Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Meat eaters will find their holy grail in Florence and in the city’s prized dish, the bistecca alla fiorentina. The cows that provide the meat for these steaks come from an old breed found only in Tuscany, the Chianina. In restaurants, the steaks themselves are priced by weight and tend to be rather huge, so are best split between a group or a couple. Fiorentina is always on the bone, and these steaks are grilled over a fire until they are perfectly cooked, which means they are still pink inside—if you do not like rare meat, it is best not to try this dish. These wonderful steaks are extremely flavorful and will have you remembering Florence as the city where you ate the best steak in your life.
To try all the local cheese and meats that you can, sit down for a glass of Tuscan wine like Chianti Classico and order a tagliere at most any local enoteca. Tagliere literally means “cutting board,” and that’s because a cutting board is usually how this appetizer is served, with all the meats and cheeses arranged to please on top. The tagliere is also a great dish to try in Florence at several different places because each will have its favorite cheeses and cured meats that it serves, and so you’ll be able to taste a wide variety in a short time. Particularly Florentine additions to the tagliere are lardo di colonnata (cured strips of pork fat) and crostini with liver pâté, or fegato.
Panzanella is a bread salad that is the answer to Italy’s summer heat. It is filling, fresh and cool and can be made with the vegetables peaking in season, which most often in the summer means tomatoes. Old bread is the basis for this dish, and is one of the reasons why it has remained a Tuscan favorite through the centuries. Most restaurants serve their own version of panzanella. The wintertime equivalent of panzanella is a soup called ribollita, which is also served with old bread, and is thick with cannellini beans and kale. You can taste these seasonal dishes on one of our Florence food tours!
Nothing says Florence like lampredotto, or cow stomach. Lampredotto is Florence’s version of street food, and is usually served as a panino between two pieces of crusty bread accented with salsa verde, a parsley-based green sauce. If that doesn’t sound immediately appealing, know that in Florence lampredotto is simmered for hours so that it is infused with flavor. Another thing it has going for it is that it’s a hearty and healthy lunch that dates back to the Renaissance. Find a lampredottai on a street corner and order it like the local Florentines, or eat it at a restaurant where it is served with plenty of bread for soaking up the sauce.
A specialty of the Tuscan countryside, pici is a thick and hearty type of pasta made with flour instead of semolina. The noodles are typically hand rolled and resemble a kind of inflated spaghetti. As for what you put on your pici, the most simple tomato sauce will often do and will bring out the taste of both the pasta and the sauce perfectly. Though of course, pici can be topped with anything, such as a hearty ragu made with game like wild boar—just another specialty of Tuscany!
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Osteria Tripperia Il Magazzino
If you’re looking for a place to try the city’s famous offal that doesn’t involve eating it on the street, this just might be the restaurant for you. The osteria has lampredotto on the menu in different forms, such as the traditional version covered in salsa verde (green sauce) and in the form of meatballs. Even if you’re not into offal, there are plenty of other delicious choices on the menu.
- Piazza della Passera, ⅔
- +39 055 215 969
- Open: Daily 12 noon – 3.30 pm and 7.30 – 11 pm
A long-time Florence staple for lunch, the Trattoria Mario continues to serve up amazing bistecche alla fiorentine to its hungry clients. It is located behind the Mercato Centrale, and it serves traditional Tuscan fare like ribollita (a thick vegetable soup).
Another long-time Florence favorite, Trattoria Sostanza packs a lot of restaurant into a small place. They serve all the good traditional favorites like bistecca alla fiorentina, along with some tasty extras like pollo al burro, or chicken cooked in butter. Sit near the back and you can watch the cooks in action.
- Via del Porcellana, 25/r
- +39 055 212 691
- Open: Mon – Sat 12.30 – 2 pm and 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
This cozy cafe is perfect for a chilly autumn day when all you want to do is to sip at a something warm. Though Hemingway calls itself a cioccolateria, it serves a lot more than just chocolate. But if you are craving something sweet (like truffles, hot chocolate or cookies) this is where you should head.
This relatively new cafe has everything you could want in one place. Not only is it tastefully decorated in vintage retro style, Amble serves everything from cakes and coffee to cocktails and light lunches. It is located in the busy Ponte Vecchio area and is a good place to catch a break from tourism.
- Piazzetta dei Del Bene, 7/a
- +39 055268528
- Open: Monday – Saturday 10 am – 12 am; Sunday 12 pm — 12 am
Il Chicco di Caffe
Walking into this small restaurant in the Oltrarno feels like you’ve stumbled on a local secret. And though Il Chicco di Caffe is no secret, it somehow manages to preserve the neighborhood feel and makes those who come feel welcome. Lunches are delicious and cheap, while dinners are slightly pricier, but equally worth the cost.
- Via della Chiesa, 16/r
- +39 055 265 4354
- Open: Daily 8 am – 12 midnight
Le Volpi e l’Uva
While this place is more wine bar than cafe or restaurant, you can certainly drink an espresso here as well as eat food. But most come here for the wine. Specializing in local bottles, Le Volpi e l’Uva will also warm up your appetite with its choices of crostini and cured meats and cheeses from Tuscany.
La Bottega del Buon Caffe
For a delicious and wonderful night out, take a 5-star splurge at La Bottega del Buon Caffe. This Michelin-starred restaurant will surely impress with its innovative takes on traditional Tuscan cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients from Borgo Santo Pietro and directed by head chef Antonello Sardi. If you need another draw there is the fine riverside dining.
- Lungarno Benvenuto Cellini, 69/
- +39 055 553 5677
- Open: Tue – Sat 12 noon – 3 pm and 7.30 – 10.30 pm; Sun 12.30 – 3 pm
Near the buzzing Sant’Ambrogio market, this tiny sandwich shop makes some the best panini in town. The true secret as to what makes them so good lies in the combination of toppings – for example, Semel dares to mix up anchovy and orange! The menu here changes daily.
- Piazza Ghiberti, 44r
- Open: 11:30 pm — 2 pm; Closed Sundays
This hip cafe might just have it all: food for the hungry and drinks for the thirsty, as well as a host of events that include readings and concerts on the weekends. Housed in a prison that was built in the 15th century, Caffe Letterario also boasts an impressive courtyard where you can soak up Florence’s atmosphere.
- Piazza delle Murate
- +39 055 234 6872
- Open: Mon – Fri 8 am – 1 am; Sat and Sun 11 am – 1 am
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This small trattoria keeps a fire burning in the kitchen to cook their bistecche. The steaks here are not as huge as many of the others on the list and can almost be consumed by a single person. Like many of the restaurants on this list, however, Sostanza has a great list of seasonal sides. Be sure to make a reservation.
- Via del Porcellana, 25/r
- +39 055 212 691
- Open: Mon – Sat 12.30 – 2 pm and 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Located in what used to be a stop for coachmen where they would wash down a tripe sandwich with a glass of wine, Buca Lapi is one of the restaurants in the center of Florence best known for its delicious steaks. It is a large restaurant that manages to still treat its customers well, through service and food. Because of its popularity, make sure you make a reservation if you want to try the Chianina meat here.
- Via del Trebbio, 1/r
- +39 055 213 768
- Open: Mon – Sat 7 – 10.30 pm
Trattoria la Casalinga
Head across the river to the Oltrarno to try a bistecca alla fiorentina at this home-style restaurant. Its menu features most Tuscan specialties, so it’s no wonder that they cook up a large and mouth-watering bistecca. And be sure to save room for dessert, like the millefoglie. Expect a wait, but it’ll be worth it.
One of the most revered restaurants in Florence, it’s no surprise that Trattoria Mario serves up a mean bistecca. Located in the center, it is popular with tourists and locals alike. It is open only for lunch, so be prepared to cozy up to enjoy one of the best steaks in the city.
Antico Ristoro di Cambi
Somewhat off the main tourist drag, the Antico Ristoro di Cambi is a family-run restaurant that serves traditional Tuscan fare, which of course includes bistecche. The ambiance is simple, and in the summer there is a patio on the Piazza Tiratoio. Other good food on the menu includes Tuscan specialties like ribollita (a thick soup with cannellini beans and kale) and lampredotto (or cow’s stomach).
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Explore the markets and specialty food shops
Locals know that the best produce is found at outdoor markets. The two main covered markets are Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo and Mercato di San’Ambrogio, though all the areas of the city host their own smaller, but not any less well-stocked, markets. In Florence, the baker still makes the bread, the butcher still cuts the meat, and the pastificio still makes the pasta. Make the rounds like a true Italian to stock up your (traveler’s) larder. Or, take the guess work out of it and let us be your local guide to Florentine food on our walking tour!
Go on a wine tour
Drinking in Florence is never far behind eating in Florence, or before, depending on how you look at it. Because Florence is the capital of Tuscany, the region’s wine tends to gather here. Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino are just a few of the best known from the region. The best way to really experience Tuscan wines is to head to a winery, usually situated outside of the city. There are plenty of tours on offer, such as Angie’s Tuscan Wine Tours, or you could also rent a car and drive around to your favorites, making sure to stop at a trattoria for lunch on the way.
Drink an aperitivo
Aperitivo is one of the best ways to end a day of sightseeing. Order a glass of wine and some snacks, preferably a tagliere with local cheeses and cured meats, and watch the Florentines finish their day. Head over to Uva Nera in Borgo Ognissanti for some great drinks and snacks.
Visit the Oltrarno
While many of the most well-known attractions are on the same side of the Arno River, the Oltrarno is a vibrant area worth the trip. For starters, it’s an easier place to get away from the tourist crowds. The Piazza di Santo Spirito is a great place to start.
Fill up on churches and frescoes
Okay, so churches might not provide any nutritional value but if you’re going to visit a lot of them, Florence is the city to do it in. The Basilica di Santa Maria Novella and Basilica di Santa Croce are two excellent churches to start with where the frescoes will stun.
Binge on paintings and sculptures
One of the true delights of Florence is the sheer amount of wonderful paintings and sculptures and palazzi everywhere. It would be a shame to set foot in Florence without seeing Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery. Other great places for sculpture are the Uffizi, the Piazza della Signoria (free and outside) and the Medici Chapel.
Get out of Florence and head to an agriturismo
Visiting or staying at an agriturismo is one of the best culinary experiences in Italy. Agriturismi are farmhouses in the countryside that the owners usually stock with home-cooked food made from their produce. In addition, they are often situated in beautiful villas and provide a well-deserved break from the city. The Agriturismo Petrognano is both stunning and near enough to Florence to drive there.
Take in the views
The Piazzale Michelangelo sits above Florence and is the best place to go for sweeping views of Brunelleschi’s Duomo and all the terracotta roofs of the city. To make it (slightly) more culinary, grab a Peroni at the food stands and enjoy the sunset. Located on a hill overlooking Florence, the medieval San Miniato al Monte is an elegant and rewarding endpoint to an uphill walk. Enjoy the lovely church and then indulge in a pre-packed picnic on the church grounds so that you have enough fuel to return.
Rent a bike
The best way to get around Florence is by your own steam. Not as chaotic as Rome or as well connected by public transportation, Florence is an easy city to bike in, and biking, in turn, makes it much more accessible. The bike rental in front of the Stazione Santa Maria Novella is a good and affordable place to pick up two wheels.
Visit the Oblate Library
Not far from the Duomo is the Oblate Library; from the top floor, there are excellent views of the Duomo and lots of tables with chairs to get comfortable. There is a small cafe for food, but most of all the Oblate Library is an excellent place to go if you’re looking to get away from the crowds, but not too far.
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Antica Dimora Firenze
If you like your bed and breakfasts to be cozy and charming then the Antica Dimora Firenze might be for you. Its colorful rooms with 4-poster beds and simple yet careful furnishings make it an excellent place to stay during your time in Florence. Some of the rooms also include a balcony. The hotel is about a 5-minute walk from the Galleria dell’Accademia and Michelangelo’s David.
Borghese Palace Art Hotel
While in Florence, it’s normal to overdose on beautiful Renaissance art. And the Borghese Palace Art Hotel promises to take art overload one step further by bringing it into your hotel room, which is furnished in a mix of the modern and antique. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and make an excellent place to unwind after a day of sightseeing. This hotel can be found between Santa Croce and the Duomo.
If you want luxury along the Arno River, look no further than Hotel Lungarno. Situated by the iconic Ponte Vecchio, across the river from the Uffizi and the Piazza Signoria, the Hotel Lungarno has plush and elegant rooms that are the signature of the Ferragamo Group. Services include an in-house spa, a terrace bar, a restaurant and a private art collection that includes a Picasso.
Another well located hotel, at about a 5-minute walk from the Duomo, the Palazzo Galletti has spacious and well-decorated rooms that vary in price from low to high season. The most luxurious room has floor-to-ceiling frescoes that might make you feel like you’re sleeping in one of the museums you came all the way to Florence to see.
This elegant guesthouse is located within walking distance of the Duomo, and offers a lot of refinement at a relatively low price. With a mix of modern and antique furnishing, N4U also has rooms complete with ceiling frescoes. Families of 4 can comfortably fit in one of the larger rooms.
Palazzo Guadagni Hotel
This lovely hotel provides the best of Florence with a 3-star price tag. Located across the river in Santo Spirito, the hotel boasts a panoramic terrace where guests can have their breakfast or a drink before dinner while they look out over the Boboli Gardens of the Palazzo Pitti.
Also situated on the Santo Spirito side of the Arno, the Sopr’arno Suites have rooms that combine the best of modern and vintage charms. There are 10 rooms in this bed and breakfast to choose from with a character that’s all their own. A stay here will relax you enough to take on Florence and all it has to offer.
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