Guide to Buying Local Food in Florence and Tuscany
One of the things that has always amazed me about living in Italy is the abundance of Italian made products. You don’t have to go far to purchase things with “made in Italy” proudly printed on the packaging. Italy produces a wide variety of products (clothes, cars, home decor, pottery, etc) and high quality and locally made food is something you can easily find throughout the country. Each region has their own specialties and Tuscany is especially unique in that it produces a very wide variety of food products: wine, cheese and other dairy, olive oil, grain, legumes, meat, and a large selection of seasonal produce. If I had to bet, I would say Tuscany could almost sustain itself with what it produces. Over the last year my family has gradually switched from buying most of our food from the supermarket to now buying about 70% from local farmers. Read my post about what I have learned since since I switched over to buying local food here. In this article, I have put together a list of my favorite sources where I purchase my family’s local food in Florence and around Tuscany. My hope is that more and more people living in Tuscany, as well as visitors, will begin to make an extra effort to support local farmers. Not only will you be getting better quality food but you will help these farmers sustain and increase their healthy growing practices as well as will stimulate others to emulate this success and increase the supply of local, contaminant free food.
Of all the supermarket chains in Florence, Esselunga has the best selection of local products for the price. You can find a wide variety of produce, wine, oil, legumes, dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt, and even ice-cream), eggs, as well as beef. They even sell a lot of home products such as: toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, cleaning products, etc. All of their local products are easy to find and are marked with the following label:
If you are looking for organic food then Toscana Biologica on Via Foggini 22 just across from the Federiga tram stop (very easy access from the center of town) is a small organic food store selling about 90% local products. Everyday fresh produce, cheese, and baked goods are delivered to the shop from local Tuscan farmers. They have an excellent selection of flours (farro, kamut, wheat, etc), pasta, rice, legumes, fresh juices, and wine which are 100% Tuscan. Toscana Biologica also sells beef and poultry. I order whole organic chickens which are delivered weekly (10% discount for ordering in advance). And finally they have self service dispensers for every type of Eco cleaning product your family would need: dish washing liquid, laundry detergent, shampoo, etc. There is a nice area for children to sit and draw which makes the shopping experience there much more enjoyable and there is also a small parking area in the back of the store.
Cooperativa di Legnaia
Legnaia is an agriculture co-op store selling everything from plants, agriculture machinery, DIY home project equipment, to an excellent selection of local produce, wine, pasta, honey, dairy, meat, olive oil and fish. There are many store locations throughout Tuscany, but the Legnaia on Via di Sollicciano 13a in Florence is the biggest and has the most diverse selection. Their local produce selection is unbeatable. You can purchase local meat (they even sell organic beef) and dairy. The fish market within the store sells fish coming almost exclusively from the Mediterranean sea. This store is also an adventure for kids; my son loves to check out all of the plants, lawn mowers, and tractors for sale. They also have a restaurant/bar and an outdoor play area for kids. You really could spend all day there!
Organic Farms in Tuscany
There are numerous organic farms located throughout Tuscany that make regular deliveries to Florence and other Tuscan towns. For about 6 months I’ve been purchasing most of my family’s milk, cheese, pasta, tomato sauce and some seasonal produce from Poggio di Camporbiano which is a bio-dynamic farm located near San Gimignano. They deliver twice a week to Florence for their GAS (gruppi di acquisto or purchasing groups). If there is not a GAS in your area for you to join then they will deliver to your home with a 50 euro minimum order. They also travel to Siena weekly and will ship their products throughout Italy. They have excellent customer service and respond to emails very quickly! If you are wanting to find raw milk in Tuscany then they are, in my opinion, the most trust worthy source. They have a very clean and modern milking system and their milk is tested every 15 days by ASL (Azienda Sanitaria) for e.coli, salmonella, and other dangerous bacteria (the tests have always been negative). Here is a picture of a typical delivery to my house…
Another farm that delivers regularly to Florence is Fattoria di Carozzano. I have never ordered from them but know several people who have and are very satisfied with the quality. The prices are a bit higher than Camporbiano. And La Selva, an organic farm in the Maremma area is one of the more famous farms; their products are sold throughout Europe. They sell grain, flour, rice, pasta, jarred vegetables, pesto, preserves, wine, and olive oil. All are all produced on their farm. You can find some of their products at Legnaia and at the Mercato Centrale in Florence. They also have an online shop via their website.
If you are interested in purchasing local organic meat then Azienda Agricola Fonti di Serri located in the Casentino area raises 100% organic Chianina IGP cattle. I have been ordering our meat from them for about a year. They deliver to Florence about once a month from September to May. In Italy, 100% grass fed beef is almost unheard of, the animals are almost always supplemented with grain. However, this farm only supplements about 5% of the cow’s diet with grain, which is grown and cultivated on their land. I recently visited Fonti di Serri and was blown away by the family’s dedication and care for their animals. They work almost around the clock to insure the well-being of their animals and go above and beyond to make sure that each animal doesn’t suffer or have any trauma before slaughtering. They raise rabbits, geese, and chickens as well.
There are various farmer’s markets going on all the time throughout Florence. Every morning from 9-1 you can find local farmers selling their produce at the Sant’Ambrogio market in Piazza Ghiberti. Every Friday from 9-1 at the Parterre in Piazza Liberta there is a small farmer’s market selling organic produce, cheese, bread, and sometimes eggs, chicken, and other meat. La Fierucolina is my favorite organic market; it is held every 3rd Sunday of the month in Santo Sprito. There you can find local produce, cheese, bread, clothes made from organic cotton, Eco cleaning products, and much more. For a list of all the organic markets held in Florence and Tuscany please check out this website.
Please let me know if there are any other places in Florence or around Tuscany where you can find great local food. I am always wanting to try new places!