Firenze –unica nel mondo. I took a summer course in Florence after my first year of law school and it was love at first sight. I’ve returned several times since then, accompanied by an amateur Renaissance art historian, a/k/a my husband, who serves as my Cicerone, guiding me through breathtaking and often obscure churches, chapels and palazzi throughout the city.
This year, our 7-year old son, Mikey, asked to visit Florence because, in his words, “my whole life, I’ve always wanted to see the Duomo.” (He’s a bit of an old soul and most certainly his father’s son). His audible gasp when he saw Brunelleschi’s masterpiece was absolutely priceless.
Florence is literally an open-air museum and therefore an ideal place to visit with children. Although admittedly crowded, in the summertime, visitors are treated to evening concerts throughout the city. We watched a vibrant brass ensemble perform in front of the Palazzo Vecchio and a goosebump-inducing orchestral concert under the nearby loggia.
My husband developed our art history itinerary and of course, I spearheaded our culinary adventures. Guided by food writer, Elizabeth Minchilli’s app, Eat Florence, we enjoyed remarkable meals at restaurants that served rustic, casareccia-style Tuscan fare and snacked on superb focaccia, creative panini and exceptional artisanal gelato. Among the highlights were pappardelle alle zucchine at Casalinga near Santo Spirito, pollo al burro at the famous Sostanza; the intense cioccolato fondente near our rented flat at Gelateria Santa Trinita’ on the Oltrarno; and the focaccia ai carciofi at Pugi near the Accademia.
However, the dish that to me most personifies Florentine cuisine is bistecca alla Fiorentina, a thick T-bone steak from the prized Tuscan Chianina breed, liberally seasoned with olive oil and coarse sea salt and grilled over coals. The steak has a crusty char on the outside and is served very, very rare.
We enjoyed our bistecca at the wonderful family-owned Trattoria All’Antico Ristoro di Cambi, which is located a bit further afield from the historic center in the Borgo San Frediano, a working class neighborhood on the Oltrarno. Preceded by a lovely panzanella salad and served alongside creamy white fagioli drizzled with peppery olive oil, the gasps that the bistecca elicited from us were nearly as enthusiastic as those inspired by the Duomo.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Recipe by Majella Home Cooking ©
- 2 (1½″-thick) bone-in porterhouse steaks
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 sprigs rosemary
Heat a charcoal grill or set a gas grill to high heat. Brush steaks with half the oil and season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Grill on the hottest part of the grill, flipping once, until nicely charred, 4-6 minutes. Using rosemary sprigs as a brush, baste steaks with the remaining olive oil. Cook to desired doneness, 1-2 minutes more for rare or 4-6 minutes more for medium rare. If the outside starts to burn before the steak is cooked to your desired doneness, move to the cooler side of the grill until done. Allow steaks to rest for 5 minutes; slice against the grain along the bone. Buon appetito!