Paninis in Tuscany
My recent trip to Italy was one of pure decadence, particularly from a foodie perspective. We ate gelato every day (some tips on that here), indulged in pasta and pizza, but most importantly, we discovered the truly incredible Italian panini.
As we spent most of our days on the move, we didn’t necessarily want to sit down to a big meal at lunch. This started off in Pisa, where we had a sandwich I still have gluttonous dreams about, after which we actively sought out the best sandwich shops in Lucca and Florence. So without further ado…
Gusto Giusto in Pisa – the winner, hands down
Via S. Giuseppe Cottolengo, 25, 56125 Pisa PI, Italy
Everybody told me that apart from the tower, Pisa is a s***hole, and… well, they weren’t far off. The leaning tower is fascinating and a lot of fun (we spent a long time getting the picture above just right), but besides that (and the cheap flights), the town doesn’t have much going for it. Having said that, you’ve still got to eat, right? So we did a little research (thank you, Culture Trip), and found…
Gusto Giusto, aka the best panini of my life. The establishment itself is a hole in the wall, and really doesn’t look like much from the outside, with tables covered in bottles and other bits and pieces. It was empty when we went, but I’ve heard that the queues can be horrendous, so we got quite lucky! I decided on a piadina, which is more like a flatbread and allowed me to truly savour the fillings, whilst my friend had a baguette. The other two places we visited in Lucca and Florence didn’t even come close to Gusto Giusto, and here’s why:
- The porchetta meat. The man in the shop sliced it off the hunk, and then fried it for five minutes before adding it into the sandwich, along with freshly fried mozzarella, olive tapenade, and roasted zucchini.
- The love and time spent in making it. We waited nearly ten minutes to eat it, but it was worth every second!
- The price. 5 euros for the best sandwich of my life? Bargain.
Please note that Gusto Giusto is closed on Mondays.
Pan di Strada in Lucca: a close second
Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi, 32, 55100 Lucca LU, Italy
Lucca is a stunning little medieval town, only a short train journey from Pisa and Florence. We spent a day there and particularly adored the Torre Guinigi, a tower with a perfect view of the city, whose top was covered in trees.
We spent the afternoon walking the city walls, and decided to intersperse our walk with, you’ve guessed it, a panini. We quickly looked up the best sandwich shops on Tripadvisor, and ended up at Pan di Strada. This time, we chose ham, burrata, and … truffle cream.
Another hole in the wall, this time with a gigantic menu (there must have been over 200 types of panini), their bread was slightly too crispy but stunning nonetheless. I was blown away by the truffle cream, which was out of this world, and the burrata was as melty and stringy as anything I could ever have dreamed of!
No photos of this one unfortunately, as we gobbled it down, but here is another vista from Torre Guinigi instead!
Ino in Florence, an expensive third place
Located right next to the Uffizi, Ino was nice, but a bit of a disappointment after the knockout sandwiches in Pisa and Lucca. The main issue was the price – as Florence is a far more touristy city, each panini came in at €9, which, despite the truffle cream within, felt overpriced. In addition, the bread was too crispy to enjoy the fillings properly, as we simply ended up spilling crumbs everywhere. The ambience of the place was lovely, which perhaps explains the higher prices, as they had a number of tables, and served a variety of wines, as well as soft drinks, rather than having one wobbly table and no alcohol…
I will never forget my Pisa piadina, and so, the next time you’re visiting Italy, I strongly urge you to consider a simple panini instead of a pizza or pasta for lunch. It might just be the most delectable surprise of your trip!