A visit to Siena cannot be complete without sampling its gastronomic delights. Many of them make great edible gifts to take home to your friends and family. Sweet or savoury, they all have centuries of traditions behind them. Here is our quick pick to make you drool.
With origins going back to medieval times, this dense rich fruitcake has become part of local history. Many centuries ago, it was made with pepper and precious spices to be used not only as a delicacy but also cure some ailments. Later it became popular with nobles giving panforte to each other for Christmas. Today it is made all year around in local bakeries with almonds, candied citrus peel, cinnamon, honey cloves, dried fruit.
Another sweet treat to take home, these chewy aniseed-flavoured cookies have a long history. During the Renaissance times, they were sold as a snack to travellers on horseback (hence the name, translated as “little horses”) to keep their energy up during long perilous trips among the Tuscan hills. Locals love them dipped in the dessert wine vin santo at Christmas time.
These soft melt-in-the-mouth cookies are hard to resist, so there is a risk that you might devour them all by yourself! Made with almonds, egg whites and sugar, the recipe for Ricciarelli dates back to the 15th century when they used to be served at lavish feasts of the rich and powerful. You will see them in some souvenir shops but the best ones are sold at small local bakeries by weight or packed in beautiful boxes.
The Antica Drogheria Manganelli (via di Città, 71-73) is like an Aladdin’s cave packed to the brim with delicious treasures. Its ancient shelves are laden with delicacies from across Italy. Locals come here to buy spices for home-made panforte. Those little pretty fragrant bags would make lovely gifts and some of them have recipes written on the pretty tags.
Photos via Flickr by: Paola Kizette Cimenti, Wei-Duan Woo.