A visit to one of the many bakeries in the region is a must for anyone visiting Tuscany. The reason? To taste some of our local delicacies which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Just as Sicily has cannoli, and Campania its babà, Tuscany, too, has many great sweet specialties. Here are just a few:
These biscuits are found all over Tuscany in various flavours such as fig, almond and chocolate. To taste the classic cantucci, step inside Mattei’s shop in Prato, the oldest producer in Tuscany.
Cavallucci from Siena have a soft texture and contain nuts and spices. According to tradition Cavallucci get their name, which loosely translates as ‘littlehorses’, because they were originally served to servants who worked in the stables. Pellegrino Artusi speaks highly of them in his famous cookbook, “The science of cooking and the art of eating well”.
These biscuits also originate in Siena, and are the first Italian dessert to receive the coveted PGI certification from the European Union. Made principally with almonds, ‘ricciarelli’ are typical Christmas biscuits in Tuscany.
4. Brutti Buoni
Brutti Buoni are made with crushed almonds, sugar, flour and eggs and are usually baked after a long rising. Crispy on the outside and soft inside, “brutti buoni” (which literally means ugly but good) are usually served as a dessert with a glass of Tuscan Vin Santo.
5. Cialde di Montecatini
It is a very simple sweet specialty, without added fats or preservatives, made up of two fragrant wafers composed of flour, sugar, milk, eggs and crushed almonds.
6. Amaretto Santacrocese
Amaretto Santacrocese is a traditional biscuit from Santa Croce sull'Arno (Pisa area) produced exclusively with almond flour, sugar, eggs and flavoured with lemon peel. It is said it was born in town at the Convent of the cloistered-order nuns in 1800 and today it's produced especially at Christmas.
7. Befanini biscuits
In Italian folklore, La Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout the country on Epiphany Eve – the night between 5 and 6 January. To celebrate the Epiphany or the “Befana” some families use to prepare “Befanini” biscuits. Animals, stars, hearts, witches, befanini usually have many different shapes and are made from a mixture of flour, eggs, milk, butter and orange zest with coloured sugar on top. Although Befanini come from the Lucca area, today you can find them throughout the Region.
Is there a Tuscan biscuit that you have tried, and simply can’t forget?
[This is an update of a previous post by Cinzia Risaliti]