with ricotta cheese and vegetable such as spinach or chard. in the Garfagnana pastas made with chestnut flour or with farro flour (spelt) are a local speciality.
Pasta fritta is a dough (similar to a pizza dough) rolled out thin and cut into slices then deep fried. It puffs up like a pillow and is dusted with salt.
Tuscan breads include the dry unsalted loaf, "pane patate" with added potato flour (which helps it to last longer) and oily focaccia. Second day bread is frequently incorporated into soups or simply mixed with tomatoes, garlic and oil to make a tasty and filling pappa.
In Tuscany the Sangiovese is the grape of excellence. It is native of central Italy and seemingly was named by the Romans or before and translates to "blood of Juipiter". In modern Tuscan wine making it plays a fundamental role in all the quality Tuscan DOC & DOCG red wines, all of which are defined wine regions within Tuscany. It even is the base of many famous Super Tuscans.
Here's a list of the most important:
Brunello di Montalcino
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Morellino di Scansano
Vernaccia di San Gimignano (an exception as it is the only white wine region).
Further North in the area round Lucca are the wines (both red and white) of the Colline Lucchesi and of Montecarlo
All of the nominated regions have a "Consorzio" that give a list of producers that can be visited. It is usually a good idea to ring before going to wineries, just to make sure that they are open. If you would like more than just a taste of the products, some wineries organize visits of the vineyards and cellars and tastings with breads, cheese and cured hams. These latter visits should be organized in advance by emailing the winery of interest.
Another advisable option is to take a wine tour, here's a whole list of them.