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Of course any trip to Tuscany should involve a good amount of  indulging in local cuisine. That’s the beauty of visiting Italy (or anywhere!); the opportunity to taste and sample so many luscious foods. Here we look at the sweets of Siena, an historic and much-loved destination that’s widely known for the sumptuous sweets that add to the charm and lure of Tuscany.

Siena is nestled in the hills of Tuscany and purely enchanting. Take a stroll around the town and you’ll see many beautiful examples of art and architecture. There are churches galore, piazzas which are ideal for people watching, and even a palazzo that is home to the oldest bank in the world. History abounds in Siena and a stroll inside the city walls leaves you intrigued, dazzled and probably a bit peckish.

Not to worry! This remarkable city, which attracts visitors with open arms, also offers many opportunities to restore your blood sugar and delight in her sweet treats. Here are some of our favorites.

Ricciarelli di Siena

This cookie is a classic example of Siena’s sweets. A soft almond cookie made from a combination of sweet and bitter almonds, egg whites and sugar. These tasty treats are flavored with a bit of candied orange rind and dusted with powdered sugar.

Tuscans traditionally enjoy their aromatic ricciarelli during the Christmas holidays, often with a dessert wine such as an intensely flavored Vin Santo or Moscadello di Montalcino. These treats were once called morzalletti or marzapanette alla Senese and their lusciousness limited to royal feasts and lavish banquets. That’s because at that time only the wealthy could afford the main ingredient, almond paste or marzipan.

The name change, according to legend, came about when a Sienese nobleman named Ricciardetto della Gherardesca returned from the Crusades bearing similar treats from the Arabs, who, interestingly enough, were the first to bake cookies.

Today these cookies are no longer reserved for Royalty nor the wealthy. They  are available to all and a lovely part of Sienese history.


Another traditional Sienese Christmas cookie, the cavallucci is made with flour, nuts, candied fruits and spices. Although originally these delightful confections were made without the addition of fruit and nuts and flavored with anise.

The name references the tiny horse (cavallo in Italian) imprinted on the top. Or some say because the shape is much like a horse’s hoof. Also, they were customarily served at coaching inns. Wherever these cavalucci originated you can find them throughout Siena and they go very nicely any time of year with a fine dessert wine, a young chianti or enjoy with your espresso.


A “cousin” to the cavallucci, the more robust berriquocoli is a rustic cookie that more closely  resembles a biscuit (American version) or scone. The aroma of baking berriquocoli will absolutely make your mouth water. These generous Sienese treats are chock full of walnuts, warm, exotic spices and candied fruits including candied cedar.

The name of this delicious pastry is derived from the word berricocola, which is a kind of large apricot, reminiscent of the size of the cookie. Because of the berriquocoli’s rich flavor and aromatic spices the noble confection is sometimes also called cavalucci dei signori, which means “cavalucci of the lords”.

Panforte di Siena

This traditional Italian dessert may look familiar to you but you may not know the roots of this beautiful aromatic fruitcake hale back to Siena. The modern version of Panforte di Siena nuts and dried fruit with a generous amount of warm and enticing spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. The cake is very sweet and easily recognized by the powdered sugar with which it is lavished, creating a white and powdery “crust”.

Panforte di Siena dates back to the 13th century. It’s a very dense cake, firm in structure and rich in flavor. If you enjoy just one of the sweets of Siena this is a “must try”. But, alas, who wants to try just one of the sweet treats of Siena when there are so many opportunities?

Pan co’ Santi

Some might not consider this incredible Tuscan bread much of a sweet, although it is sweet and so delicious. A dense, heavy yeast bread filled with walnuts and raisins, Pan o’Santi is traditionally served for All Saints Day. In addition to the walnuts and raisins, traditional Pan co’ Santi includes red wine and black pepper. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind pastry you should enjoy while in Siena.

There you have it-our favorite sweets of Siena. 

We visit Siena during the Secrets of Tuscany Tour.

Sweets of Siena