Florence and the surrounding countryside are home to countless types of tasty foods. From red wine to saffron, onions to beef, there’s plenty to choose from when it comes to treating your taste buds to the best of Italian cuisine. Italy is famous for its sagre and fiere, where they showcase the season’s best products, so if you’re in town during one of these events, we highly recommend grabbing a sample and wandering through the stalls to see what the fuss is all about! Check out our list of some of the area’s top products, as well as a few fairs and festivals in each area.
The Certaldo onion has such a long history that you can even find it in Boccaccio’s Decameron. This local variety of red onion boasts a sweet flavour and comes in two types: the statina, a kind of spring onion eaten in the spring and summer, and the vernina, which is wider and can be found during the autumn. Both can be used in many different dishes, like soups, meat courses and salads.
If artichokes are your thing, then look no further than Empoli and Certaldo, both home to a long, compact and bright green variety. The Empoli artichoke is generally harvested between April and June, and this is done by hand! The vegetable is extremely versatile, and goes great with dishes like a classic risotto.
The area around Florence is known for producing PDO Chianti Classico extra-virgin olive oil and Toscano Colline di Firenze PGI oil. In November and December, when the olives are harvested and pressed, you can find many extra-virgin olive oil fairs and festivals, as well as lots of olive presses open to the public, allowing visitors to see how the product is made. We recommend trying some fettunta while you’re in the area, toasted bread with garlic and extra-virgin olive oil.
October is the month of saffron, made from the beautifully-scented Crocus sativus flower. During the season, they are harvested and the bright red stigmas are broken off and dried. The whole process is done by hand, making it a very different product than the saffron commonly found on the market in powder form. You can use saffron in many recipes, like risotto or even biscuits and other desserts infused with it.
There are two kinds of winds produced in the area around Florence that are renowned throughout the world: Chianti Classico DOCG and Chianti DOCG. The Chianti is broken down into four sub-areas of production: Chianti Rufina, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Chianti Montespertoli and Chianti Montalbano.
But there are also 4 DOC wines (Colli dell’Etruria Centrale, Pomino Bianco dell’Empolese and Vin Santo del Chianti) and 4 IGT wines (Alta Valle della Greve, Colli della Toscana Centrale and Toscana). Combined, they offer a wide range of choices for anyone looking to visit a winery in the countryside, or to sip some samples at the many fairs and festivals dedicated to wine and grapes.
If you want to pair wines with your meals as the Italians do, here are some tips:
- Young wines go well with classic Florentine recipes (steak, ribollita soup, bread and tomato soup, roast pork chine).
- Well-structured or aged wines are excellent with meat, game and local dishes (braised tripe, peposo stew).
The Mugello area is situated a few kilometres north of Florence, characterized by a wide, green valley with a variety of landscapes, like mountains, plains and rolling hills. This area stands out for its wonderful chestnut groves, where the famous PGI Mugello chestnuts are gathered, a particularly fine variety distinguished by its large size and stripes and the ease with which it can be peeled.
The Mugello is also famous for its cattle breeding, primarily the Chianina and Limousine breeds. For meat eaters, this is a great place to taste tortelli mugellani (Potato-filled ravioli) with meat sauce or a Florentine T-bone steak.
- Chestnut festival in Marradi in October
- Mugello agricultural fair in June