There’s a reason the eating part of Eat, Pray, Love (a movie I hated, in case you care) took place in Italy.
If you’re awake at 4.00am there’s a bakery somewhere nearby pumping the smell of sweet, freshly baked pastry into the air, by the time it’s breakfast time then cappuccinos are easily your cheapest and tastiest coffee option with a side of some kind of Italian treat. Pasta and pizza on the menu for lunch and dinner followed by a late night gelato stop off. It’s culinary perfection.
Much like any touristy city, Florence’s best foodie finds are often not the ones glaringly obvious in front of the popular attractions. You’re often best to be patient, and take a wander down a side street to find something truly tasty.
Of Note: Pick an item that should be on most restaurant menus where you are (we picked a spaghetti in a bolognese/meat sauce as that’s what one of our group was desperate for!) and then see how much that item is in a few different locations. It should give you an idea of the rough price point of each restaurant so you don’t get a shock when you sit down! For example, we found that most restaurants served spaghetti bolognese for between €7.50 and €10, anything more than that and we knew it was too expensive for us!
My weakness when it comes to Italian food is threefold – cannoli, especially traditional cannoli with riccota but also pistaccio cannoli is heavenly, arancini, another technically Sicilian specialty but you’ll find it available in most cities these days and finally the iconic bruschetta. I’m not normally a fan of raw tomatoes but somehow in Italy they just taste different, it’s probably all the salt, olive oil and basil on them! Florence did not disappoint on any fronts.
Of Note: Veggie options were readily available in all restaurants, cafes and at most street stalls we visited in Florence
One of my absolute favourite meals we had in Florence was at Trattoria Zà Zà in Piazza del Mercato Central, right by the large indoor market. The restaurant is large and the decor beautiful, detailed and elegant but the food is very reasonably priced and served with a healthy portion of bread. I indulged in one of my favourite pasta dishes – the incredibly simple pesto pasta and I was not disappointed. It was exactly what I needed after a long day of exploring the sights and art of Florence, which you can read more about here. There is an indoor area if you’re visiting on a colder day, or outdoor/covered seating is on offer as well. We were not rushed through our meal here and had a genuinely lovely time.
After our meal at Trattoria Za Za we wandered back to the main square of the city to take a night time look at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (which is possibly even more impressive illuminated in the dark) and decided to indulge the tourists in us and popped into the nearest bar we could see (Move On, a vinyl themed bar and record store) for an after dinner drink. We went for amaretto because after all, when in Florence!
No night in Italy would be complete in my eyes if not for a stop off at a photobooth to take some unflattering but enthusiastic black and white photos (because we are in fact characters in an Adam Devine and Rebel Wilson led romantic comedy) and finally, some gelato. Gelateria dei Neri was conveniently located on Via dei Neri, toward the river near to our Air BnB (a post on that to follow) and is open until midnight so it found itself full of people well into the night including a lot of tourists who we got chatting to. The gelato flavour options are mouthwateringly mind blowing and once again the prices were surprisingly reasonable.
On our third and final night in Florence we ventured to a restaurant we had heard only incredible things about during our research – Il Gatto el la Volpe on Via Ghibellina. This place was a rustic Italian heaven, with freshly made pasta coming out of every crack in the walls as well as their own house made balsamic vinegar on your tables to enjoy with some of the tastiest focaccia ever during your meal. It must be said, Italy is not somewhere for those avoiding carbohydrates. Whilst it is definitely possible to, you’d have to have intense willpower to stay away from some of these incredible dishes on offer. If you’re looking for a recommendation, the gnocchi was truly delicious.
Of Note: If you are coeliac the good news is that a lot of the restuarants in Florence are certified by the AIC (Italian Coeliac Association) so with a little pre-planning you should be fine. The brilliant Road Affair even offers a list of restaurants set up to cater for those with coeliac disease.
Of course when in Italy you essentially MUST have pizza at least once during your stay and we indulged on our first night at Casa Toscana, right around the corner from our Air BnB. It was delicious, felt authentically Italian (none of this deep dish business) and hit the spot perfectly!
All in all, whilst the art and culture of Florence was wonderful it is definitely the food that I sometimes still dream about! Everything from a morning cappuccino from the John Borno Caffé (what an excellent name) to a Nutella stuffed croissant in the early hours of the morning, it was a dream.