The Signoria Medicea
Following the fighting between the magnates and the population the government of Florence by the Council was transformed into the Signoria, when in 1434 Cosimo de’Medici became the lord of the city and governed with such wisdom that he came to merit - after his death - the title of “Father of the Homeland”. To give his city fame and importance in 1439 he convinced Pope Eugene IV to transfer the Ecumenical Council of the Roman and Greek church from Ferrara to Florence, guests of Banco de’Medici.
The legend says that on this occasion there were born two terms that still today have much significance in Tuscan cooking, they are ARISTA and VINSANTO.
While in a banquet the Greek Cardinal Bessarione tasted some roast pork and seems to have exclaimed “aristos” which in Greek means “the best”. The Florentines that were present thought to call that piece of meat by that name and - liking it - they repeated it so much that the whole loin of pork has since been called by this name.
Also Vinsanto is referred to in this legend (a little controversial) to Cardinal Bessarione, a true gourmet, who when tasting a sweet wine seems again to have exclaimed “but this is Xantos!” alluding to a similar wine, produced on the Greek island of Xantos. Those who were listening thought that he wanted to say that the wine was so good as to judge it holy and so, from that day, has been called Vinsanto (holy wine). This special wine is offered in all of Tuscany as a dessert wine to be drunk with cantucci, famous biscuits from Prato of which we will speak in more detail later.
For the council, Cosimo de’Medici ordered to be built the Palace in the then Via Larga (today Via Cavour), where there were prepared numerous lavish banquets that were truly stunning and exquisite, natural foods, elegantly refined table decorations and cutlery. The courses followed each other in a very precise way, very similar to today, with the exception of some almond sweets (such as morselletti) or of pine kernels (such as the pinocchiati) that were served as hors d’oeuvres.