Florence has a long tradition of cooking delicious dishes using the freshest and simplest ingredients.
A walk through Florence is a magical immersion into the life and beauty of the great Renaissance era. It is land of the brilliant artists Michelangelo and Donatello, and it was once home to the powerful Medici family who reigned over Florence like Italian royalty. With such a rich historical pedigree, visitors may be surprised to discover that the traditional Florentine diet finds its roots in a peasant tradition.
Although the rich enjoyed lavish feasts in historical Florence, the poor man’s use of basic, yet fresh and high quality ingredients that gave their meals a strong sense of balance and fulfillment, has endured time to become the treasured Florentine food tradition. These ancient food traditions are revered as laws of the land, and rarely have they been altered or broken. The governing rule that Florentines almost superstitiously carry into the kitchen with them is quality ingredients among simple recipes. Florence is known for infusing its dishes with rich aromatic herbs such as rosemary, parsley, thyme, and basil while remaining loyal to the traditional peasant ingredients: tomatoes, beans, salami, ham and olive oil. Some of the oldest peasant dishes that have become delicious staples in the Florentine diet are Bruschette (toasted bread with garlic oil) and ribollita (a soup whose main ingredients are beans, carrots, leeks, black cabbage, olive oil, and a variation of other vegetables) with fettunta (a bread with no oil or salt).
Contrary to popular belief, the Florentine diet is not based on pasta, but rather meat. Florentines traditionally used all parts of the animal so that nothing went to waste. Although this practice is less prevalent today, a handful of Florentine dishes, colored with this medieval tradition, can still be found in the local markets. One such dish being crostini toscani (sliced prosciutto, salami, chicken liver based pate, and a melon of the season). The city’s most famous meat dish is bistecca all fiorentina (T-bone steak cooked rare with rich herbs and no salt). Game dishes such as boar and rabbit are also known as Florentine specialties.
Florence’s fresh, aromatic cuisine evolved and grew with the art of winemaking. The Tuscan region in which romantic Florence resides is known for producing some of the world’s most delectable wines. Red wine and white wine share an equal reverence and perfection in the Tuscan hills. Wine coinsurers hail from across the globe, making frequent and devout pilgrimages to the Chianti Vineyards which are situated close to Florence’s southern crest. It was here, in these walled vineyards that have withstood the centuries, that the mystery of exquisite wine creation was gently prodded and explored. In Chianti tradition, the art of creating fine wine is a mystic science that is guided as much by exact precision as it is by artistic intuition.
Chianti wine is made from the exotic Sangiovese grape which also serves as a source for Italy’s most expensive and well known wine, Brunello di Montalcino (dark red wine with aromatic flavors of black raspberry, black berry, chocolate, leather, and violets). Visitors travel to the Chianti Vineyards to experience and taste this ancient tradition for themselves, also hoping to learn the Tuscan secret of pairing wine and food. One tip visitors might learn is that the sangiovese grape offers optimal acidity and tannin in its red wines which highly compliments the Florentine meat based diet and the traditional herbs, namely rosemary and sage, used to season the meats.
An exploration of Florentine cuisine is akin to a light walk along the city’s sun-splashed streets. Both activities carry a quiet aestheticism that is characterized by the beauty of simplicity and the appreciation of the past. While Florence’s value of fresh, natural ingredients may be an old tradition, it is still a wise and prevalent practice for today’s health conscious, and a time tested guide to creating satisfying, wholesome meals.
Published in: Cooking