Eating, drinking and embracing la dolce vita in Florence has honestly never been so tantalizing or diverse.

Sheng Jian Bao (steam-fried bao buns) bursting with Tuscan truffles. Cocktail pairings mixing urban spirits distilled with olive leaves and artichokes. Plant-based tasting menus… Sure, decades-old trattorias continue to faithfully cook up cockle-warming trippa all Fiorentina (tripe stew), pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup) and other time-honored classics that established the Tuscan capital's gourmet reputation. And si, dining is still as stylish and gluttonous as this Renaissance city's masterpiece-on-steroids surrounds.

And amid the breathtaking kaleidoscope of street tripe carts, wine bars, historical cafes and old-school eateries strung with cured ham legs, spectacular openings – from market stalls to Michelin-starred – with a new generation of bold women chefs and mixologists at the helm are reinterpreting culinary traditions. Watch this space.

1. Salotto Portinari

Dining – notably, at any time of day – with Cosimo I and a restored Madonna and Child fresco only heightens the thrill of this all-day cafe-bar and gourmet bistro inside 15th-century Palazzo Portinari Salviati. The covered porticoed courtyard might double as reception for a dozen extraordinary "museum" suites up top, but the airy space buzzes with Florentines from all walks of life. At the helm of contemporary Florence's sassy new salotto (drawing room) is Michelin-starred chef and Tuscan produce zealot Vita Molica.

2. Trattoria Sabatino

The constant queue winding around the corner says it all: the Florentine fare cooked up by the Buccioni family at this staunchly traditional trattoria in San Frediano is worth the wait. A dying breed in the city today, Trattoria Sabatino has scarcely changed since it opened in 1956.

The daily menu invariably includes classic ravioli al sugo (pasta cushions with a meat sauce), stracotto (Tuscan pot roast) and a perfectly blue bistecche alla fiorentina (T-bone steak) served with a choice of sides (roast potatoes, white beans, seasonal fennel or chicory). There are no table reservations, and it's closed on weekends; arrive 30 minutes before opening to bag a table in the first sitting.

3. Il Santo Bevitore

One of those rare, uber-fashionable addresses that hasn't lost an ounce of its epicurean sass since opening in 2002, Oltrarno's The Holy Drinker consistently delivers brilliantly creative Tuscan cuisine in a vaulted candlelit space. Pasta is handmade, specialty breads and sublime focaccia come fresh from its own artisanal bakery, and the wine list celebrates boutique Tuscan vintages. Reservations are essential.

A large cooked steak for sharing on a wooden board
Be sure to try a juicy bistecca alla Fiorentina when in Florence © Fani Kurti / Getty Images

4. Osteria I Buongustai

Tuscan home cooking rules the roost at Laura and Lucia's cheap-as-chips osteria in the historical center. Grab a pew – table-sharing mode on – and watch cooks in hair caps whip up real McCoy spaghetti alla carbonara (with egg, no cream!), coccoli (hot fried bread to die for with different toppings), and other traditional dishes at lightning speed. Mood and hearing depending, the minuscule jam-packed dining room can be thrillingly atmospheric or a dreadful din.

5. Trattoria Mario

Spurn touristy restaurants touting bistecca alla Fiorentina in the crowded streets around the Duomo for the real deal at this family-run trattoria, an icon among San Lorenzo market workers since 1953. Florence's feisty T-bone steak for two is chargrilled just one way: seared outside and pink inside, with a sacrosanct strip of bloody blue. In the finest trattoria tradition, Monday cooks up Florentine tripe, Thursday is rabbit and Friday, salted cod.

6. Melaleuca

Florence's Gen Z crowd raves about this Scandi-style bakery and brunch-lunch bistro, which pairs avocado toasts and gooey cinnamon buns, still warm from the pan, with specialist coffees by local artisan roaster D612. Veggies, vegans and the gluten-free won't be disappointed. Look for the queue outside, across from the Arno in Santa Croce.

7. Il Gusto di Xinge

Chinese-born Xin Ge Liu swapped a career in fashion for a pocket-sized dim sum kitchen and market stall in Florence. And her latest restaurant venture behind Santa Maria Novella train station enjoys a cult following among bon vivants seeking experiential dining with a club-chic party spirit.

Be it the sassy petrol blue and orange decor, pork and Tuscan-truffle-stuffed Sheng Jian Bao presented like artworks, or experimental craft cocktails (ever tasted Chinese roast duck, whisky, honey and truffle in a glass?), everything at Il Gusto di Xinge screams Chinese-Tuscan high drama. Don't. Miss. Out.

Stools lined up neatly at a restaurant bar
La Ménagère is a top weekend hangout in Florence © La Ménagère

8. La Ménagère

Hobnob with fashionistas over all-day drinks, gourmet food and late-night jazz at this stalwart of a weekend hangout in a 16th-century San Lorenzo palazzo – the crowd tumbling out onto Via di Ginori marks the spot. Fresh flowers, beautiful books and homewares to buy inject a serious dose of urban chic, and the whimsical, rose-filled porch is prime "see and be seen" terrain. Long and lazy breakfasts to fine dining after dark, wrapped up with sassy cocktails in the basement speakeasy: La Ménagère caters to every meal and moment.

9. C-ucina

Ditch the TikTok shenanigans of the tourist-packed centro storico (historic center) for a laid-back neighborhood vibe and epicurean booty at C-ucina in the Oltrarno. Seasonal, short-circuit produce is royalty here, and Tuscany's original peasant recipes inspire the thoughtful dishes crafted with care by architects turned culinary creatives, Giuseppe and Simonetta, in their eco-boutique kitchen.

10. Essenziale

Every superlative dish reveals an endearing family story or fantastical tale at this contemporary loft-styled restaurant, the calling card of daredevil chef Simone Cipriani. What organic farms, oil mills and independent producers have in stock dictates the experimental menu and bestial murals by Florentine tattoo artist Matteo Masini (aka Mattattoo) color one wall. Brunch-lunch is FAC (fast and casual); dinner cooks up a trio of moods and menus, including a seven-course tasting menu with a ring-side view of chefs at work.

A close up of a Panino di lampredotto (lampredotto sandwich)
The best lampredotto is found at a tripe stand on Via dell'Ariento © Susan Wright / Lonely Planet

11. Lupen e Margo

The hotly contested debate over which mobile trippai (tripe butcher) makes the finest lampredotto (cow's fourth stomach chopped, boiled and seasoned) never gets old. Dig in with a meaty lampredotto sandwich garnished with pea-green parsley, garlic and onion sauce from Florence's only female tripaia. Find Beatrice's tripe stand (Via dell'Ariento 75) hidden among stalls hawking knock-off leather and clothing at San Lorenzo's outdoor market.

12. Gucci Osteria

Do you want to titillate your taste buds with the culinary nous and daring of one of Florence's most raved-about female chefs? Reserve a table at Michelin-starred Gucci Osteria in a 14th-century palazzo on landmark Piazza della Signoria.

Famed Italian chef Massimo Bottura might sign off the glamorous, hedonistically fashionable restaurant, but it's the irreverent and worldly spin on contemporary Italian cuisine by Mexican chef Karime Lopez and co-executive chef Takahiko Kondo that creates the real buzz. 

Kickstart your evening next door with signature cocktails by mixologist extraordinaire Martina Bonci at Gucci's neighboring all-day cafe and cocktail bar, Gucci Giardino 25.

13. La Leggenda dei Frati

Suckers for a drop-dead-gorgeous sunset risk serious heart palpitations at The Legend of Friars. Tucked away in the hillside grounds of historic Villa Bardini, this fine-dining restaurant cooks up gastronomic Italian cuisine, occasional live jazz and an incredibly romantic panorama of Florence's emblematic burnt-red rooftops, Brunelleschi's cathedral dome and the River Arno. Come sundown, the whole lot blazes pink, amber, and ridiculous fire red.

Consider a seven- or nine-course tasting menu, or simply go à la carte with inventive seasonal dishes such as seaweed-laced fish soup with almonds and hare ravioli with cocoa, parmesan cheese and aromatic truffle. Reservations are essential.

A terrace of tables and chairs on the street outside a restaurant
Dine on modern Tuscan food inside the stylish 1950s-style Irene or out on the street terrace © Irene

14. Irene

Ringside views of Florentine life unfolding in psychedelic color around the historic cafes and vintage carousel of Piazza della Repubblica ensure a mesmerizing sideshow on upmarket Irene's swish street terrace. Inside, it's all 1950s design glam and playful modern Tuscan cuisine by celebrity chef Fulvio Pierangelini. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner or a luxuriant aperitivo – any time of day is insanely good.

15. Il Teatro del Sale

No epicurean razz around Florence is complete without dinner and a show in honor of Florence's original rebel chef in the longstanding foodie 'hood of Sant'Ambrogio. The eccentric lovechild of late, larger-than-life Florentine chef and disruptor Fabio Picchi, Il Teatro del Sale raises the curtain on a noisy, hectic symphony of outstanding Tuscan dishes. Dinner climaxes at 9:30pm with a live performance of jazz, drama or stand-up comedy.

16. Dalla Lola

Budget dining it might be, but there's nothing scant or stuffy about this upcycled neighborhood eatery – old-school vintage in look, mischievously new-gen in vibe. Spirited young owner Matilde Pettini practically grew up in the kitchen at her family's veteran Trattoria Cammillo, and the cheeky spin she casts on trippa finta ("fake tripe," which is actually eggs), gluten-free desserts and forgotten Tuscan dishes like frogs legs and chicken hearts in her own trattoria is simply brilliant.

17. Atto

For the ultimate treat, reserve one of a handful of tables at Vito Mollica's exclusive gastronomic restaurant. The setting alone – in the so-called Emperor's Court of a Renaissance palace – renders an evening here akin to dining in a private art museum. Tables lounge in intimate alcoves, beneath barrel-vaulted loggias and a spellbinding kaleidoscope of 16th-century frescoes (the Battle of Frogs and Mice is a favorite). Michelin-starred cuisine exalts the finest Tuscan ingredients.

This article was first published December 2015 and updated February 2024

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