For so many people, the first thing they think about when they think of Italy is the food – and rightly so, because it has one of the most famous cuisines in the world.
While every region has its own take on the traditional gastronomy, there’s nothing quite like the authentic Tuscan cuisine. I find that, for many of our clients, the opportunity to eat authentically is a high priority and I’m more than happy to oblige. Here’s how to make eating like an Italian come naturally.
Almost every meal is a social occasion in Tuscany, and it’s around the table that decisions are made, problems are solved and food is shared with gusto. Antipasti (the starters) are most often in the form of a sharing platter, with delicious titbits like crostini (crusty bread) served with Lardo di Colonata (cured pork lard) and the delicious signature crostini Toscani, served with chunky chicken liver pate.
The first course after the starter is called the primi, which, surprisingly to those unfamiliar with Italy’s way of life, is very often a pasta dish – although modestly sized. Other specialities are the hearty local ribollita vegetable and bread soup, or panzanella – a salad with fresh onions and tomatoes dressed with olive oil and bulked up with balsamic-soaked bread.
Secondi is the main event of an Italian meal and is most often heavily meat based. And heavy! The most famous Tuscan dish is probably the intimidating bistecca alla fiorentina, which is a huge (and I do mean huge – up to three pounds!), very rare steak on the bone, served up with beans and potatoes. It’s a challenge not for the faint hearted! Cinghiale in umido, a gloriously thick soup made from wild boar, is another speciality not to be missed.
While the Tuscan sweets are undeniably delicious, dessert is not as important in Italian cuisine, with a meal often rounded off with some cantucci (biscotti) dipped into a glass of vin santo (a sweet dessert wine). Having said that, the local castagnaccio – a traditional cake made from chestnut flour – is wonderful if you’re looking for a sweet treat or an energy boost.
One of the best things about our culinary small group tours is that we take guests away from the mainstream tourist restaurants and into the genuine family-run establishments, where food is not just fuel – it’s a way of life. Learning how to eat like an Italian is a pretty easy job to get used to, as you can see…