We met our guide, Elena, by the statue of Cosimo I on the civic heart of Florence, Piazza della Signoria. With Palazzo Vecchio (city hall) in all its rusticated glory towering near us, we waited for our Florence food tour group to gather. The historic piazza had seen celebrations, executions, and other public events over the years, but on this day it was filled with tourists gazing at the various statues dotting its landscape. My fellow tour-goers consisted of three U.S. couples from the south and one duo from the Midwest (my couple status was reduced to one since dear hubby was feeling under the weather). The small group was the perfect size to enjoy some of the best food in Florence. Since I was solo, I enjoyed the opportunity to make new friends.
Elena created an inviting and fun vibe for the group. As she guided us through our dining adventure, she interjected tidbits about Florence’s history or the food we were eating in a way that encouraged a laid-back, convivial atmosphere. We were all active participants with plenty of opportunity to chat while we dined, engage with each other, and ask Elena questions…and there seemed to be none to which she didn’t know the answer. With her command of Italian and relaxed manner, our group seemed completely at ease. The “Delicious Florence Food Tour” was a Tuscan dinner party on the move and we were devouring Florence one bite at a time.
To tantalize our stomachs and get them primed for dinner (and offset the effects of the vino), we started our food tour at Budellino. Here we were served our choice of red or white wine and a delicious smattering of antipasto. Salty, delicious salame, finocchiona, and prosciutto were served with Florence’s traditional unsalted bread. Although there are several stories as to why there is no salt in the bread (high salt tax, other food too salty, etc.), my favorite is one regarding a rivalry between Pisa and Florence where the Pisans prevented salt shipments. Whether it is true or not, who knows, but nonetheless the bread lacks salt.
Tuscan bread’s blandness, however, makes it the perfect ingredient for another Florentine delight we sampled…pappa al pomodoro. This tomato soup, drizzled with local olive oil, is simmered with bread, basil, and a few other ingredients to make an immensely hearty (you can eat it with a fork) and satisfying soup.
Lastly, the Budellino staff served us Florentine’s favorite offal—lampredotto. This fourth stomach of the cow (because the first three just won’t do) is generally served with a verdant parsley sauce or a spicy chili oil on a crusty roll. The flavor is quite subtle. Although I’m generally not a fan of offal, I find lampredotto to be more delicate and not as assertive as other organ meat.
Having whetted our appetite, we moved on to our next stop—Antica Enoteca Lombardi. Here we learned about Chianti wine. We sampled two different vintages, which I found fruity and smooth. Their complexity was highlighted by a tasting of another of the region’s delicacies—truffles. A richly perfumed tartufo (truffle) pate on grilled bread complemented the wine fabulously.
Our next stop was on the other side of the Arno River (the Oltrarno), so we were able to cross the famed Ponte Vecchio. As we walked, Elena fed us bits of the city’s history talking about the artisans of Florence and the city’s most famous family—the Medici.
We stopped at Forno Pintucci for little bags of cantuccini (cookies) and soft bread sticks (reminiscent of pizza dough). These snacks were given to us to take home, which was good as we needed to save room for the main course of which we were about to indulge.
Located on a premises with historical ties to a noted Tuscan family, Toscanella Osteria, became the backdrop for the major feasting of the evening. A long table was elegantly set for our group. We settled in to hear about how the findings of Paolo Toscanelli (mathematician, astrologer, cosmographer) were used by Christopher Columbus to help secure funding for his voyages.
Surrounded by history, fun people, good food, and fine wine, I was in my glory. The staff brought out a pasta course of spaghetti in a spicy tomato sauce. Then came the big deal—the dish Florence is known for—bistecca alla Fiorentina. Every night the aroma of this t-bone steak grilling perfumes the air. It is intoxicating. The steak was served medium rare—as it should be—with roasted potatoes. It melted in my mouth. As it had been cut off the bone prior to serving, the waiter brought the remnants to our table. With relish and carnivorous abandon, I picked a bone clean while encouraging my fellow diners to do the same. One took me up on the offer. Another opted to video record my carnage.
Full and happy, we strolled back along the lanes of the Oltrarno to our last stop of the evening—Gelateria della Passera. Elena encouraged us to find the best gelato at artisanal shops with small batches of the frozen goodness in muted hues that match the color of the flavor portrayed. The sweet treat was a perfect end to our meal.
After our dessert, Elena walked with us to a central area of town so we could all find our various ways home. As rain lightly misted us, we said our goodbyes and left having had a lovely evening. The food tour intermingled bits of the city’s past, food history, and culture with delicious morsels of Florence’s finest cuisine. It offered the opportunity for me, a solo person for the night, to dine with people from all over and it gave me entry into some of Florence’s best restaurants. We received top quality food and wine, an expert guide, and a good time for a reasonable price. In all, I consider it quite a value. The Florence Food Tour by The Tour Guy was an amazing experience and one I won’t soon forget.
Going to Florence? Roaming Historian readers can save money on The Tour Guy tours! Just use the code “ROAMING” when booking to get 5% off of most small-group tours. Buon viaggio!
Disclosure: Roaming Historian may receive a small commission for tours booked with the code ROAMING. Although I received this tour gratis, all of my opinions are my own and I am under no obligation to write a favorable review, but I did because I truly enjoyed the tour and feel my readers would too.