“Nobody Leaves The Table Until They’ve Eaten So Much That They Hate Themselves”–Observations on Eating in Italy

“Nobody leaves the table until they’ve eaten so much that they hate themselves.”  Even after years of eating some of the best food Italy has to offer, this is the one quote (said by a good friend after a painfully long and indulgent meal) that has stuck with me the most.  Trying to describe what it’s like to eat the regional food in Florence would take years, and to be honest I wouldn’t even know where to begin.  How do you explain the feeling of biting into a ripe tomato so juicy that it explodes in your mouth the second it hits your tongue?  What words can one use to describe the dazzling array of colors in the vegetables spread out so lovingly across the stalls of Sant’Ambrogio?  I’ll tell you what you do–you stop thinking and start eating.  A lot.

Have you ever seen something so RED in your whole life?!
Have you ever seen something so RED in your whole life?!

The thing is, not that many Italians are fat.  In fact, pretty much none of them are.  They’re all just regular people who happen to have kick-ass metabolisms groomed after centuries of poverty and disaster.  After spending years picking up the pieces that Mussolini and WW2  left behind, it’s no surprise that they would want to celebrate.  And what better way to celebrate than with food?

Tuscans are particularly good at this skill of turning pretty much nothing into something amazing.  Take a handful of stale bread, some leftover beans, the wilting bits of cavolo nero from the pitiful garden harvest and BAM! You’ve got yourself a stew called Ribollita, baby.  No need for fancy spices or hours on end.  You make use of everything you’ve got, because you never know when that stock will run out.  And when you make food, you make A LOT of it.  You know, cause you’ve got to feed the neighbors and stuff, too.

That’s just the appetizer plate…


Every region in Italy has its own particular “brand” of food–from the steaming mussel soups of the Ligurian coastline to the thick doughy pizzas of Campagna.  The Tuscan brand is farming, from the groves of olive trees swollen with green fruit to the creamy white cows grazing along the hillsides that end up as prime cuts of bistecca in Florence’s most upscale restaurants.  Wine, vegetables, meat–if you can grow it out in the countryside, it’s probably coming from Tuscany.  If not, it probably tastes like shit.

The problem is that now my whole perception of food has been ruined.  I used to love munching away on a piece of string cheese (ask my mom, she used to buy like 5 packets a week) or a microwaved Hot-Pocket, but now I can actually tell the difference between processed foods and fresh ones so it kind of sucks for me because I’m way pickier when it comes to eating.  That being said, I also eat a lot more weird stuff, like cow’s stomach and fat spread onto a piece of bread and wild boar, because if you live in Florence for any length of time you’ll inevitably come across a Florentine who will shove it down your throat because “YOU HAVE TO TRY THIS AT LEAST ONCE, TRUST ME.  I’M FROM FLORENCE.”

So if you’re planning on coming to Tuscany at any point in your life, you’ve been warned–pack your stretchy pants and say goodbye to your waistline.  From the salty schiacciata flatbread to that first crisp sip of Chianti Classico, you’ll understand one day when I say that every bite is an adventure.

This post is part of a series on different food regions in Italy from your friendly neighborhood bloggers C.O.S.I.  For more stories like this, click here.


Author: The Florence Diaries

Living in Florence means always looking out for mystery poo on the sidewalk.

9 thoughts

  1. Hi,
    I’m sorry, I don’t see fat Italians walking around. Food in Italy is much, much more than having a full stomach ! It’s culture ! It’s tradition ! Every region has it’s own special food. The food in Italy is made with LOVE for season vegetables, fresh ingredients ! Great grand mothers, gran mothers, mothers and lot of fathers too have mastered the art of cooking, simple recipes, excellent ingredients, passing to next generations. Me, my friends, my children even living an international life maintain the health habit of cooking fresh, everyday, even with our busy lives ! If you are living in Italy you have a lot to learn in this area, which will only add to a better life !
    My great grand parents and grand parents DID live in poverty before and during the war but this doesn’t mean that Italians eat now because they were poor and Mussolini has nothing to do with it !!!!
    Please , this is very offending to the people of this nation.
    The first fork in history was taken to France by Caterina de’ Medici (born in Florence in 1519) when she married Henry II, king of France. The Italians already ate with a fork at that time and had a food tradition !
    Hope you enjoy your life eating healthy in Italy !
    and hope you publish my comment.

    1. Ciao Eliane,
      No need to be offended–this article was written in a joking manner (which I know can be difficult to understand in writing if English is not your first language). I absolutely understand that Italian food is all about eating fresh, seasonal ingredients with recipes that are very traditional–that’s what I love about living here!
      Thanks for reading, and I hope you will continue reading the articles with the knowledge that sarcasm doesn’t always translate well…better to ask then assume I am actually being serious!

      1. Thanks for answering ! It is good to know that you enjoy your life in Italy. Yes, maybe as English is not my first language I didn’t get it all, but I think a lot of Italians reading the article could have the same feelings. I have a son married to an American girl from San Diego. He loves living there,(he previously went to university and worked in England) but he truly misses the Italian food culture ! I have a daughter who went to university in Montreal – Canada -, works and lives in Florence, a son who lives in Copenhagen and went to university in Switzerland. My children were born in Holland and my husband and I lived there for 27 years. I’m half Italian, half Brazilian but we never lost our food culture. Living an international life only made as appreciate our cultures better ! I’ll keep following your interesting blog. If you are curious, check my blog about my life on my olive farm in Italy and my traveling around the world. Blog : viadellafonte.com – Facebook page : Via della Fonte

  2. Hello Gina, as usual I loved this post. Plus the pictures are so darn purty as well. The title made me laugh out loud because oh my god, I have felt that on so many (too many) occasions. The food in Tuscany is amazing, so amazing that i can’t stop eating it and need to work out (three flights of stairs are not enough). I think the commenter above didn’t understand the post very well because it was pretty obvious that you were praising the traits of cuisine in Italy and not criticizing it. I don’t understand how she could have possible thought otherwise?

    ps. Eating food after Tuscany does taste like shit. hahaha love you!

  3. “They’re all just regular people who happen to have kick-ass metabolisms groomed after centuries of poverty and disaster.” Personally I think this probably has some merit! 😉

  4. I love the Tuscan food, especially the secondi. In Rome, we have some great pastas, but the secondi are full of the “quinto quarto,” and not very appealing to my American palate. And if Florence, if all else fails you can always opt for the bistecca fiorentina…as long as you don’t mind that it arrives on your plate still mooing!

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