museums offer plenty of food for the soul. But battling through the crowds to
see the city’s artistic treasures is not something to tackle on an empty
stomach. Thankfully, from market food to Michelin-star restaurants, Florence is
full of delicious eateries for every budget.
First, forgo the
breakfast buffet and instead have an espresso at the bar. This northern Italian
city has no shortage of cafes where you can soak up the atmosphere and fuel up
on caffeine, but one of the most popular and authentic is Gilli in the Piazza della Repubblica, where you
can sip your coffee underneath chandeliers and frescoes. Just remember: never
sit down (it will cost more), pay for your coffee separately (then hand the
receipt to the barista) and never have a cappuccino past 11 am (it is just not
the way things are done).
Once you get a hunger,
those hankering for an affordable taste of authentic local cuisine should head
to the Piazza del
Mercato Centrale, where merchants at the Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo sell the best of the region’s meats, cheese,
fruits, vegetables and oils at reasonable prices from Monday to Saturday. Tucked
in the far corner of the market is Da Nerbone, which offers one of the most inexpensive Tuscan
meals you can have – a glass of chianti and a bowl of risotto will cost less
than five euros. Their boiled beef sandwiches served on crusty rolls are popular
with the hordes of international art students, but you are also likely to rub
elbows with locals at one of the communal tables.
Another affordable place
to grab a quick bite is La Boulangerie Il
Rifrullo, a panini and espresso bar just a short walk from the Duomo that
serves hearty salads for less than 10 euros. A slightly more expensive option
is Ino, located just around the corner
from the Uffizi gallery. Smelling of
truffles, the sandwich shop offers gourmet paninis made with locally-sourced
Of course, one of the
greatest indulgences in Florence – especially as the weather gets warmer – is
its abundance of gelatarias serving cups and cones of mouth-watering gelato. There
is always a queue outside the well-known Italian chain GROM,
but a less commercial option is Perche No!, a
70-year-old artisanal gelato shop located between the Duomo and the Piazza Dell
Signoria. The seasonal
flavours include lavender, rose and fresh mint alongside the Italian favourites
of pistachio and stracciatella (the Italian version of chocolate chip). The
best part? You can add a scoop of tiramisu to your gelato cup.
Come late afternoon,
apertivo time begins. A great Italian tradition (and standard at most bars),
the apertivo happy hour involves paying a slightly elevated price for your
drink in exchange for a heaving buffet of chips, panini, pasta, snacks, olives
and salad – almost negating the need to have dinner at all.
But if the
apertivo does not fill you up, head over the Arno River to the Oltrarno.
Traditionally a working class district, today students and young people can
often be found consuming take away from Gusta
Pizza on the steps of the church in the Piazza Santo Spirito. For something more
sophisticated, Zoe, located
along the marked path to the Piazza Michelangelo, serves modern Italian fare including
fresh salads, Italian-style hamburgers and grilled vegetables to a local crowd.
For a proper Florentine
steak, try All’antico Ristoro
Di’Cambi in the San Frediano neighbourhood. An old wine shop, it also
offers traditional dishes such as lambredotto
(cow’s stomach) and tripe. A short walk away in the same neighbourhood, Osteria Personale is one of the
area’s hottest new openings. Here, the chef serves up modern Italian cuisine, such
as raw squid ribbons with chickpea cream flavoured with sage. And following in the
tradition of Tuscan cuisine, there is no pasta on the menu.
Back over the river and with three Michelin stars, Enoteca Pinchiorri is considered
one of the best in Florence for modern Italian cuisine – but book ahead. Dishes
include short paccheri
pasta with chickpeas, red shrimp and cardamom powder, alongside signature
dishes like grilled, marinated partridge with cabbage, celeriac and herbs.
During the summer
months, head to one of the city’s rooftop bars to drink in the view. Dress up
for the Sky
Lounge bar, which perches on the roof of the medieval Consorti Tower, overlooking the Ponte Vecchio to the Tuscan hills. The newly opened, glass-enclosed
lounge bar and restaurant at the Westin
Excelsior hotel sits right on the Arno River. With two outdoor terraces, it
is the perfect option for a high-end night out.