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15

VOYAGE

A Florentine Feast

Y

our most recent memory of Florence might be

of

Inferno

, the latest Dan Brown blockbuster,

a frenzied tale set in the city. But despite Tom

Hanks, Florence is the true star of the movie, not the gun-

brandishing assassins in Dante’s nine circles of Hell, tearing

through the Boboli Gardens in this Renaissance film set

of a city.

Beyond the selfie sticks and statuary awaits a funky

foodie haunt with sleek caf

é

s, fusion cooking and seriously-

edible markets. All this without losing its gutsy Tuscan

soul: traditional inns still serve earthy peasant feasts,

including macho steaks. Florence is a fiercely-masculine

city, from its virile nudes to its grand squares, gung-ho

art and monumental palaces. The food follows suit, and

is made for winter feasting, with wild boar, cow’s tripe

and suckling pig washed down with full-bodied Chianti

Classico. Faint-hearted Florentines can always retreat to the

chic fashion bars for vegetarian crostini.

Savvy foodies are crossing the river to the Oltrarno,

the bohemian side of the city. This artsy-crafty district

is studded with stylish bars and buzzy inns interspersed

with antique shops, jewellery makers, picture restorers

and bijou art galleries. Our walking tour with Eating Italy

Food Tours (

www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com

) is swiftly

enlivened by insider gossip and tastings. This Florentine

food safari drops into a shop for Maremman cheese, made

in Tuscany’s Wild West, where cowboys still round up the

cattle. Before we know it, we’re tucking into cow tripe.

Lampredotto

, the Florentine street-food snack, means the

fourth stomach of a cow, but is surprisingly delicious when

drenched in a spicy salsa. The Da Simone food stall (

Piazza

de’Nerli

) is where everyone from artisans to aristocrats

gathers over a tripe sandwich to mull over Fiorentina’s

footballing fortunes.

At times, this eclectic Oltrarno food safari evokes

the Left Bank in Paris. At La Cité (

Borgo San Frediano

20/r

) the group hops into a “library” bar, jazz lounge and

community café for coffee and rice pudding. Soon it’s back

to savouries at Macelleria Mignani (

Borgo San Frediano

127/r

) with a tasting of fennel-infused salami. Pasticceria

Buonamici (

Via dell’Orto 12/r

) demonstrates the making

of

cantucci

, the famous Florentine almond biscuits, baked

in front of us by a father and daughter. We learn that

Tuscan bread is made without salt, supposedly because

salt was once reserved for ‘precious’ foods such as salami.

Then it’s on to Fiaschetteria Fantappié (

Via dei Serragli

47/r

) for the first glass of Chianti and a

crostino Toscano

– crunchy bruschetta slathered in chicken liver. To soak up

the alcohol, we head to I’Raddi trattoria (

Via Ardiglione

47/r

) to taste seasonal dishes such as

peposo

(peppery beef

stew),

pappa cal pomodoro

(tomato and bread soup) and

ribollita

(a hearty bread-and-bean soup).

Gelateria della Passera (

Via della Toscanella 15/r

)

is the place for proper gelato. Additive-free Tuscan

flavours include chestnut, honey, pine nuts and ricotta

from neighbouring Pienza. Then it’s time to collapse

in Caffè degli Artigiani (

Via dello Sprone 16/r

), the

neighbourhood café next door. Homely not hip, this is

the place for coffee and cake or crostini with anchovies or

truffle paste. The café is a reminder of how well the city

has settled into its revamp, with belching buses giving way

to peaceful squares and pedestrian-friendly zones. Winter

also means crowd-free Florence, with extra benefits such as

mulled wine, panettone and twinkling Christmas lights.

The Florentine food scene has woken up recently and

become more open to both experimentation and to street

food. Milan-based celebrity chef Davide Oldani of D’O in

Milan raves about Florentine street feasts: “I love the sights,

sounds and smells of Florence, especially tripe from the van

in the market.” At the snootier end of the scale, Florentine

Wanderlust

Why Florence is a must-visit destination for a wintry feast

in a vintage year for Chianti wine

Wo r d s : L i s a G e r a r d - S h a r p

LISA

GERRARD

SHARP

Photojournalist

Based in London,

Cannes and

Liguria, Lisa is a

former Florence

resident and

Italophile travel

writer for the

likes of National

Geographic

Traveller, Vogue,

The Sunday

Times and The

Telegraph