Taste Florence: Where to Find the Best Food in the Heart of Tuscany
All summer, the streets of Florence swell with tourists, tired and hungry from museum binges and promenades under the Tuscan sun. Desperate for something to eat, they settle for stale panini in the city’s worst tourist traps. More than 10 years ago, American expat Toni Mazzaglia said, “Basta!” and started the food tour company Taste Florence to help visitors discover the best food in her adopted city.
On the Postcard Academy podcast, Toni shares her insider insight on where to find Florence’s very best eating experiences, from food halls to fine dining. Get 5% off this amazing tour using the code POSTCARD18.
Florence food that’s better than sex
Trattoria Sostanza. Try the tortino di carciofi, which is buttery, “artichoke and egg splendor,” Toni says. “If they ask you what you want for your last meal on Earth…you want the tortino di carciofi.” If you’re a meat eater staying in the city center, this is also the place to get Florentine steak, which is usually shared between two people.
Best place for a leisurely breakfast or brunch in Florence
Pasticceria Ristorante Giorgio. While breakfast in Italy usually means scarfing down a pastry at the counter, Giorgio’s offers more relaxed, outdoor seating. “It’s like a civilized version of an Italian breakfast… It’s where Florentines go to meet up. He has great pastries and great aperitivi.”
Santa Rosa Bistro. Americans tend to criticize Italy’s brunch attempts, but Toni says this place gets it right. “Their brunch is good, but then their other meals are good, too. They also have small plates that you have with drinks in the evening. It’s a really cool little vibe. They took a terrace and covered it so it’s almost like being seated in a little greenhouse…Near the river they even have a few lawn chairs out, so you can sit there and just chill and read a book and get a drink.”
Best pastry shop in Florence
Pasticceria Sieni. You must try the sfoglia alla crema (sfol-ya alla cray-ma) when it’s warm — thankfully they bake these every hour. Toni also loves the budino al riso, a sort of rice pudding pie. “Really good pastry shops do them properly where they cook the rice in the milk, and it’s all about the budino gods coming together.” READ: 4 Tips to Make Sure You Never Eat Bad Pastry in Italy.
Best food market in Florence
Central Market (Mercato Centrale). In the 1860s, Florence was briefly the capital of Italy, and they built the Central Market to make the city more cosmopolitan. Downstairs, indulge in Italian delicacies from historic mom and pop shops, then head upstairs to enjoy the hipster food hall, which has sit-down seating and a free public bathroom. “It’s a great place to go between lunch and dinner for a light, quick meal.”
You can also check out the smaller market, Sant'Ambrogio, on the other side of the city.
Best lunch spot in Florence
Coquinarius. “They have great pasta dishes and the menu is seasonal.” No outdoor seating, but they do have air conditioning, which will feel great if you’re visiting in summer.
Best wine bar
Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina. “It’s right in front of the Pitti Palace. They have excellent wines and small plates of food. It’s not the place you want to go for a hearty meal, but the food is amazing.” If you can’t score a seat at this tiny place, head down the street to their restaurant Osteria dell’Enoteca. “If I want to go somewhere, have a nice meal in a nice atmosphere, with great service, great wine, and not spend a fortune…it’s the best thing going right now.”
Best cheap eats in Florence
Pasta Fresca. This place is downstairs in the Central Market. They make pasta for restaurants and for families who want to take it home to prepare, but you can also buy it ready-to-eat at lunchtime. And it is divine. “The lemon pasta is so simple, it's just ricotta cheese and lemon zest on the inside and I served it with oil and parmigiano.”
Best dinner in Florence
Osteria dell’Enoteca. The owners of the tiny Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina opened this larger restaurant last year, and Toni says the dining experience here is flawless. “If I want to go somewhere, have a nice meal in a nice atmosphere, with great service, great wine, and not spend a fortune…it’s the best thing going right now.”
La Cucina del Garga. “You get a twist on Florentine food. The food is always really good. The service is nice. The atmosphere is really wacky because the father was an artist and so you feel like you're inside of a painting.”
Best vegetarian restaurant in Florence
Brac. This vegetarian restaurant/bookshop has a lovely inner courtyard loads of good veggie and vegan dishes. You can order a sample platter or a la carte. “I love going there for lunch because it has a great atmosphere. It’s off the beaten track. I feel healthy. I feel like I'm being a good citizen by eating vegetarian.”
Best bakery in Florence
Forno Bruschi. Brother and sister Ivana and Remo have successfully run this business for more than 50 years. Toni says that people on vacation tend to order what they can pronounce easily, but she encourages you to try something different, like schiaciatta ripiena (ski-ah-cha-ta ree-pee-ay-na). “There's different fillings. If I have vegetarians in the group, I'll usually serve the parmigiano and artichoke, or I might serve the Gorgonzola and apple. The one that I'd serve the most if there aren't any vegetarians is the sausage and stracchino.” (And stracchino cheese is pronounced stra-key-no).
Best gelato in Florence
Toni goes to different places depending on the flavor she wants, but a solid choice is Perche No. “Hands down the best pistachio.” For mint, she goes to Vestri, where they also make decadent, melt-in-your-mouth chocolates.
Best neighborhood in Florence for hanging out
Santo Spirito. If you’re college age or younger, you’re likely hanging out in Santa Croce. The rest of us are enjoying our drinks in Santo Spirito. “You can sit at one of the cafes and have a Prosecco or a spritz. There’s a great little pizza place nearby — Gustapizza — and a lot of people just get a pizza to go from there and then just sit on the steps of Santo Spirito Church.”
San Frediano. This trendy neighborhood has been called Florence’s under-the-radar Bohemian borough. They just redid Piazza del Carmine and today you’ll find plenty of dining options and places to sit outside.
If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 7 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.