Florence is an ideal destination for educational trips, but for those with a culinary focus it is perhaps even more so. The region takes students into the heart of Tuscany, where the food demonstrates what is truly unique about Italian cuisine. Students will have their senses bombarded by the wonderful ingredients and cuisine to experience.
Bread and Oil
The fundamentals of Florentine food are bread and olive oil. Basic as these ingredients may seem, when they are injected with the passion that exists in this region the resultant dishes are amongst the best in the world.
Bread comes in all shapes and sizes and is used in all aspects of Tuscan cuisine. Traditionally, bread in Tuscany comes unsalted and this tradition stems from 1540 when Pope Paolo III levied a tax on salt. This made it prohibitively expensive to continue to eat salt and the Tuscans have continued this practice to the present day.
Students on educational trips will learn, while here, that no bread is wasted in Tuscany. It is, of course, served as an accompaniment, but it is also used extensively in the dishes themselves. Tuscans use bread to make dishes such as Panzanilla, which is a cold soup made from stale bread and tomatoes, and Ribolitta, another soup that uses bread and beans. (If you struggle with unsalted bread there are many bakeries throughout Florence that also offer the salted variety.)
The Main Event
Tuscan cuisine stems from the region’s rustic roots and many Tuscans are meat lovers. Traditional dishes for meat eaters include those made from Cinghiale (wild boar) and Faraona (guinea fowl). The special Florentine T-bone steak will please even the most exacting meat eater and Game Ragu is a speciality served in many trattorias. One food some adventurous students on educational trips may choose to try (but which is definitely not for the faint hearted) is the trippaio (tripe) sandwich – served from many roadside stands.
In Florentine cuisine, pasta is served with many game sauces, including duck and venison, and risotto is another favourite, using the abundance of fresh produce available in the region. Mushrooms are often utilised along with the archetypal Florentine addition, spinach. For those who prefer fish and seafood, Risotto Nero alla Fiorentina is a local speciality made from black rice and cuttlefish.
A Sweet Ending
For those with a sweet tooth, the Florentine version of Tiramisu is Zuccotto, but probably the most popular way to round off a meal is with some Cantuccini and Vin Santo. Vin Santo, which literally translates as ‘holy wine’, is a Tuscan dessert wine served with almond biscuits that are dipped into it. Another Tuscan favourite dessert is Panforte, which is a huge dome shaped cake made with candied fruit and nuts and flavoured with cinnamon or vanilla. Of course, as in all regions of Italy, there is always gelato in numerous flavours as well as the delicious semi-freddo, which is a cross between a mousse and an ice-cream.