Table customs in Florence from Middle Age to Renaissance

Restaurant at Villa le Barone Tuscany
Restaurant at Villa le Barone Tuscany

Table customs and traditions have been often reflected in Western paintings. This is particularly true for paintings from the middle Ages to the Renaissance in Florence, which are a true chronicle of life at that time and show the evolution of table habits. You can admire these paintings in the museums and churches of Florence or Siena, and in the surroundings of Villa le Barone. Perhaps you will look at them with different eyes after having read this article! You will also appreciate the care with which the table is put today in Villa le Barone!

The artists were chroniclers of their time, and the various paintings of the Middle Ages to the Renaissance show the evolution of table customs in Tuscany at that time. It is in the representations of the evangelical episodes that table settings first appear, and especially in the Last Supper’s representations. For example, in the paintings of Giotto (1266-1337), Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1318), Maestro Pisano (1215-1284), the essential elements of a table in the Middle Ages can be seen: a simple white tablecloth, plates in front of the guests, a unique dish where one takes the food with the hand to bring it directly to the mouth, in the center of the table, a single knife with a wooden handle and a long blade, a few glasses. In the 15th century, with Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), the tablecloths are embroidered, there is a plate of metal for each guest. The spoon and the knife are the first table cutlery to appear on the table. The spoon was of wood, round, but its dimensions were reduced and it was given an oval shape. There was only one knife, used by all to cut the food, and the pieces were brought to the mouth with the hands. One of the first representations of the fork, born not as an individual cover, but to take the food in the common dish, can be found in the Abbey of Monte Olivetto (near Villa le Barone), in one fresco by Giovanni Bazzi detto il Sodoma (1477-1549). Over time, the functions of the tip of the knife will be filled by the fork, and this tip will always be more rounded and the blade less sharpened to avoid the negative impression of an offensive weapon. Note also that one wiped his mouth with the tablecloth, and the use of the napkin appears only at the end of the fifteenth century.

Fresco at the Abbey of Monte Olivetto Tuscany
Fresco at the Abbey of Monte Olivetto Tuscany

It was Catherine de Medici’s who introduced the use of the fork to the court of France. She would have said at a banquet in Fontainebleau in 1535 “Ladies and Gentlemen, you seize the meat in pieces with your fingers but grasping the meat with your fingers is considered improper and intolerable in the city from which I come,” and she showed a curious object with three pointed metal teeth: the fork.

Today table setting has been enriched, with different cutlery for each dish. The blade of the knife is rounded, it is less tapered, and it is oriented towards the plate, thus losing its offensive character. Whereas in France the forks are arranged points downwards, in Italy, as in England and the USA, they are arranged points in the air. This is how you will find your table put in the restaurant of the hotel Villa le Barone, with beautiful “Ginori” plates and all the necessary types of glasses to taste the exquisite wines of Chianti Classico!

A popular place in Florence: the “Porcellino”

The "Porcellino" in the "Mercato Nuovo" Florence Tuscany
The “Porcellino” in the “Mercato Nuovo” Florence Tuscany

A “not to be missed” popular place in Florence is the “Porcellino” (the piglet), in fact a bronze boar fountain in the loggia of the “Mercato Nuovo”. Rub his nose and put a coin in his mouth for good luck! Also admire the sculpture by maestro Piero Tasca, commissioned by Cosimo de Medicis in 1612, but with copies now existing in many cities all over the world!

When you stroll in Florence, you cannot miss the loggia of the “Mercato Nuovo” (the New Market), built around the middle of the 16th century in the heart of the city, just a few steps from the Ponte Vecchio. It is a small market where today you can buy many souvenirs. On the south side of the loggia, you will see the famous bronze statue of a boar, with its shiny nose, as so many people have rubbed it for good fortune: you have to put a coin in his mouth and let it slip, hoping it would fall between the grates and fulfill your wishes. There are a lot of legends linked to this “Porcellino”. A 19th century US author, Charles Godfrey Leland, who settled in Florence for a part of his life, wrote about the fountain in his book “Legends of Florence collected from the People”. The Danish writer Hans Cristian Anderson also wrote a story inspired by this fountain called “The Bronze Hog”: a young boy falls asleep on the back of the bronze boar and during the night, the boar comes to life and takes him through the streets of Florence…

A detail of The "Porcellino" fountain in the "Mercato Nuovo" Florence Tuscany
A detail of The “Porcellino” fountain in the “Mercato Nuovo” Florence Tuscany

You also have to know that the “Porcellino” is a copy of a copy of a copy …The bronze boar was originally sculpted and casted by Baroque Master Pietro Tacca shortly before 1634, inspired by a marble Italian copy of a Greek marble original, which was a gift from the Pope to the Medici in the 1560s. What you will see today is a 20th century copy installed when the original bronze was moved into the Uffizzi museum (with so many people rubbing it, his nose was becoming too thin!).

And many other copies of the boar have been made recently in many cities all over the world: in Australia, in the USA (in 12 states!), in Denmark, in Sweden, in Germany, in Great Britain…

Do you have many wishes to express? Then, come to Florence in Italy! The “Porcellino” is waiting for you and will certainly fulfill them…

Italian pasta in Tuscany at Villa Barone

Fresh pasta (tagliatelle) prepared at hotel Villa le Barone
Fresh pasta (tagliatelle) prepared at hotel Villa le Barone

Italy is famous worldwide for its pasta and there is no other place in the world where one can enjoy a delicious dish of perfectly cooked pasta!

At Villa Le Barone, in Tuscany, after the “antipasti”, you can choose for dinner a dish of Italian pasta, either “fresh”, handmade by our chef, or “dry”, (that is dehydrated) , and accommodated in so many fashions! We use a very high quality pasta, eco labeled, made in Tuscany with Tuscan durum wheat produced in Tuscan farms, and every day, you can savor a different type of pasta!

Cooking pasta is not as easy as it sounds: it has to be cooked “al dente”, and at the last moment, and this is what we do at Villa le Barone. Of course, you will be able to taste the famous “spaghetti”, which take their name from the Italian name “spago”, which means “string”. We are preparing the spaghetti with the traditional “pomarola” (tomato sauce), but also with the “carbonara” sauce, a rich, creamy sauce of eggs, cheese and pork. We also prepare “tagliatelle”, whose name comes from the Italian “tagliare” since they are cut into long sheets of dough, and serve them with the “bolognese” or the lemon sauce, or with the 4 cheeses sauce (parmesan, pecorino, gorgonzola, taleggio). In autumn, we also accommodate them with fresh porcini mushrooms! And then, we serve the “ravioli”, small pasta envelopes

Hotel Villa le Barone The restaurant
Hotel Villa le Barone The restaurant

filled with stuffing often made of spinach and ricotta and served with butter and sage.


The “tortellini” (plural of tortellino which means “little pie”) which have a characteristic navel shape, are also stuffed with various mixtures of meat and parmesan, and can be served gratinated or in broth. The “lasagna” are made of alternating layers of pasta cut into large squares, of cheese, of bechamel, and of tomato sauce with meat. By the way, do you know that, already in the first century BC, Horace spoke of “Lagana” thin fried dough sheets, and that a 5th century cookbook describes a dish called “Lagana” made with layers of dough and meat?…
Every traveler will certainly want to experience the tasty sensations and unique flavors offered by the peculiarities of Italian cuisine. For a trip into the incomparable gustatory emotions of Italian pasta, choose Hotel Villa Le Barone!