It would be criminal to go to Italy and not do a blog post about the food, right? Well I made sure I took snaps of most of what I ate to do just that and boy, looking back, it was a holiday filled with food!
When we arrived in Pisa it was really late so we only had time to grab a focaccia before hitting the sack. So the following night we decided to do something a bit special and booked a table at a restaurant our guide book recommended. We wanted somewhere traditional that catered for locals and we found just that at Osteria dei Cavalieri. It was hard to find the place when we went to book a table earlier in the day as it was one of the only restaurants with its doors closed and without a terrace. We knew it was a good choice when we entered as it was filled with Italian families enjoying a long lunch. If we didn’t know about the restaurant we would have easily walked past it and when the evening came around to dine we were not disappointed!
Tuscans eat large dinners, consisting of a starter, a first course, which is usually pasta, a main dish, which commonly contains meat, and finally a dessert and coffee. We opted for the set menu of large dough balls covered in prosciutto (this was huge so K ate half of mine), rabbit pasta, sliced beef with rocket and a parmesan crisp and a chocolate dessert. It was delicious and probably the best dinner we ate all holiday.
The following day we tucked in to our first pizza for lunch. There’s nothing better than a proper Italian pizza; they are so different to the ones we get in the UK. The tomato sauce is usually made from fresh tomatoes, nothing else, and the bases are always thin and often cooked in a stone oven. We chose a ham, artichoke, mushroom and olive pizza with a large side salad. It was at this restaurant that K discovered Birra Moretti…
After lunch we had a tour booked to go wine tasting in Chianti with a stop-off in Sienna (a historic town). You can see what we got up to in my daily Italy vlogs, but when we stopped in Sienna we visited a patisserie and ordered a selection of pastries and cakes. The most delicious was nutella filled filo pastry! So yummy!
The wine tasting tour included dinner at the vineyard farmhouse, all home-cooked by the wine producers. Again it was a four course affair of crostini, lasagna, chicken stew and biscuits for dessert. We all sat outside on the terrace looking over the rolling Tuscan hills as the sun set and it was definitely the most romantic location of all our dinners!
Our first full day in Florence was spent sightseeing so we grabbed a slice of pizza each for lunch. I chose a classic margarita with pesto. Something I’m going to try and make at home!
We were exhausted come the evening so we only ventured down the road from our apartment to eat. The restaurant we chose had been running for over 100 years and although it had lost a lot of its historic charm the food was traditional, simple Tuscan cuisine and we both decided on crostini for a starter. Crostini is one of Tuscany’s most traditional dishes and is nothing like the packets of crostini you can buy in supermarkets in the UK. Basically it’s posh toast with an array of toppings to choose from and we chose porcini mushroom/pecorino and ham/goronzola. For a main dish I decided on gnocchi ragu which was a little disappointing as I am a huge fan of pasta and it didn’t live up to my expectations.
On our last day in Florence we stumbled across a food market. As foodies this would definitely have been on our itinerary if we had known about it beforehand so we were so pleased to come across it. The market was packed with stalls selling everything from vegetables, meat and fish to fresh pasta, wine and olive oil. We stopped for lunch at one of the stalls that were serving a mixed platter of Italian food, fresh from local producers. It was one of the most delicious things I had seen all holiday and was filled with various meats, cheeses, crostini and fruit and drizzled with honey, olive oil and balsamic. My god it was good!
We travelled back to Pisa that afternoon and set ourselves the challenge of finding a good restaurant for our ‘last supper’. We found one hidden down one of the back streets with a handful of tables outside under candle light and ordered what the waitress recommended in the hope of eating a traditional Tuscan dinner. To start, we were served with complimentary savoury doughnuts and a bread basket (this is something the Italians know how to do!). I then ate slow cooked beef with mash which was divine and K had wild boar pappardelle which was also yummy. For dessert we chose a couple of dishes we couldn’t pronounce and both tasted like a combination of tiramisu and panna cotta. It was a great choice for our last night!
So as you can see we ate like kings during our stay in Tuscany and I have to say it was some of the best food I’ve ever had on a holiday. Certainly better than what we ate in Rome a couple of years ago, however I thing it paid off finding restaurants away from the main tourist areas as the standard of food was far higher and more affordable. I hope this blog post hasn’t made you too hungry and don’t forget to check out my Italy vlogs!