BETWEEN FOOD, WINE, NATURE AND CULTURE
Famous banquets with Tuscan dishes and wine that have gone down in Tuscany
Villas included: all the UNESCO-designated Medici villas
Contemporary documents attest to exquisite banquets and a family, the Medici – from Lorenzo the Magnificent to Cosimo I and Catherine de’ Medici – that by promoting agriculture and animal breeding introduced a revolution to the table. In this itinerary, we talk about a few of these many foods and products, though the list is far from exhaustive.
RECOMMENDED MODES OF TRANSPORT
FLORENCE AND ITS VILLAS AND GARDENS
Florence and the city’s Medici residences can teach us about the creation of gelato. In the 16th century, a poultry dealer by the name of Ruggeri participated in a cooking competition organized by the Medici, where he introduced a recipe that consisted of frozen, sugared and scented water. It became so famous that Catherine de’ Medici decided to bring it with her to France in 1533. But for the gelato we know today, we have to thank the architect Buontalenti, a cooking enthusiast tasked with organizing sumptuous and scenic banquets, with his famous zabaione gelato, known as the “Buontalenti” or “crema fiorentina,” which is still today made in Florence’s gelato shops.
The history of the Florentine bistecca is also impressive. The tradition dates to the time of the Medici, when large bonfires lit around Florence to celebrate the San Lorenzo festival were used to roast large pieces of veal. Regardless of its true origins, the bistecca alla fiorentina is still today the reigning queen of Tuscan cuisine.
THE MUGELLO AND ITS VILLAS
In the 15th century, Pulci, the court poet during the reign of Lorenzo de’ Medici, praised the glory of the tortello. Originally, the dish was a pasta filled with chestnuts, and only in the 1800s did the filling become potato, which is how we eat it today. The dish is the star of many sagre and restaurants in the area.
THE VILLA DI PETRAIA AND THE VILLA IN POGGIO A CAIANO
The Villa di Petraia was famous for its small fruit trees (cherries and plums) because they were easier to pick. Citruses, medicinal plants and caper bushes, beloved by Ferdinand, added to the wealth of the villa’s garden. At the villa in Poggio a Caino, famous for its farmsteads where modern techniques in agriculture and animal breeding were experimented with, you can visit the Still-Life Museum to learn more about the Medici’s farming and breeding activities, as well as the fruits of a water and land of a by-gone era, many of which no longer exist today.
The Villa di Artimino, surrounded by a vast and hilly territory, was famous for its farming, but also for producing an esteemed wine. Over the centuries, the villa became a wine cellar for the Medici, and its wine was so sought after that in 1716, guidelines were established (what we know as DOCG today) in order to preserve the quality. Another typical product that brings us back to the Medici era are the dried figs from Carmignano, whose production is now regulated by Slow Food.
THE MONTALBANO VILLAS
In the Montalbano area, the main territory where the Medici would go hunting, we can find traces of many dishes, the most unique of which is “dolceforte hare or wild boar,” the wild game blending perfectly with a sweet and sour sauce of salt, sugar, vinegar, chocolate and dried and candied fruits.
THE VILLA DI CERRETO GUIDI
It would seem that Cosimo I was a great fan of Berlingozzo di Lamporecchio, a typical desert prepared during Carnival, which must have been an extremely famous dish considering that Lorenzo de’ Medici spoke about it, along with zuccherini, in his Canti Carnascialeschi, or Carnival songs.
This is also the area where we can find the “Empoli artichoke,” much loved by Cosimo I and Catherine de’ Medici, who chose it for many recipes, including artichoke pie.