“LA CUCINA TOSCANA” is world famous because of unique dishes and, above all, because of the care and love that goes into it’s preparation, searching for local ingredients, preparing meals for your friends and family and, of course, passing the time doing something you love.
Because the preparation of food is so vital to life in Tuscany, Florentines understand the importance of supporting local stores or, as they say, “le botteghe.” Small storeowners are always kind and cordial and they demonstrate interest and personalization with their clients. Above all, they understand the importance of great-tasting fresh ingredients. They are always willing to give advice on particular recipes and local products.
Many Florentines who live in the center participate and support their local botteghe instead of shopping in supermarkets. In fact, in 1960, 95% of grocery shopping, took place in small stores. However, according to www.cnn.com Italy Losing Mom and Pop Shops “…between 1991 and 2001, small shops declined 24% from approximately 254,000 to 193,000; between 1996 and 2000, the number of supermarkets nearly doubled from 3,696 to 6,413.” With this drastic increase in the number of supermarkets prices have become more competitive and in many ways it is easier to make “one stop” to do all of your shopping. But, there are still many people who prefer to shop in their local botteghe and support the Florentine culture.
These days around Florence, small stores have posters in their windows like this one
It reads, “Scegli un negozio per amico. Rivolgiti ai negozi della tua città: giorno dopo giorno sono vicini a te con qualità, cortesia, servizi, fiducia.” This translates to “Choose a store as your friend. Turn towards your stores and your city: day after day they are your neighbors with quality, courtesy, service and trust.”
I first saw this poster in my local fruit and vegetable store; Ortofrutto La Bate, in via dell’ Oriolo months ago. I pointed toward the poster and inquired of it’s importance to the owner, Signor La Bate who has worked in his Ortofrutto for over fifty years with his family. He explained to me quite passionately, “Senza negozi la città muore! Le strade saranno più buie e deserte. Quindi, più negozi aperti ci saranno, più le città vivranno.” His vibrant words translate as, “Without the stores the city will die! The streets will be dark and deserted. Therefore, the more stores there are, the more the city will live.”
Fortunately, the center of Florence doesn’t have enough architectural space for big supermarkets. Plus, many of the locals, students, and tourists prefer to shop in the small stores resulting in support for the local culture and traditions.
So, the next time you are walking through the center and want to buy a panino, some blood oranges, a cornetto, a gelato, some chocolates with peperoncino, a bottle of olive oil from Antella, local wine at the vino sfuso, or pane Toscano please think twice before you plan an outing to the large supermarket. Instead think of the botteghe and of my friend, Signor La Bate. Remember you are not only buying something to satisfy your physical hunger but also your cultural hunger for Firenze and La Cucina Toscana.
Food stores that are part of this culture include all of the following:
Ortofrutta – the fruit and vegetable stores
Macelleria – the butcher shop
Forno – the bakery
Pasticceria – the pastry shop
Pizzercheria or Salumeria the delicatessen
Latteria – dairy goods
Pescheria – the fish store
Ciocolateria – the chocolate shop
Gelateria – the ice cream shop
Vino Sfuso – the local wine shop