by Rick Steves, December 20, 2019
Sampling Italian cuisine is sightseeing for your palate. The tour plan: Start with fresh ingredients and talented cooks, take in a city’s personality, and seek out a happy dining crowd. Experiencing Italy’s cafés, cuisine, and wines is a joy, and as the capital of Tuscany, Florence offers a particularly satisfying spread.
Tuscan cuisine is hearty and simple farmer’s food: grilled meats, high-quality seasonal vegetables, fresh herbs, prized olive oil, and rustic bread. Tuscan riboleta combines these ingredients into a savory bean-and-bread soup. If a dish’s name ends with “alla toscana” or “alla fiorentina,” that means it’s cooked in the Tuscan or Florentine style — usually a preparation highlighting local products.
Restaurant competition in Florence is fierce, so it’s easy to find delicious Tuscan specialties at fair prices — even in the most touristy zones. But for the most authentic ambience and better-quality meals, I like to hike across the Arno River to the quiet Oltrarno neighborhood. This is where I find the tastiest bistecca alla Fiorentina — thick T-bone steak, generally grilled very rare and lightly seasoned. The best (and most expensive) is from the white Chianina breed of…