The capital of Tuscany, Florence is a city of treasures, renowned for its art, history, architecture, and fashion. Today, this ancient city (founded by Caesar in 59BC as a settlement for veteran Roman soldiers; later the Renaissance capital of the world) is a bustling metropolis of some 400,000 residents – 1,500,000 if you include the suburbs. But for all that, it’s still beautiful: its ancient architecture, countless galleries and museums, set amidst rolling hills, quiet farms and serried vineyards.
Long rich with delicious local produce – including world-class olive oil, mellow cheeses, and grilled meats –Florence is known for its hearty soups, wonderful wines, and roast game. Here, the past looms in everything from gelato (invented for a 16th-century royal banquet) to the bread (dense, crunchy and made without salt thanks to a medieval feud during which the city’s salt supply was cut off) is a nod to a bygone era.
For starters, there’s usually antipasto Toscano (an appetiser platter consisting of crunchy Tuscan bruschetta topped with paté, sauces and salsas), or tagliere (a selection of meats and cheese, which might include prosciutto, salami, Florentine salami, finnochiona, pecorino and sometimes served with grilled veg).
As a main course, the city’s most iconic dish is bistecca alla Fiorentina, or Florentine steak: a weighty T-bone fire-grilled over chestnuts but still bloody on the inside, seasoned with salt, pepper and a little lemon. But competitors include lampredotto (a common folk dish in the Middle Ages, consisting of thinly-sliced tripe boiled in broth and often served with gravy-laced bagnato, or ‘wet bread’); papardelle al cinghiale (a wide, flat pasta traditionally served with wild boar and a heavy sauce); and ribollita (a tasty soup made from stale bread, tomatoes, beans and seasonal vegetables).
And for dessert, the choice is as rich as the culture. There’s schiacciata Fiorentina (a sweet, spongy cake covered in powdered sugar), delicious cornetti (the local croissant, usually stuffed with apricot jam, or chocolate and often enjoyed at breakfast), or creamy gelato. All frequently enjoyed with a cup of thick, dark caffè. Because, after all, this is Italy!