Ricciarelli and Panforte are two typical sweets produced in Siena, whose origins trace back to the Middle Age. In many Italian families these specialities are consumed during the whole Christmas season, but in Siena can be found and bought all the year round, as they belongs to the town’s tradition and even identity. At Christmas most supermarkets and stores in Italy sell these sweets (although usually industrially made), but if you are in Siena I recommend to buy these specialities, which also represent a great idea for a tasty and typical souvenir, in small pastry shops, where locals make their shopping.
Below are some pastry shops I have been having a direct experience with, and I recommend for the high quality of their products. Certainly, this list is not complete, and other producers in Siena or its surroundings sell excellent sweets, I just list the ones I well know and whose products have been appreciated by my discerning family!
– within the city walls I suggest Pasticceria Nocino, in Via Aretina n. 13, immediately outside Porta Pispini; I have recently tasted the excellent productions of Pasticcerie Sinatti from San Rocco a Pilli – in the surroundings of Siena – that have a shop right in the city centre, in Via della Sapienza, n. 36 ( it’s the street connecting St. Dominic’s Basilica to Piazza Salimbeni, where the Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank has its headquarters); another recommended address is the Nuova Pasticceria in Via Dupré 37, a street you can take directly from Piazza del Campo; fine products are also sold at Buti , in Via Vittorio Emanuele II, n. 53, just ouside Porta Camollia, where you can get on foot or by car, being located outside the walls but very near them.
– if you can drive outside the city centre, go to Pasticceria Le Campane, in Via Caduti di Vicobello n. 37, also near Porta Camollia but a little more far away from the walls. I must confess I have a long lasting relationship with this pastry shop: this place was located in the city centre until some years ago, and when I was going to the University, every morning the intense tempting scent of almonds, dough and creams arriving from the patry shop invited me to enter and buy some cakes for the break between one class and another. At Christmas, I always went there to buy Panforte and Ricciarelli, and even now that the pastry shop is located in the bigger and more modern headquarters in Via Caduti di Vicobello, where I continue going, every time I pass by the old location I stop for a while remembering the old times.
Some final recommendations for you just to be sure to buy high-quality products: Ricciarelli – diamond-shaped cookies made from almonds, sugar and egg whites – must be soft, have an intense scent, and not contain flour as this ingredient – sometimes used to obtain a cheaper final product – modifies the characteristics of these delicious sweets, making them quite hard. The true and well done Ricciarelly must definitely melt in your mouth!
Panforte (literally translated “strong bread”) is made from dried fruit (almonds, first of all), candied fruit (candied orange peels, citron or melon, depending on its “white” or “black” version), flour, sugar and honey. Its texture must be dense and compact, but not too hard. Round-shaped, its top may be powdered sugar or spice coated, whilst the underside is always covered with a white, paper-thin water-and-flour biscuit layer.