Byline: Bruce Palling
Welcome to foodie Eden: from three-star restaurants to humble markets, Tuscany is a gourmand's paradise.
Tuscany is arguably the birthplace of foodies. Dante's ill-fated brigata spendereccia ("spendthrift brigade"), who appear in the pages of The Inferno, ate and drank themselves to destruction. But in reality, they were based on a set of idle rich men from Siena whom Dante considered outlandish because they larded their roast pheasants and served partridge stuffed with cloves. They also wrote the first modern cookbooks. Tuscans remain inordinately proud and protective of their culinary traditions, with many still mistakenly believing Catherine de' Medici was responsible for transforming French cuisine by taking a retinue of Florentine chefs to France when she went to marry the future Henri II.
I was a relative latecomer to Tuscany, having made my first visit only in my 40s. It was partly because I had spent my formative years living and traveling throughout Asia. I felt relaxed about Tuscany, as I knew it would still be there when I had more time on my hands. Also, I like to slightly ration pleasurable experiences to avoid sensory overexposure. This meant that on my first trip to the Baptistery in Florence, I deliberately refrained from entering the interior. Besides, I wanted a good incentive to return.
I am hardly the first Anglo-Saxon to respond to Tuscany's …