An Affordable Meal in Florence filled with the Fresh Produce of Tuscany

An Affordable Meal in Florence filled with the Fresh Produce of Tuscany
02 June 2016 0 Comment

A delicious, very affordable meal in Florence filled with the fresh produce of Tuscany.

You need to go back before the birth of Christ to discover the origins of this wonderful repast? A certain Jewish sage, Hillel the Elder, is said to have wrapped meat from the Paschal lamb and bitter herbs between two pieces of old-fashioned soft matzah, flat, unleavened bread that gave birth to the sandwich! During the Middle Ages in Europe, thick slabs of coarse and usually stale bread, called “trenchers”, were used as plates. After a meal, the food-soaked trencher was fed to a dog or to beggars at the tables of the wealthy, and eaten by diners in more modest circumstances. Trenchers were the precursors of open-face sandwiches.

Being an Australian, I’m something of an expert on these things, having been raised in Melbourne eating large, fat slices of white bread (the foodies of today would gasp in horror I’m sure), lavishly layered in Western Star butter, with doorstep thick slices of cheese and tomato. Some of my country’s best sportsmen and women grew up eating this rich source of protein and energy, before charging out into a thousand suburban streets to play sport of one kind or another until being called in by our Mum’s at days end.

My Italian friends over many years have questioned my undiminished passion for the humble sandwich and can only wonder at my delight when I munch into one, whilst they chew away on another bowl of pasta! Imagine my delight then when I recently stumbled across a sandwich bar in the great city of intellectual refinement and art, Florence! There it was, small and discreet in size; almost embarrassed to announce its presence on the delightful square of Piazza Santa Felicita in the heart of this ancient town, close to the Ponte Vecchio.

I was intrigued and a little hungry so I walked in and the first thing that caught my eye was an impressive display of cheeses, salami’s, fresh herbs hanging and bottles of wine, with baskets of bread close by. The half a dozen tables caught my attention soon after because in Italy whilst it’s relatively easy to ‘grab a sandwich’ (often of the pre-made type!), you very rarely are given the opportunity to sit down there and then to enjoy eating it. At Pane e Olio, the opposite is true! This place is an absolute find! Here is a sandwich bar that uses only local produce from the countryside surrounding Florence that includes a large variety of cured meats and delicious pickled treats like pepperoni in oil. What was an old butcher shop for generations has been transformed into small but tasty place to sit and munch on a roll or sandwich – you just choose the ingredients and they make it fresh for you, before your eyes.

There are 8 small tables that will seat 16 people. I sat down with a glass of their house red (yes, they even serve wine!) and munched on a crispy roll filled with porchetta (roasted pork), a slice of pecorino cheese, a drizzle of chili oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar – now that was special! Needless to say the cost of eating when traveling, especially as a family, can get quite expensive. Not here where you can eat well and save some pennies for the evening meal. A Perfect Traveller Tip: Those tables fill up quickly so from midday onwards is a good time to hit Pane e Olio for a bite to eat – the kids will thank you as well! I’m pleased to add this little place even has a bathroom!

Pane e Olio – Piazza Santa Felicita, 8 – Open from 9.30am – 10.30pm (in the summer), 9.30am – 9.30pm (in the winter) – 7 days a week.

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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