As breathtaking as the city of Florence may be, finding places to eat and drink that are not overrun by tourists, and hence disdained by locals, can be challenging. Here are some special spots where both the historic families of Florence and the fashionable Florentine foodies go to ‘mangiare bene’ or eat well. If you love Firenze and you live in Canada, stay tuned for my new series When in Florence airing this year on TLN. I’ve packed it with my personal favourites in the city for living like a local.
Borgo San Jacopo 57/r
+39 055 212427
This place is an institution. You will pay a bit more than your average rustic ‘trattoria’ but the service, authentic Tuscan dishes and heritage make it all worthwhile. Since opening in 1945 it has attracted quite a bit of press so you will find the odd tourist (although one who knows their ribollita from their cantucci), however, you’ll also be squeezed in with three generations of well-to-do Florentine families. It’s imperative that you book ahead. Located just near the Ponte Vecchio, it doesn’t get more central than this.
Caffé degli Artigiani
Via dello Sprone, 16
+39 055 291882
This café/restaurant is tucked in perhaps one of the cutest piazzas in Florence. With indoor and outdoor seating, it’s best for either lunch or an ‘aperitivo’ (the Italians’ version of an aperitif with complimentary tapas), which is generally around sunset. The crowd is young and pretty; the atmosphere is surprisingly tranquil in spite of being in the heart of the historic centre; and if you’re lucky you might even catch one of the intimate live music concerts where the musicians perform from the balcony above the café and everyone crowds into the piccola piazza to enjoy jazz under the stars.
Via dei Girolami, 28/r
+39 055 213619
Looking for somewhere cosy and not too costly? This little family-run affair offers up simple rustic dishes like pappa al pomodoro (tomato and bread soup), ossobuco and porcini risotto. Delicious and not too pretentious.
Via de’ Benci, 3
+39 055 217833
Of course, if you want cosy with a little more chic, slip into the shadowy light, chesterfield armchairs and sultry mood of this modern but utterly seductive cafè/restaurant. Their dishes are elegant but never stingy. The handmade ravioli collapses into creamy, salty heaven in your mouth and if you follow this with a slice of pear and chocolate tart you’ll probably decide to skip the Uffizi and order round two.
Il Santino and Il Santo Bevitore
Via di Santo Spirito, 60-r
+39 055 230 2820
The thing that Florence does exceptionally well is tiny hole-in-the-wall eateries, complete with worn timber tables, fresh flowers, eclectic music, sexy staff and simple dishes with high quality ingredients. One of the best is Il Santino, with space for just a few couples and some stools at the bar, they prepare your meal on the bench in front of you. For a lazy lunch try the local prosciutto and salami, served with Tuscan cheese, a drizzle of honey and a glass of wine, followed by a fresh tuna salad and then a strong black espresso and a slice of the tart of the day.
Just next door is Il Santo Bevitore, which is much better suited for dinner, with their candlelit tables, walls of wine bottles and more sophisticated menu. Romantic yet not cliché, this is one you’ll need to book.
La Cucina del Garga
Via San Zanobi, 33/r
+39 055 475286
This place is adored by Italians. It was often known as ‘Gargani’ and used to be located on Via del Moro. Now it’s slightly changed its name and moved to the address above. Indulge in a rich pasta with wild boar sauce or ‘La Fiorentina’ – the famous steak of the Florence, and finish with their signature cheesecake or biscotti dipped in Vin Santo. Again, this is a restaurant that’s been in the family for generations – but then if you were a born and bred Florentine diner, you wouldn’t expect anything less.