A Taste of Arezzo: Discovering Authentic Tuscan Cuisine

By: James lawrence / Last updated: April 3, 2024

Peposo alla Fornarina, a hearty Tuscan beef stew

Guide to Tuscan Gastronomy and Cuisine: Read more

Regional Cuisines:

Florence, Lucca, Maremma, Pisa, Siena

Arezzo may lack the cachet of Florence and Siena, but this undiscovered gem is no slouch in the gastronomy department. Situated in the eastern part of Tuscany on the border with Emilia-Romagna, Arezzo caters primarily to locals, not tourists. This ensures that every dish is authentic; chefs fully use regional ingredients and seasonal delicacies. Culinary highlights are many and varied: fresh cavolo nero (a type of green cabbage that thrives in the hills surrounding Arrezo), beef from the Val di Chiana, smoked cured meats that are a meal in themselves, and exquisite game pasta. Savor the intoxicating smells of a busy kitchen in the beautiful old town and sip Sangiovese. Dining in Arezzo is an experience not to be missed.


Two words: mixed crostini. This tradition is enjoyed by every strata of Arezzo society – young and old, students and families, growers and landowners. The crostini (toasted bread) is covered with a spicy tomato paste or some chicken liver pate adorned with capers, anchovies, and just a dash of Vin Santo. This simple yet delicious morsel will join a plate of cured meats – prosciutto crudo and salami flavored with fennel seeds need pairing with a young (and unoaked) Sangiovese red; best served slightly chilled.


In Arezzo, the first course is often a substantial pasta dish that can excessively dampen your appetite for the star attraction. However, zuppa di cavolo nero (cabbage soup) is relatively light on the palate and healthy to boot! Nevertheless, ravenous gourmets will enjoy fresh egg pasta – normally pappardelle or pici – covered in an aromatic and rich ragu sauce. All’aretina pappardelle (pappardelle and hare ragu) is a local favorite, although the Bringoli ( a type of fat-spaghetti) coated in wild boar sauce is legendary.

But there’s more. In Arezzo’s many fine osteria and ristorante, check the day’s handwritten menu – typically on a chalkboard – for the traditional Tuscan vegetable and bread soup called ribollita. Classical dishes like this, made with love and care, remain the hallmark of Italian dining.


The main course is all about meat in the undulating landscape of eastern Tuscany, cooked in various ways. After all, cattle grazed in the Val di Chiana have the finest flavor in central Italy; barbecuing steaks are very popular in summer, seasoned with fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper. Whole chicken or quail, herb-filled sausages, hare, and rabbit are no less delicious, cooked over charcoal and served with rosemary potatoes and fennel bulb. Simple pleasures, perhaps, but no less exciting for all that.

However, as the weather turns cooler, the preparation becomes more elaborate – slowly braising meat in liquid to maximize its tenderness (and enhance the flavor) is a veritable art form in Arezzo. Look for Peposo alla Fornarina: stewing beef (chin is best) cooked for hours with fresh herbs, red wine, garlic, and peppercorns. This is served over a bed of creamy polenta; the meat is butter-soft and exquisitely tender.

This competes with Sagra della Porchetta for the title of Arezzo’s most famous delicacy. In the fall, suckling pig rubbed with olive oil and wild herbs is manna from Heaven; the entire animal is slowly roasted in a wood-fired oven for several hours, caramelizing the skin until it attains a soft textured sweetness and is covered in rosemary, fennel, thyme, salt, garlic, and pepper. Many Tuscans enjoy slices of porchetta between toasted sourdough bread sold by market traders throughout the region.

But what to drink? Tuscany produces a wealth of full-bodied reds that reach an apogee served alongside meltingly tender beef – Brunello di Montalcino would be ideal. Yet porchetta requires a softer red with less tannin, acid, and weight. So we’d suggest Merlot grown in the vineyards of Arezzo: silky, plummy, and very fragrant.


If you’re not entirely satiated by now, Gnocco Dolce is a lovely sweet treat composed of pastry balls filled with whipped cream. Meanwhile, the ground is littered with chestnuts in the fall – pastry chefs ground the nuts into a flour to make Castagnaccia. This Tuscan cake incorporates raisins, pine nuts, walnuts, and rosemary. Or, ask for the Torta della Nonna (Grandma’s cake) to enjoy shortcrust pastry filled with lemon-scented pastry cream and topped with pine nuts. Yet many gastronomes find solace in a few cantucci — biscotti cookies – dipped in Vin Santo at the culmination of an Arezzo feast. You’ll need two glasses: one for dipping and one for sipping.

Regional wines

Unlike nearby Montalcino and Chianti Classico, the wines of Arezzo have yet to attain much traction in global markets. However, one of Chianti’s subzones, Chianti Colli Aretini DOCG, encompasses vineyards in the Arezzo province; the appellation’s Sangiovese-based reds are good value and a fruity alternative to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, despite their lack of renown.

But we should not omit the diverse—and underappreciated—wines of the Arezzo IGT, a designation that permits indigenous and imported grape varieties. The Antinori family was one of the first investors to exploit its untapped potential—the family acquired over 400 acres in 1994. Syrah has proven to be a noticeable success in the region, yielding voluptuous and aromatic reds of real charm. Peposo alla fornacina paired alongside a meaty Tuscan Syrah? Now you’re talking.

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James lawrence

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