I have to be honest, one of the things I have NOT grown accustomed to in
is the bread.
For those who have never been here, it might be a surprise to learn that Tuscan
bread has no salt. Referred to as pane 'sciocco' (the term in Tuscan dialect for saltless, but which in modern
Italian means “stupid”) this characteristic distinguishes it from almost all
the other breads in Tuscany Italy
(and maybe in the world, except for ).
Personally, I don’t enjoy saltless bread – but be warned, never tell a Tuscan you
don’t think their bread is good! They get very defensive, and make you feel
like you don’t have a clue about the subject. Umbria
Since I have been drawn into this debate before, I will explain the reasons they give to justify the lack of salt. The first reason has historic origins. It is said that in the 12th century the great rivalry between the republics of
Pisa and Florence led to an
embargo on salt by Pisa, leaving without this precious
commodity. The Florentines, rather than capitulate to their enemy, opted to
cook and make their bread without salt. In fact, there are even references made
to this in Dante’s The Divine Comedy – where he says that 'you will taste the salt
in your enemy’s bread.' Another explanation is that there was a heavy tax on salt
during the Middle Ages, so as a result, the population made do without it for
the most common foods, like bread. Florence
The second reason you hear has to do with the traditional Tuscan cuisine. Most of the region’s famous dishes are actually quite salty – so having a salt-free bread to accompany them is a better choice. When the hearty vegetable soup called Ribollita is made, the bread without salt helps to temper the savory flavor of the broth. Even Tuscan prosciutto is much saltier than its counterpart from
Still today, Tuscans will defend their bread – and claim it is better than most others, not only for its taste but for its texture and longevity (as it tends to stay fresh longer if carefully preserved). In addition, the ancient custom of never throwing away stale bread remains, and there is a dish for every season to reclaim leftover loaves. From Panzanella in the summer to Pappa al Pomodoro in the winter and Bruschetta and Crostini all year round, you’ll be sure to find a way to use your old (saltless) Tuscan bread.