Not that we weren’t getting enough to eat in Lucca, but a vacation in Tuscany just doesn’t seem to be complete with a day in Florence. Of course you could spend weeks on end exploring this amazing city, but unfortunately we didn’t have that much time. History, art, architecture at every turn, but as you might have expected we were there for the food. You could certainly amble around on your own, but why not get the real scoop from an insider and taste your way around town with a pro.
As a few of the group had already taken a food tour of Florence on a previous Panini Girl In Lucca trip I decided it was time to discover the Oltrarno-the less touristy neighborhood on the other side of the Arno river. We spent almost four hours with Omar from Eating Europe food tours and were treated to a variety of foods that were not only Tuscan, but also typically Florentine.
Our first stop was a bar where we learned a bit about the coffee culture of Italy while we sipped a macchiatone (a larger version of a macchiato-espresso with a splash of milk.) We sampled a typical Tuscan breakfast pastry-a budino di riso, which just happens to be my absolute favorite. Italians don’t usually spend much time over their caffe and neither did we as there were more tastes on the way.
Next was a food kiosk that is known for its lampredotto which is very Florentine. Lampredotto is the fourth and final stomach of a cow, generally slow-cooked with tomato, onion, parsley, and celery until it has the texture of tender roast beef. I knew that some of the group might be reticent to try this, but no one backed away from tasting the tiny roll filled with the organ meat that was topped with a garlicky green sauce. Did I love it-not really but I was glad I finally had tried it!
My favorite stop on the tour was the family run pasticceria where we lucky to get a private demonstration from the baker on making cantucci-the cookie that you probably know as biscotti. The gentleman in the above photo started in his family’s shop when he was thirteen and has been working there for the past seventy years-yes he’s 83!
He was charming and we were delighted to sample three different flavors. The pastry cases in the front of the shop were stocked with diminutive pastries that were surely tempting us, but we had other foods to sample and so we said our good byes to Roberto and headed off.
A short walk away was a tiny shop selling cheese and salumi. Here we were treated to finocchiona salami (fennel spiced), a local pecorino cheese and of course Parmigiano Reggiano. Our guide was a friend of the owner and there was even a photo of him on the wall as a teenager!
Even though it was still morning we didn’t shy away from indulging in some Tuscan wine at a small enoteca which was paired with the saltless Tuscan bread drizzled with a grassy olive oil. I was starting to get full!
Hard to believe but there was more food to come and so Omar led us to a trattoria hidden on a back street for a little bit of lunch. We were served two Florentine specialties-ribollita and peposo. Ribollita is actually a soup (vegetables including cavolo nero and cannellini beans and thickened with bread) although you might not realize that from looking at the picture below on the left. I’ve had it before, but this is certainly the heartiest version I’ve ever sampled and it was amazing. Peposo is a peppery beef stew cooked in red wine. It was melt in your mouth tender and perfect with a potato puree.
As you might imagine there was one more stop on our tour-a little dessert at a artisanal gelateria. This one was named one of the top thirty gelaterias in the country. I have a hard time straying from my go to flavors-nocciola e pistachio-hazelnut and pistachio- and I was not disappointed.
Thanks to Omar and Eating Europe for a fun food filled day in Florence! It’s not too early to think about joining next year’s Panini Girl tour…