San Miniato Dining and White Truffle Guide


We have now called San Miniato, my husband’s hometown, our family home for the good part of this year and I admit that one of the reasons we found this Tuscan hilltop village so charming is the excellent quality of restaurants and food shops in this small historical centre. Other than being a fixture on the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrim route, with picturesque views of the surrounding countryside from every angle you look, San Miniato is famous for being one of the rare places in the world that harbours prized white truffles — in season (October to December) you can taste them in every single place that sells food, from even the simplest bar, and the town celebrates this with their annual festival, Mostra Mercato del Tartufo Bianco and this year will be its 50th (you can see an old post from 2010 on it here — I haven’t missed one since moving to Tuscany in 2005! — see below for more on how to visit during the White Truffle Festival).

The fact that people are drawn here to try precious white truffles, which shouldn’t be cooked, but are best grated over warm, steaming plates of simple dishes such as buttery tagliolini (see below) or fried eggs, means that over the years, a growing number of quality restaurants has made San Miniato a food destination mainly for those from surrounding local towns. The restaurant selection is so good it’s not only for truffles that you will want to travel here for. It’s a place I’m very proud to share with you here in this dining guide and if you’d like me to show you around on a food tour or a truffle hunt, get in touch.

Situated between Florence and Pisa, and on the train line, and equidistant to Pistoia, Lucca, Siena or San Gimignano, means that San Miniato is very conveniently placed amongst the most important Tuscan cities. It’s also only 30 minutes from Pisa airport and the sea.

In the historical centre:

Sergio Falaschi: A fourth generation Slow Food butcher shop that has a casual restaurant out the back with the best view in town and wonderful charcuterie plates (above), traditional Tuscan primi and meaty mains. Here you will want to try all the things that they make, which are traditional salumi and sausages, with free range pork, no preservatives or additives: their sausages (in season the truffle sausages are the best!), Cinta Senese (a local Tuscan ancient pork breed) prosciutto, spuma di gota (a whipped cream made from pork jowl or guanciale), finocchiona (a larger, fresher Tuscan salame that is perfumed with fennel seeds) and mallegato, a spiced blood sausage that is served warm, the town’s only Slow Food presidium. If you’re feeling like a feast, choose a bistecca from the counter to be grilled for the table. Opening times vary seasonally so check the butcher shop (generally speaking it’s open for dinner in summer and for lunch in cold weather, closed Wednesdays).

Maggese: For something very special, Maggese (see photos below), headed by chef Fabrizio Marino (who spent 8 years at Joia in Milan, the first vegetarian restaurant in Europe to win a Michelin star) is a fine dining vegetarian restaurant in the heart of town. You can do a chef’s degustation (I would highly recommend this, also the wine pairing) or you can just choose any individual dishes without doing the tasting menu. It’s an incredible eating and drinking experience for anyone, vegan, vegetarian, omnivores alike. For those who love counter dining there is a small counter for two here, which gives you a great view on the kitchen. Open for dinner only.

La Piccola Osteria del Tartufo: As the name suggests, this is a tiny place in the town’s main piazza which has a very simple, small menu, rather meat heavy (high quality, however, as the meat comes from Lo Scalco Butcher shop in San Miniato Basso, lower San Miniato) and local wines. I would come here for their stracciatella and hazelnut risotto, a classic dish of tagliolini with truffles (above) or their burgers. Literally everything on the menu comes with truffles on it (black or white in season). Open lunch and dinner.

Pizza del Popolo: A small, pizza by the slice place but not your regular pizza. This is vegetarian, 48 hour fermented, organic and biodynamic ancient grain sourdough bread and pizza. They also do excellent panzerotti (fried to order!) and Sanminiatese style organic chickpea flour cecina and arancini with melty gorgonzola centres and cookies made with buckwheat flour, hazelnut or the Tuscan chestnut specialty, castagnaccio. They have local beer on tap or can fix you a spritz. You can eat in on one of the tables in the outdoor/covered terrace or takeaway. Closed Mondays.

Birra e Acciughe: I can’t tell you how many times this tiny place has saved me but sometimes you just need a warm baguette the length of your arm filled with creamy butter and anchovies (for me) or a hot dog (for the girls) to stave off a melt down! There is a surprising selection of over 60 artisan beer and ciders and did I mention the panini are warm? It’s too small for seats but most customers use the benches nearby or simply stand (see top photo). Closed Mondays.

Pizzeria Demetra: Not the traditional pizza, but a sourdough pizza made with a mixture of wheat, rice and soy flours, left to rise for 120 hours and gourmet, seasonal toppings. The twice cooked technique here means a very crunchy crust. For those who want something other than pizza, they also have big salads, cheese and charcuterie plates, focacce and artisan beers. In the summer only dinner but in cold weather open for lunch and dinner.

Maurizio il Pasticcere: The place for a classic Italian breakfast — cappuccino and cornetto!  Everything is made on site. Their sweet and savoury pastries and pizzette are particularly soft, fluffy and cloud like! I particularly love the sfoglie (puff pastry pockets filled with custard, apple or rice) and their miniature almond biscotti. In summer they have a good selection of housemade gelato and at Christmas they do pandoro, panettone and delicious panforte. Closed Monday afternoons.

Ethan’s Bar: This cupboard-sized bar is the place to come for aperitivo or an after dinner drink. Owner and mixologist Alessio Cintelli makes wonderful cocktails using well-researched liqueurs and ingredients

Out of town:

Papaveri e Papere: Just a 5 minutes drive downhill from the town centre is this wonderful restaurant serving modern, well executed Tuscan cuisine. Chef Paolo Fiaschi creates beautiful dishes based on Tuscan specialties and traditional ingredients, including a good selection of seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes, such as soft poached egg with pumpkin flan and white truffles (below), fresh tagliolini with guinea fowl ragu, bitter greens and taggiasche olives. Save space for dessert, they are just as beautiful to look at as they are to eat. Double check the opening times as they change seasonally — in the summer they are closed Sunday evenings, in cold weather Wednesdays they close.

Taverna dell’Ozio: A 10 mins drive from the town centre of San Miniato you can reach this wonderful but small rustic tavern (red and white checkered tablecloths and all) in the countryside neighbourhood of Corazzano. I will say right away it is always very hard to get a reservation here, especially during truffle and mushroom season (their specialties) as it is small (even smaller since the pandemic restrictions means less people inside) and is one of the few places in the area where you can try truly traditional, Slow Food dishes like game, snails and all the truffle and foraged mushroom dishes of your dreams. You may get lucky when they announce space available on their facebook page! Closed Mondays.

Collebrunacchi: A favourite restaurant recommended by my butcher (Falaschi), this wonderful trattoria is about a 15 minute drive through the countryside and is best for a traditional, big Tuscan meal with the works: antipasti of mixed crostini and pickles (below), tortellini in brodo, ribollita or pappardelle with hare sauce and wood fired grilled meats, including game (their specialty) and old school desserts like zuppa inglese. The prices are about 15 years old and the whole experience is, simply put, one of the reasons why I love living in Tuscany. They also have a B&B. Closed Mondays.

Osteria Golpaja: This is a little further afield, about 20 minutes drive away on the way to Cerreto Guidi and Vinci, two other beautiful little towns worth a visit. It’s part of the dreamy Villa Petriolo, a sustainable, organic estate with their own animals, olive trees and vineyards. The osteria is stunning, perfect for a special occasion with a group of people or a romantic meal for two. It is modelled on a trattoria as opposed to the other fine dining restaurant on the property, PS Ristorante. Everything we tasted was divine, from their own Cinta Senese prosciutto and rustic finocchiona, to the chestnut pasta with wild boar ragu and cabbage parcels filled with potato and wild mushrooms. Save room for desserts, in particular the rosemary creme brulee.

Cosimo Maria Masini: While not a restaurant, I highly recommend visiting this winery which is less than a 15 minute drive away. You can do a wine tasting (and olive oil tasting) here or simply visit the shop to take some bottles home. Francesco, the wine maker, does a wonderful explanation of how and why his winemaking is natural, organic and biodynamic.

Markets

Every Tuesday morning you’ll find the weekly mobile market in Piazza Dante Alighieri, while the third Sunday of the month is the Slow Food Market with local farmers and their produce (goat cheese, honey, sourdough bread, wine, salumi, fresh produce). The first Sunday of the month the historical centre hosts a pretty good flea market that lasts all day until 7pm where you can find all kinds of treasures, including textiles, cameras, furniture, paintings, toys, green glass from Empoli and ceramics.

Visiting the White Truffle Festival

In 2021 the festival will be held on three weekends, 13-14, 20-21 and 27-28 of November, starting at 10am on Saturdays until 11pm and 9am on Sundays until 11pm.

The main thing to know about the festival is that driving in and out of San Miniato is extremely restricted. Streets are closed as food stalls and tents take up every single piazza (and car park) in town and it becomes pedestrian only for the entire weekend while the whole town emanates the perfume of these precious tubers.

So how to get in if you aren’t already (cleverly organised) in town? There is a shuttle bus service that goes between two big parking lots in San Miniato Basso: either from the Palazzetto Fontevivo  (both Saturday and Sunday) or the Pam supermarket (just Sunday). So if you are driving, park your car here and catch the shuttle bus (4 euro return ticket, children 14 and under are free). If you are coming by train from Florence or Pisa, get off at the San Miniato train station and you could walk to the Pam supermarket (15 minutes) for the shuttlebus, catch the 320 bus which leaves from the station every 30 minutes and takes you to Piazza Dante Alighieri in 15 minutes (note it is not available on Sundays). You can buy a bus ticket (1,80 euro) at the bar below the bus stop (or from an Italian phone number you can send a text message to 4880105 with the word “PISA” from your phone for a ticket). Or call a local taxi driver to bring you as far as it can go to San Miniato (Piazza Dante Aligheri), such as Claudio Bertini (335 527 5938).

Where to Sleep:

Here are some places to stay right in the heart of the historical centre.

Hotel San Miniato, a restored 13th century monastery
Le Finestre del Seminario, recently restored, simple but spacious rooms in the 17th century Seminary building of San Miniato (above)
Umamma Luxury apartment
LUI apartment on Airbnb
LEI apartment on Airbnb
Orange apartment on Airbnb
Ser Ridolfo Loft

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