In addition to the classic pastries widespread throughout Italy,
during Carnival time Tuscany proposes traditional recipes
created to be enjoyed during parades and events.
There are many traditional carnival sweets, but the most famous are probably the “Cenci”, fritters made of flour and egg, which are called also “Frappe”, “Chiacchiere” or “Bugie” in other parts of Italy.
The Tuscan name “Cencio”, meaning “Rag”, is probably the one that best represents the shape of the pastry, as it is very reminiscent of a strip of cloth.
In common with many other things in Italy, these sweets owe their origin to the ancient Romans, who used to distribute “Frictilia”, sweets fried in pork fat, to crowds in the streets during the “Saturnalia” (festivals where people were free from the laws). Over time, the “Frictilia” evolved into the pastry we know today, with slight differences according to the different geographical areas.
The peculiarity of the Tuscan version is the use of “Vin Santo”, a typical local liqueur, among the ingredients.
However, the sweet that attracts the most attention in the tradition of this beautiful region is the “Schiacciata Fiorentina”, a soft cake decorated with the Florentine lily, which is usually baked on Shrove Tuesday.
There is no pastry shop or bakery in Tuscany that does not offer its own version, hence the dispute over which is the best.
Besides these sweets, there are other lesser-known delicacies.
Rice fritters, known also as “St Joseph’s Fritters” – as they are also eaten on Father’s Day – are made of rice cooked in milk with citrus peel, and then left to rest overnight. The mixture can include raisins and pine nuts, as well as rum; a few minutes in hot oil, a sprinkling of sugar, and the pancake is served. The result is a cake with a unique aroma that cannot be resisted.
Another deep-fried food is the “Frati”, doughnuts that owe their name to their characteristic shape, reminiscent of a monk’s cleric.
Many other recipes could be added to these, as each town has its own specialities to discover.
In this part of Italy carnival is very popular, perhaps because of the famous event that takes place on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea: the “Viareggio Carnival”, famed for its allegorical wagons.
Such is the appeal, that many people from different parts of Tuscany also participate in the construction of the wagons.
Those who are not involved in the parade will certainly not miss the spectacle of this multicoloured and cheerful procession through the streets of the town, maybe enjoying one of the many delicious sweets cooked just as street food.