In the great rivalry between Florence and Siena, even passionate Florentines will likely concede that when it comes to sweets, Siena has the edge. Many of the signature desserts have their roots in the town’s ancient monasteries and churches, which (thanks to grateful soldiers returning form the Holy Wars) often had access to spices and ingredients the average resident couldn’t afford, such as cloves, cinnamon, and pepper. You’ll still find such flavors in the sweets produced at this beloved bakery set near the central Palazzo Pubblico. Pick up brightly colored boxes of panforte, the traditional holiday honey cake loaded with nuts and spices, and cavallucci, a cookie made of honey and candied orange that pairs well with a glass of red. But the most famous Sienese treat has to be ricciarelli, perfectly flaky and chewy almond cookies gently flavored with cinnamon and orange peel. It’s a strong person who can eat just one.
By Sandra Ramani, AFAR Contributor
The Chiaroscuro of Baking in Sienese Almond Cookies
No foccaccia will ever compare to the one I had for breakfast every Friday at my Italian host mother's apartment, and her dinners boasted the creamiest pesto I've ever had. It was at her table that I embarked on my romance with roasted peppers. My host mother seemed to have the best of everything. And when she offered me some ricciarelli cookies, I accepted and enjoyed them. But weeks later, I left the Palazzo Pubblico on the sloping Piazza del Campo of Siena and entered a little shop in the town square of Siena, unaware that I'd be missing it for years to come. In Dolce Siena, I tasted love in the form of a ricciarelli. The almond cookies, first baked in the 14th century, were nothing like the ones I'd had in Florence. There was a perfect harmony between their slight crunch and they way they melted in my mouth; between their sweet decadence and their airiness. My two friends and I bought a box of more than 12 ricciarelli. They were gone in less than five minutes. Then we went back into Dolce Siena and bought more to take home, along with some other Sienese treats.
By Dwiveck Custodio, AFAR Local Expert
piazza del campo 3/4, 53100 Siena SI, Italy
+39 0577 49165
Sun - Sat 9am - 7:30pm