I’m not bringing any breaking news when saying that Florence is one of Italy’s most beautiful cities. Most fellow travelers will have heard of or even visited this marvel of a city. I also don’t have to convince anyone that Italian food – or Tuscan for that matter – is oh-so-delicious. If you haven’t got a weak spot for Italian cuisine, then what are you even doing here?
This blog post is therefore not about why you should visit Florence or what makes the Tuscan capital such a great foodie destination. There are gazillions of blog posts about that on the internet and I would merely be repeating what others have already mentioned before me. So, rather than writing a whole post about stuff you might already know, I thought it might be nice to share a couple of Florence insider tips you will be slightly less likely to find online.
Personally, the one type of advice I think you can never have enough of when planning a city trip are food and drinks recommendations. So, prior to my most recent visit to Florence (last week), I asked around and was lucky enough to get some pretty brilliant tips on where to find some of the city’s best cafés and restaurants. Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I decided not to share some of my favourite food discoveries. So, here we go:
Great for coffee
In a country where coffee making and drinking has almost been turned into a form of art, you don’t have to look far for a great cup of coffee. So, in Florence, every café or restaurant serves fantastic coffee. If you’re in for something slightly different (flat white, anyone?) go and check out Ditta Artigianale. This specialty coffee roaster and breweris kind of a novelty in Florence, and indeed Italy, where modern artisan coffee shops are not really that common (precisely because of the reasons outlined above). Opened by three-time Italian Barista Champion Francesco Sanapo, Ditta Artigianale mixes the tradition of Italian espresso with contemporary artisan coffee-making. A real experience, even for Italians.
Ditta Artigianale: Via dei Neri, 30/32 R
Great for brunch (and cocktails)
It might have a French name, but several locals were raving about La Ménagère. This concept-store-cum-restaurant located in central Florence is not your traditional Italian trattoria. Located in a gorgeous historic building, La Ménagère is an interior design shop, bar and restaurant in one. It’s a wonderful place to stroll around, have a look at the interior or have a drink and a bite. Indeed, if you’re looking for a non-traditional brunch (or drinks or dinner for that matter) in a beautiful setting, La Ménagère is a great destination.
La Ménagère: Via de Ginori, 8/R
Great for panino
Looking for a quick bite whilst taking in all of Florence’s beauty? Then you’re at the right address at All’antico Vinaio. Although, address… This local panini institution has no fewer than 3 branches in the same street. They’re all located right next to each other in Via dei Neri, only footsteps away from the famous Piazza della Signoria and the Uffizi Gallery. At almost any time of the day you’ll find a queue here. Not surprisingly, because the Italian sandwiches (paninis) of All’antico Vinaio are mouthwateringly good. In fact, some of their paninis – such as the Favolosa – have received the title of best street food in Italy. There’s a constant stream of fresh oven-baked bread from the nearby bakery and an array of delicious local produce to choose from for your toppings. And all of that for as little as €5. A shout out to Italian Eye for the tip!
All’antico Vinaio: Via dei Neri, 65, 74 and 76
Great for wine
On the other side of the legendary Ponte Vecchio, opposite Palazzo Pitti, there’s an intimate little wine bar called Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina. It’s the ideal spot to sit down with a glass of local Italian wine after a long day of sightseeing. But be early or book in advance, because there are only a small number of seats in this enoteca. Pitti Gola e Cantina focuses on handcrafted Tuscan wines (think Chianti, Brunello, Vernaccia and others), often from smaller family-run wineries. It also offers a wine tasting lunch, consisting of 3 dishes and 4 wine pairings. Around the corner, the owners opened Osteria dell’Enoteca, a full-fledged restaurant that serves authentic Tuscan dishes paired with great regional wines.
Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina: Piazza Pitti, 16
Great for Florentine steak
Veggies and vegans out there, be warned: Florence is a city for carnivores. The city is famous for one piece of meat in particular and that’s steak. It’s so renown that it’s even been given its own name: bistecca alla fiorentina, or Florentine steak. Bistecca alla fiorentina is traditionally made from a large, thick cut of Chianina beef, a Tuscan breed. It’s seasoned, grilled and usually served rare.
Allegedly, Florentines appetite for large pieces of steak was born during the times of the über wealthy Medici family, who ruled Florence from the 15th till the 18th century. Every year on the 10th of August, the Medici used to throw an extravagant party to celebrate Saint Lorenzo Day, during which they offered large chunks of grilled meat to local citizens.
Nowadays, you’ll find bistecca alla fiorentina on almost any restaurant menu in Florence. Florence native Italian Eye recommended Regina Bistecca to me and what a feast it was. Not only is this elegant restaurant beautifully located in a former antiquarian book shop, it also serves some of the finest meat I’ve had in a while. And they do great side dishes too (although I wasn’t such a fan of their tiramisu dessert). The combination of food, décor and ambiance makes this place a real winner.
Regina Bistecca: Via Ricasoli, 14/R
Great for market vibes
I love strolling around local food markets whenever I’m on a city trip. In Florence, theMercato Centrale is the place to immerse yourself in the world of Tuscan and Italian food. This 19th century market hall provides a great opportunity to learn more about Italian produce (and stock up on supplies for when you’re back home). What’s more, on the first floor of the Mercato Centrale there’s now a contemporary food court, allowing you to indulge on some of the best of Italian cuisine. The food court is open from 8am till midnight – a great spot for some food tasting any time of the day.
Mercato Centrale: Piazza del Mercato Centrale / Via dell’Ariento
Great for gluten-free food
Pasta, pizza, panino… Gluten-free dining in Italy might seem a bit of a stretch. Although gluten-free options are becoming more common also in Italy, you have to be in the know in order to be able to find them. If you have a gluten intolerance or are on a carbs-free diet and are looking for a good place to eat in Florence, then book a table at Trattoria da Garibaldi. Apart from brilliant traditional Italian dishes, this restaurant also has a separate gluten-free menu. Finally, an Italian feast that you and your gluten(-free) mates can enjoy together.
Trattoria da Garibaldi: Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 38R
So, next time you’re planning a trip to Florence, you know where to find some of the best food and drinks in town! You can thank me later 😉