Hidden treasures

How was Siena's panforte created?

Local Traditions
Panforte-Siena

How was Siena's panforte created?

You all know how tasty panforte is and probably also that that it is one of Siena’s icons. What you may not know is the story behind the origin of this cake. We must go as far back as the 10th century when, with water, flour, honey and fruit, folks used to make a sort of sweet focaccia called 'panmelato'. With the summer heat, the cake dried and moldered, acquiring a rather sour taste. Since acid in Latin translates as 'fortis' the cake was called panforte.

In 1200 the cake underwent a small transformation: the flour and honey remained but the fruit was taken out. In its place dried figs, jam, pine nuts and above all pepper were added. At the time pepper was a sought-after, but difficult to get hold of, spice. For this reason, the dessert, which was then called 'panpepato' (peppered bread), was considered extremely delicious and was consumed only by the clergy and the richest families. It was made mostly by spice sellers and nuns and friars who, being the pharmacists of the day, were the only ones who could afford its pricey spices.

In 1887, during the visit of Queen Margherita and King Umberto of Savoy to Siena, some spice sellers decided to make a white version of panforte for the occasion. A dough of lightly colored candied fruits was used and sprinkled with a layer of icing sugar. It was called Panforte Margherita in honor of the queen and eventually became the best-known version of this dessert.

One last curiosity! Do you know that legend has it that the Sienese managed to defeat the Florentines in the battle of Monteaperti thanks to the invigorating power of panforte? It is said, in fact, that they ate it before going into battle and this made them stronger. We bet you now feel like tucking into a slice of panforte ... well we have a solution for you! Book our tour 'Your own Siena' and after discovering the treasures of this wonderful city, let your guide take you to a pastry shop. It is said that a bite of panforte tells the story of Siena better than any book: try it and let us know.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

Latest posts

Siena: The soldier who saved Hemingway is from Montalcino

Hemingway
Historical Curiosities

Who has not heard of Ernest Hemingway? The great American writer who has given the world masterpieces such as 'The old man and the sea'...

View

Siena: The soldier who saved Hemingway is from Montalcino

Hemingway
Historical Curiosities

Who has not heard of Ernest Hemingway? The great American writer who has given the world masterpieces such as 'The old man and the sea'...

View

Florence: Does Munch's ‘The Scream’ hail from Florence?

Urlo_Munch
Did you know that...

Munch's 'The Scream' is probably one of the most famous and best-known paintings in the world. It was painted in 1893 and, as the artis...

View

Livorno: 'Ponce': an all-Livorno ritual

Ponce-alla-livornese
Local Traditions

Livorno is a city that has so much to offer to those who visit it: the beautiful sea you can admire from Terrazza Mascagni, the fo...

View

Top posts

Arezzo: Guido d'Arezzo and the invention of the music

Guido-d-Arezzo
Big Names

In Talla and surroundings people have no doubt: the inventor of the musical stave, the inventor of the music notes and also of the mode...

View

Pistoia: The Kiss of the Christs in Gavinana

Il-bacio-dei-cristi
Local Traditions

It is a very ancient but still popular rite. Two large processions that meet up with a Christ on the cross in front of each one: the he...

View

Siena: Piero Carbonetti and his tin drum

Piero-Carbonetti
Local Traditions

Subversive, persecuted, anarchist, homeless, dreamer: it is really difficult to define Piero Carbonetti, Tuscan bred and born and Garib...

View

Pisa: Kinzika, the young woman who saved Pisa from the Saracens

Kinzika
Local Traditions

It was really her, a young woman with an Arabian name, Kinzica, of the noble Sismondi family, to save Pisa from being sacked by Saracen...

View