Ah Florence! It’s one of my very favorite cities in the world and one of the few I could pick up and move to in a heartbeat (I scoped out the building I want to live in on this trip). This was the longest leg of our trip so, although we stayed in Santa Croce, we had more time to explore outlying neighborhoods and escape the tourist traps. As I mentioned before, Paul’s food poisoning persisted through Florence which somewhat impacted our activities and eating habits, but he rallied so as not to miss the big stuff. We had so many awesome experiences, so I rounded up a few of the most notable places that can’t be missed.
BREAKFAST + COFFEE
Shake Cafe a little healthy haven in the midst of Italy, this place serves fresh juices, smoothies, vegan pastries and more. We only picked up smoothies and a pastry one morning, but their lunch options looked great too. This is the quiet vegetable-based oasis for the moments when you need a break from the bustling crowds and carbs surrounding it.
Ditta Artigianale this place is cozy, serves great coffee and has an actual breakfast menu (a rare find). So cute and delicious, plus they open earlier than most local coffee shops, which is perfect for tourists trying to fit everything into a day. They’re also open into the night and whenever we walked past, a lively crowd was pouring out into the street with drinks in hand.
MEALS + LIBATIONS
Hostaria da Ganino just a step off the main road, this restaurant was a lucky find. It was filled with Italians enjoying their lunch so we decided to try it out. The outdoor seating is a huge draw for me and the atmosphere was lively and inviting. I had a truffle tagliatelle dish that was to die for and all the food coming out around us looked awesome as well.
Osteria Antica Mescita San Niccolo small restaurant, daily menu, local diners, and friendly service – this place has it all. Our lunch here felt so authentic and relaxed and everything you want Italy to be. I will never get over how inexpensive dining out in local Italian restaurants is, and despite fantastic food and wine this place somehow was the cheapest of all.
La Giostra La Giostra is the most romantic “date night” kind of restaurant we visited in Florence and it blew us away. The restaurant is crowded in a good way and dimly lit with twinkling lights strung across the ceiling. First off, I’ll always be swayed by a complimentary glass of prosecco, which is standard here. We then enjoyed a leisurely multi-course meal with way too many drinks and a stellar piece of tiramisu to finish it off. It does get quite busy at peak times so I would recommend a reservation if you don’t want to risk being turned away. p.s. how cute was the presentation of our bill?
La Taverna di San Giuseppe I could have done nothing but eaten at this restaurant and our trip still would have been unbelievable. I sought this place out due to their array of truffle specialties and I knew it would be the type of restaurant that was hard to get into for dinner. Since our timing was uncertain on our day trip to Siena I didn’t make a reservation for lunch, which may have been a misstep. They squeezed us in since we agreed to be out by 2:00 and I’m so glad we didn’t miss it. We shared the most amazing spinach truffle puff pastry, followed by an indescribable truffle cheese fondue gnocchi for me and a chicken and potato dish for Paul. Although this is an upscale restaurant, their service is high-end while still remaining personable and relaxed. Seriously one of my top five favorite restaurants of all time. To top it off, they even provided a separate mini chair for my bag (see grainy photo above).
In case you were wondering, yes, I definitely ate at least one entire truffle to myself during this trip 🙂
Il Pizzaiuolo as much as I appreciate all food, pizza is hands down my favorite. I love it so much that it’s hard to turn away even the worst of it, but I have developed pretty keen eyes and taste buds for the best of the best. This place may offer up some of the best pizza I’ve had (stiff competition coming from Oenotri though). I loved it so much that we tried to come back for dinner the same day, but they didn’t have room. It’s surprisingly easy to find bad pizza in Italy, so don’t miss the opportunity for the real deal.
All’Antico Vinaio I planned to try a classic takeaway sandwich at La Prosciutteria a few doors down, but after seeing the consistently long line at All’Antico Vinaio, I swapped. I got the vegetarian sandwich (which they gave me a bit of flak for) and it was every bit as flavorful as any meat variation could be. I quite literally watched the hot, oily foccacia come fresh out of the kitchen and they then piled it high with vegetables, fresh mozzarella, and a delightful truffle spread.
Oibò we actually came here twice for coffee and pastries in the morning and once in the evening for a few drinks. We didn’t partake in the full apertivo spread, but if you’re interested, this looked like the place to do it. Regardless, we had a few too many cocktails (I’m an aperol spritz addict) and enjoyed the outdoor seating while the weather was still warm. I loved the overall feel and had we more time I would have come back for the full experience.
SWEETS + TREATS
Gelateria Dei Neri relatively speaking, this is a huge gelato shop with a wide array of flavors to choose from. It was far too close to our apartment so we made repeat visits, but the ricotta fig flavor may have been my favorite of all. I’m just about ready to recreate it at home…
Il Gelato di Filo we stumbled in here after lunch nearby and I was surprised to find that it surpassed the better known Gelateria Dei Neri in quality. The consistency was ideal and the flavors I tested (sweet cream and hazelnut) came through so boldly.
PLACES TO GO + THINGS TO DO
Santa Croce Church despite not being a huge church-goer, I love Santa Croce. It’s beautiful from the outside, so impressive on the inside, and filled with historical gems. Compared to the time and cost of most museums, even a quick trip through this church is worthwhile.
Scuola del Cuoio visiting this historic leather workshop was a definite highlight. Aside from the fact that I left with my new most prized possession, each and every one of their leather goods is so painstakingly crafted, it’s hard not to appreciate. It’s rare that I find somewhere that I so adamantly adore every single piece and I love that the bag I purchased is unique and not recognizable as a common designer. To go more in-depth, you can schedule a short tour of the workshop or even plan a private lesson to craft your own leather good.
Giglio Cooking Marcella’s cooking class came as a recommendation from a friend and we could not have been happier with it. We scheduled a private (just the two of us) two hour cooking class, where we set the menu and handmade everything from start to finish. I requested a focus on fresh pasta and pizza since those were two areas I wanted to hone in on the best techniques. I’ve already purchased my new pasta maker, so stay tuned for some great tips and recipes!
Azienda Montefioralle maybe we’re just wine-o’s, but I think Paul would agree this was our favorite activity of the trip. We’ve already decided our next trip will be an adventure in the Tuscan countryside, and Montefioralle was a great introduction to that. We typically spend quite a bit of time at Napa and Sonoma Valley wineries, so it’s shocking to see the difference in experience. The winery is small and family run, and no one but our “guide” Manila spoke much English. We were lucky enough to be touring during harvest season so we got to see all the workers diligently picking through grapes. It felt as though we were walking through someone’s home and somehow we managed to learn more about wine-making than ever before. Our tasting was paired with a selection of small appetizers (using their own olive oil) and the sweet wine was paired with the most delicious biscotti, which Manila told us her sister-in-law had baked that morning. We may or may not have shipped a case of wine back home…
Boboli Gardens this one can rival the best gardens of Paris, mostly because it offers great views of Florence. Although we chose to only stroll the gardens during our visit, there is also a museum that you can visit for an extra cost. The landscaping itself is not particularly elaborate, but I enjoyed hiking to the top to look over city.
Piazzale Michelangelo I read about this early on as the most popular romantic sunset spot since it has the best panoramic view of Florence. When we asked the chef who taught our cooking class for the one place she would recommend, she answered without hesitation, Piazzale Michelangelo. That solidified its place on my “must go” list.