Located in central Italy, Florence is the regional capital of Tuscany. The city has a rich history, beginning as a Roman city, becoming a trade centre during the medieval period, and being known as the birthplace of the Renaissance in the 14th century. Today, Florence attracts millions of tourists each year. Visitors flock to see cultural beacons like The Duomo, a domed cathedral dating back to the 1400s or to peruse artworks at places like the Uffizi Gallery or the Galleria dell'Accademia where Michelangelo’s Davis sculpture is on view. Of course, there’s plenty more to see, including the marble sculpture the Fountain of Neptune and the famous Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge. But art and architecture isn’t all there is to Florence. Foodies will be pleased to know it’s got a great food scene, with dishes originating from those that peasants relied on. Food carts line the streets, where you can try out all kinds of street food. Here we’ve listed some of the best street food you must try in Florence.
1. Trippa (tripe)
Much of Florence’s food is meat-based, with the whole animal being used historically, and the first option on our list certainly reflects that. Trippa, or tripe in English, is the stomach lining of farm animals, most typically cows and sheep. Tripe is found in other areas of Italy, but the Florentine version is made using a tomato sauce. Tripe is sautéed with veggies and parsley before adding tomatoes. Once the water boils out, it is deemed cooked. Parmesan and olive oil are added on top, and the street food version of trippa is served on top a slice of bread. There are plenty of food stands, called trippai, serving up trippa, so it won’t be hard to find them during your trip. It’s a real taste of Florentine history.
2. Lampredotto (dish made of abomasum)
Up next we have lampredotto, a dish similar to trippa. It’s specifically made from the last stomach — the fourth of a cow, and is a dish that is specific to Florence. It also has a tomato base and is cooked with vegetables and parsley. It’s served with bread, often as a sandwich. This makes it an excellent item to take out as you walk around the city. It is perfect for when you come out of a museum and need some fill. If you’re after something that’s specifically Florentine, this is the street food to buy.
3. Bollito sandwich (beef sandwich with salsa fillings)
Another option for the sandwich lovers out there is the bollito sandwich. It’s a beef sandwich, with thickly-sliced meat. The beef is boiled, before being piled in a bun. If you ask for salsa, you’ll get a choice of herby green and spicy red salsa. You can also request for your sandwich to be “bagnato”, which means that the roll will be dipped in liquid. Nerbone’s is a famed place in Florence to taste bollito. There will likely be a queue, but these sandwiches are only a few euros and they’re delicious. The meat will melt in your mouth, and the salsa will give an extra kick and freshness.
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4. Schiacciata (Tuscan flatbread)
Schiacciata is a Tuscan flatbread, and a quintessential part of life in Italy. It’s similar to focaccia, but instead of being soft and chewy, schiacciata has a crispy crust that people can’t get enough of. Italians eat it as a regular snack, pairing it with meat or tomatoes. The bread gets its classic crispy texture due to a long fermentation process of the dough, which gets brushed with olive oil during the bread-making process. Tuscans have been eating this bread since the 15th century, so when you bite into a crispy slice on the streets of Florence, you can really feel like you’re enjoying a piece of history.
5. Crostini (Italian mini toasts with toppings)
Up next we’ve got another bread-based option. Crostini, which means little crusts, are tiny toasts with toppings, typically served as an appetiser. The bread is either toasted or grilled, and there’s a wide variety of toppings to chose from. You can go simple and brush with a bit of olive oil with herbs. You may top it with cheese, meat, or vegetables, or a combination of all three! Crostini likely date back to the medieval times, when peasants ate their food off slices of bread instead of plates. Drop by a wine bar, order a glass of vino (wine), and crostini to enjoy along with your drink.
6. Coccoli (crispy fried ham and cheese balls)
One of Florence’s most popular street foods is a simple ball of dough called coccoli. These small dough balls are fried in olive oil, and often stuffed with ham and creamy stracchino cheese. They date back to the 1950s when restaurants would serve coccoli as a snack to accompany with drinks — typically a glass of wine. Coccoli translates to cuddles in English, and you can imagine why!
7. Gelato (frozen dessert)
A trip to Florence isn’t truly a trip to Florence until you’ve had gelato. This frozen treat dates back to the 16th century, with many believing it was invented in Florence. Italian-born chef Francesco Procopio Dei Coltelli is credited with introducing gelato to the rest of Europe at his restaurant in Paris. So what is gelato? It’s similar to ice cream, but not quite the same. Gelato has more milk than ice cream, but less cream and eggs, and is churned much more slowly. This means gelato is thicker than ice cream, and often has a richer flavour. Traditional flavours include vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio. But of course you can find just about any flavour today. And with over 5,000 ice cream parlours in Italy, you can’t avoid a gelateria in Florence.
8. Bombolone (Italian doughnuts)
Here we have another sweet treat: bombolone. It’s a filled doughnut, served as a snack or dessert. They can be found all over Italy, but it is believed that bombolone originated in Tuscany. They are different from other filled doughnuts. The filling is administered through the top of the doughnut rather by than the side. Typical fillings include chocolate, custard, and marmalade. They are often eaten while they’re still warm, and can be found all over Florence in bakeries and sold from carts around the city.
9. Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan bread soup)
Pappa al Pomodoro is an ancient bread soup dish which originated in Tuscany. It uses quintessential Italian ingredients like tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and garlic, along with bread. The bread is typically older bread which has gone a bit stale. These ingredients mix together to create a thick stew. Historically it would have been a way to use up old bread without letting it go to waste. The dish can be served up hot or cold, and originally was a dish only eaten in the warmer months. These days, you can find it year-round in Florence, and there are plenty of street food vendors serving it up.
10. Ribollita (thick Tuscan stew)
We’ll end our list with another Tuscan soup: ribollita. It is a thick soup made with bread, vegetables, and cannelloni beans. It’s thought to date back to the Middle Ages, and like much of the other food from Tuscany, has its roots in the peasant class. Its name means reboiled, and as people would reheat previous days’ soups to make ribollita, this makes perfect sense. If you visit Florence in the colder months and need something cosy and warming, this is the dish to seek.
So many delicious dishes to try
Florence offers delicious fare by the streets to try when you need to refuel. From sweet delights like gelato to meaty dishes like trippa. So do be sure to check out some of these culinary options during your trip to Florence.
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