Spending a day in Siena exploring the city and its many monuments and museums also requires that part of that time be devoted to exploring as many Siena food specialties as you can find. This is because, in Italian culture, food is as valuable as a work of art. What city better explains this concept than Siena?
WARNING: This article will induce an insatiable desire for pasta and Tuscan wine. Try not to salivate on your phone or computer.
- How to start your day: the delicious food you can’t miss for breakfast
- Lunch break in the city center of Siena Italy
- Sienese Pappardelle: which version to choose
- Continue visiting Siena with an aperitif
- Meat Takes Center Stage at Dinner
- Try Street Food When you Visit Siena
- From Street Food to the Province’s Michelin Stars
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How to start your day: the delicious food you can’t miss for breakfast
To start a day off right, breakfast is known to be the best option. By choosing an agriturismo or a bed and breakfast you’ll be able to have a breakfast of local products.
This might include fragrant bread to go with a vast assortment of local jams, and fresh cheese to go with honey and homemade cakes.
There are many bars and cafes in this ancient town and around it’s Piazza Del Campo that offer breakfasts of all kinds for travelers curious to discover Sienese cuisine.
From classic croissants to a wide selection of coffees, Torrefazione Fiorella is one of the first choices of foreigners and locals. The best way to delve into a true local tradition.
Nocino is the place to try rice puddings a typical local dessert made with shortcrust pastry, custard, and rice cream. Lemon and orange zest are used to flavor it.
Why not try a slice of Sienese panforte, made with spices, pine nuts, candied fruits, and honey? It’s truly emblematic of Tuscany.
Legend has it that this cake decreed the victory of the Sienese army over the Florentine army. It seems, in fact, that in the Battle of Montaperti in 1260, the Sienese ate panforte before taking the field.
Thanks to its very caloric ingredients, but also easily transportable, they reportedly became very energetic and ready for battle!
The Italian poet Ugo Foscolo also mentions it in one of his letters, writing that he used to consume it accompanied by flasks of wine.
A landmark for pastry lovers is Corsini, a historic establishment in the city, where you can sample small pastries, classic cakes, and traditional desserts.
Via Armando Diaz 4 – Siena, Italy
There is no shortage, in fact, of ricciarelli, the almond paste cookies that are particularly baked for the Christmas season.
Their characteristic lozenge shape makes them recognizable, but so does the presence of the wafer which, when baked, gives the cookie its classic wrinkled appearance.
Pan co Santi is typical of the fall season and made with the last grapes of the harvest, dried fruit, and local spices.
This is a non-sweet dessert; in fact, there is no sugar in the dough, but the sweetness is imparted by the grapes.
- Torrefazione Fiorella at Via di Citta, 13 – Siena, Italy, and
- Nocino at Via Aretina, 13 – Siena, Italy
Lunch break in the city center of Siena Italy
Sienese restaurants offer a wide range of traditional dishes, particularly first courses, which are often associated with a hearty yet quick lunch break that can satisfy the palate without taking time away from exploring the old town.
A Tuscan meal never begins without some Tuscan bread, characterized by the absence of salt. Accompanied by some local extra virgin olive oil that manages to bring out its flavors to the fullest.
It is likely that before you order your food, the waiter will say to you in his typical accent: Te ke voi da bere? He will be asking you what you’d like to order to drink to accompany your meal.
The choice will surely fall between several Italian wines, particularly those of local Tuscan excellence, such as a Brunello di Montalcino or a Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
Sienese Pappardelle: which version to choose
Oh how I have agonized about this! Now is the time for the actual order.
As mentioned, pasta dishes are preferred during lunch, such as the classic pappardelle with wild boar ragout or those with Cinta Senese ragout.
The latter is one of the traditional condiments with a strong yet delicate taste. The Cinta Senese is a breed of pig raised in the wild.
This type of breeding is responsible for the intense flavor of its meat, which is excellent for a white sauce, made by sautéing vegetables, adding the coarsely chopped meat, and blending everything with white wine.
A simple realization that lends itself very well to accompanying pappardelle!
Wild boar ragout, on the other hand, is stronger and more flavorful. The wild note is sweetened with fresh tomato sauce and is cooked for long hours to make the meat tender and soft.
The rough texture of the pasta manages to pick up the sauce perfectly, creating the ideal balance. This is not the sort of thing I would normally eat, but it is soft, and sweet and I am craving it again now.
There are many Sienese restaurants that offer these delicacies, but Antica Trattoria Papei (Via del Mercato, 6 – Siena, Italy) is among the most popular.
An historic establishment in Piazza del Campo. Cheap prices for excellent quality in a historic setting. Here you can try both versions of pappardelle, those with wild boar and those with Cinta Senese.
Pici: Traditional Tuscan Pasta
Pici pasta is a classic dish that many restaurants offer in the area. It is a pasta format similar to spaghetti but with a greater thickness.
It’s hard to describe the difference but the roundness and the al dente firmness make this my very favorite pasta (and there are so many to choose from!)
The classic recipe calls for a few basic ingredients such as water, flour, and salt.
I just don’t understand how so few ingredients create this pasta which is perfection itself. I’m going to do a cooking class just about this pasta next time I’m in Siena!
The seasoning is varied, ranging from gravy to all’aglione, a typical vegetable of the area, but also based on cheese such as pecorino and a drizzle of olive oil.
Among Tuscan pasta dishes, pici are readily available in downtown establishments, among them Bagoga, the Grotta di Santa Caterina (Via della Galluzza, 26 – Siena, Italy).
Here you can try the all’aglione version with white meat sauce. Also not to be missed are the Tuscan wheat spaghetti al cartoccio.
Pappa al Pomodoro, a King Among Italy’s Traditional Pasta Dishes
A recipe born from the need to use up stale bread, it has now conquered even the Michelin-starred kitchens of Italy’s restaurants.
It is a dish from Italian literature and song and appears in national books and texts. Tuscan salt-free bread is cooked with tomato, garlic, olive oil, and salt.
Simple, but impactful is Osteria da Trombicche (Via delle Terme, 66 – Siena, Italy) has a version that offers a tasty version of the dish in a dining room where it feels like you have gone back in time.
Continue visiting Siena with an aperitif
One of the most important moments of the day in the culture of Italy. The aperitivo is an ideal bonding moment to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail accompanied by good food.
In fact, it’s become such an important cultural moment in the Siennese day that I have written the essential guide to how and where to have a wonderful time early evening by indulging in the Siena aperitif tradition.
In Siena, this moment is punctuated by chopping boards of local salumi and typical cheeses, such as pecorino or less seasoned caciottas.
Usually, an aperitivo in Siena begins with bread to accompany local cured meats such as finocchiona or prosciutto crudo.
Cheese is often served with sauces or honey. But the undisputed masters of aperitifs and appetizers are crostini.
These are toasted bread on which the classic artisanal pates of Italian cuisine are spread. The most famous are the crostini neri made with chicken livers.
Traditional flavors are accompanied by cocktails such as spritz or gin and tonic, but to keep with the Tuscan theme, it is always a good idea to try a good glass of Chianti Classico. (This advice applies quite widely in my life I find).
The best aperitifs are served at Morbidi Gourmet, where you can help yourself to a rich buffet that moves between tradition and innovation.
Via Banchi di Sopra, 75 – Siena, Italy
Also interesting are the aperitivo offerings at Vineria Tirabusciò, a wine bar where the warm atmosphere perfectly matches the wide variety of local wines and cured meats.
Via San Pietro, 16 – Siena, Italy
Meat Takes Center Stage at Dinner
Second courses are a favorite for the evening meal at one of the restaurants in the historic center.
Dishes of a choice cut of meat that is processed with care and wisdom so as not to alter its taste and aromas are the golden standard aspired to by Tuscan chefs.
A dash of salt and some good olive oil from the olive groves of Tuscany make the Fiorentina steak one of the most popular cuts of meat in the world.
Here in Siena, you can taste some of the best of it at Ristorante la Finestra (Via Piazza del Mercato, 14 – Siena, Italy). This is a historic eatery with a classic handwritten menu that changes daily according to product availability.
The vegetables served as an accompaniment to the meat are excellent.
Osteria degli Svitati (Via della Galluzza, 34 – Siena, Italy) is another eclectic place not to be missed in Siena.
Among traditional first courses such as tortelli Senesi and traditional appetizers of bruschetta, toasted bread crostini, and cheese, they also serve exceptional meats.
You’ll find more than just the classic Florentine steak, there are also dishes prepared using Tuscan tripe and pork livers.
The side dishes, such as the classic beans all’uccelletto cooked with tomato and sage, are excellent, or the classic plain beans. Hungry yet?
After a hearty dinner of second courses, there is always room for dessert. Tuscany has no shortage of choices, such as a glass of vin santo accompanied by cantucci, the almond cookies.
Tuscan cavallucci made with nuts, honey, and candied fruit covered with powdered sugar are also very good.
Try Street Food When you Visit Siena
Local cuisine lends itself very well to street food. In fact, more and more kiosks and food trucks are appearing around the city.
Tuscany offers many culinary experiences, but this is one of the most authentic to try.
Tuscan lampredotto is not only made and eaten in Florence – you can taste it in Siena as well. It is a product very often referred to as waste, but today it is a popular street food.
Similar to tripe, it is boiled in a flavorful broth and served inside a sandwich with a tasty green sauce.
Also very much in vogue is kebab alla senese, a local version of the classic one made with porchetta cooked in a wood-fired oven to give it its characteristic flavor.
The Sienese focaccia, called ciaccino, also lends itself very well. Stuffed with locally cured meats and cheeses, it becomes a practical and mouthwatering street food.
From Street Food to the Province’s Michelin Stars
Starred cuisine also finds fertile ground in the Siena area. There are several restaurants in this part of Tuscany that have earned a Michelin star or two.
The culinary experience that is guaranteed in these establishments ensures an unforgettable time both in terms of service and the actual food.
The skill of the chefs in working with traditional ingredients makes Tuscan dishes even more memorable.
Just a stone’s throw from Siena, in San Gimignano, is Cum Quibus, which won its first star in 2019. The young chefs offer cuisine influenced by eastern cultures.
The classic Tuscan pigeon comes into contact with dashi and seaweed, but somehow without forgetting the local tradition.
Via San Martino 17, San Gimignano – Siena, Italy
In contrast to this style, in the Chianti area is L’Asinello in Castelnuovo Berardenga where Chef Venturi received his first Michelin star in 2020.
The products of Tuscany meet the flair of a chef who knows how to enhance them without distorting them. These are essential dishes, but with a unique taste that enhances their few ingredients, masterfully combined.
The menu varies with the seasonality of products – you’ll find risottos, ravioli, and traditional meats such as duck and venison.
Via Nuova, 6 Loc. Villa a Sesta Castelnuovo Berardenga – Siena, Italy