Mention Italy, and pasta and pizza will inevitably come to our minds. This is not forgetting risotto and gelato. Such is the popularity and pervasiveness of Italian cuisine that we are all intimately familiar with its staple foods. But is that all there is to gastronomic Italian food? Surely not! Italy is blessed with a lot of culinary delicacies, especially so as its many regions showcase their distinctive, delicious specialties. This article focuses on the charming city of Florence, so without further ado, let's arm ourselves with information on what else you should definitely eat in Italy, aside from pasta, pizza, risotto and gelato!
1. Prosciutto e Melone (Italian Ham and Melon)
This delightful appetizer awakens and soothes your tastebuds via a salty-sweet combination of melon and prosciutto (ham). Deceptively simple, there is actually a lot of wisdom that goes into the making of this starter: the melon must be full-flavoured and yet be firm enough to retain some texture; the prosciutto must be freshly cut. Also, the prosciutto soaks up the melon juices and begins to get soft rather soon, so be sure to tuck into this dish right after it is served at your table!
This dish is insanely addictive - you can't get enough of it in summer. Thankfully, any self-respecting Italian restaurant will serve this dish, so its easy availability will enable you to try out different versions at different restaurants and decide on the one that best appeals to your palate!
2. Trippa alla Florentina (Florentine Tripe)
Another great appetizer to whet your appetite for dinner. This uniquely Florence dish comprises a divine creamy-savoury combination of tomatoes and parmesan cheese. The tripe itself is thoroughly simmered in a nourishing broth consisting of tomatoes, sages, and herbs. This helps to remove its strong smell and make it a delectable dish to relish.
The taste of trippa alla florentina is highly idiosyncratic as different chefs will use different ingredients in their tomato broth. Some use parsley and white wine while others use celeries and carrots instead. Aside from restaurants, tripe vendors sell tripe sandwiches at carts all over the city, so it's again time to hunt for your favourite version!
3. Bistecca alla Fiorentina (T-bone steak)
Now that you have finished your starter, it's time to move on to the main course. And if you are in Florence, you can't say you have been to this place until you try its ubiquitous T-bone steak. A Fiorentina steak typically comes from the Chianina cow and is served rare. Tuck into the juicy and tender meat and enjoy how the flavourful juices ooze all over your mouth!
Another tip - T-bone steaks come in humongous sizes and are meant to be shared, so avoid the mistake of ordering one kg of the steak and expect to finish it off by yourself.
4. Lampredotto (stewed intestines) burger
While we are on the subject of meat, a trip to Nerbone is not to be missed. Every day, tons of locals and foreigners pay their homage at this shop located inside the Mercato Centrale. Among the specialties of this shop are the lampredotto burgers. Lampredotto refers to the fourth and final stomach parts of baby calves, and when combined with vegetables and Tuscan bread, tastes heavenly and will give you all the energy you need for a day of frenetic sightseeing.
A word of caution, though. This burger tastes quite fiery spicy, so if you are not accustomed to spicy food, remember to purchase a bottle of mineral water when making your order. (The queue at Nerbone is prohibitively long, so you wouldn't want to queue again!)
Ribollita is typically a winter dish as farmers used to cook it using homemade Tuscan bread and winter vegetables. But that didn't deter me from asking the wait staff whether their restaurant offered this dish at every possible opportunity I got. Finally, my perseverance was rewarded, and I got to try out this dish even though I was visiting Florence in summer.
Since this was originally a peasant dish, I couldn't help but feel that I was a teeny weeny closer to the soul of Florence, as I imagined how resourceful farmers many generations before me made use of stale bread and humble vegetables to create something innovative. The result? A rich, warm soup that is drizzling with fresh olive oil that is Just the thing to fill up one's soul.
Eating is one great way to get authentic insights into the foods that are indispensable to a nation's diet as well as how its people plan their lives around their meals. I hope that this article will help you make more deliciously fond memories of your time in Florence as you eat your way around this charming city.