By Angela Karl
There’s never been any debate about the positive effects of farm-to-table restaurants. These businesses tend to value organic food, supporting local farmers, reducing transportation costs and carbon emissions, and increasing the quality of life for animals.
Beyond this, farm-to-table restaurants have food that seems to simply taste better. This could be the process of growing fruits and vegetables devoid of chemicals, allowing animals to roam on the land, or just the simple fact that these restaurants typically put more care into their food. It could even be strange placebo effect because the diner knows the food is of a higher quality.
Regardless of why, the great taste of farm-to-table cuisine is undeniable, especially in Italy, where Italians are picky about their food. Every piece of meat in the grocery store has its origins labelled, and restaurants are required by law to state on the menu if any foods are frozen rather than fresh. This means finding a farm-to-table restaurant in Italy, especially Tuscany, is quite simple.
Here are the best farm-to-table restaurants in the Tuscany region.
Almost all of the food at this centrally-located restaurant is sourced from their own personal farm, San Michele a Torri—completely organic since 1993. All pork used in their dishes are certified Cinta Senese DOP, signifying a specific pig available only in this region and awarded a strict certificate of authenticity. In English, this DOP (denominazione di origine protetta) translates to PDO, or Protected Designation of Origin.
San Michele All’Arco has organic meat, eggs and vegetables that are typical of a farm-to-table of restaurant. They also process their own olive oil from olive trees located on their property. As an added bonus, all their pasta and bread is homemade.
While the menu changes with the seasons, some sample winter dishes include foods such as “pennette pasta in Chiantigiana style with bacon of Cinta Senese DOP and Chianti” or “rabbit in hunting style with ‘taggiasca’ olives and sauté beet.”
For an appetizer, first dish (pasta, rice, soup, etc.), and second dish (meat dishes), your bill will run about $35 per person. If you’re in Florence, don’t miss this restaurant.
This organic farm and restaurant sits at the top of the Chianti hills away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The farm produces its own fruits, vegetables, herbs, olive oil and wines.
When it requests food from other farms, each location is verified as organic and determined to be “Chilometri Zero,” which is essentially Italian’s version of farm-to-table.
The website states that Chilometri Zero “allows us to maintain our ecological footprint in line with a sustainable way of life of the entire company.”
The restaurant in itself is amazing, with dishes such as “raviolo stuffed with ricotta, pecorino cheese, and pine nuts with white ragout” or oven-baked pizza “made from sourdough, ancient grain stone-ground flour, local mozzarella from Mugello, tomatoes from Versilia, and organic extra virgin olive oil from [their] estate.”
If you arrive and fall in love with the farm, Fattoria Lavacchio offers rooms, apartments, or villas to stay in while enjoying the rest of what they have to offer. These activities include winery tours, truffle hunting, olive mill visits, Tuscan cooking classes, horseback riding, a large pool, and more. It seems the possibilities are endless at this Chianti dream farm.
When you’re in the mood for a more luxurious dining experience at a farm-to-table restaurant inside of Florence, there’s no better choice than La Bottega del Buon Caffe.
This Michelin-starred restaurant also boasts its own farm, Borgo Santo Pietro. Their website claims the seasonal menus “are designed to reflect the region’s unique gastronomic heritage and vibrant culinary culture.” You can feel secure knowing that “artisan butchers supply the kitchen with exceptional cuts of locally-reared meats whilst the very freshest fish are delivered from the Mediterranean.”
While the meat is provided from outside but verified sources, all fruits, vegetables, jams, preserves, sauces, herbs, and honey are produced in La Bottega’s own garden. Additionally, all the pasta served is made fresh by hand.
If you’re going to the restaurant for a special event, you can reserve a private dining room for up to eight people. Otherwise, the restaurant has a special lunch price of €55 for a three-course tasting menu from Tuesday to Friday. For dinner, the eight-course tasting menu is €115 (with wine pairing, €195) while the six-course is €95 (with wine pairing, €160).
San Gimignano, Italy
If you’re in the mood to meet people from other parts of the world, this is the place to go for dinner. The restaurant is set up with long tables so that, according to its website, “guests from different countries can all eat together.”
The food here is also provided from a farm at the same location as the restaurant, both located less than five miles away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of San Gimignano. While lunch is typically fixed and light, serving cheese, sliced meat, and salad, dinner is much more involved.
The dinner menu changes by the day and is never set in stone, but always includes four courses that are sure to be based on Tuscan tradition, such as “Crostini with Pecorino cheese and onion” or “Taglioni with vegetables and saffron.” They also have an ample selection of wine, both from their personal winery and other high-quality vineyards. Dinner typically averages about €30 per person. Fattoria Poggio Alloro also offers winery tours and tastings, cooking classes, rooms to stay overnight, and a large pool.
Angela Karl is a professional freelance writer currently living in Florence, Italy, with over six years of experience in the editorial world. When she's not writing articles, she can be found perfecting her programming language skills and seeing as much of the world as possible. For more information, check out her website, Instagram, and Twitter.