The Mighty Chianina

14 Apr

If you’ve been to Italy, and Tuscany in particular, you’ve no doubt heard of bistecca fiorentina. I remember the first time we ordered one. It was over 15 years ago and we were having dinner in Firenze. Not being much of a carnivore, I was a bit surprised when it arrived at the table –  huge and very, very rare. I was about to ask to have it returned to the kitchen for a bit more grilling when Len and Benita said they’d be happy to eat it as is. And they did. They both said the steak was tender and flavorful. I took their word for it.



Since that time, I have learned more about the steak and its origins. Chianina is one of the oldest and largest breeds of cattle, originating in the Valdichiana, hence its name. The cattle have been raised in the area for over 2200 years and were primarily used as oxen due to their size and strength. Being the tallest and heaviest breed of cattle, a mature bull can weigh over 3000 pounds and can grow to nearly 6 feet tall.

After WWII, machinery replaced these oxen in the fields, and chianina numbers began to dwindle until several breeders worked to bring back the breed. At the end of 2010, there were 47,236 head registered in Italy, of which more than 90% were in Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio.

For me, there are two other interesting things about them besides their size:
One, they are porcelain white;
Two, you never, ever see them.

Each year, we spend hours driving through the hills of Tuscany. We see the sights that paintings, no matter how good, can never quite duplicate. The hills are filled with farms, vineyards, and acres and acres of growing fruit trees, grains, vegetables, etc. But never, ever, a chianina. Not one.

Until now. Yesterday, I came face to face with some young chianina.



In color or black and white, they are quite unique.



Now for sure I don’t think I’ll ever eat a bistecca fiorentina!









10 Responses to “The Mighty Chianina”

  1. karenincalabria April 14, 2016 at 12:46 PM #

    Nice, thanks for the fiorentina background. I’m also not much of a beef eater, so I haven’t ever ordered it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Florence Connelly April 14, 2016 at 5:17 PM #

    Ditto !!~ great photos as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Royce Larsen April 15, 2016 at 12:37 AM #

    Thank you for the insight
    The topic was particularly relative as my family is in the beef business
    Not the type of animal Len was chasing at Rimrock!
    Keep traveling-I enjoy it

    Liked by 1 person

    • blogginginitaly April 15, 2016 at 3:11 AM #

      Yes, he also said he never chased a chianina on the Rimrock! Thanks.


  4. stellalucentellc April 15, 2016 at 5:39 AM #

    Love your post! Your story reminds me of the time my father ordered a bistecca fiorentina – but in Rome. It came out rare and despite my protests he returned it as he likes his steaks medium. Well, guess what – it came back to him about the same! I have since learned that chefs in Italy cook steak and meat in general according to the cut of meat and THEIR idea of how it should be – not ours! PS I ate some of the steak and it was delicious!


  5. jean April 15, 2016 at 10:07 PM #

    Len recommended this when we all had dinner with Lapo and Paola. So we had it in Cortona at the AD Braceria and it was lovely. We knew enough to let the chef cook it to his satisfaction and let him recommend the wine to accompany it. It was a Leuta Tau Toscana which, from its body seems to be one of the new blends. Perfect!
    Next year we are going for the Wild Boar Ragout – any opinions, Len?


    • blogginginitaly April 16, 2016 at 5:32 AM #

      AD is a perfect place to order the bistecca. As for your question, we just had some delicious pasta with cinghiale, but it was homemade – and delicious! I do think it’s pretty easy to find here locally but will get some recommendations for you.


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