Florence might be best known for its international art scene, primarily focused on the massive collections of Renaissance works housed in the city, but it’s the food that can universally connect with every single Florentine and tourist alike. Restaurants abound, but knowing where to go to try the specialties can be a little trickier, so today I’m going to share a walk through Florence with you, hitting some of the main foodie spots. I have this huge advantage in that I’m currently taking a food-centric course, but you can totally benefit from my experience and check some of these places whenever you make it to the Renaissance hub of Italy.
If you’re starting from the Duomo, check out Eataly first, an upscale market that reminds me of Dean & Deluca in the states. And, in fact, Eataly has several locations, including at least one in the States. It’s an interesting mix of market and quick-service food, and it’s opening in Florence has been hotly debated by the locals, who wonder if it will take away from more “authentic” restaurants. Secretly, though, I think a lot of them have been checking it out alongside the tourists; the place is always packed, especially at lunchtime.
Generally speaking I think that the prices just really depend on what you are shopping for. For example, jarred peaches are majorly pricey, but spreads and jams range from reasonable to pricey. I’m personally planning to stop by for olive spread before I head back on my next trip to the States.
If you DO happen to live near an Eataly location outside Italy, I imagine it’s a great place to source more Italian ingredients. In Florence, next up head slightly away from the center down Via San Gallo to where it intersects with Via Guelfa, where you will find Vecchio Forno, location of the best focaccia you will ever put in your mouth. Period. It’s squishy on the inside and practically dripping with olive oil and has the perfect proportion of salt. YUM. They have an awesome selection of baked goods and pizzas as well, though their paninis aren’t my favorite pick.
For paninis, everyone in Florence has their favorite spot and mine is Antico Noe. Not only do they have turkey (which I have noticed becoming more common in specialty panini shops, though four years ago when I lived here it was hard to come by), but they are overrun by locals. Not a ton of seating, so go on your way somewhere or plan to grab a perch outside somewhere. My favorite is a make-your-own of turkey, pecorino and what they call olive paste although they have a ton of pre made options that look amazing. I think it runs about 4,50 euros which isn’t bad for a panini (they typically range 3,50-5).
Walk around for a bit, check out a museum, burn some calories and when you are feeling peckish head to Procacci, a small shop on Via Tournabuoni that has been there for ages and is where you can sample something expensive for cheap: truffles. The shop offers small sandwiches filled with truffle butter in their sandwich selection and they are the perfect size for snacking along with a glass of prosecco; this is a place I am definitely planning to take visiting friends to.
You can buy a variety of products to take home there, though regrettably they do not sell the truffle butter. Fun story: Procacci was bought however many years ago and the sellers (original owners) wanted an insane additional amount of money for the original truffle sandwich recipe. The buyers laughed in their faces, and recreated it.
The interior is small but there is room to sit if they are not busy and it’s a nice escape from the busy tourist-packed streets of the city. I’m a big fan of their creative display.
Finish up your day with something sweet, depending on the season. Is it still winter? Head to Rivoire, hands down the best-known, if not the best, hot chocolate in Florence. Italy is known for its incredibly thick hot chocolate that can even be eaten with a spoon. Definitely pop for the whipped cream; it’s a good contrast.
Is it summer? Or are you just in Italy briefly? Then you have to grab gelato, Italy’s national treasure. For the favorite of Florence (and the cheapest– bonus!) head to Gelateria alla Carraia, which has two locations, one near Santa Croce and the original location, across the Arno, two bridges down from the Ponte Vecchio. The original location has more flavors, of which I have sampled the chocolate mousse, some cookie concoction that I can’t remember the exact name of, pistachio & white chocolate, pear (with actual chunks of pear) and their signature flavor which has chocolate and cream and other things. It’s one euro for a one-flavor cone and a size that might go for 3 or 3,50 in the center can be had for 2 euros. Definitely a good bargain, though it’s hard to find “bad” gelato in the city!
Good food is all over Florence, but these are some of my favorites– be sure to let me know if I missed one of yours!