I pass behind the palazzo with its crenellated tower and one-handed clock… snaking through the early-morning vendors in Piazza di San Firenze with their hoarse voices smelling of lampredotto and roasted olives.
We cannot help but say something about the king of Florentine cuisine, tasted every day in the streets of the city by Florentines and lately also by many tourists: the lampredotto!
Pellegrino Artusi, considered the father of modern Italian cuisine and naturalized citizen of Florence, wrote these words at the beginning of his famous book of recipes:
It is true that man does not live by bread alone; he must eat something with it. And the art of making this something as economical, savory and healthy as possible is, I insist, a true art
(Pellegrino Artusi, The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well)
It seems that Artusi has learned this maxim from Florentines, as it particularly applies to the legendary lampredotto.
In Florence, the lampredotto is an institution, loved as much as Dante and Brunelleschi’s dome.
This simple dish of Florentine cuisine is the stomach of an ox boiled with odori (herbs and vegetables, such as carrots, celery, and onion).
The most popular version is the sandwich: the lampredotto is cut into small pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper or green sauce (parsley, capers, and garlic).
The bread should be wet, which means that it must be infused with the broth in which the meat has been cooked.
The lampredotto sandwich is real Italian street food! The Florentines eat it at any time: breakfast, lunch with a glass of wine, or dinner with friends.
The tradition of eating tripe and entrails in Florence is very old and probably arises from the need to combine the simple bread with something inexpensive but nourishing.
In fact, Medieval chronicles and novels refer to tripe, entrails, offal, and giblets as typical Florentine food.
We do not know where Dante and famous Florentines of the past consumed this delicacy, but today you can find lampredotto sandwiches in many squares and streets of the city.
Many peddlers sell lampredotto exclusively—plain in a bun or dressed in zimino, which means with tomatoes, chard, or spinach. The expression “in zimino” is typically Tuscan.
Peddlers of lampredotto are called trippai, and their craft is a proper art.
Patrons eat standing up but not in a hurry. They taste the sandwich in company, talking about football or current events.
Everyone in Florence except for vegetarians loves the lampredotto sandwich: lawyers, bricklayers, students, and professional people.
The two most famous trippai in Florence are located in Via Pellicceria near the Fontana del Porcellino (Fountain of the Boar) so dear to the Florentines, and in Piazza de’ Cimatori, near the House of Dante.
This last location is also very close to the Piazza di San Firenze quoted by Dan Brown.
It seems fair to not separate these two great symbols of Florence: Dante and the lampredotto.
Lampredotto was born as a dish for the very poor and humble, but over the centuries it has become the pride and favorite dish of the Florentines.
Similarly, Dante wrote The Divine Comedy in a vernacular and common language, but it later became the noble Italian language.
In Florence, as we say, “we are born frogs and die princes”!
Pictures by Wikipedia and PanBagnato