When walking around Florence if you are observant it is possible to see small food stalls set up in certain strategic locations. These are part of a very old tradition of providing cheap, filling food for the artisan classes. Now however, you are just as likely to see suited office workers, elegantly dressed women and tourists at these stalls. Depending on the stall there is a variety of goods on offer, either to eat from a plate or in a panino. Typically these are: trippa, lampredotto and "il lesso". The latter is meltingly tender boiled beef, whereas trippa and lampredotto are offal cuts. "Trippa" is simply "tripe" and as ruminants have four stomachs there is a range to choose from. In the tripe stalls this is usually what would be called "blanket tripe" (the rumen or first stomach) by English speakers, as it looks like a big fluffy blanket or towel, but can also be honeycomb tripe (the reticulum or second stomach) and book/bible tripe (the omasum or third stomach). These tripe are all cooked in a variety ways depending on what part of Tuscany you are in, from the trippa stalls in Florence they will be cooked in a tomato and vegetable broth. Now I mentioned that there are four stomachs and I have only described three as tripe. This is because the four stomach or abomasum, is rather different to the others. The abomasum is a true or gastric stomach (in other words the same organ as in humans) and unlike the other ruminant stomachs it is not processed to strip off it's outer mucosal layer to leave the translucent, pearl like collagen and connect tissue layers, which is the typical white tripe that most people are aware of. If fact, in English speaking countries this organ was rarely eaten by itself. In Tuscany however, this is called "lampredotto", and I think that it is the best of all the offals on offer from the trippa stalls. It's texture is soft and slightly chewy, it tastes of beef and has a gamey barnyard flavour which is basically the flavour of the stomach contents, which at this stage largely bacteria and plant debris. This no doubt sounds horrific, but when you think about it much of the food that we eat is flavoured with or by the action of bacteria: Cheese, bread, yogurt, sour cream, cultured butter, wine, beer, salami - it's all good. In any case whether it is il lesso, trippa or lampredotto, typically the meat is sliced, a bread roll is halved and some of the softer middle is pulled out and discarded, the inner surface of the roll is dipped in the broth, which is then filled with plenty of offal or meat. You will then be asked if you would like a dressing, typically salsa piccante and salsa verde. I'm a purist so I always go for the latter.
The trippa stall with il Porcellino, close to the Ponte Vecchio.