Eating in Italy will change your life, and nowhere is this tasty truth more obvious than in Florence – a city where food mirrors the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Florentine food is simple, beautiful and crafted with an uncommon level of care and emotion.
While Europe is home to a number of cities worth visiting, if you’re like us – craving an authentic taste of Italy – read on: we’ve got a list of 5 delicious reasons to visit Florence before the year is out.
Traditional Taste of Italy
Many people think of French food as the gold standard when it comes to gourmet cooking, but it was actually Catherine de’Medici who introduced haute cuisine to France when she married Henry, the second son of King Francis I, in 1533.
Once married, Catherine brought her cooks to Paris along with popular recipes and spices from the Medici court in Florence. The tastes of Queen Catherine’s court were immediately embraced and adopted by French chefs, and modern French cuisine is heavily influenced by Florentine culinary tradition.
If you’re looking for reasons to visit Florence today you need only look at a bountiful plate from one of the city’s small, neighborhood trattorias. In Florence cooking is a means of preserving tradition; connecting with the past while embracing the present. Florentine chefs use delicious local ingredients without allowing any one flavor to overwhelm the others.
Today’s visitors to Florence will find that many of the enduring culinary traditions in the region stem from frugal choices. While members of the Medici court ate well, the majority of citizens in Florence were not members of the royal family and as a result a tradition of cooking on a budget emerged.
Florentines used whatever was available. Wild herbs and greens from the surrounding countryside were mainstays, and today these ingredients still form the base of many delicious soups and stews.
Salt was prohibitively expensive and as a result Tuscan bread (sourdough, baked in a brick oven) was traditionally baked without it. The absence of salt meant that most bread quickly became stale, and the leftovers inspired Florentine cooks to create ribollita – a vegetable soup thickened with bread – and panzanella, a delicious summer salad made with stale cubes of sourdough bread, fresh tomatoes and basil tossed in Tuscany’s world-famous olive oil.
It turns out that frugal cooking makes for a rich dining experience and traditional Tuscan cuisine is just one of the many reasons to visit Florence.
Foraging for food in the Tuscan hills yields more than just delicious wild herbs and greens. Flavorful local game is frequently integrated into Florentine cooking, offering diners hearty, one-of-a-kind local dishes.
Wild boar populate the area and to this day their meat is used to make flavorful air-dried ham and local salamis. Ducks and hare are also hunted locally and Florentine diners are often treated to these delicate wild meats: grilled or prepared in a rich pasta sauce made from scratch. Freshwater fish from nearby lakes and seafood from the Italian coast round out the menu in many Tuscan eateries.
Because cooking in Florence is influenced by what’s readily available, the time of year you visit Florence dictates the sort of foods that you’ll enjoy during your stay. Visitors in autumn and early winter are treated to delicious flavors drawn from wild Porcini mushrooms, harvested locally. Foragers venture into the Tuscan woods in droves each fall, rewarding travelers with tasty reasons to visit Florence.
Gone are the days of complex, over-blown dishes. The modern diner craves simple, natural foods prepared and presented beautifully, and one of the primary reasons to visit Florence is the gorgeous simplicity of the cuisine.
Each spring local chefs offer visitors to Florence fresh, shelled fava beans garnished with pecorino cheese. Avalo nero, a type of Kale with dark leaves, is integrated into traditional soups and stews. Tuscan bread is lightly toasted, rubbed lovingly with garlic, and sprinkled with locally made extra-virgin olive oil in a dish called Fettunta. Another traditional Florentine dish involves slow-cooking cannellini beans and fresh sage in a recently-emptied chianti flask.
Each dish features delicious local ingredients prepared simply – Florentine chefs allow the flavors of each component to work in unison and the results are a symphony for the taste buds.
Taste of Italy: Florentine Favorites
While there are plenty of reasons for vegans and vegetarians to rejoice in Florence, meat lovers visiting Italy needn’t fear – there’s more to Tuscan cooking than beans and bread.
Bistecca all fiorentina, a popular local dish, offers diners a generous T-bone steak from local Chianina cattle. Grilled over a wood fire, each steak is imbued with local herbs and spices; served under a drizzle of olive oil. Another popular meat dish is porchetta, a garlic and herb-stuffed suckling pig brushed and basted as it roasts with a rosemary branch.
If you’re an adventurous eater looking to try something different you can find numerous delicious reasons to visit Florence in the city’s busy central market. Here an abundance of freshly prepared dishes are available at surprisingly low prices. Try trippa all fiorentina (often referred to as lampredotto) – a dish which features tripe cooked with herbs, wine and tomatoes. This dish is often served with freshly grated parmigiano cheese and can be enjoyed at one of Florence’s open-air cafes.
If this article has inspired you and you’re ready to enjoy a taste of Italy … let us know! We’d love to hear about your favorite reasons to visit Florence. Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook, leave a comment in the space below this article or call Auto Europe toll-free at 1-888-223-5555. One of our award-winning agents will be happy to help you start planning a delicious trip to Florence.