The Debate on Florentine Bread

The Debate on Florentine Bread

Tuscan bread is actually baked without salt. Why would Tuscans omit such an important element? Let's discover the ingredients of this traditional cuisine renowned and envied throughout the world.

Nearly every visitor to Florence remembers their first bite of the local bread. Most likely, they were sitting in a trattoria, eagerly awaiting their first authentic Tuscan meal after one of our guided tours of Florence. Like many of us, they were used to snacking on a little piece of bread before their meal arrived. They reached for the little basket of bread on their table and popped a morsel into their mouth. With a very unexpected result.

What’s this? They’ve left out the salt!

This is the moment when every visitor to Florence learns that Tuscan bread is actually baked without salt.

Why would Tuscans omit such an important element? After all, bread is only made with four basic ingredients, and we all know that Italy’s cuisine is renowned and envied throughout the world. Surely it couldn’t be a mistake!

In fact, it is no mistake. Tuscan bread is made without salt on purpose, and has been for centuries. But why?

This is one of the questions we often get asked during our private tours of Florence. As with many age-old traditions, there is something of a debate as to its origin. Some say that Florentine bread is baked without salt because a heavy tax was levied on salt in the Middle Ages, and bakers in Florence decided to go without. Knowing the strong-willed Florentine character, this seems pretty plausible. But others disagree: they say that the flavors of Florentine cuisine actually require bread without salt.

The next time you’re sitting in a Florentine trattoria, try this: order a fettunta, a Tuscan appetizer of toasted bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with golden olive oil. Next, pair your salt-less bread with a slice of local prosciutto, salame or finocchiona. Finally, use it to mop up some of the savory sauce from your first or second course. Italians don’t consider this the height of good manners, but they do see it as a sign that you really loved your meal!

Once you’ve tried these experiments, we’re sure you’ll agree that Florentine bread is ideal for local cuisine. The flavors of Tuscan dishes are bold, fresh and genuine, and need a partner that won’t compete with them. For example, if you’re touring Florence during the season when olive oil is being made, there is no better way to experience its fresh, peppery flavor than by drizzling it on a slice of salt-free Tuscan bread.

So if you’ve worked up an appetite after one of our Florence tours, we suggest you pop into a local trattoria and enjoy the salt-free Tuscan bread like a local – the way it was meant to be enjoyed!