Flavours of Florence - Where to Eat in Tuscany's Glistening City
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
There is no shortage of incredible food to eat in Florence, in fact, you’ll be eating non-stop if you have limited days there but want to try to pack in all the great flavours of Tuscany’s most famous city. The great thing about food in Florence is that there are so many opportunities to really engage with not just local cuisine...Italian food is not hard to come by anywhere, let alone in Italy herself, but with cuisine made by the locals.
This to me is an important distinction - local cuisine v cuisine made by the locals, particularly when you reference a culture like Italy’s where recipes have been passed down through the generations and food is a way of life. When you find one of those gem’s of a restaurant where you can taste the generational pride and love of the food, where the restaurant has been in the family for decades and it is the sort of business that, sure it may be chaotic inside, but it is run by the family and when you are there, you are the family...then you have found the true ‘cuisine by the locals’ Italian experience. Hopefully some of these recommendations allow you to feel that way.
Honestly, one of the most important things to do in Florence is eat. If you're looking for other things to do, click here. In Tuscany you are surrounded by some of the most amazing and fresh produce (this definitely includes wine) and you can taste it in the food. Food from this region is uncomplicated and is often made using few ingredients. Historically, this is because the region had to cook simply and made, as they refer to it, ‘poorer food.’ No longer due to economy but to choice, the tradition remains as thanks to the beautiful locally sourced ingredients like mushrooms, tomatoes, grapes and of course, meats, there is no need to stray from tradition.
Tuscans still eat in multiple courses - antipasti, primi, secondi, contori and dolce.
Antipasti will be your entree (Aussies) or appetisers (Americans) and will often feature soups, breads with spreads like chicken liver or a bruschetta, or perhaps a calamari.
Primi is where your pasta or risotto dishes feature - never skip primi, this is where the magic lies in my opinion.
For those who can fit it in, Secondi is a generally a meat or fish course - it should be the main meal essentially but, although primi is set up to sound like your second go at an appetiser, I’m yet to meet an Italian portion faithful to that promise and am always stuffed by this point.
Contori are sides - cannot explain this but Italy has a skill with roasted potatoes. Sure, there are plenty of other sides but my eyes are usually attracted to one contori and one only...those magic Italian roast potatoes...what are they doing to them that make them taste like that at every restaurant?! Wow!
And finally, never skip a good dolce, dessert.
Okay, enough, you know how to eat! I get it, you came here for the restaurants...here are some of my absolute favs! Keep going to the bottom, I saved some of the best for the end! Hope you enjoy
On the Run/For A Snack
Via dei Neri, 76R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
These focaccias are seriously the best - the ingredients are so fresh and you absolutely have to try the truffle spread - it's delicious! There is limited/no seating so everyone gets their focaccias and eats in the street outside. Locals and tourists alike know that this one is a good thing so try avoid going at a meal time or the line can be very long.
Nearby Attraction: The Uffizi
Need to Book: No (but prepare for a wait at some points of the day)
Via Ricasoli, 16R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
You'll obviously see gelato everywhere but this is some of the very best gelato I've had anywhere in Italy and certainly in Florence. They are famous for the Hazelnut gelato (Nocciola) so I'd definitely recommend trying that.
Nearby Attraction: The Ponte Vecchio
Need to Book: No
Gelato Tip: Don't get gelato from the places where the gelato is piled up into mountains. Though it looks impressive (and very enticing), locals will tell you that is tourist gelato and the worst in the city. Personal experience, the very best gelato is the gelato that you find in silver buckets within the store...don't know why but there is something great about everyone of the gelati I've had from a store like that...and I've tried a lot of them
(it was research I swear!)
Via Calimaruzza, 2-4, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Though I try to avoid chains when there is amazing traditional ice cream around...this gelato is seriously delicious so what could I do! Definitely worth stopping into the store for gelato...be warned though, the chocolates are also delicious...again...research!
Nearby Attraction: Piazza della Signoria
Need to Book: No
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
The Central Market in the San Lorenzo Market is all food and has both restaurants and vendors. Many of the restaurants have daily menus - they make whatever they have available that day as it comes fresh and if you like the menu, great and if not, try again tomorrow. They are open as long as there is food and when the produce is out, they close. I'd say that if you are keen to try some of these restaurants you want to be ready for lunch by about 11am so that you can be sure to get the freshest food (and be sure to get some) and you want to get to the market much earlier to walk around, check it out and decide where you will be going and when. Go to the market hungry. You'll be glad you did.
One of the examples of restaurants like that which I have mentioned above is Mario’s - you’ll want to come early and hungry and be prepared for communal tables but the experience is 100% authentic and worth it!
Nearby Attraction: San Lorenzo Market
Need to Book: Not sure that you can...
Dei Bardi 46/R 48/R, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Probably my favourite lunch spot in Florence, Signorvino is a great place for wine and shared charcuterie style boards of amazing Italian meats and cheeses, as well as appetiser style dishes. Set in the back of a wine store and with a beautiful balcony that on nice days you can sit out on on the banks of the Arno river, looking straight out at the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio, Signorvino is a Florence hidden gem in my opinion! Highly recommend
(ps. across the road is La Strega Nocciola so save room for gelato)
Need to Book: In most months no, if they let you in summer for lunch, it may be worthwhile but not necessarily required
Del Gatto e La Volpe
Via Ghibellina, 151/r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Great for groups, this restaurant is your typical loud, family style restaurant. When I first spent an extended time in Florence in 2012 this was everyone's recommendation - locals and students alike - and then it became somewhat of a local. Now, whenever I go back to Florence I always make sure that there is a night set aside for Il Gatto e La Volpe. Firstly, the food is good so it's no sacrifice...you are going to have a great meal and be FULL for ages after this! Secondly, it's good value so that is always nice! And finally, it's nostalgic - I smile just on walking in. I've been there now with so many friends and family members...I truly have a local on the total other side of the world and I absolutely LOVE it! The staff are so lovely too - the restaurant is CHAOTIC and perfectly Italian. You know you've walked into a piece of family...tips: the gnocchi is delish, get the tiramisu and expect to speak to the table next to you...I always have!
Need to Book: Sometimes yes. You can book over the phone or on apps like Opentable
Just showing Il Gatto e La Volpe through the years (pictured 2013, 2019, 2015)
Via dei Palchetti, 6R, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
This a true local recommendation. Famous for its meats, Il Latini serves big portions in a cosy environment with meat everywhere - you can truly have the biggest portions of steak imaginable and the litres of wine to match it by the jug. I've been there alone once too and they were just divine - they have a central table where they encouraged everyone to talk to one another and made it a family dinner of strangers. As a 19 year old alone on the other side of the world, it was the most wonderful experience! It's a great restaurant - go hungry and ready for red meat.
Need to Book: If possible, yes
Via Ghibellina, 156r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Not a great Italian recommendation here but just down the road from Il Gatto e La Volpe is Tijuana, a Mexican restaurant that makes great cocktails and has really fun happy hours. It's been way too many years since I ate there for me to say much on the food anymore unfortunately but I can definitely recommend happy hour or post dinner drinks...or give dinner a try too!
Need to Book: No
Via Panzani, 9/a, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
The road from the station towards Piazza del Duomo is a very popular one and is lined with restaurants and shops. The closer you get to the Duomo, the worse and more expensive the food gets. So, if you're looking for a meal, my tip would be definitely to eat in between the piazzas and this is a great pit stop on that road for great food! The menu is extensive and the food is fresh! The restaurant is a little dark inside but the service is great and there is finally a really good salad on the menu (don't overestimate the excitement of good salad in Europe...it can be tricky!)...or if you're feeling a bit extra (which I have), delicious whole fresh lobster too!
Need to Book: No
Via Il Prato, 64/66r, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
Okay, go ahead and laugh at me BUT a million blogs will tell you where to get great pizza and pasta...it's taken me YEARS and many trips to Florence to find good Japanese food and trust me, there is only so much pizza and pasta a person can eat. So, if, like me, you find yourself in need of a break, my personal favourite cuisine is Japanese and so I will always hunt it down and this place was delicious! It was also PACKED on a very rainy and pretty cold weeknight in September at 9:30pm which makes me think it will always be busy so I would strongly suggest booking to avoid disappointment.
Great food and a very extensive menu! Will definitely be back next time!
Need to Book: Yes
Borgo degli Albizi, 17/R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
This restaurant is especially great for spring/summer meals because of the great deck seating that they have - it's beautiful to sit out and watch the people walking by and just enjoy the wonderful food! If they have the gorgonzola tortellini on the menu, it is certainly worth trying!
Need to Book: If possible, Yes - online, phone or walkup
Piazza Santo Spirito, 16/R, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Set in a more local piazza across the Arno and not too far from attractions like the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens, this restaurant has some delicious homey food. In particular, if the ‘gnocchi gratinati ai formaggi al profumo di tartufo’ is still on the menu, you need to order it immediately if you are a fan of cheese (would recommend getting a side salad with it). Delicious!!
Need to Book: If possible, yes
Via dei Vellutini, 1r, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Probably my new favourite restaurant in all of Florence - I've only been once and I LOVED it! This restaurant is famous for pear tortellini which I ordered and was glad I did because it was fabulous! We also ordered the eggplant parmigiana and the steak and both were fantastic. This restaurant books out so you absolutely need to make a reservation ahead of your trip. The ambiance made the experience just perfect - it was both peaceful and elegant, yet busy and exciting throughout. The restaurant itself is traditional and beautiful accordingly. Though pricier than the restaurants mentioned above, the food was still reasonable for sure! I really loved 4 Leoni - will definitely be back asap!
Need to Book: Absolutely - you can book on Opentable
Food Tip: Don't eat at restaurants within the piazzas - especially the major piazzas like Piazza del Duomo, Piazza della Signoria and Piazza della Repubblica. You're only paying for the views in these piazzas, not the food...in general, the food is actually sub-standard in a lot of these restaurants, but even if it isn't, the prices are usually doubled between the piazza and the street behind the piazza - it's usually called the 'tourist tax' with a smirk.