A journey of flavours and history: the culinary Tuscany of Dante, the Medici and Artusi.

Visiting Tuscany is all about tasting its cuisine and local specialities. This is a place where art, landscape and food are inseparably linked.
Try reading Dante’s Divine Comedy without all the references to food or try admiring the pictures and frescoes without the abundant references to cookery, agriculture, farming. If you did, you would miss out on understanding and feeling with your full senses the very world that created art and that changed the whole world.
The best reason to ever leave Fonteverde is to make a journey like this. This palace was the spa residence of the Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici. Its walls have witnessed the family’s opulent renaissance cuisine, the same cuisine that gave rise to so much of the most famous and revered cuisine of France.
Indeed, several years before Ferdinando became the Grand Duke, a very young Catherine de’ Medici had left to marry Henry, Duke of Orléans, who would later become King of France. With her, she took her cooks, their recipes and, of course, the use of the fork. Those recipes, such as papero al melarancio (duckling with sweet orange), salsa colla (literally, “glue sauce”) and pezzuole della nonne (literally, “grandmother’s cloth”) were the origin of dishes such as duck à l’orange, béchamel sauce and crêpes. These dishes are now long forgotten, but traces of them can still be found in ingredients and preparation methods, and from time to time groups of enthusiasts or ambitious restaurateurs try to bring them back to life in themed menus.

Today, touring Tuscany in pursuit of flavours, you will be inspired by how every dish and every ingredient is treated with absolute respect. Bread, for example, is part of so many recipes, and types of soup such as panzanella, pappa col pomodoro and ribollita serve as a reminder of how nothing ever goes to waste. You will also taste the famous pane sciocco, which Dante fondly missed. It contains absolutely no salt, and is often used to make croutons served with other specialities.

Exploring the markets, artisan shops, bakeries and delicatessens that can be found in every village is a must for any culinary tourist. The foods that you can sample and maybe even buy to take home include fantastic pecorino cheeses in mouth-watering new versions that have been created by the master cheesemakers, and cured meats such as salame di cinta, prosciutto, buristo, spalla salata, pancetta, capocollo and finocchiona.
Indeed, here they rear Cinta Senese, an ancient prized breed of pig. The pigs of this breed are dark with a narrow white band around their chest and they were already depicted as early as 1338 in a fresco at Siena City Hall. They are reared in semi-wild conditions, which is the real secret of why the meat is so exquisite. It is so exquisite that the widely renowned product Lardo di Colonnata is often made with fat from Cinta Senese. But the most enthusiastic gourmands can find products that are even more rare and precious, and every November they head to the mediaeval village of San Giovanni d’Asso in search of the newly harvested white truffle.

When you sit down to eat, it is practically compulsory to taste the village’s most famous dish: pici, which are thick spaghettoni served in so many different ways.
Another dish not to be missed is fiorentina, the ultimate steak. It is a generous portion of Chianina beef sirloin cooked on a charcoal grill, a method which might seem the most simple but also requires real skill and doesn’t forgive even the slightest mistake.
To accompany all this, the only thing left is to choose your wine. This is the land of Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino but there also countless lesser-known wines, such as Carmignano, Montecucco, Morellino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

There are countless books on Tuscan cuisine, but perhaps take a different one with you as a guide on your tour of flavours of this region: the classic “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well” by Pellegrino Artusi. Artusi was born in Romagna, but lived almost his entire life in Florence, and wrote about cooking in a recognisably Tuscan form of Italian, presenting a whole host of recipes and techniques from Tuscany. Pellegrino Artusi will surprise you with all the recipes and discoveries as he not only explains them but also tells their story. Accompany him for an even more intriguing, authentic and delicious culinary journey. With a bit of artistic license you could even call it a real Pellegrin-age.
Follow us on