If you love good classic Tuscan food, but have a budget you need to keep an eye on, then you are in luck. Tuscany is rife with small eateries all serving local dishes, many of which go back to the times of the Etruscans. Wild boar stew, rebolita (a bean and black cabbage soup that is totally delish), assorted roasted and grilled meats—are all classics and easy to find. Happily, the smaller and more removed from the big cities the restaurants are, the more genuine the dish, and often the produce and meats are locally sourced.
For those who love fish, Tuscany can be a problem once you leave the coast, so I included an inland refuge that is hard to beat. Don’t feel you’re limited to my suggestions; they barely scratch the surface. No matter where you are, you can find a very good place to eat. All you have to do is ask a local. You need very few words, the following sentence will do: “Mi scusi. Puo dirmi dove si mangia veramente bene senza pagare un patrimonio?” Loosely translated, this means, “Excuse me. Could you tell me where I can eat really well without spending my inheritance?”
Latte di Luna (Pienza)
This is one of my forever favorites. Just inside the southern gate of Pienza (certainly the most idyllic medieval town in Tuscany) is a small trattoria that serves the world’s best roast suckling pig. The crust crackles, the meat melts in your mouth. Their pici alla nana (handmade pasta with duck sauce) is amazing as is their homemade trios of gelato. There is a wonderful terrace in summer and a big old oven to snuggle up to in winter. Tell Roberto I sent you.
Trattoria Osenna (San Quirico d’Orcia)
Our dearest Tuscan friend Rosana makes the pasta by hand and many other things by the heart. Luca (the owner) and his family are basically crazy about food: they grow much of their own, raise some of the animals and make their own wine. Ask for a wide assortment of appetizers, and make sure you eat slowly; there is lots to come. In summer, on the terrace, you’ll be sitting under a pergola of a 100-year-old wisteria. The wine selection is vast and varied.
Trattoria Papei (Siena)
Below the Campo, next to the marketplace, sits this timeless trattoria. I’ve loved this place for 25 years. The whole family—mamma runs the kitchen—cooks super tasty, authentic Tuscan meals. The bruscetta con porcini is to die for, as is the pasta con l’anatra (pasta with duck sauce). Super rich food and enormous portions, so pace yourself and drink lots of wine.
Il Marrucheto (Sant’Angelo Scalo)
Our home away from home. This unpretentious trattoria specializing in fish is in the most beautiful countryside of Tuscany. The fish is always fresh (the sea is only 30 minutes away), the spices the tasty and the desserts are the best. Their spicy gnocchi frutti di mare (small dumplings with seafood), moscardini (slowly cooked tiny octopus in a thick sauce), and their frittura (assorted fried fish) are all unforgettable. Carmine, the dad, was once a pastry chef in France, so forget your new year’s promise and indulge.
La Pietra (Roccalbegna)
Roccalbegna is a dramatically set and charming town in the south of Tuscany, and one of the regions well-kept secrets. La Pietra is another. Tiny, family-run with exquisitely-cared-for food. Fruit and vegetables come from their own garden, olive oil from their own grove, and dishes are whatever is in season. Tortellini melts in your mouth, meats are simmered in delicate sauces, and desserts are irresistible. The town is out of the way, but well worth a visit for its craggy surroundings and unspoiled (un-touristy) state.