“I Toschi” or Tuscans are the direct descendants of the Etruscan. Tuscany is the heartland of Italy and it has
contributed in a great measure to the Italic civilization. The Romans acquired from the Etruscans their traditions,
their scientific, artistic and literary notions. In more recent times, during the Renaissance, this region was the
birthplace of Botticelli, Cimabue,
Giotto, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinciand Dante Alighieri,
who by synthesizing the language used by the Sicilian poets and the Poets of “theDolce Stil Nuovo”
became the “Father of the Italian language”. Other giants in the field of literature are Petrarca and Boccaccio.
Machiavelli was a political philosopher who with Hobbes is considered one of the greatest analyzer of political
power and whose principles are at the base of all political science study. He was an adviser to the Florence’s
Medici family who ruled not only Florence but influenced the political landscape of that era using money, force or
By means of Catherine dei Medici who married Henry II, the future king of France, Italian cooking was introduced to
France. The onion
to only name two “very French” dishes, the sauces, desserts, food preparation, good table manners, elegant
table settings and a new set of rules on how and when to serve certain foods, were brought into fashion and
introduced by Catherina dei Medici and it became the French art of cooking.
In the Etruscan tradition, Tuscans consume two meals daily of first quality ingredients.
In Tuscany either in the large cities or in the country side, the vegetables, salads and fruits have a different
taste because they are freshly harvested and consumed.
Tuscany is known for the numerous variety of beans cooked in many ways, for the Ribollita, bread
and vegetable soup, for the Pappa al
Pomodoro, a delicious mush that combines bread, tomato, fresh
olive oil and spices: dishes with remaining traces of the Etruscan pulmentum,
porridge and the other well-known dishes like tripe, arista, the
loin of pork, rigatoni, minestrone, sausages and salami.
The assortment of bread produced in Tuscany is made with flour, maize flour, chestnuts, potatoes or the combination
of those ingredients, it can be fragrant with rosemary, saffron or other spices, kneaded with olive oil, pork fat,
or eggs, sweetened with sugar, honey and can contain raisins, pine nuts, pork cracklings or tomato.
In the Island of Corsica, cooking trends are similar to the cooking of Tuscany apart from a large use of the
abundant chestnuts and game.
The Appenino Tosco-Emiliano divide Tuscany from the confining regions and as the land rolls down towards the
Tyrrhenian Sea, it creates a countryside with gently sloping green hills, orchards, vineyards and olive groves: a
serene landscape made famous by Tuscan painters.
The ancient ruins, monasteries, farmhouses, villages, towns and cities placed amidst this green scenery, are
evidence to the history of the people of this laborious region, rich of tradition and culture.
Florence is the capital of the region; because of its extraordinary artistic heritage, tourist from all over the
world, visit this city that was the cradle of the Italian Renaissance.
Since the tenth century, generations of artists have adorned Florence with churches, buildings, towers, great
monuments, paintings, mosaics, and sculptures. The legacy of this glorious past can be perceived when strolling
throughout the old streets or walking Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge on The Arno River.
The many museums are always crowded by the numerous visitors; in the banks of the Arno River, the countless
boutiques are busy selling the local artisan goods, the trattorie and restaurants are temples where religiously
following the simple and severe rules of the traditional peasant cooking of Tuscany, the best food is offered to
the locals and travelers.
Florence is a lively commercial center active in the textile industry and with many artesian
shops. Gucci, Salvatore
Ferragamo, Cavalli and other fashion houses were founded
in Florence. Small plants making leather goods and garments produce merchandise that continues a tradition of
high quality products. Chianti wine is produced and exported in large quantities and it is an important
component of the local economy.
Florentine food dispensed in restaurants or cooked at home is excellent.
Antipasti include crostini, a liver and spleen toasts, the finocchiona, salami with fennels, prosciutto, is a dry
cured ham and is served with melon; popular pasta dishes are ceci e strisce, a soup of chickpeas and strips of
handmade pasta, noodles with hare sauce, Minestra alla Fiorentina, a soup of Savoy cabbage, celery and white
haricot beans, risotti, minestrone, and a delicious Zuppa di Verdure containing as many vegetables as possible…and
Anguilla alla Fiorentina is eel coated with breadcrumbs and baked with abundant olive oil aromatized with garlic
and sage; however meat is the main ingredient of many entrees. The grilled Florentine T-bone steak,
called Bistecca alla
Fiorentina, is a fare you won’t find anywhere in the world. The beef is made from the Chianina
Pork chop with fennels, pot roast, stewed veal and chicken Florentine are fragrant with red or white wine; spinach
is present in the Uova alla Fiorentina, pasty encases shells filled with sautéed spinach, butter and cheese, topped
with a poached egg, sprinkled with cheese and baked a few minutes. Fagioli, beans are cooked in many ways: what
makes them delectable is the good Tuscan olive oil. Cardoons Florentine are boiled than cooked with sautéed onions
A large assortment of the tastiest and freshest vegetables and fruits in the world are offered daily in stores and
in the open markets.
When in Florence, go to any market and in one of the kiosks you can sample the lampredotto
sandwich, a roll stuffed with a special tripe cooked with tomato,
carrots, onions and spread with salsa verde, a
sauce made with lot of parsley and olive oil, lemon or vinegar, capers, salted anchovy fillets, a little garlic and
ground mustard seeds.
Florentine popular desserts: the crostate, sort of
a tart, are stuffed with fruits, custard cream or ricotta, the buccellato, sweet
bread stuffed with candied orange skins, and raisins, similar to theCavallucci di
are anisette flavored biscuits, cooked in a special
griddle, similar to a waffle iron.
The cantucci are baked all over Tuscany; they are crunchy biscotti cookies containing hazelnuts or almonds. The
origin of the cantucci is claimed by every town in the region and every town claims the original version of it by
adding a different flavor or spice like ginger, cinnamon, anise or peppercorns. The best companion to the cantucci
is the Vin Santo a sweet dessert Tuscan wine to dunk the cantucci in to soften them and enhance their
The Cenci fritti are fritters made for Carnival, the apple and rice fritters are made for Saint Joseph;
molded in a hemispheric bowl, is sponge cake, whipped cream,
chocolate, nuts and liquor, similar to the Bomba
made with zabaglione in Emilia-Romagna.
The abundance of chestnut trees in the area supports the making of desserts like castagnaccio which are chestnut
flour pancakes aromatized with rosemary, also in a rich version with raisins, walnuts and pine nuts, and the Torta
di Marroni a puff pastry tart filled with chestnut marmalade.
Local wines, served by the carafe are good accessories to conclude a Florentine meal.
The most popular varietals of grapes grown – Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot- produce the
and other types of local wines; the white wine produced with
grapes is blended with other area’s wines to make
The cantucci are baked in Florence and all over Tuscany; they are crunchy biscotti cookies containing hazelnuts or
almonds. The origin of the cantucci is claimed by every town in the region and every town claims the original
version of it by adding a different flavor or spice like ginger, cinnamon, anise or peppercorns. The best companion
to the cantucci is the Vin Santo a sweet dessert Tuscan wine to dunk the cantucci in to soften them and enhance
Prato and Pistoia
Massa and Carrara are destinations of discerning tourists; they are located in the northern part of the region, in
a fertile valley with white mountains in the background where the white Carrara marble is extracted; on the
shoreline are some of the best Italian seaside resorts.
The costal area is famous for la zuppa di pesce,
fish soup and seafood specialties, inland the following are a few of the specialties prepared: ravioli filled with
cardoons called tordelli, polenta ficca,
mixed with beans and cabbage, the torta di erbe, a
pie made with a light pastry dough stuffed with leeks, spinach and onions and the Panigacci,
unleavened bread cooked in pans on embers to make sandwiches
stuffed with salami and cheese or dunked in an aromatic and tasty porcini mushroom soup. High quality honey is
produced in large quantities and for Christmas the Spongata
made with honey, chocolate and hazelnuts is the local preferred
Prato is noteworthy for the textile industry, Pistoia for the furniture industry, for the engineering industry in
the production of means of transportation, for household goods, paper production and for the food industry. In
these cities the stewed pork made with a special breed of wild pigs called Cinta Senese, it
is simply made with onion and tomato, nevertheless those three simple elements combine to produce one of the worlds
best pork dish. Other popular Tuscan dishes are well made as they are in the entire region.
Mrs. Nancy Erdelyi
wrote about her visit:
“We continued to the town of Carrara. Now I never really gave it much thought before that
there was a town named Carrara. I guess I always thought that it was a type of marble or style of marble, not
the name of a town. I was partly right. The town of Carrara is located in mountains which are made of marble
and granite, but the marble is of the most luminous (bright) white coloring. This is where Michelangelo came
personally to pick out the pieces of white marble that he would later carve into the beautiful Pieta
sculpture (now in the Vatican) and the outstanding figure of David sculpture (now in Florence Italy). Up
into the mountain we went by bus then they unloaded us into a small jitney-type bus to go 600 ft deep into
the mountain to see how they excavate the granite and marble. … It was interesting to watch and amazing
to behold, the huge construction trucks driving away with the stone. It was almost every 15 minutes when one
truck with smaller pieces of stone and another truck with large blocks of stone would leave and go down the
mountain. Again and again. The (huge) volume of stone going out....I could not comprehend it…”
Giacomo Puccini, one of the most famous Italian composers was born in Lucca in 1858 and from the year 1891, he
lived in Torre del Lago, a small community outside Lucca where he composed Manon Lescaut, La
Boheme, Tosca and Madam Butterfly.
Lucca is also well-known for the olive oil produced with
olives; the local olive oil is of a superior quality for its sweet taste and delicate flavor and the
main reason for the delightful gastronomic specialties cooked in this area: the best dishes are the traditional
cooking mostly rustic and with country origins.
frantoiana made with stale bread, Borlotti
beans, yellow squash, Tuscan kale and pancetta(salt
cured bacon), can be sampled in many local trattorie, along
with grilled hams and sausages or lamb simmered with herbs and olives or an antipasto with crostini,
pecorino cheese, sheep’s ricotta and grilled vegetables. From the nearby seaside resorts fresh fish are brought
to Luccaand expertly
cooked. Good wines from the Colline Lucchesi,
the hills around Lucca, or from Monte Carlogo well
with the local cooking. The Vin
Santo is sampled with cantucci, almond
(a cake made with chestnut flour), or with a crostata
(a fruit tart).
Pisa is famous for the leaning tower, also because it was the birthplace of Galileo Galilei, the astronomer and
scientist who invented the thermometer, discovered the pendulum, experimented with magnets and the telescope among
his many other findings.
On the table, Pisa offers exceptional gastronomic specialties like the pappardelle with hare-tomato sauce, fish
soups, beans and farro, the original grain where all wheat come from, and a delicate pecorino cheese that goes so
well with the local sourdough bread made without salt. Another specialty is the Acqua Cotta,
literally cooked water, a traditional soup made from fresh vine-ripened vegetables, poured over thick slices of
bread and sprinkled with grated pecorino cheese.
The fish made “Leghorn” style and in the coastal areas are imitated all over Italy. The pasta and risotto with fish
sauce are superb; the cacciucco
is a dish made with five different fish; in Leghorn they say one
type of fish for every C in the word cacciucco,
the fish are cooked in a spicy sauce and served with toasted
Siena is the birthplace of Saint Catherina named Doctor of the Church; she dedicated her life to the poor and the
sick and with her kindness, aspirations and ideas expressed in her Letters she was influential in the politics of
the Church. Siena is an ancient and refined city; the University of Siena was founded in 1240, and the oldest
banking institution in the word, Bank Monti dei Paschi di
Siena was established in 1472.
The Palio di
Siena is a horse race among the seventeen contrade
which are the districts in which the city is parted; it is the
most celebrated festival, and very competitive among the city’s inhabitants with bets, fights and dinner
In Siena the cooking is elegant, at times simple, at times embellished with fresh herbs and spices to develop and
balance taste and aroma. The pappardelle con la
lepre, wide strips of pasta with hare sauce, zuppa di cavoli, a
white cabbage soup, la panzanella, a
salad made with day old bread, olive oil, fresh tomatoes, onions and basil, i fagioli
all’uccelletto, beans with olive oil, garlic, sage and tomato, or il cinghiale in
umido, wild boar stew: to name some successful dishes. Local wines and cheeses are the best in the region and
the Panforte di Siena,
a cross between a honey-nougat cake and a fruit tart will conclude an enjoyable dinner.
Grosseto, the most
southern Tuscan’s city is surrounded by the Maremma, a large
marshland area rich of natural resource and game. Most of the marshes were reclaimed under the fascist regime and
is now an attractive tourist destination. Grosseto is about eight miles inland: the Maremma’s abundant game
and the richness of the nearby sea have made this city a paradise for hunters and fishermen.
offers wild boars, deer, rabbits, hares, birds, snails, and a
variety of vegetables; from the nearby shores and from
Orbetello a mixture of seafood including mussels, clams,
crabs, turtles, shrimps, eels, gray mullets, dentice, sea bream
and cuttlefish, are cooked by housewives and by chefs in a brodetto-soup,
grilled or in the traditional, simple and aromatic recipes called alla
delicious Tuscan dishes can be tasted along with game and
fish alla Maremmana,
with vegetables and ricotta,
Gorgonzola and mushrooms, tagliatelle
with stewed wild boar, turtle or crab soup, black rice with
cuttlefish, sweet-sour dishes, fresh salads and vegetables and without fail side dishes of fagioli,
The island of the Giglio
is a busy resort located about ten miles from the coast. The
are produced in the island. Among their gastronomic specialties are octopus with mussels, a cold herbed
lobster with fresh olive oil and a soup alla
Gigliese containing many different varieties of fish and
by adding baby octopus, a different, unique, sweet and pleasantly tasting brodetto is made.
Popular wines in Grosseto
are Morellino di
Scansano and Monteregio-
produced in the hills of theMaremma.
Castelfranco di Sopra
Arezzo is located in the Val d’Arno -Valley of the
Arno River- on the upper hills where the Medici
fortress was built in the medieval era.
The manufacture of gold jewelry, agriculture and the rearing of bulls are very important factors affecting the
economy of the province of Arezzo.
Part of the province is Val di
Chiana where cattle are reared and their meat used for the
famous steak alla Fiorentina.
This breed of cattle grows rapidly and can be slaughtered at an age of 1 ½ years, when the meat is red and very
tender. These animals, raised in the Chiana
valley, can reach 4000 pounds and because the valley used to
be marshland, the cattle developed long legs and in fact they are the tallest cows in the world. They cannot
be raised in other locations because for unknown reasons they loose the characteristics that make them
Chains, necklaces, earrings, rings, classical and modern designed jewelry are mostly manufactured in 18 karat gold.
Some of the biggest wholesale gold jewelry dealers in Europe are located in the city ofArezzo
is a center for agricultural trade and it offers the tourists a
atmosphere, medieval architecture, Etruscan and Roman artifacts, fantastic shopping and gastronomic
cheese with pears and honey, finocchiona,
with fennels, panzanella
a summer salad with bread and fresh tomatoes, eggs dough pasta called bringoli
dressed with tomato sauce, is hand made thick and irregular
spaghetti, rabbit sweet-sour with vin
Santovinegar, pulezze coi
rocchi, turnip tops with blood sausages, gobbo
all’Aretina, cardoons boiled then fried in olive oil, placed in layers in a pot with garlic and oil,
covered with tomato sauce and aromatized with ginger and Chianina beef steaks: these are a few Aretinian
The local wines of Terra di Arezzo,
are of good quality and sold at an affordable price. The locally madeVin
Santo goes well with torta di pane e
mele, a tart made with bread, apple, honey, sugar and milk.
Castelfranco di Soprais nested on the slopes of thePratomagno
It is a peaceful town surrounded by hills with vineyards, olive groves and countryside where grain, beans, sugar
beets and fodders are grown.
The economy ofCastelfranco di
Soprais also based on the breeding of fish, cattle and pork. Farmhouses with vegetable gardens, producing
their own olive oil and wine have incremented tourism by offering lodging facilities including all meals and the
possibility for their guests to experience the daily routine of everyday country life. It is called agriturismo.
They offer their visitors a pleasant and relaxing stay, a fantastic landscape full of natural, artistic and
historic details and typical Tuscan cooking.
Until recently my wife Terry’s cousins lived inCastelfranco
visited them a few years ago. They owned the only drugstore in town and were gracious hosts. After a tour of the
countryside and the medieval town, a dinner prepared by her cousins Daniela and Paolo Carrara was offered to us. It
was a sample of simple gastronomic delights of modern Tuscan cooking.Crostinicovered
with freshly pressed olive oil and a delicate cream of herbs and greens; homemadepappardellewith a
sauce and as main dish herb scented roast loin of pork, with potatoes, also a delicious salad and to conclude a
dish of cheeses and salami; all this served with local young and light wine from the nearbyChianti
Now Daniela and Paolo are living in Florence but I think that they spend their vacation in Castelfranco di