Some of the best cibo e bevande experiences of the trip so far were had amidst the olive groves, rolling hills, and ancient cities of Tuscany, where lovingly-created local dishes were easy enough to find after venturing a little off the beaten track. Here’s an edit of some of the highlights from our five days in this beautiful part of the world.
For a breakfast pastry | The many pasticcerie along Borgo Ognissanti are treasure troves of nutritiously dubious breakfasts, from cornetto alla creme, to saccottini al cioccolato, to pan di Ramerino, a delicious rosemary and raisin bun. Enjoyed with a strong caffe, starting the day doesn’t get much better.
For the gelato tour of Florence | Grom was recommended by our Airbnb host Roberta, and it didn’t disappoint – the vividly green and intensely-flavoured pistachio was a godsend after tackling the 460-odd step ascent to the top of the Duomo. Close to our apartment by Ponte alle Caraia was beautifully-designed Gelateria Lungarno, where a multi-layered Nutella-chocolate-coffee concoction hit the spot after dinner. Finally, Gelateria die Neri took the crown for favourite gelato so far – the milk chocolate, fig, and salted caramel flavours were perfect post-Uffizi sugar hits. Thanks for the recommendation Jenny!
For the Holy Grail of lunches | It’s a bold claim, but L’Osteria on Via Rossi in Siena served up what is hands-down the best meal I’ve had in Italy so far – ribbons of perfectly al dente tagliatelle topped with rudely generous lashings of fresh shaved truffles, drizzled with local olive oil. Served on the tiny street amid yellow-painted houses with flowers spilling from windowsills, it was simple, cheap, and absolutely perfect.
For dinner with the locals | Simple, hearty and local food was on offer at Trattoria Armando in Florence – Paul’s risotto was pretty much faultless, and my Tuscan specialty of rabbit with roasted potatoes ticked all the tasty/rustic boxes. At Ristaronte Al Corso in the lovely city of Lucca, a stunningly-presented steak tartare with quail’s egg and a ravioli ragù hit the spot after an afternoon spent walking around the beautiful Renaissance city walls.
For a sunset drink by the city wall | After an evening stroll across Florence’s Ponte Vecchio we hit up Fuori Porta, a pretty little enoteca boasting over six-hundred wines, ordered by the glass or 1/4 litre. Sitting on the terrace under the shade of an olive tree, we tried a lovely Chardonnay and a couple of reds, supplemented by swordfish carpaccio and some wonderful crostini – walnut, honey and Brie; and roasted ham, pecorino and tomato. As the sun sets in Lucca, locals descend on the tiny craft beer shop and tap room De Cervasia by the northern wall – points here to the delicious double IPA. It’s a tiny space, so everyone spills out on to the street and converges with patrons from other bars until the whole square is filled with the sort of civilised evening revellery you just don’t find anywhere else.
Stay tuned for the next post, as we head north to Milan!