Really, there is no such thing as Italian food. There is Sicilian food or Tuscan food or Venetian food.

Every region has its own food. Italy was not even officially a country until 1861, and not in reality until 1946. Cucina italiana is deeply traditional, profoundly regional and utterly seasonal.

The concept of campanilismo is a fundamental aspect of Italian life and culture, and conditions everything in the country. Goethe much admired Italians for this ‘cult of local patriotism’, although he devoted almost no attention to food in his travels, except for a cursory remark here and there. The weather impressed him much more.

Campanilismo means the attachment to the Parish, or everything within the sound of your own Campanile or church bell-tower. This has its roots in the medieval, feudal nature of an agricultural society ruled by the Campanile e Castello. The priest in the Church and the feudal Lord in his castle.

Everything about food in Italy is steeped in tradition. In the main, the regional cuisines are the food of the contadino or peasant. This is particularly so in Tuscany, which was until after the Second World War, one of the poorest regions of Italy. A far cry from today!

Food in Bologna is an exception to the peasant rule, in that it is rich, indulgent, extravagant even, and often costly and complicated. Bologna is more or less the Butter Line—from here on northwards, butter is used, but below Bologna, never. Tuscans on the other hand, are by nature and history, extremely parsimonious and Spartan, and the cuisine reflects this. Even where it is rich, as in the case of the cinghiale, wild boar, or the monumental Bistecca alla fiorentina, Florentine beefsteak, it is largely unadorned.

The rest of the Tuscan diet consists largely of bread, beans, beans and beans, the rich and fragrant minestrone called ribollita, then Acquacotta, literally hot-water, which is a cabbage and bean soup, and pappa al pomodoro, which is essentially tomato and bread soup. Then of course there is the Tripe. Tripe is famous in Tuscany, and in Florence in particular. Just outside my door, every day, in all weather, is the Trippaio or tripe vendor with his little kiosk like an ice-cream stand or Harry’s cafĂ© du Wheels. He sells plastic plates of tripe cut into strips and served in tomato sauce, or bread-rolls with a filling of Lampredotto, which is another and darker form of boiled tripe, sliced and put into the rolls with some green sauce. I have never passed him when there wasn’t a tiny knot of devotees gathered to eat Florence’s famous fast food and have a chat on the side. It’s not my idea of heaven.

Tuscan hospitality is profound. The food is always of the very best quality. Freshness and simplicity is a hallmark, and autumn is my favourite season—white asparagus, wild boar, rabbit and hare, Porcini mushrooms and black tartufe or truffles, gnocchi, castagne chestnuts, figs and grapes and new wine, vino novello.