Tuscany—just the mention of its name is enough to get you dreaming of traditional recipes passed down the generations, earthy red wines, and endless rolling hills. Many destinations claim to be an international food capital, but few have the enduring reputation of this Italian gem to back it up.
For centuries, food and beverage have been much more than bare necessities in Tuscany. They are a way of life that spark joy and bring friends and family together.
It’s no wonder, then, that visitors from all over the world flock to this beautiful region to savor unforgettable wine and cuisine. To help you make the most of visiting this incredible region, here are our top tips for visiting Tuscany on a gastronomic journey.
#1: Tuscany Offers More than Its Legendary Wine
The most well-known wine of Tuscany is the Chianti Classico, a very dry red that is typically light to medium bodied. Montepulciano and Montalcino are also popular favorites of the region, and you shouldn’t leave Tuscany without trying all of them.
However, as with any good wine region, there are other varieties, like the unusual red blend Tignanello, that is equally delectable. Although over 80% of Tuscan wine is red, there are some can’t-miss white wine varietals like the fresh and fruity Trebbiano.
Asking a winemaker about their favorite local vineyard will help you find some hidden gems that you’d have missed otherwise. When planning your vineyard itinerary, be sure to leave a few gaps so you can squeeze in a few locals’ favorite spots.
#2: Long, Sleepy Lunches Are The Norm
Although Tuscany may have a notorious international reputation, many of the villages are sleepy with traditions that have lasted for centuries. One of these is that of “Riposo” or “Pausa Pranzo”, where workers go home to have a long lunch with their families, closing down their business for several hours.
While some of the larger restaurants and wineries in Tuscany stay open all day, don’t be surprised if you see many smaller places closed up from about 1:30 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. or later. So if you see a shop you’d like to browse, or you have your heart set on visiting a particular cafe, it’s safest to visit in the morning or later afternoon.
#3: Recommended Approach to Wining & Dining
Tuscan food needs no introduction. Just the mere thought of it is enough to excite your taste buds! Food differs greatly from region to region in Italy; in Tuscany, you can expect particularly incredible traditional cheeses (pecorino is a favorite), salamis and figs, amongst other dishes.
These are perfect for platters, so it’s no surprise that many wineries offer up a delectable selection to enjoy during your visit.
Although there are no hard and fast rules, it’s generally better to wait until after your tasting to enjoy the cuisine. The gorgeous flavors of Tuscan food can influence the taste of the wine, meaning it might not taste how you remember if you enjoy it later. It’s best to savor your wine uncompromised, and then enjoy the delicious produce after.
When it’s time to pay for your meal, be aware that tipping is modest in Tuscany. Generally, a few euros to round up the bill is all that is expected, and many locals do not tip at all. Of course, you are welcome to be more generous if you wish.
#4: Order Coffee at the Bar, Hold the Alcohol
When you’re in Tuscany, you might be surprised at the number of signs advertising bars, and their popularity all day. These are not, however, your average American bar – they serve mostly coffee. Coffee is serious business in Tuscany, and is almost exclusively enjoyed as a rich and delicious espresso (short black).
The coffee culture is quite different in Tuscany; often it is sipped up at the bar, close to the barista rather than at your own table. There isn’t really the strong ‘coffee shop’ culture like there is in the USA. It’s unusual to remain at the bar after you’ve finished your coffee. You’ll notice locals enjoy their espresso, and they’re on their way. Also, tipping is not required for coffee, although you could leave a coin or two if you wish.
Most Tuscans drink espresso early in the day (before about 11am), as it is high in caffeine. If you do indulge later in the day, you might want to try ammazzacaffè, a liquor that literally translates to ‘coffee killer’ and is said to help you sleep uninterrupted.
#5: Learn the Language
Italians greatly appreciate when you make attempts to speak their language, but it’s especially true in Tuscany. As many locals will tell you, it’s said to be the place where Italian first originated, and they are very proud of it!
Even just a couple of words of Italian are sure to immediately ingratiate you with your hosts. In the tourism industry, it is likely that they will speak English – however, a simple greeting in Italian will still be appreciated and received with a smile.
Don’t worry if you feel silly or your pronunciation isn’t perfect; it’s very much the thought that counts, and Italian is a largely phonetic language. Some basics you should practice include: “Buongiorno” (hello), “Grazie” (thank you) and, perhaps most importantly, “Vino, per favore!” (wine, please!).
Let us plan your next Tuscan trip! We’ll handle the details for a perfect stay, so you can take in every bite and sip! Contact Food & Wine Trails today to learn more about our planning services!