Kellin’s best of Florence food!
This is a section from a packet I often give out to friends and family on Florence and I thought I would share. This particular part has some info about food and eating in Italy that are very useful to any traveler to Italy, not just those going to Florence. Lot of tips and then of course, lots of good eats. Enjoy!
First, some basic info about Italians and their eating habits. Italians tend to stand and eat for breakfast and often lunch as well. It is a little odd for most Americans, but that is how Italians do it. If you sit at a table in a Bar (not the beer kind, the coffee kind) they will charge you more money even if you are eating and drinking the same exact thing as the people standing. It is not a scam; it’s just how it is done. There are often two menus: the sitting menu and the standing menu. They are exactly the same but one tacks on a euro or two (minimum) to all the prices. It is a painful lesson to learn as the same exact cup of coffee and pastry that usually costs 3.50Euro standing can cost 15Euro sitting. I kid you not. They will see that you are American and try to get you to sit. Just kindly say no thank you and stand like the cool, hip Italians.
The way they see it is if you pay the extra amount you can sit there ALL DAY. Literally. They will never make you leave. The joke in Italy is that once you DO sit down, it is impossible to get your check and go. Keep this in mind if you are in a rush! Italians do not understand the concept of eating fast and will not support you if you try and do it. So don’t. Also the food is worth enjoying, so relax. If you are in a rush go to a Bar and get a panino/tramazzino/piadina (different words that all basically mean “sandwich”) and eat outside or, again, eat standing at the bar.
In most places where standing is the name of the game you usually pay first, THEN eat. So if you go to a coffee bar and want a juice and a pastry, you go to the register FIRST (called the cassa), tell them what you are having, pay, then take your receipt over to the bar, tell the person over there what you ordered and (after checking you receipt) they will bring it to you. This way you can eat and leave at your leisure. So just remember DON’T LOSE THAT RECEIPT. It seems funny at first, but after a day or two you get the idea and it feels normal.
In general, even in small cities like Florence, the closer you are to the “attractions” the more you will pay for food. If you are next to a big fancy Piazza, wander off and find a hidden spot. This could mean walking as little as a block away! Chances are the food will be better AND cheaper.
They do not tip in Italy. On your bill you will see an extra charge called either pane (meaning “bread”) or coperto (meaning a “cover”). It is usually 1 or 2Euro per person and that is your tip. Don’t leave ANYTHING else. They did start doing this annoying thing where they leave that little charge off the bill if you are American because they think you will leave more. DON’T. Leave like 2 Euro a head. (Cabs are up to you. I always gave 1 or 2 euro on top of the bill but that’s because I’m a sucker.)
Ok. Onto the food!
There are a ton of cheap eats in Florence that could keep you happy for an entire year. There are also some really expensive places. It’s really up to you and your budget.
EBY’S, 5r via dell’Oriuolo-this street exits off of the back of the Duomo)
This was the first place I went to in Florence and remained one of my favorites until the end. It is run by this wonderful man named Eby who makes the best fresh fruit drinks you will ever have (they are worth the wait – as he is usually the only one there making them). He also sells really good burritos that are super cheap and hit the spot after a day of walking and site seeing. They are not exactly what we think of when we think of burritos, but I promise, they are delicious!
Antico NoÃ¨ or, simply, The Sandwich Shop, Volta San Piero 6/r (this is a little street/alley under the San Pierino arch.)
This place is a staple for all the American students in Florence. Five Euros will buy you the most delicious sandwich of your life. It is especially exciting for the students because they have hard to find foods like turkey. It is literally a little hole in the wall in an alley literally around the corner from Eby’s. They have since added a little Osteria right next to the sandwich shop that many Italian frequent so it might be good too! It is run by a huge, beefy guy in a tight t-shirt. Don’t be scared. Just order.
Shawarma (There are literally hundreds.)
There are shawarma/falafel places all over Florence. When I was first there in 2002 there was only one, now you can’t walk ten feet without hitting one. They generally stay open late, often 24-hours, so they are ideal if you are eating on a slightly “un-Italian” time schedule. They offer an assortment of filling and inexpensive items, including huge shawarma “things” (I say “thing” because they throw all kinds of crazy stuff in there like French fries).
Pugi, Piazza S. Marco, 10
This is a pizza place right in San Marco Piazza. It is the best “to go” pizza in the city if you ask me and, understandably, it is always packed. You go in (there is no seating), take a number (there is a little number dispenser to the left when you walk in), when it’s your turn just point at what you want (ideally the thing that just came out of the oven), and they will cut it right there and weigh it. It is really worth braving the crowd, I promise. After you pay, take it out to one of the benches in the piazza and eat in the sun. Try the “schiaciata” (said skia-chata). It is like focaccia but specific to Florence. Amazing!
Gustapanino, WAS: Via dei Michelozzi 13r but now it is right around the corner, directly on Piazza Santo Spirito (just follow the American students).
This little hole-in-the-wall is an important staple for budgeting students and anyone who loves food. Three or four Euros will buy you a delicious panino or piadina (one is a sandwich the other more of a wrap) full of fresh, traditional Italian ingredients like olive pesto, pecorino, truffle cream, sun-dried tomatoes and a variety of cured meats. No seating but a gorgeous, sunny piazza (complete with gurgling fountain) awaits you.
Osteria Santo Spirito, Piazza Santo Spirito 6/r
This restaurant is medium price-wise but is one of my absolute favorites. It is in the same piazza as Gustopanino (#5 above) on the other side of the Arno, which makes it much less busy. They have wonderful outdoor seating and a nice menu that is a little different from your run of the mill Italian trattoria (I highly highly recommend the gnocchi in truffle oil. It will change your life.) The best thing about this place is that they are often open at times that other places are not. If you are eating at an odd hour try this place first. (**TIP** Anything before 8pm is a bit early for Italians.)
Osteria di Benci, Via de’ Benci 13r, right near Santa Croce, 055 2344923
This place has some really unique and delicious pasta dishes with nice outdoor seating and tons of room if you are a bigger group. It’s a young and fun environment and surprisingly it is able to keep a nice mix of tourists and locals. Just to be safe, make a reservation.
Trattoria Quattro (4) Leoni, Via de’ Vellutini, 1-red. 055 218562
One of my favorites! So so delicious, but also very very popular. You will have to make a reservation. It’s not too pricey and has lots of very traditional Italian and Florentine specialties. Try their artichoke antipasto and the pear ravioli with pomegranates and asparagus. Then follow it with the cheesecake! YUM! (Note: this one is a little hidden in the back streets so check the map closely.)
Pizzeria Antica Porta, Via Senese, 23. 055 220527
Hands down the best pizza I had…ever…in my ENTIRE life. It is a bit of a walk but oh my lord, so worth it (you could easily call a cab too). All the cheese is brought up from the south (where the best cheeses are from). You must try the burrata, a kind of mushy flavorful mozzarella that they throw on right after the pizza comes out of the oven. You will never be the same again, I promise.
Bar Pitti, piazza Pitti, 9. 0552399863
This was one of my favorite “expensive” restaurants. It is situated on the other side of the Arno in Piazza Pitti. What’s their gimmick? Well…everything is cooked with fresh truffle!! They even have ice cream covered in truffle!
Conveniently they also have a nice tasting lunch menu that is “slightly” more affordable. They also have nice outdoor seating so you can sit on the piazza and enjoy the nice weather.
Buca Dell’Orafo, Via de’ Girolami, 28-red, 055 21 36 19
A little hidden but literally right near the Ponte Vecchio. Reservations are a MUST. Expensive but maybe one of the best meals I have ever had. You must get (if they have it) the ravioli with cream and prosciutto. Mmmmmm…
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