How can one visit Italy and not rave about the food?? Seriously. Forget about the Michelin-starred Italian restaurants, or the much talked about celebrity chefs and their hoity-toity fare. The true taste of Italy is…no surprise…in Italy! Which is why although my visit to Tuscany was a few years ago, it sure warrants a spot on my spanking new blog.
I visited Florence, Tuscany aka ‘the cradle of Renaissance’ in June 2007. It was a surprise trip planned by P for our first wedding anniversary. But I’m not here to talk about our, albeit lovely, celebration of marriage, I’m trying to re-live my gastronomic experiences where you can actually taste the Italian’s ‘amore di alimento’ (love of food) and their ‘passione’ in the morsels of yummdili-umciousness.
They claim the freshest ingredients, the best olive oils, the sweetest of tomatoes and you know what? I believe them all! Whether its gorging on a slice of pizza on the sidewalk or having a more civilised meal in a restaurant, it’s as if you can never have a bad meal in Florence. It all boils down to the Italians and how proud they are of their food. I, for one, am really glad to have been given the opportunity to experience some of its delicious greatness.
I don’t know if this is true of all the restaurants in Florence, but where we ordered Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, the waiter only asked if it was for one or two persons. Don’t even bother telling them how you’d like your steak done – it’s only done one way – the RIGHT way! The steak was thick and as wide as the plate it sat on. It was done medium rare-ish, juicy and ultra tasty, complete with crunchy bits of chargrilled yumminess.
Eat what locals eat – I believe that is a good mantra. So off we went, in search of the central market in Florence, where we were told has the best ‘trippa’ (tripe) roll. After much pointing and nodding, P and I managed to secure ourselves a typical local lunch of tripe rolls. How on earth could chopped up beef innards be so mind-blowingly delicious? I’ve always enjoyed the occasional tripe dish, but this humble little sandwich brought tripe to a whole new level. There was not a hint of ‘tripey’ smell or aftertaste, no overpowering garlic or chilli – just tasty strips of chewy cow’s stomach. It was unbelievable.
Going along with the ‘eat like a local’ mantra, we also tried out ‘street food’ namely the pizza slices from side street cafes. The pizzas are sold by weight, and I believe we manage to wrangle out with much hand actions, a 400 gram slice of cheesy, mushroom and ham pizza. Another discovery is the fact that Florentines – yes the much beloved almond snack doesn’t come with almond flakes as we know it in Australia. It comes packed full of whole almonds in a crust of sticky, caramelised honey glaze. It was rather large, and after a long day stuffing our faces, having that amount of whole almonds as an afters was like having a whole other meal on its own. But it was totally worth feeling like a piggy after.