Exploring Tuscany: let your taste-buds be your guide

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February 3, 2017 - 17:44

One of the best ways to get to know the heart of a region is through its cuisine. Tuscan cuisine celebrates simplicity and high quality ingredients. Whether you are new to the area or a native, these are some Tuscan specialties you don't want to miss!

 

Ribollita

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This is the perfect dish for the chilly winter months when you're craving something warm. Ribollita is a hearty soup made mostly from bread, beans and vegetables. The name itself translates to "re-boiled" because it was traditionally made by reheating minestrone from the day before. In the Middle Ages, servants would collect leftovers from large feasts of noblemen and add them to their own stews. Don't let the peasant origins fool you, though, because a bowl of ribollita will have you feeling like a king. For a truly medieval experience, one of the best restaurants to try this dish is La Locanda della Ribollita in the small town of Chiusi. If you're feeling brave, you can take a guided tour through the underground Labyrinth of Porsenna, one of the city's oldest and most unique attractions.

 

Cantuccini

 

Also known as biscotti, cantuccini are almond biscuits, baked twice to give them their signature hard texture. You may have seen them served with coffee back home, but in Tuscany they are commonly served with a sweet wine to be dipped in. The best cantuccini can be found in their birthplace, Prato, the heart of the "slow food" movement. Prato boasts beautiful churches and cathedrals, including the Migliorati Chapel and the Castello dell'Imperatore, which offers a beautiful view of the city.

 

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

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Bistecca alla Fiorentina, or "Florentine Steak", is a must try when visiting the Tuscan capital, Florence. The city is a cultural hub, known for its medieval charm and sights such as the Florence Cathedral and the Palazzo Vecchio. After a day of sight-seeing sit down at one of the many restaurants, order a glass of red wine and get ready for the best T-bone steak the region has to offer. Traditionally, Florentine steak is served rare, seasoned simply with salt, olive oil, and sometimes pepper. Be warned! It's a large cut of steak, so if you don't have a big appetite, it's common to share it with a friend.

 

White Truffles of San Miniato

 

San Miniato is a medieval town that sits atop three hills. The scenic town is known for its sights such as the Tower of Frederick, but is probably best known for its world-class white truffles. These special truffles can only be found during October and November. If you're lucky enough to be there during the last three weeks of November, don't miss the Truffles Fair, where you can sample a variety of dishes prepared featuring this treasured ingredient.

 

Panforte

 

This relative to the more commonly known fruitcake features fresh nuts, fruit, honey and spices. The name translates literally into "strong bread" due to its rich, spicy flavor. It is usually enjoyed with coffee or a sweet dessert wine. Although panforte be found all over Italy, it originates from 13th-century Siena. This city is a must see in Tuscany due to its beautiful city scape, Cathedral, Basilica and its town center, which has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 

Lardo di Colonnata

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Lardo is thinly sliced fat, seasoned with rosemary. It is cured for months in basins made from locally mined marble before being served as an antipasto. This specialty originates from Colonnata, a village of only 295 inhabitants, nestled in the Apuan Alps. Arriving in Colonnata can be difficult, as it is off the beaten path. The best way is to take a bus to Carrara and then make the rest of the trek with a local bus. Getting there might take some time, but you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the mountainous landscape.

 

 

Ready to get out there and explore Tuscany? Train travel in Italy is very affordable! All the destinations on this list can be reached in under two hours from Florence with train tickets ranging between 3 to 13 euros, making for the day trip. For help planning your travels in Tuscany, try an online search engine like GoEuro . They offer quick price comparisons of train and bus travel between places.

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