These can't-miss dishes are the pride of the Renaissance capital.
Every region of Italy prides itself on the foods that they and only they produce, from wines to cheeses to fruits and vegetables. When you travel around the country, you see immediately that what we in the U.S. just call "Italian food" is really a collection of very different cuisines, all with a few commonalities like olive oil and, yes, pasta. And just like you wouldn't want to order a lobster roll in North Dakota, or Texas BBQ in Maine, there are certain dishes in Italy you should only eat on their home turf!
Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is where you can find all of the region's most prized foods. The historic heart of the Renaissance, Florence was home to the Medici family and was a center of wealth - but was also home to the many working people who served the rich. As a result, the food here is a mix of rustic, hearty dishes and decadent, luxurious ones. But it's all delicious! Here are the 10 foods that make Florence unique:
1.Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Local Chianina cows are the pride of the Tuscan region, and their rich flavor shines best in this steak dish, a massive ribeye grilled to a crusty dark exterior and rare interior, then sliced tableside. Don't ask for it well-done!
2. White beans
Across Italy, the people of Tuscany are lovingly referred to as mangiafagioli (literally "bean eaters"!). Their white beans are the best in the country, and are served in a number of different dishes, including fagioli all'uccelletto, beans in tomato sauce.
3. Cavolo nero
Also sometimes called lacinato kale or dinosaur kale here in the U.S., this variety of kale is dark and textured, but cooks up sweeter than many other types of the leafy green. It's been a Tuscan staple for centuries, and is a key ingredient in some of its iconic dishes.
This peasant stew contains the bread that Tuscans are known for, as well as cavolo nero, white beans, and whatever other vegetables are on hand. The name means "reboiled," and it originated as a method for turning leftovers into a tasty new meal.
5. Pappa al pomodoro
Another example of Tuscan ingenuity, this simple dish turns stale bread and tomatoes into a lusciously creamy soup that gets drizzled with lots of olive oil. It's especially good at the height of summer, when fresh tomatoes are at their peak.
6. Barolo and chianti
The Tuscan countryside around Florence is some of the most fertile land in Italy, and is home to two of its most well-known wines. Chianti is the easy-to-drink red we all know and love, while barolo is a splurge prized for its longevity (it's often aged for 10 years or more). You'll also find both used in unexpected ways, such as my Chianti Affogato.
7. Lardo di Colonnata
One of the most decadent salumi is lardo, cured pork fatback seasoned with rosemary and other herbs and served sliced thin, to be draped over bread. Lardo has been made in Colonnata, a small town in Tuscany, since the time of the Roman empire.
This sweet, luscious dessert wine is made by laying out the choicest bunches of white grapes on straw mats after the harvest and letting them slowly dry out. They're almost raisins by the time they're pressed to make the wine!
Florence was a working man's city, and one of its most iconic dishes is this street snack popular for workers to fill up cheaply in a hurry. Long-braised tripe is chopped, piled onto a crusty roll, and topped with a zingy sauce of parsley and capers.
For Tuscan farmers, sheep are nearly as valuable as cattle. Their milk is used to make pecorino cheese, a style that's found around the country but is especially prized in Tuscany. It can be found in a number of styles, from young and mild to long-aged and richly flavored.