Here at olive we value local knowledge in our travel features, using the best food writers in the best food destinations to collate our guides. Many of these writers have great stories to share, including Tuscany expert, Nardia Plumridge.
Nardia is a travel, food and wine journalist with a passion for Italy that began as a teenager. During a family holiday in Europe, an unplanned 15th birthday celebration in Florence had her hooked on the sights, sounds and smells of Italy. Returning to her native Australia, in the beachside suburbs of Perth, she dreamed of one day returning for an Italian summer, three idyllic months to immerse in Italy’s ‘la dolce vita’.
While studying journalism in London, long weekend trips to Italy turned into week-long adventures and, after a longer stay in Florence in 2010, she never left. Today, Italy’s food, lifestyle and culture are her inspiration as is the artisan art, craft and food culture of the city. When not eating and drinking, Nardia writes for her website, Lost in Florence, a guide to the less well-travelled corners of this beautiful Renaissance city. For a flavour of what she does, have a look here.
Describe your blog… I’m inspired by Italy as whole but I adore Florence and the artisan culture that still exists in the city today, particularly in terms of food.You have traditional, family-run trattorias like Del Fagioli or Mario’s and a new wave of restaurants and cafés like La Menagere or Ditta Artigianale that all have one thing in common – a passion for quality. It’s an exciting city for a foodie in general and the Tuscan seasonality always keeps you on your tasting toes.
My three favourite restaurants in Florence are I’Brindellone for bistecca alla Fiorentina, the thick T-bone Florentine steak; Il Pizzaiuolo for salsiccia e friarielli (sausage and bitter greens) pizza and Gelateria Santa Trinita – not technically a restaurant but unmissable for black sesame seed ice cream.
When I’m not blogging I’m writing travel articles or travelling on research trips. Being paid to travel, eat and drink is a dream job for me and, luckily, all the walking around justifies the indulgent meals.
In my fridge there’s always fresh seasonal vegetables from Sant’Ambrogio market, aged pecorino cheese, prosecco, pear and ricotta ravioli from a pasta local maker and Thai green curry paste. As much as I adore Italian cuisine sometimes I crave a spicy soup with a South East Asian influence.
My most-used cookbook is Leaves From Our Tuscan Kitchen by Janet Ross, a 19th century adventuress who ended up living much of her adult life in Florence, in a villa on the outskirts of the city. She was deeply interested in nature and food cultivation and this book, listed by vegetables each with their own chapter, includes recipes by her cook of over 30 years, Giuseppe Volpi. It offers an array of simple yet delicious ideas for side dishes as well as soups, pasta and risotto recipes. It’s surprisingly current given it was first published in 1899. Even white truffles get a mention.
A trend I see sticking around is slow food. The movement may have been founded in Italy but it’s not really a trend here, as people have always had an appreciation for seasonal food. I see it developing in many of the English-speaking Western countries, however, with local food markets on the rise and a growing interest in non-processed and organic foods. Why do tomatoes taste so good in Italy? Because there are only available in season and have been sun-kissed for the amount of time they are meant to.
I know I shouldn’t admit it but my guilty pleasure food is a fresh cornetto and frothy cappuccino from a classic café like Gilli in Piazza della Repubblica. And wine! Tuscany has some fantastic grapes and bottles from my local sfuso (wine merchant) start at only €1,65 euro. There is a joke that wine is often cheaper than water and this is true in many places in Italy.
I love eating out at Trattoria dell’ Orto in San Frediano for their pappardelle con cinghiale (wild boar pasta), crostini lardo (toasted bread with butter-like pork fat) and manzo con gorgonzola (sliced beef with gorgonzola cheese), all washed down with their local house wine.
A place I love that not many people know about is truffle haven Procacci. It’s a 19th century wine bar selling truffles from a Liberty-style counter. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it space on a busy street - perfect for a truffle panini and a glass of wine before you go back to window shopping on elegant via de’ Tornabuoni.
If you gave me a tenner I‘d spend it on.... crostone con speck (speck and honey crostini), with a glass of wine to match, at Le Volpi e l'Uva.
Photographs by Sofie Delauw
First published November 2015
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