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5 Foods You Must Try in Florence, Italy

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Thanks to its Tuscan location in the middle of the Chianti wine region, Florence offers plenty of delicious red wine as well as the perfect cuisine to pair it with. Here’s a look at what you should be eating on your next trip to this fabulous Italian city.

Florentine Steak

Travelers wanting a large, hearty plate of meat should order the bistecca alla Fiorentina. It’s meant to be sliced up and shared with others, but if you’re really hungry, you can always attempt to go it alone. The best cuts of this steak come from the Chianina cow (local to Tuscany) but run a little on the pricey side, so be prepared to spend about $50 for the good stuff. Those with a more delicate palate can enjoy the filetto al mirtillo, or the bilberry steak, a cut of beef similar to a filet mignon, but drenched in a sweet bilberry sauce (bilberries are closely related to blueberries). This mix of sweet and savory is unlike anything else, so make a point of trying it at least once during your trip to Florence — you can find it at Acqua Al 2, a restaurant popular with locals and visitors alike.

<em>Filetto al mirtillo,</em> steak drenched in bilberry sauce.
Filetto al mirtillo, steak drenched in bilberry sauce.

Bacelli (Fava Beans)

These fresh beans are often eaten raw, picked straight from the pod. They come accompanied by wedges of cheese, slices of cured meats like prosciutto and hunks of warm bread, making for a very simple yet delicious meal. The beans can also be cooked in a soup or added to salads, and can be picked up from a local vegetable stand or at the supermarket.

A fava bean paired with pecorino cheese, a slice of sausage and some bread. Photo by Donna Pucciani.
A fava bean paired with pecorino cheese, a slice of sausage and some bread. Image courtesy of Donna Pucciani.

Trippa alla Fiorentina 

This one isn’t for the faint of heart. Many Europeans eat tripe all the time, and as it’s not a popular dish in the US, Italy is a great spot to give it a try. You can eat it several ways, like thinly sliced and cooked in a warm broth by itself or in a sandwich, for instance. Lampredotto is a typical street food consisting of tripe topped with your choice of sauce — green herb, red (spicy) or brown gravy — and bread. A homestyle stew filled with vegetables, tripe and salty broth is the version you’ll often see at sit-down restaurants.

<em>Florentine tripe stew. Image courtesy of <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/dl2_lim.mhtml?src=JnSm7_c9FMUK_EIfMO5xJw-1-36&amp;clicksrc=download_btn_inline&amp;id=408475099&amp;size=medium_jpg&amp;submit_jpg=" target="_blank">Shutterstock</a>.</em>
Florentine tripe stew. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Wild-Boar Pasta

Homemade pappardelle or fettuccine topped with a wild-boar ragu is a specialty in Florence, and is best paired with a glass of full-bodied Chianti — if you aren’t feeling the wild boar, you can always substitute pork, lamb or veal, but the boar seems to absorb the delicious gravy just perfectly. It’s definitely a heavy meal though, so make sure you’re extra hungry!

<em>Home-cooked pappardelle with wild boar. Image courtesy of Donna Pucciani.</em>
Home-cooked pappardelle with wild boar. Image courtesy of Donna Pucciani.

Anything and Everything at the Mercato Centrale

Florence’s Mercato Centrale is a feast for the eyes, nose and stomach. Start by wandering the first floor and purchasing goods to use for a picnic, like freshly sliced proscuitto or Scamorza cheese.

The downstairs area of the Mercato Centrale, where you can buy food items to take home.
The downstairs area of the Mercato Centrale, where you can buy food items to take with you.

Then head upstairs for a meal. Peruse the many food stalls offering traditional dishes like sandwiches, snacks, pizza, seafood and various meat and pasta specialties. Grab some beer or wine at the bar, then sit at one of the nearby tables and enjoy your meal. I usually go to the most crowded stand and try whatever everyone else is ordering since it’s usually something really good.

Do what the locals do and try some mushrooms.
Do what the locals do and try some mushrooms from the market.

As always, a delicious, hand-filled cannoli makes the perfect dessert.

They fill the cannoli's upon order at the small dessert cart upstairs.
Vendors at Mercato Centrale sell fresh, made-to-order cannolis from the small dessert cart upstairs.

What are your favorite foods to try in Italy? Tell us about them, below.

Featured image and all other images are courtesy of the author unless otherwise noted.

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