Our next stop in Italy was Florence, or as the Italians call it Firenze. After some art history classes and a few Dan Brown books, I was eager to visit the city where Renaissance was born, once home to great minds and artists such as Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Botticelli.
As a result, Florence is peppered with art museums, all worth a visit. However, the highlight for John and I would have to be seeing Michelangelo’s masterpiece David. So grand and impressive, John and I could see why the statue is so famous, boasting such detail and anatomical correctness (and to respond to your assumption I’m not only referring to the obvious part! The detail of the whole statue was incredible.) We tried to imagine the pressure that the master experience carving details such as the eyes, where a small slip could ruin the entire piece, in our minds telling himself “don’t screw up, don’t screw up!”
One of our highlights in Florence was walking to the highest point in the city, Piazza de Michelangelo, which boasts a magical view of Florence.
Oh and if you like leather, the city is packed with leather markets. Seriously, you will never see so much leather in one place! It’s outrageous. I fell victim to the temptation and bought myself a lovely leather jacket!
As Florence is in Tuscany, John and I decided to plan a day trip to visit the Chianti wine country. We rented a Fiat 500 (which would be the smallest car on the road in North America thus an average sized car in Italy) and made our way down the highway, enjoying the view of the lush, rolling hills of the wine country. We visited Montalcino, a region renowned for Brunello. There are specific rules for a wine to be classified as “Brunello.” It must be made from the Sangiovese grape, and it must be aged in an oak barrel for 5 years. As a result, a bottle of Brunello is a wee bit out of my price range, however I felt spoiled sampling the various varietals of this wine.
On our last day, we decided to take another day trip. From Florence, we took the train to Cinque Terre. A coastline on the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is host to five beautiful and colorful (both metaphorical and literal) towns, all located on cliffs along the coastline. There is a train that takes you between the towns, however much of the charm of the visit is the ability to hike between the five towns. We only had the chance to hike between the last two towns, Manarola and Riomaggiore, however hiking along the rugged coastline overlooking the bright blue Mediterranean Sea was simply stunning .
In a region full of pasta, I find it odd that the local dish of Florence is a gigantic steak. It was like being back in Alberta, but with a Euro flair of course. When we went to order our Bistecca Fiorentina at a market in Florence, we pondered how your average Italian who seems to lack the North American’s ability to pound back thousands of calories in a sitting could finish one of these beasts.
The Bistecca Fiorentina is basically a porterhouse steak (the largest cut of the t-bone) seasoned with salt and pepper, and grilled with olive oil.
When we tried it at home, John grilled ours on his charcoal grill (not sure how authentic that is but oh well!) To serve, we sprinkled the steak with coarse salt (fleur du sel) and drizzled with olive oil. We added a side of bread with Chianti butter (butter with red wine mixed in) to accompany the steak and help sop up the olive oil and juices. Yum!
Two of us could not finish this steak as it was so big. But boy was it good! The simplicity of the steak and the coarse salt and olive oil it was served with sure is a nice touch!
What is a T-bone steak?
A T-bone steak consists of a rib-eye and filet mignon.
What is a porterhouse steak?
A porterhouse steak is a t-bone steak that is carved from the largest part of the tenderloin.
So next time you’re feeling iron deficient, have yourself a Bistecca Florentina! Or perhaps share it with a friend or five.
Other posts in this series:
Part 1: Barcelona, Spain and Chicken and Sausage Paella
Part 2: Montserrat, Spain and Patatas Bravas
Part 3: Rome, Italy and Pasta Carbonara
Part 5: Croatia, The Dalmatian Coast and Pasticada
Click here for the printable Word version of recipe:
Bistecca Fiorentina with Chiante Butter
Bistecca Fiorentina with Chianti Butter (Florentine Steak)
Salt and pepper
Coarse sea salt, or fleur du sel for garnish
Bread for serving
½ cup butter, room temperature
3 tsp red wine, or Chiante red wine
Salt to taste
DIRECTIONS (for steak)
- Take the steak out of the fridge half an hour or so before cooking.
- Slather steak with olive oil, and then season with salt and pepper (doing the oil first will help the salt and pepper stick.) Don’t over salt as you will be sprinkling your cooked steak with more salt.
- Grill steak to your liking.
- When serving, garnish steak with extra olive oil, and coarse salt. Serve with bread and chianti butter.
- If you are sharing the steak, cut the steaks away from the bone and divide for you and your guests, be sure to slice with the grain.
DIRECTIONS (for butter)
- Using a fork, mash the liquid into the butter. It will be tricky, but you’ll get it if you work at it!
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I have to admit I was a bit skeptical on this one. Steak with olive oil and salt and pepper!? So I convinced my husband to cook our “once in a blue moon” steaks this way. We used rib steaks and was this ever great. It was a nice change to the usual Montreal steak spice and BBQ sauce. This way you can really taste the flavours of the meat, and it was very tender as well. We will definitely be cooking our steaks this way more often.