How can you go to Italy and not be food focused? I have to admit that I might be a little more obsessed than most with all things food related, but what’s wrong with that? One of the perks of staying in Lucca is that Florence is just a train (or bus) ride away. We caught an early train and headed to the La Norcineria (pictured above) to start our tour with Taste Florence. This shop specializes in meat, sausages and salumi (cured meats) and we began the day tasting two different types of prosciutto-one from Parma and then other made in Tuscany. I preferred the meat from Parma although the other one was also wonderful, just a bit saltier.
As you can see we saw pasta being made and sampled ravioli with two different sauces. This was in the Mercato Centrale, a food lover’s slice of heaven. You could spend hours in this place and if you’re lucky enough to be staying in an apartment could do all your food shopping here.
Over the course of our time together we sampled a good variety of food and it was all tasty, but my favorite bite of the day came from Nerbone, which is located downstairs in the Mercato. Nerbone has been around since 1872 and has been serving cucina povera to the hungry workers of the neighborhood since then. Now in addition to the locals, you’ll be elbowing tourists trying to make your way to the front of the line. This eatery is famous for their panino bollito (boiled beef sandwich with two toppings). On past visits I always ordered the porchetta panino, but the panino bollito has won my heart. The salsa verde and spicy red sauce are the perfect toppings for the tender beef which is served on a crusty roll.
Make sure that if you do visit the Mercato you make time to go upstairs to the “food hall” which hosts an amazing array of eateries- from pizza to panini to pasta, hamburgers, salads, sushi and fried foods along with a small version of Eataly. Be prepared to wait in long lines if you go at lunch time.
Another favorite spot on the tour was the Forno which showcases a variety of baked goods, most of them savory. Here we were treated to cocoli which is fried dough that is sprinkled with salt and stuffed with tomato and mozzarella. Okay, this probably ties with the beef panino for best bite if the day.
Just when we thought we couldn’t eat one more thing we stopped in the lovely Enoteca Alessi. Located not too far from the Duomo we tasted balsamics in addition to trying a variety of local wines paired with bruschetta, cheese and salami.
The perfect ending for our tour was of course something sweet at Vestri Cioccolateria. In addition to their chocolates they are known for gelato and I savored every bite of my cup with nocciola (hazelnut) and caramel. They also have lovely packaged chocolates which would make a nice gift for someone back home.
If you want to get a real feel for the food of Florence this is a great way to spend a few hours. Be sure to bring your appetite! Thanks to Toni and the team at Taste Florence for creating a fun filled day.