S3 FW07 Black Welders Boot Portwest For a true taste of Tuscany, it is not enough to visit a “gelateria” or to savor the wines of Chianti. In the city of Florence, there is a dish which has gained worldwide acclaim thanks to its fantastic flavor and traditional preparation: “Bistecca alla Fiorentina” dates back to the 1200’s, when English merchants visiting Florence stumbled upon meat being cooked in the town squares. The origin of the word “bistecca” is thought to derive from the English words “beef steak”. These days, it is possible to find the dish on menus all over the world, although the most authentic experience comes from tasting the steak in its home region of Tuscany.
Today as in days past, the source of the meat is Tuscan cattle, between 12 and 18 months old. However, there are now restrictions upon which steaks can bear the name of Bistecca alla Fiorentina. The meat is thinly sliced (four to six centimeters) and grilled over wood or charcoal for five minutes on each side. The result is a crisp brown exterior contrasting with succulent pink inside. The flavor of the beef is such that seasonings are superfluous and forbidden. Most importantly, Bistecca alla Fiorentina must be produced from the meat of either Maremma, or, more likely, Chianina cattle, a local breed which has long played a role in Tuscan agriculture.
Chianina cattle are a noble breed of cattle, striking both for their impressive size (the world’s tallest and heaviest) and their pure white appearance. Originating from and named for the “Valdichiana” (=Chiana valley) in Tuscany, it can seem that they are carved from marble as they graze in the fertile fields. Chianina oxen were a source of power for plowing farmed fields before industrialization. Today, they are bred primarily for their meat, given their growth rate, the high quality of the meat, and their adaptation to bright, hot Italian summers. Chianina also make regular appearances in historical processions, easily as spectacular in their ivory coats as the humans who parade behind them in colored and gilded medieval costumes.
In the small historical village of Panzano in Chianti, not far from Hotel Le Fontanelle (50 minutes driving), there is a butchery made famous as much for its meat as for its singing butcher, Dario Cecchini. “The Antica Macelleria Cecchini” (old Cecchini butchery) has become a popular tourist attraction in recent years, and Dario Cecchini has opened a successful restaurant with two communal seatings per evening. Panzano is also home to the annual “Festa della Stagion Buona” (=Festival of the good season), held each April 25 (Italian Liberation Day) to mark the beginning of the nationwide spring and summer festival season. A Chianti wine festival is also held in Panzano in late September.