The moment anyone even begins to mutter the word Florence, my heart starts to race. Florence, Italy is truly one of my favorite places in the world. The moment I stepped off the train and onto those cobblestone streets, I was in love.
“I will live here one day,” I promised myself.
Well, my days of living in Firenze have yet to come but I should be the city’s ambassador! I love to give people advice on where to eat in Florence because it’s honestly how you should spend ALL of your time there. Just spend your days hopping from restaurant to restaurant, cafe to cafe, people watching.
Oh, and don’t pack any pants with a button. Just stick to stretchy pants and dresses! You can diet when you get home.
First, some things to know about dining in Florence. Italians eat dinner very late. You can expect restaurants to be busy around 9 or 10 p.m. Service is also very slow. Meals are very much an event throughout Italy so plan to sit down to dinner for at least an hour. Tipping isn’t required but sometimes a “coperto” will be on your bill which means you pay a service fee per person.
Also, note that you often have to pay for bread and water. It’s not free like in the States! And some restaurants won’t even let you order tap water.
Trattoria ZaZa – If you go to Florence and do not order their truffle ravioli, then you did not go to Florence! It is the best meal I ate in all of Italy. North, South, East, West. All of it! They also have Florentine steak on the menu which is a must try. You are in Florence after all! Trattoria ZaZa is located just behind the leather market and is pretty affordable. Oh, and they let you order tap water here!
Il Gatto el Volpe – If you’re looking for a massive plate of pasta, check this place out. Their portions are huge and everything from their pesto to their pizza is delicious. Definitely try dipping your bread in their balsamic. They also let you buy a bottle of wine around 20 Euros and bring it home! It’s not far from the Duomo so I’d recommend this spot for lunch.
Gusta Pizza – Good, large, CHEAP pizzas with lots of variety. It’s located on the other side of the river from the rest of Florence so go there on a day when you walk the Ponte Vecchio (the famous bridge with the jewelry shops).
Dinner If You Want to Splurge
La Giostra – This is the fanciest restaurant on the list. It’s a romantic date spot owned by the Hasburg Lorena Prince who is often spotted there. Once you sit down, your waiter will bring you little gifts like a free appetizer sampling platter and a free glass of prosecco. Try their spinach gnocchi!
Aqua al Due – Cute restaurant a short walk from the Duomo. Dinner will be roughly 75 Euro with wine. Order the pasta sample for the table and try the balsamic and blueberry steak. Trust that it’s good! There’s a sister restaurant to Aqua al Due in Washington, D.C. that was started by one of the chefs of the Florence location. It has the same menu and style as the Italy restaurant so if you’re in the area, definitely check it out!
Il Latini – This spot has a flat rate of 50 Euro a person but it is worth it. Instead of ordering off a menu, take suggestions from the waiter. They’ll continue to bring out food and wine throughout the meal. Oh, and did I mention the wine is bottomless? Drink up! If you’re looking to get a lot of food (and wine!) for your money, Il Latini is the place to do it.
Late Night Eats
Kebab – After a long night of drinking, definitely get a kebab in your stomach. It’s basically a wrap stuffed with meat (usually lamb), spices and veggies. There are tons of shops throughout the city and they’re open late!
Secret Bakeries – Have you ever had a flaky, buttery croissant and you’re just like, “Damn, this is why I’m fat”? Well, imagine those croissants fresh out of the oven! You’ll hear many people, local and tourists alike, talking about secret bakeries in Italy. Basically, they are the bakeries that work all night long to make the sweet treats for the cafes of Florence. Unfortunately, they’re not marked and locals will literally tell you to, “Follow your nose.” There are a couple located throughout the city. Once you find one, tap on the door and for 1 Euro you can get a chocolate croissant or mini pizza or any pastry FRESH out of the oven. Or a whole bag for just a couple Euro. I went every night while I was in Florence. Because, duh! Warm, homemade chocolate croissants, people!
No trip to Italy is complete without a daily gelato. It is worth it!
Vivoli – While it is slightly more expensive than most gelato shops in Florence, it’s famous for its creative flavors. They change often so continue to check back! It’s located near Santa Croce.
La Carraia – This shop has tons of gelato flavors and you can’t go wrong with any of them. It is across the river so make it a pit stop on your way back from Gusta Pizza. It’s very well priced but they also offer 1 Euro cones!
Antica – Great cookie flavors and reasonably priced. They’ll also let you try all of the flavors before making your final choice. It has a small entrance on a side street so it can easily be missed when you’re trying to find it. Beware!
Vestri – This spot is known for their fine chocolate. Definitely try some and get some on top of your gelato, too!
Grom – Even though there are a couple locations in New York, don’t be scared away because the original Grom is in Florence. It really is delicious and there’s one located right near the Duomo. Try it in Florence and then come to Manhattan to compare!
If you don’t leave Florence 10 pounds heavier, you didn’t do Florence right. And if you are leaving 10 pounds heavier, don’t regret it because you have lived your life to the absolute fullest. Literally. I’m not making a pun here. You will walk home every night with your pants unbuttoned. And if you add a Tuscany wine tour to your itinerary, you can expect to come home at least 15 pounds heavier!
Now all of this food talk is making me hungry. Time to go get some Grom!
Where are your favorite places to eat in Florence?