I don’t know about where you are, but boy is it cold in London today. I’m writing this with a stinking cold and the remnants of Christmas flu longing for sunnier climbs and sunshine on a plate. So without further ado, let us transport you to the beauty of Siena and its spectacular flavours.
Tuscan food is rich in unique flavours and local specialties. Every corner of this region has its own special dish and distinctive wine, and it is easy to get lost and mix up the peculiarities. So here you are: a special guide of the typical flavours of Siena and its surrounding areas.
First course: ribollita and pici
Ribollita is a rustic Tuscan soup with beans, kale, vegetables and bread, and the recipe from Siena is slightly different from the one commonly used in Florence. This tasty peasant food is the perfect hearty welcome into the flavours of Siena. If you’re more into pasta, then you might prefer pici, the thick and hand-rolled pasta usually served with delicious porcini mushrooms or wild boar.
After an abundant first course, you might go for some meat: then ask for the most typical one, Cinta Senese. It is a breed of local wild pig that has a DOP (PDO) status, identified by a dark coat and a belt of light hair around the center of its body. Try the tasty charcuterie: salami, ham, sausages or spiced lard!
What many foodies don’t know is that this area is famous for the DOP extra virgin oil, too. Chianti Classico extra virgin olive oil is produced in several municipalities around Siena; its colour ranges from deep green to green, with golden nuances. It is fruity and has a bitter, slightly sharp flavour. Terre di Siena extra virgin olive oil is produced in these hills, too, but its colour is more yellowish-green, and its flavour is slightly pungent.
San Gimignano is home to another DOP product: the extremely pure organic saffron.
Sweets and biscuits are some of the most famous products of Siena’s territory. I bet you’ve already heard of the traditional Cantucci biscuits with almonds, but probably you don’t know Ossi di Siena, dry biscuits made with egg whites and almonds: indulge in a sweet moment and try them with Vin Santo!
Around Christmas time, you will find almost everywhere Cavallucci and Ricciarelli pastries. Cavallucci are made of anise, almonds, fruits and spices, while Ricciarelli are soft and sweet boat-shaped almond pastries covered in white icing sugar.
Panforte is another classic Christmas sweet made of honey, nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, spices and candied fruit, sprinkled with icing sugar.
Around All Saints’ day, a cake called Pan co’ Santi is very popular: it is a fluffy sweet bread flavoured with raisins and walnuts. Another delicious cake you have to try is the Tuscan pine nuts cake, or Pinolata senese, with cream: simply heavenly!
If you’re wine lovers, you’ve come to the right place. The area around Siena is home to some of the most famous Italian wines: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, one of the oldest wines in Italy, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico red wine. And don’t forget to try San Gimignano Vernaccia, and sip Vinsanto del Chianti Classico while you’re having your dessert.
Where to Stay in Siena and its surrounding area
Villa Armena lies in Buonconvento, in the middle of Crete Senesi area. This luxury hotel is perfect for all the foodies visiting Siena and surroundings: its restaurant supports local Kilometre 0 products and “Slow Food” produce. Traditional food is the protagonist here, plus the wine cellar focuses on lesser-known, smaller vineyards. This is a great start to get around and explore all the flavours of this part of Tuscany.