After a long time thinking of where to go on holidays this summer I came up with the idea of a road trip through Tuscany. Famous for its landscape, its beautiful cities and colour palette Tuscany is said to be one of the most amazing parts of Europe. After being there I must say: It is totally true! No matter where you go you know: It will be amazing. Even the car rides are interesting and diverting because of all the wonderful things you see.
However, in this post we won’t talk about the sights of Tuscany (I will do that in a part of my bachelor thesis ;) but concentrate on Italian food and what you should definitely try!
Tuscany: (Vegan) food paradise?!
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: You have to be an Italian food lover to survive in this country (I mean, who isn’t??). Except one in Siena and a very few in Florence we didn’t see any restaurants that don’t serve Mediterranean cuisine. Well, you are in Italy so hopefully you want to taste their food – and you are at the right place here!
One the other hand, you can’t find a lot of fully vegan or vegetarian places either (there are a few in Florence but that’s pretty much it). But even though many people tried to convince me beforehand to eat at least dairy products in Tuscany, thank god this wasn’t necessary as there are always enough vegan choices on their menus! But see for yourself.
Dishes to try in restaurants
There are many vegan antipasti, even though you have to be lucky to find all of them. Served in almost every trattoria or restaurant are Bruschette, in olive oil grilled bread with different toppings such as tomatoes or olive paste. This “appetizer” is often vegan and sometimes as big as a full meal. Furthermore, if you have the chance to get your hand on grilled vegetables in oil, go for it! It was my dream to taste them but except in supermarkets we couldn’t find them.
Unfortunately pretty pricey but always al dente and mostly vegan is pasta in Tuscany! Only a few places make their own pasta with egg, in most of the cases even the home-made noodles are just out of water and flour. If you dare, try Pasta all’arrabbiata and definitely go for Pici some time, no matter what sauce you prefer. This special kind of pasta is fun to eat and something you don’t know from home! (You can see them on the picture above, although it’s just a nice try of myself making them ;)
Sorry, I couldn’t find any so-called main dishes without meat (or fish).
Ordering pizza without cheese is not even necessary! In Italy Pizza Marinara is well-known, very cheap and consists just of dough, tomato sauce, oregano and garlic. In the south there are some pizzarias that serve Schiacciata which is just dough, rosemary and olive oil. May sound a bit boring but with salad or vegetables as a side dish you will love it!
L’insalata mista – mixed salad – and other side dishes such as verdure alla griglia or just spinacio are a great way to pimp the pizza, pasta or bread you’ve just ordered. Or perfect for diversion if you are tired of all that pizza and pasta.
Most of the dolci here are dairy-based but in almost every gelateria you can get at least a sorbetto (vegano). However, considering the prices it’s rarely worth it. There was only one time where I got really delicious ice cream – you can find the tip below.
Things to buy in supermarkets
Besides all the dried tomatoes, Tuscan spices and noodles you want to bring as a gift (or for yourself) you have to buy all those vegan cookies in Italy! No hidden sweet whey powder or whole egg powder and (still) very delicious!
For those who don’t mind honey Panforte (picture above) is a great way to get an idea of sweet Siena. It’s a sweet kind of pie out of dried fruits, nuts, flour and (maybe not always) honey. If you get the chance to try the chocolate one, do it!
If you are more the savoury kind of person try all these vegetables in oil, olives, olive oil and focaccia, a special Italian bread often baked with tomatoes, zucchini or olives.
One of the best snacks I’ve ever had were the wild-grown blackberries we found in Val d’Orcia and Val d’Elsa. Going by car through unmade gravel paths is not only an adventure and really beautiful but also a great way to find yourself a delicious nosh! Also figs, Indian figs, olives and grapes grow almost everywhere. If you eat the fruits directly from the tree you have more than just the taste but also the vibe of the area. I love it!
Special location tips
If you want to get your hand on really cheap but delicious pizza go to Gutsa Pizza in Via Maggio 46 in Florence. Although it’s more like a fast-food-atmosphere and the place is quite packed all the time you should go there, no matter how long the queue in front of the restaurant would be (quickly it will be your turn, promise!). I had a pizza Marinara but wanted something on it. Even though we ordered two pizzas with extra rocket and olives we paid the original price which was about 4€ per pizza! The only drawback is the plastic cutlery they use so be sure to eat your pizza with your hands and outside on Piazza Santo Spirito! ;)
As I’ve already mentioned: (Vegan) ice cream in Italy is extremely expensive and – if you ask me – definitely not worth the price. There was just one place where they had wonderfully yummy ice cream: In BuonGusto Gelateria – one of the best ice cream parlours I’ve ever been! They make their ice cream freshly in the back of the small shop and experiment with different flavours such as carrot-raspberry or strawberry-rosemary. I had grape-ginger and peach-lavender and it was just de-li-cious!!
As coperto (about 2€ per person for using the dishes in the restaurant, sometimes also for bread that is served before your actual meal) is almost always obligatory (you are lucky if you find a place without!) you can save a lot of money by ordering un pizza per take away. Eating on the steps of a famous monument and watching the sunset is so much classier anyway.
Idea, Words, Photography: Diana Ranegger