Dining in Tuscany’s Glorious Capital
Michelangelo’s David presides over his native Firenze, the pinnacle of Renaissance splendour. Culture and art, synonymous with the Tuscan capital, live and breathe in this romantic city.
The hands of the great Brunelleschi leave their mark on facades across the Florence cityscape - a sea of rich terracotta and stone, each building a work of art in its own right. At street level, cucina toscana perfumes the piazzas and narrow alleys, intertwined with the scents of leather, made by the city's artisans, and white truffle wafting from restaurants.
The city is a veritable foodies haven. Situate yourself in the bustling streets of Firenze, on the hunt for a something strong, short and bitter. No, not a negroni - we’ll save that tipple for later. You’re looking to start your day the Italian way, espresso in one hand, crisp cantuccini in the other. For this, you head to Caffe Ditta Artigianale, a coffee bar that is popular among locals and tourists alike. While this venue feels a little more hip than it does traditional, you’re blown away by the quality of your morning fix.
Fuelled by the lingering buzz of your caffeinated breakfast, you head to the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, keen to explore the trinkets and treasures showcased by local artisans. After whiling away a few hours in the market, you grab a quick bite - a simple yet impossibly moreish fettunta. Literally meaning ‘oily slice’, this emblem of cucina rustica is a slice of Tuscan bread, generously topped with freshly pressed olive oil - one of Tuscany’s famed exports - and a whisper of fresh garlic. Having ambled along the river arno for while more, you stumble upon a small yet inviting trattoria, and, having told yourself: “when in Florence, do as the Tuscans do”, opt for a sumptuous bowl of ragu di cinghiale. Known to us Brits as wild boar ragu, this dish showcases the namesake Tuscan delicacy, which is curiously also a local emblem - Florence even boasts a statue in tribute to the swine. Tender meaty shreds of wild boar, stewed with wine and tomato, sit atop strands of either pappardelle or pici. While the long and flat ribbons of the former prove deft at gathering the sumptuous ragu, we can’t help but love the chewy texture of pici, amongst the rich wild boar - total decadence!
After a negroni or two at the Giacosa Cafe, and with decadence persistent in your mind, your evening meal is enjoyed a lavish hotel restaurant - the Savini Tartufi Truffle Restaurant, to be precise. This hidden gem, tucked away in the the NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa hotel, is not only one of the best pasta restaurants in Florence, but also the perfect place to experience another of the regions famed exports in all its glory - the white truffle. The verdant hills of the Tuscan landscape conceal this earthy, and particularly prized ingredient. Tuscan white truffle, or ‘tartufo bianco’ in the dialect, flourish in the autumn, and lend their distinct umami flavour to any number of stunning pasta dish. That being said, the white truffle is notoriously expensive, reflected in the fear-inducing price of the restaurants signature pasta dish. But, lulled with romantic tales of the tartufo bianco by your waiter, and caught up in the indulge the Renaissance capital, you decide to splurge. This, you find, was a particularly good decision - buttery tangles of tagliolini arrive at your table, before a waiter appears with a box of the prized ingredient, ready to top your dish in a marvellous display of unabashed luxury. After one bite, you realise this dish is not merely an exercise in theatrics - the superior flavour of the native truffle has you desperate for more.
However, you exercise what restraint you have left, and, seeking something sweet, you head for a light dessert. Those with a sweet tooth will note that when in Italy, the hunt for gelato in an obligatory undertaking. You head to a shop you’ve heard offers the best gelato in Florence - Gelateria Dei Neri. Inspired by the array of flavours displayed behind the glass, you opt for their signature semifreddo, ready for your final indulgence of the evening. And that, of course, was your plan, though, on your return through the streets, you can scarcely resist one more glass of chianti, perhaps the most famous of Tuscan exports, grown throughout the region. You stop by a local vendor, and purchase a bottle to see in the evening, fit to burst, and completely enthralled by the culinary delights of this gorgeous region.
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