With a Florentine father, American mother and a full family immersion into the foodie universe (her stepfather is the well-known butcher, Dario Cecchini), Mugello-born Martina Bartolozzi explores Italy and the world through food, seeing cuisine as the key to understanding different cultures. Sharing her joy in simple food made well and now based in Florence, Martina seeks out fellow foodmakers (she’s a former butcher) and highlights females in the sector, delving into the behind-the-scenes of dishes served with love in Tuscany and beyond. Voted one of the top 20 women in food by Corriere della Sera in 2021, Martina has been featured in magazines for her hands-on approach to food, with culinary-focused English and Italian social channels as the mouthpiece for her recommendations and travel services.
What led you to work in food?
When I was growing up, there was food everywhere I turned. I grew up working under Dario Cecchini’s wing, starting when I was in high school, waiting on tables and working in the kitchen. I studied Communications at university and moved to his offices, taking care of his online presence and events, travelling all over the world with him. I started carving meat myself because I wanted to have a first-hand experience to truly understand what it means to be a carnivore; I think it’s really important to be a conscious carnivore. I then worked on the Netflix series, Salt Fat Acid Heat with Samin Nosrat in 2017, and that’s when I first became interested in communicating food in a certain way, looking at the behind-the-scenes.
What was it like to be a female butcher and tell us more about your transition to content creation?
One of the reasons why I wanted to do it is because it’s not expected of a woman and I’ve always liked to push boundaries: when I was in high school I wanted to play bass guitar because I didn’t see any other girl playing it. It wasn’t even that extraordinary to be a woman butcher because plenty have come before me, Samin Nosrat included. I left the job in summer 2020 to focus on my own adventure as a travel blogger, travelling Naples, Genoa and the Cinque Terre, and then we were locked down again. However, I still had that desire to communicate online and so I started to share about my experience in Florence at that time, and people started paying attention. I then saw that the borders were opening up again and there were two options: you could go to Swedish Lapland or to the Canary Islands. I’ve never been one for the cold, sso I spent three months travelling, both alone, with family, and with friends, trying to understand other cultures through their food traditions months travelling solo around the islands, trying to understand other cultures through their food traditions. When I came back I realized that in Italy we eat like nowhere else, so I decided to focus on Italy, visiting different restaurants and producers. I ended up in Talamone in Tuscany, where I met a fun fisherman who goes by Paolo Il Pescatore. He promotes sustainable fishing practices and I went out fishing with him, learning about it. After that experience and similar ones with other producers, I became even more fascinated by how food is produced and by who, particularly looking at women. There are so many amazing stories that deserve to be told. Actually, if anyone knows about a female fisherwoman, get in touch, I’d love to tell her story!
What is it about Italian food that makes it so special, in your opinion?
That it’s simple. There are five ingredients and they are all good. You don’t have to embellish it with 20 other ingredients to make up for poor produce. I like that it’s comforting and abundant. I also love the variety. From the north of Italy to the south, you will find tens of thousands of different dishes. There’s passion behind every single product: aceto balsamico, prosciutto, Parmigiano, olive oil… and I love how everyone has very strong opinions about which is the best olio! Have you ever eaten a cherry tomato fresh off the vine while it’s still warm? Mwuah!
You create interactive digital maps that vary from a local’s guide to food spots in Florence, to custom travel advice. How has that been going?
I love doing it. I just started recently and I love hearing people’s stories about going to these places! One of the things I like to do on Instagram is to show myself in the act of eating, taking bites of things and showing how delicious they are, sharing my joy in eating. This has always come naturally to me, but then a girl wrote to me to thank me for that because she has an eating disorder, and for her eating is a thing of guilt and something that weighs her down and causes stress. She said that seeing someone enjoy and have a healthy relationship with food was really important for her. I bawled my eyes out when she wrote that. I had never thought about it that way before.
How did you find growing up bilingual and multicultural in Florence?
Well, everyone wanted to sit next to me in English class! One thing about being from two cultures is that I’m never of the culture of the people that I’m with. For Italians, I’m their American friend and vice versa for Americans. However, growing up, my mother was great at creating a multicultural community for me. She had a lot of expat friends with kids of their own that formed a mother-daughter book club of people who I’m still in contact with. I now write my posts in both languages and find that there are people who follow me to learn the language.
My father, Giovanni Bartolozzi, because he was an extraordinary person who always taught me to strive for more and not to settle. That message is really important to me and reflects in my life philosophy. Serendipitously, the issue is coming out on his birthday!
Favourite place in Florence?
I love going all the way to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome because you get to see the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral from a different point of view and the frescoes are right in front of your face. You get a workout in, enjoy an amazing view of the city, and you build up an appetite. I also love meandering around the little narrow streets around San Frediano and just getting lost.
Favourite place to visit in Tuscany?
Panzano in Chianti! Where, if not the centre of the world! There’s a bunch of amazing food places there, as well as Dario’s, of course (Antico Macelleria Cecchini, via XX Luglio 11).
Favourite place for an aperitivo?
I love Mad – Souls & Spirits (borgo San Frediano 36/38) for cocktails, and Enoteca Bellini (via della Spada 52) for their lovely wine selection and delicious crostoni.
Favourite place for a panino?
I have a huge thing for panini in Florence because I feel like a lot of people gravitate towards the soliti sospetti (usual spots), which is a shame because there are so many other amazing ones, like Bondi in via dell’Ariento that has been around since 1979, just doing their thing. But my favourite is Semel, in Sant’Ambrogio. Marco and his nephew Niccolò just do what they want and have sandwiches stuffed with anything but cheese and cured meats, and so they have the most absurd things like panini with ravioli di germano, escargot, or anchovies with fennel and orange slices.
See @mementomartina on Instagram and YouTube.
We thank Hotel Savoy Florence in piazza Repubblica 7 for hosting this instainterview.