You have no idea what true Italian food is until you’ve been to Italy. There may be some exceptions, but we just think it’s fair for you to know that you won’t find ‘spaghetti and meatballs’, ‘chicken Alfredo’, ‘shrimp scampi’, or even ‘garlic bread with marinara sauce’ on the menu. In reality, all of those dishes are a bit of a departure from the traditional Italian style, which focuses heavily on simple combinations of fresh, local ingredients.
The use of local ingredients is so important, in fact, that specialities vary greatly from region to Italian region. So, Roman food is very different from Sicilian, as Neapolitan is to Milanese, and so on. One beautiful thing about this is that each region has done an exceptional job at upholding local culinary traditions – which means there’s more variety for travelers to experience. If authentic Florentine flavor is what you’re looking for, read on for our expert recommendations of what you can’t leave Florence without trying.
Parpadelle al Cinghale (pictured above)
Pasta lovers rejoice! Long, wide, flat, and only handmade, Papardelle pasta offers a texture that is wonderfully authentic and delicious, especially when you pair it with a home-cooked sauces.
Try it with “cinghiale” (wild boar) or “lepre” (hare) ragù to savor a truly authentic Florentine flavor, e en better with a glass of local red wine. Btw ‘ragù’ is not a pasta sauce brand in Italy ;)
Cured Meats + Sliced Cheese = Tagliere
Taste a variety of Tuscan flavors matching charcuterie and wine
Try a delicious Tuscan meat and cheese board to experience a variety of flavors, perfectly suited as an appetizer, light meal, or snack! Cold sliced meats range from prosciutto to salami, and absolutely must include ‘finocchiona’, a unique Tuscan salami made with wild fennel. Layer up with some crunchy Italian bread and pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese and you’re all set to sample the region’s best.
Crostini Neri or Crostini di Fegato
Crostini are essentially dried, crunchy pieces of bread – much like a thick, fluffy cracker. In traditional Florentine style, these croutons are covered in liver pate, usually sourced from chicken, although veal and duck are more decadent options that may be served occasionally. The tapenade is sometimes topped with chopped anchovies or capers to finish off the classic aperitivo dish!
The Famous ‘Bistecca alla Fiorentina’
Meat lovers, rejoice! The Bistecca alla Fiorentina is the dish of your dreams.
This steak is without a doubt the most famous dish of Florence – and it’s a meat lover’s dream come true! A 2-to-3-inch-thick slice of beef is cut from the loin, complete with a classic T-bone, weighing in anywhere from 2 to 8 lbs. There are a few things you should know before you order:
This is a good dish for sharing; it’s REALLY big.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina is cooked one way and one way only. Don’t even bother to ask for “well done”. These colossal hunks of meat are grilled over wood or charcoal fire for approximately 3-4 minutes on each side, making a perfectly roasted outer edge with a fully pink center.
These steaks are usually priced by the kg, so just make sure you have your conversions right when trying to get an idea of the price. Sometimes the waiter will even bring the raw steak out before cooking, to make sure it’s the appropriate size for you.
Panzanella, The Taste of Tuscan Summer
Panzanella is a tasty Tuscan spin on a salad. https://www.ristoranteilmassimo.it/
This refreshing salad recipe is the perfect summer side dish made of crunchy bread soaked in water and tomatoes. Each kitchen adds a personal touch, which can range from onions to basil or a give-or-take on the amount of olive oil, but freshness and simplicity are always key.
Ravioli Nudi, Dressed in Flavor
“Ravioli Nudi” literally translates to “Naked Ravioli”. Though it may sound like some kind of whacky rock band name, it really is just what it sounds like: all the ingredients of ravioli, without the pasta. What you end up with looks a bit like gnocchi balls, made up of spinach and ricotta, served with a butter or tomato sauce.
Ribollita is the perfect remedy for rainy-day blues. https://www.casaagricolarossi.it/
If you’re visiting Florence in the autumn, winter or early spring, there’s nothing like a bowl of ‘Ribollita’ to warm your heart and soul. This hearty Tuscan soup is loaded with white ‘cannellini’ beans and vegetables like kale, cabbage, tomatoes, and celery, in addition to a good amount of bread, actually soaked inside the soup.
The dish is a classic example of what was once peasant food, traditionally bulked up with any number of ingredients, that today is recognized as a must-try hallmark of local cuisine.
There’s always room for a small side of beans in tomato sauce. No one does beans like the Florentines, after all. White ‘cannellini’ beans, tomato, garlic, and sage come together to make something simple-yet-delightful.
Lampredotto & Trippa
Lampredotto is the best choice for the more adventurous foodie
Lampredotto & tripe are the type of snacks that even some of the most enthusiastic foodies will pass on. But they’re so very popular among locals that we just couldn’t leave them out. The popular street food items originated back when working-class Florentine’s were determined to make their meals stretch – by using every piece of meat possible.
Lampredotto is made of the tender fourth stomach of the cow and tripe is actually the cow’s intestines. They’re usually stewed, served in delicious herbs and spiced sauces, either on a plate or in a bread roll. Stop by a local market or street vendor and see what it’s all about – you’ll be surprised how good it actually is!
Schiaccata alla Fiorentina
This traditional yellow cake was originally a Carnivale and Easter staple, but can now be found in Florentine bakeries year-round. It usually includes a bit of orange zest and a creamy ricotta layer at its center. It’s easily recognizable by a powdered sugar design forming a Florentine lily on top and is a simple taste of Tuscany that shouldn’t be missed.
Cantuccini, Florence’s Best Biscotti
“Biscotti” are best dipped in dessert wine or coffee to soften the crunch
You’re likely to recognize these crunchy cookies as they’re known around the world as “biscotti”, which literally translates from Italian to English as “twice baked”. They’re typically almond flavored and made in the perfect shape for dipping into a glass of dessert wine (try “Vin Santo!) or coffee.
Gelato in Florence
Florence is home to some of the world’s best gelato! In fact, many locals will attest to the popular belief that ice cream was invented in the Tuscan capital, although it hasn’t been historically confirmed. Nonetheless, they’ve got heaps of delicious treats for anyone’s sweet tooth – just do yourself a favor and avoid flashy signs and brightly colored flavors.
Real, old-fashioned authentic Florentine gelato has no additives or food coloring as, much like its savory counterparts, its flavor focuses on fresh, local ingredients.
If you’re looking to get into the Tuscan capital, take a look at our brand new Florence tours.
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