The Eating Guide to Tuscany, Italy

Italy

More than a decade has passed since Under the Tuscan Sun was released, and Tuscany is still as breathtaking as ever. The plan to explore the region is simple – get a car and drive take the autostradas up to charming hilltop towns and wineries. When you head to the rolling hills, homemade pastas and meats rule the Tuscan palate. 

Look forward to: Ragu, handmade pasta and wine.

Gelateria dei Neri

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Area: Florence
Where:
 Via dei Neri, 9/11, 50122 Firenze, Italy
What: Gelato
For: After meal sweets

The search for the authentic gelato in Florence is no mean feat, but Gelateria dei Neri is a household name amongst Florentines for the right Italian ice-cream. Traditional flavours like nocciola, pistachio and limone are golden. For a bite of something more unique, granita (Italian ice that originates in Sicily) comes in mandarin, pink grapefruit and mint flavours. 

Trattoria Sabatino

Area: Florence
Where: Via Pisana, 2R, 50143 Firenze
What: Anything
For: Cheap Italian fare

When it’s time to get off work, the Italians head to Trattoria Sabatino, a family-run eatery in Santo Spirito which seems to serve a locals-only crowd. You can hardly spot hordes of tourists in Sabatino, but instead find hungry Italians engaged in conversations over simple Tuscan fare. Food is dished out in small portions and prices start from €2. Try the mushroom salad, which are raw porcini mushrooms lightly drizzled with olive oil. 

La Schiacciateria

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Area: Florence
Where:
42/31, Via Di Novoli – 50127 Florence (FI) – Italy
What: Panini
For: Breakfast 

La Schiacciateria is the accidental breakfast find that became a routine stop every morning. It’s hard to choose between a pizza or a panino, but either way you won’t be disappointed. Simple ingredients are what makes its panino top-notch. Just prosciutto, mozzarella, rocket and a drizzle of olive oil sandwiched between focaccia. 

Il Latini

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Area: Florence
Where:
Via dei Palchetti, 6R, 50123 Firenze, Italy
What: Florentine steak
For: Dinner

Almost anyone who is a Florentine steak aficionado knows that Latini is the place to go in Florence if you want one that’s done right. Before you order a Florentine steak, know this – Florentine steaks are cooked rare on the inside and fully seared on the outside. No exceptions. Any beef cooked more than medium rare is not a bistecca alla Fiorentina. Ordering to the minimum weight set by the restaurant is a requirement. Rest assured that this large piece of steak can be shared. 

Caffè Sant’Ambrogio

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Area: Florence
Where:
 Piazza Sant’Ambrogio 7, Florence, Italy
What: Wine and anything on the menu
For: Drinks 

The Italian under-30 crowd can be found in Caffè Sant’Ambrogio in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio. After 8 pm, the piazza gets bustling, and the waiters at Caffè Sant’Ambrogio are busy handing out drinks to its patrons. This casual joint doesn’t burn a hole in your wallet and the menu satisfies a cosmopolitan palate – hamburger steak with melted cheese, and pasta with tuna pesto and olives. 

L’Altro Cantuccio

Area: Montepulciano
Where:
Via delle Cantine, 1, 53045 Montepulciano SI, Italy
What: Steaks
For: Romantic dining 

Matthia and Monica opened L’Altro Cantuccio in 2013, and has since been known to serve some of the best Chianina beef in Tuscany. Varied cooking styles of the Chianina beef makes up most of the menu here. The chef serves it grilled, raw (tatare or carpaccio style) or as a meat sauce for pastas. To go with the beef is an extensive wine list which boasts the best of Montepulciano wines. 

Il Pozzo

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Area: Montalcino
Where:
Piazza Castello, 53024 Montalcino – sant angelo in colle SI, Italy
What: Homemade pici pasta with breadcrumbs
For: Tuscan cuisine

In Sant’Angelo, Il Pozzo serves really handmade pastas (as they emphasised) and a wine list that boasts the best of Montalcino. Its owners, sisters Franca and Paola, are born and raised in this part of Tuscany, and learned everything about Tuscan cooking from their grandmothers. Don’t expect modern Italian cuisine here, but rather, Tuscan dishes from a simpler time. Handmade pici pasta with breadcrumbs is a local specialty, and so are the pappardelle al cinghiale and acquacotta. 

Da Enzo

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Area: Siena
Where:
Via Camollia, 49, 53100 Siena SI, Italy
What: Ragu and truffle salad
For: Tuscan cuisine 

Push past the tourist crowds in the main square to get to the quiet street of Via Camollia, where truffles and ragu are found in Da Enzo. You can’t resist the traditional Tuscan ragu cooked with homemade pappardelle and topped with a generous sprinkling of freshly grated cheese. You’ll wonder if an Italian nonna resides in the restaurant’s kitchen. Since you’re in the region, go all out with the truffle salad, a dish jam-packed with a generous shavings of this iconic Tuscan ingredient. 

Venice Travel Tips from Gionata Smerghetto, Venetian Blogger

Conversations with Locals

Venice may be overrun by tourists, but Venetian blogger Gionata Smerghetto knows just where to go and where to avoid in the City of Canals. Gionata reveals the one authentic Venetian dish to eat, a magical staircase for a view of the city, and why Venetians are campaigning for tourists to leave. 

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Photo: Gionata Smerghetto

What do you feel defines Venetian cuisine?

Venetian cuisine is strongly influenced by the Adriatic Sea. Fresh fish is the highlight of Venetian cuisine – full of delicate flavours, pure and immediate. The Rialto market is indeed the center of Venetian cuisine. Every morning at dawn, fresh fish is sold to the Venetians, who are masters at cooking it. The flavours and tastes are enhanced by the use of spices and oriental scents, originating from the historical trade of the Serenissima Republic with the East.

What is the one local dish you feel travellers can’t leave Venice without trying? 

My favourite Venetian dish that I recommend to any tourist is sarde in soar, which literally translates to sardines in flavour. It is historically a poor man’s dish, which was made using the cheap but very popular fish, stored in a baking pan covered with onions and cooked in vinegar to ensure that the sardines are preserved for as long as possible. The modern version of sarde in saor have also introduced more ingredients, such as pine nuts and raisins. It is certainly a dish not to be missed for the flavour and history of Venice.

What about your favourite restaurants?

My favourite restaurants are found in the areas behind the Rialto Bridge. They are slightly out of the touristy central square, and are not commonly featured in tourist guides. The food is rich in flavour and close to the great Venetian fish market. My favourite places to eat are Al Raspo de Ua, Al Mercà, Antico Calice and Antico Forno. They are so pretty and honest!

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Photo: Gionata Smerghetto

Name one best kept secret of Venice 

One of the great secrets of Venice that I can give to tourists is to not stop in the usual tourist spots. The true Venice exists even in the most hidden streets, where you can see the authentic, everyday Venice. Try exploring using Google maps! 

The best way to experience Venice like a local is to explore it with a Venetian. I’d love to visit a city with local eyes, allowing you to see and appreciate the hidden corners of the city that never would have been identified. 

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Photo: Gionata Smerghetto

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Photo: Gionata Smerghetto

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in Venice

I think the traps to avoid for tourists are shops who are not managed by locals. Often, there are restaurants, bars and taverns opened by foreigners. In addition to the poor quality of food, you definitely pay too much for the service! And there’s no fresh Venetian fish!

Where can we go to see your favourite view of Venice?

My favourite view is of course at La Scala Contarini del Bovolo. It is a magical staircase in the heart of Venice; you will definitely feel immersed in the heart of the city and you have a 360 degree view of the Venetian landscape. It is less known to tourists, so I recommend it. 

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Photo: Gionata Smerghetto

Recently, there have been news reports of locals in Venice campaigning for tourists to leave the city.

Venice unfortunately turns out to be a very expensive city, not only for tourists but also for residents to live in. Due to the difficulty in building new buildings, it is hard for anyone to develop and upgrade the city. This has caused young people and even tourists to live on the mainland, travelling into Venice everyday by public transport. 

It’s a problem difficult to solve, partly because Venice is one of the most fascinating cities in the world, and at least once in their lives, tourists from all corners of the world want to see it. It is as if it there is always a carnival along the Venetian streets, which can sometimes put a strain on those living there.

WHERE TO EAT IN VENICE


Al Raspo de Ua
Where: Via San Martino Destro, 560, 30012 Burano, Venezia VE, Italy
For: Italian food

Al Mercà
Where: Campo Bella Vienna, 213, 30125 Venezia, Italy
For: Cichetti 

Antico Calice
Where: Calle dei Stagneri, 5228, 30124 San Marco, Venezia VE, Italy
For: Seafood

Antico Forno
Where: Calle dei Stagneri, 5228, 30124 San Marco, Venezia VE, Italy
For: Pizza

WHERE TO GO IN VENICE


Scala Contarini del Bovolo
Where: Via Montacuto, 121 60129 Ancona (AN)
For: A view of Venice

The Eating Guide to Cinque Terre, Italy

Italy

The Italian Riviera is bustling with tourists, and they are all in Cinque Terre – colourful villages atop steep cliffs where no cars dare venture. Life moves a little slower here. Locals carry their goods in hand drawn carts, fishermen go out to the sea for a fresh catch, and the lemon dressing from your plate is probably picked from the tree near the restaurant. These are the five villages, and they are beachy Monterosso, rugged Corniglia, beautiful Vernazza, traditional Manarola and calming Riomaggiore. Here, we seek out the taste of the Ligurian sea. 

Look forward to: Fresh seafood and Ligurian pesto

Ristorante Belforte

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Where: Via G. Guidoni, 42, 19018 Vernazza SP, Italy
What: Codfish ravioli with pesto
For: Romantic dining

Fresh seafood, homemade pesto and a view of the sea puts Ristorante Belforte on the top of everyone’s list. Ligurian recipes dominate the menu here. Ligurian pesto is the region’s most celebrated dish, and Belforte’s version has a creamy texture with a zesty lemon aftertaste. The Vernazza seafood salad is a mixture of steamed seafood topped with olive oil, lemon and parsley – the perfect antipasti to whet your appetite. Chances are that sea view seats are not guaranteed for walk-ins, so book in advance to get that spot by the sea. 

Trattoria Locanda Il Porticciolo

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Where: Via Renato Birolli, 92, 19017 Manarola di Riomaggiore SP, Italy
What: Roasted fish with vegetables
For: Variety

The casual Trattoria Locanda Il Porticciolo is hard to miss if you look out for the parked boats along Manarola’s main street. Local fish dishes are some of the restaurant’s top dishes. Dig into the pappardelle with swordfish, roasted fish with vegetables, and salted anchovies with peppers. 

Aristide

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Where: Via Discovolo, 290, Manarola, Italy
What: Eggs
For: Breakfast 

Breakfast eggs can be hard to come by in Italy, as locals go for a pastry and a coffee to start their day. Aristide provides a good Italian alternative to the all American breakfast. Omelettes are made with stretchy Italian cheese and parma ham. For something sweet, there is always a crostata. If you’re staying in Manarola, make this place your pitstop for your morning pick-me-up en route to the train station. 

Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre

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Where: Via Gavino, 36, 19018 Vernazza SP, Italy
What: Cannoli
For: Sicilian cuisine

We may be all the way up north of Italy, but the Sicilian palate is not lost in Cinque Terre. Massimo and Gianluca are the Sicilian brothers who opened Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre, which became a breakfast favourite in Vernazza. As expected from Sicilian cuisine, desserts and pastries are the extraordinary items on the menu. It gets busy during breakfasts, and a meal there is incomplete without trying the cannoli with ricotta cheese.