Speaking of Italian food traditions, we cannot fail to mention the Merenda, one of children’s favorite dishes! Have you ever heard of it? The word has a Latin origin and means something deserving.

While the British have the afternoon tea break, Italians have the Merenda. It’s nothing more than a light afternoon snack, usually prepared with ingredients commonly available at home, but it has a special place in the Italian food tradition. As usual, each region has its ingredients and different ways to prepare Merenda.

An Italian food tradition loved by kids

Merenda’s snacks take my mind back to my youth. They remind me of my Grandmother who used to show me her love for preparing some snacks in the afternoon.

When I was out in the garden playing with friends, she used to prepare Merenda for everyone. And when everything was ready, she was shouting at me “Niccola, smettete di giocare e venite a fare Merenda!” – Nicola (with 2 c instead of one), stop playing and come here, the Merenda is ready!

When I was studying, everything except math which I hated, she used to prepare a healthy snack helping me keep focusing on my studies.

Our Merenda during a wine tour in Montepulciano

You will love the Tuscan way to prepare Merenda!

There are many ways to prepare Merenda but the base is the Tuscan bread. The typical ones are:

  • Bread with all kinds of cured meats such as mortadella or salami, or with Nutella chocolate.
  • The classic sandwich with 2 slices of bread, stuffed with cheese and raw ham.
  • Homemade bread slices dressed with olive oil, salt, and rubbed ripe tomatoes on top.
  • A slice of pizza is always a good idea.
  • In Tuscany, we have the focaccia with cecina (also named calda or torta di Ceci) which is a kind of chickpea salty flatbread. In Livorno province is called 5 & 5. Read here why and discover the recipe.
  • A specialty from the past was bread, sugar, and red wine. The sweet taste of sugar and the good smell of the wine, a deliciousness!!

Everything was served with water and fruit juices. A glass of Spuma Bionda, a typical soda of the center of Italy, is the perfect partner for the focaccia with cecina. A glass of red wine for adults, instead.

Once, at 4 pm, my Grandmother prepared me a big dish of gnocchi (potato dumplings) with meat ragout. But don’t tell anyone! My uncle still laughs reminding me of that afternoon.

Merenda was also a perfect snack for workers

The meaning of Merenda is “something to deserve“. That’s why it was also the snack of peasants and workers before going back home from work. A healthy snack with bread, cheese, tomatoes, ham, and a glass of red wine was the perfect way to recover at the end of a hard-working day.

In Carrara, where the marble quarries are, the typical Merenda for workers included bread and the famous Lardo di Colonnata, a cheap but healthy and tasty ingredient to get back the energy.

You cannot leave Tuscany before having tried this snack of the Italian food tradition. There are many ways to enjoy a Merenda. Sitting on a table in the main square of a medieval village. During a wine tasting in a vineyard. Waiting for the sunset beside the beach, or sitting on a terrace staring at terrific landscapes! What will be your favorite spot for Merenda?

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Merenda, Italian Food Tradition

7 thoughts on “Merenda, an Italian food tradition!

  1. Emily Olson says:

    My favorite snack, the Italian merenda! I love eating simple delicious combinations of meat, cheese & bread… and of course wine!

    • Edoardo says:

      I agree with you Emily, the Italian merenda is really tasty.
      My mom used to prepare me a mix of fresh ricotta cheese with cocoa powder and sugar, or just a slice of bread with some chopped tomatoes, sea salt, and extra virgin olive oil. How it was your “merenda” when you were a kid?

  2. Ralf Kleine says:

    Bei einer Toskana-Wein-Reise Anfang Oktober 2022 habe ich die aktuelle Version der Merenda toscana kennengelernt:
    1 Scheibe rohen Schinken, 2 Scheiben Salami, 2 kleine Scheiben Käse (Provolone?), dazu Wein und Wasser.
    Nach 4 Weinproben mit der Merenda toscana habe ich das dann gelassen und nur etwas Brot zum Wein gegessen.

  3. Rosemary says:

    Ciao Nicola! I am currently I San Frediano. Have been here almost three weeks and one more to go, last day if July 30.
    It’s unfortunate the heat has been difficult.
    I have been to Milano znd Siena and have a tour planned for one of the Borghi Chiznt.
    Would love your insight on things off the beaten path. And hope we can connect!

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Hey Rosemary, thanks for the comment. San Frediano is not far from Empoli where you can catch a train to Pisa or Lucca, or Viareggio (and Pietrasanta) to explore the seaside of Tuscany. Also the medieval town of Certaldo is not far away from you and it is very nice to visit.

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