Culinary walks/ Europe/ Italy

Florence – The Other Side of Florence Food Tour

Florence food tour

My initial impression of Florence on the day of arrival was that it was a very beige city… same color, different shades wherever one turned in the historical centre. You can read about my impressions in my Florence Travel Guide – how to survive the beige.

I hoped that the neighbourhoods on the other side of the Arno, where the Oltrarno Florence food tour took place, would inspire more confidence with vibrant dishes that gave Tuscany it’s reputation for the best produce and food in the country.

RESERVATION

The Florence food tour, like the one in Rome, was booked via the Eating Italy website. I received the booking confirmation and directions for the tour within 24 hours of booking.

Unlike the previous food tours however, I noticed that the questionnaire for the Florence food tour did not include any questions about food and drink exclusions. I emailed the company separately to request halaal options for food and drink.

LOCATION

The tour started off from Piazza Nazario Sauro, a meeting place on a corner opposite the very busy Carraia bridge over the river Arno. I had taken a slow walk from my hotel close to the central station, and reached the meeting place within 30 minutes, stopping to admire the view and take in the scenery along the way.

Our Tour group leader Omar Aziz soon had us traversing the quirky residential neighbourhoods, eating and learning as we went.

The tour is offered daily, except Sunday, at 10:00am and usually lasts about 4 hours.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

I must confess that I loved this food tour, more than any of the others I took in Italy. From the Budino di Riso to the melt in the mouth cecina and cantuccini to the potato filled pasta, every mouth full was a revelation in flavour and taste.

If you are visiting Rome you can read about how to make the best of a short stay here and about my Roman Taste of Testaccio food tour experience here.

Bar Le Nuvole – Borgo San Frediano, 31

Our first stop was at a small bar where we enjoyed a Machiatone and a traditional rice pudding tart known as Budino di Riso. I had tasted one the previous day and had not been very impressed by the stiff tasteless offering. However, the tart at Le Nuvole was still warm and infused with the flavour of lemon. It was a bright start to the food filled day.

We utilised the small, albeit clean washrooms before moving on to the next stop.

Florence food tour

First stop

Florence food tour

Machiatone and rice pudding tart

Macelleria Mignani – Borgo San Frediano, 127

We entered the butcher shop or macelleria of Alessandro and Donatella with hearty greetings (recommended by the tour leader Omar) and learned more about the business that has been in the family for two generations. It has moved locations in the forty years or so that it has been in operation but still retains the heart and soul of the small butcher shop operated by Alessandro’s father. Samples of Finocchiona salami (flavoured with fennel) were offered to other participants and I was happy to have a slice of Cecina, a Tuscan chickpea flour pancake.

Omar came ready with his flip file and showed us pictures of cattle taller than a man… the origin of the Bisteca ala Fiorentina. The butcher shop had various cuts of beef as well as offal and other meats and really would be a delight for any home cook to shop at.

Florence food tour

Finochionna and Cecina

Florence food tour

Florence food tour

Salumi

L’Angolo Saporito – Via Sant’Onofrio, 7-r

Our next stop was a bakery selling fresh hand made breads and other artisanly produced baked goods including tray bake pizzas, cecina and Cocoli, the crispy dough balls filled with cheese that we tasted.

The owners Alessia and Beppe, use their backgrounds to create a delightful fusion of Neapolitan and Tuscan staples.

Florence food tour

Cocoli

Florence food tour

Cecina

Florence food tour

Pizza tray bakes

I’ Trippaio di San Frediano – Piazza dei Nerli

Lampredotto sounds like an interesting name doesn’t it? It is the fourth stomach of the cow cooked with parsley, tomato and onion and is used in a classic Tuscan sandwich called Panino con Lampredotto.

We stopped by Simone’s food truck to see him work his magic on the cooked tripe, skilfully chopping and adding salsa verde, parsley, capers, extra virgin olive oil and chili oil before piling it onto a crispy bread roll. It was not halaal so I did not partake of this delicacy, but quite enjoyed watching it being made and enjoyed by the others.

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Pasticceria Buonamici – Via dell’Orto, 12

I have always loved the crispy Italian cookies sold and marketed as ‘Biscotti’ and was excited to see a Master baker at work making the cookies that are actually known as Cantucci.

The baking masterclass is held in the kitchens of the Pasticerria Buonamici, a family owned business operating since 1949. It is now under the stewardship of the third generation of the same family. Before we entered the kitchen we were handed disposable hair covers and overalls to wear in order to maintain the hygiene standards in the kitchen.

It was almost hypnotic watching Roberto, the recently retired owner, make the almond cantucci from scratch using freshest ingredients. Nothing beats the taste of slightly warm cantuccini laden with fruits and nuts baked earlier that morning.

Florence food tour

Roberto and Rosella

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Alimentari Sandro and Ivana – Via Dei Serragli, 39

This cheese and cured meats shop had the most inviting aroma. However, it is very small and not really suitable for large crowds. The group sampled some cured meats which I could not eat, as well as some wedges of Pecorino and Parmigiana Reggiano.

Florence food tour

Fiaschetteria Fantappié – Via Dei Serragli, 47

A few shops down from Sandro and Ivana’s grocery store is the wine shop specialising in Chianti from Tuscany. This wine has DOP status (Protected Designation of Origin) and is available on tap for refill of your own bottle.

The owner Luca explained the origin of the Black Rooster (Gallo Nero) on Tuscan wine bottles and offered the group glasses of his excellent wines. I enjoyed a refreshing fruit juice with the beautifully crafted Bruschetta pomedoro.

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Trattoria I’Raddi – Via D’Ardiglione, 47

Lunch was served at a neighbourhood trattoria in the Santo Spirito neighbourhood. Unless you know it’s there, you are unlikely to find it down an unassuming lane.

This was a popular lunch venue and it was bustling when we arrived. We were seated with a view of the kitchen, while learning about the sport of Florentine football. Apparently Calcio Storico (historical football) as it is called is an early form of football without any rules except that players may not attack the one the one with the ball. Four teams from the different quarters of the city still meet annually to compete in Piazza Santa Croce.

The first dish was a hearty Tuscan bread and tomato soup called Pappa col Pomedoro. It was surprisingly light and tasty. The other members of the group had a peppery beef stew called Peposa alla Fornacina. I had potato stuffed tortelli that defies description. It was presented simply with a sage butter dressing but the flavour and texture blew me away and it was my favourite dish of the tour.

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Gelateria della Passera – Via Toscanella, 15/red

The food tour came to it’s conclusion at the best gelato joint in town. Although I had tasted a great deal of delicious food, there was still place for gelato, always place for gelato! My choices of a scoop each of raspberry and lemon were perfect to end the meal. Other flavours include Peach, Pink grapefruit, Banana, Pistachio and Almond.

They do gluten free waffle cones as well so that no one is left out.

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Verdict

This food tour was an introduction to an authentic Italian residential neighbourhood where locals meet for lunch and dinner or a quick sandwich at a food truck.

Be prepared to never look at a sandwich in the same way again.

There is a lot of walking so wear comfortable shoes and always carry an umbrella and your bottle of water.

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36 Comments

  • Reply
    Nay
    August 4, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    Wow! What an interesting idea. I love to cook when I have time so would be really interested in finding out about so much new food.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 5, 2017 at 4:25 pm

      I find that it’s the quickest way to learn a lot about the place and the people while eating some good food along the way.

  • Reply
    Vlad
    August 4, 2017 at 9:15 am

    The food looks bomb! I was salivating looking at the pictures!! Glad you enjoyed Florence xx

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 5, 2017 at 4:19 pm

      Perhaps it’s just as well I didn’t stay longer to eat more of that good food or they would have to roll me out of there 🙂

  • Reply
    Ali Rost
    August 4, 2017 at 7:44 am

    As a food blogger, I especially loved your post. If my husband and I are ever lucky enough to go to Florence, you can bet we’d be ordering Pappa col Pomedoro (for her) and Peposa alla Fornacina (for him). Along with some Italian wine to wash it all down! x

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 5, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      The speciality of the region is Chianti and you can buy some from the wine shop where they have it on tap 🙂 Another vegetarian dish that I loved was the chickpea flour pancake and I would definitely recommend that too.

  • Reply
    Christopher Mitchell
    August 4, 2017 at 2:32 am

    I’ve got to be honest, I had a hard time scrolling past Marcelleria Magnani based on those pictures. I’ve recently being trying to consume a more plant based diet, but there’s something about high quality meat that always piques my interest. Honestly, you did a fantastic job covering the highlights here, well done!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 5, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      Thank you for your kind words. Although I am accustomed to butcher shops because I’ve been in and out of them since I was a child, I loved the history of this one. They had the usual cuts of meat but also a variety of offal on display that reminded me of our own home cooked dished.

  • Reply
    Ana De- Jesus
    August 3, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    Well I love bread and I love cheese so the cocoli looks divine. Also I am going to Tuscany in September so this was really useful for me x

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 5, 2017 at 4:09 pm

      Have a great time in Tuscany! There is no shortage of cheese shops and bakeries so you will be able to eat bread and cheese to your heart’s content.

  • Reply
    yukti
    August 3, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Wow your post makes me hungry! Food tour of any specific culture makes you fall in love with that place as through food we connect well. Nice tour. I loved the preparation of Almond Cantucci. Will try this by myself.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 3, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      The cookie making was my favourite part of the tour. I can still smell the fresh lemon zest and the smell of freshly baked cantuccini.

  • Reply
    Made Adayasa
    August 3, 2017 at 2:27 am

    A great experience , I’v been to many places in Italy but never been to Florence . Wish I can get there one day again and I will surely visit Florence .

    Thanks for sharing

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 3, 2017 at 7:11 pm

      I hope you have the opportunity to do so because it’s a lovely city with delicious food.

  • Reply
    Ania Travels
    August 2, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    This looks like such a great tour, I love how involved you got and not just got to eat the food. I miss florence.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 2, 2017 at 6:45 pm

      I loved the simplicity of the food that was so flavourful and tasty… even the tomato bruschetta was amazing!

  • Reply
    Emily
    August 2, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    I love going on food tours when I visit a country. It such a great way to learn about the culture.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 2, 2017 at 3:06 pm

      Same here… I find that the best places are perhaps a bit off the beaten path from where foreign or even local tourists usually go. The tour guides are usually locals who know the people and how they express their culture through their food.

  • Reply
    Besties Notepad
    August 2, 2017 at 6:50 am

    The best thing about the food tours: you get to see more, you get to taste more (food).
    Love the way, Cantucci is made. 🙂

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 2, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      I loved watching him make it… I only included a few of the photos but I have one for each step of the process and every turn of the flour 🙂

  • Reply
    Nicole Anderson | Camping for Women
    August 2, 2017 at 6:10 am

    This is a tour I would love to experience. I love the area and Italian cuisine so much. Thanks so much for the write up and photos – I will definitely do this when in the area.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 2, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      I am so happy you enjoyed the post. I hope you take the tour or use the address details in the post to find the places for yourself 🙂

  • Reply
    Mal
    August 2, 2017 at 2:33 am

    Great post, thanks for sharing. I especially liked the walkthrough of biscotti creation at Pasticceria Buonamici and the look of tortelli at Trattoria I’Raddi, I’d eat that!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 2, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      It was quite hypnotic watching the biscotti making process unfold, and so much simpler than I imagined. That tortelli was my dish of the day and I had no hopes for enjoying a pasta with potato filling!

  • Reply
    Jen S
    August 1, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    All that food looks absolutely delicious! I need to go to Italy and just eat for a couple weeks.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 1, 2017 at 11:46 pm

      I was so concerned about having to eat pasta and pizza all the time, especially since I have a gluten sensitivity. Fortunately, I had little or no reaction to the pizza and pasta however, except loving every bite.

  • Reply
    aish das-padihari
    July 22, 2017 at 2:04 am

    I wish I had read this post when I was visiting Florence a couple of years ago. I will have to save the tips for the next time. But yes, you did bring back some of the memories.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      July 23, 2017 at 10:42 am

      On the first day I was quite concerned that I my stay in Florence would be too long, because it looked so beige and boring. By the time I left, I wish I had more time to explore and enjoy the slow pace.

  • Reply
    Amanda
    July 21, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    There are so many yummy choices! I love the markets.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      July 23, 2017 at 10:41 am

      One of my favorite outings was actually the day after the food tour, when I took a walk to the Central Market after visiting the Uffizi gallery… the variety of produce is astounding and I ate the most delicious fresh fish and chips.

  • Reply
    Claire@foodiequine
    July 21, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Food tours are an excellent way to see a city. This one looks amazing, what a huge selection and seeing where the locals eat is a huge bonus. If I ever visit Florence I know for sure I will try this food tour ( trainers will be packed).

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      July 23, 2017 at 10:39 am

      I definitely would not have seen so much of the local haunts and favorite foods had I not taken this tour. The residential neighbourhoods and eateries are completely unlike the historical centre.

  • Reply
    Kavey Favelle
    July 21, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    I absolutely love doing food tours like this in a new city, it’s really such a great way to get a taste of many local specialities and leaving the tour company to select the places where each of those foods is a really good example. I’m particularly loving the sweet treats such as the biscotti and budino di riso!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      July 23, 2017 at 10:37 am

      I love rice pudding and the Budino di Riso on the food tour was so flavorful and delicious.

  • Reply
    Sandi
    July 21, 2017 at 7:50 am

    What an amazing experience. This is going on my bucket list.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      July 23, 2017 at 10:36 am

      It is well worth it to learn about the food culture and customs.

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