Ahh Florence… the charming Tuscan city that I first fell in love with about 8 years ago. I first visited when I was studying abroad in Rome in the fall. At about an hour by train, Florence is the perfect weekend trip to get out of the bustling capital and into Tuscany. I was pleased to find it mostly unchanged after all these years. There are so many wonderful places to eat paninis, pizza, pasta and gelato…You simply cannot fit it all in! For those of you up to the challenge, read on…
I Buongustai serves traditional dishes from a small hole in the wall with about 8 tables. This place gets crowded so don’t be shy and elbow in with the locals. I sat next to a thin, gorgeous Italian woman who MOWED through a plate of spaghetti like I had never seen. They use this charming blue Polish pottery too… It’s the details, right?
Mercato Centrale is a two-story warehouse style building right in the middle of the leather market. The first floor is chock-full with stalls selling cheese, meats, wine and specialty goods. Upstairs you can find a large sitting area surrounded by various restaurant stalls… Somewhat akin to a bougie food court.
All’Antico Vinaio is practically a panini beacon and rated in the top ten of all restaurants in Florence on Trip Advisor… and it’s got a line down the block to prove it. We had walked by around lunchtime and the line was so long it looked like a damn Star Wars movie premiere (sans the costumes unfortunately). Luckily when we returned around 6 pm, there were only 3 people waiting. It’s also budget friendly at only 5 Euros for a nice sized sandwich with quality ingredients.
Girl in Florence recommended Ino for a great panini and it did not disappoint. I ordered a salad there and that did not disappoint either with its high quality and fresh ingredients. I hardly ever expect more than lettuce when I order a salad in Italy, but Ino served one with marinated Italian broccoli, tomatoes and pumpkin seeds.
Caffé Gilli if you’re feeling like a fancy cappuccino (only if you’re there before 11 am… check out my guide to Italian coffee) and a pastry. Excellent location for people watching, but people watching comes at a cost. Expect to pay almost three times as much the going rate for an espresso.
La Ménagére has a gorgeous interior and delicious cocktails. There’s a cute flower shop inside too.
If you plan on enjoying a wonderful meal for dinner at Fuoco Matto, I’d definitely recommend that you make a reservation. We tried to eat there on a Saturday night and they were full. It’s not like a full restaurant in the states when they’ll tell you the wait time is 2 hours. When they’re full, they’re full. We returned on Sunday afternoon and were sat immediately.
If the pumpkin and sage risotto is on the menu, GET IT. I can’t even begin to describe the creamy, rich texture of risotto married with pumpkin. The crisp sage leaves sprinkled on top were the perfect flavor compliment. I don’t know if it was the excitement of being seated when my previous attempt was foiled, the decor, the impeccable service or the free limoncello at the end, but this was my favorite meal that weekend. And, it didn’t even end with gelato!
Speaking of gelato though…
Venchi is an international chain of gelato and chocolate shops, but I don’t necessarily have a strong aversion to those…Especially, when they served the best salted caramel gelato I’ve ever had. The chocolates are worth getting too (duh).
Gelateria La Carraia is also known for some of the best gelato in Florence. However, they had some strange disclaimer nonsense that said something like, “We do not warrant allergies.” Interesting word choice… Translation mishap? Perhaps. At any rate, I didn’t want the hassle of asking which flavors were gluten free… which brings me to my next point, dear reader…
I have Celiac disease and I’m a pescatarian, so most of my meals consist of risotto and caprese in Italy. I fully intend on being a connoisseur in these categories. It’s just a matter of time really. Any meat/gluten-filled recommendations will more or less be coming from my partner in crime, life and travels.
Personally, I have found that Italians are very aware and accommodating for people with Celiac (outside of Gelateria La Carraia). At other gelato shops they will even change the scooper to make sure it hasn’t been cross contaminated by scraping gelato into a pervious customer’s cone. I’ve even seen a few places that have senza glutine cones!
Whether you live with the blight of Celiac disease or not, you’ll still leave Florence with a full stomach.
Have you ever been to Florence? What was your favorite ristorante?