Florence titillates the tastebuds. Eating and drinking in this stylish Tuscan city is as fine an art as its Renaissance masterpiece surrounds, with quality ingredients, simple execution and respect for tradition comprising the holy grail of Florentine cuisine.
But it’s not all dining in Michelin-starred gastronomic temples and centuries-old trattorie strung with cured ham legs. Gourmet Florence means snacking on trippa at the local tripe cart, gorging on beefy blue T-bone steaks and tasting olive oil at the market.
Shop local at the market
Gourmet-loving Florentines cannot get enough of La Bottega della Frutta, a tiny backstreet shop overflowing with interesting culinary products. Taste olive oil with enthusiastic owner Elisabeta before buying – Castello di Ama’s oil from Chianti, with hints of artichoke and chicory, is among Tuscany’s best. Buy a canary-yellow packet of Martelli artisan pasta made near Pisa, or some almond-studded biscotti di Prato to take back home.
Or take your time to enjoy the chaotic commotion of stallholders flogging cheese, meat and sausages at Florence’s raucous Mercato Centrale. Savour vegetable stalls overflowing with springtime violet artichokes, zucchini flowers and other seasonal produce. Then hit Da Nerbone, a food stall in the market hall that has cooked tripe in in all its Florentine guises and panini con bollito (a hefty boiled-beef bun, dunked in the meat’s juices before serving) since 1872. Fight for a table or head upstairs to the 19th-century market’s food court for a modern take on fresh pasta, truffle dishes, burgers, steaks and pastries.
End your shop-to-eat spree in Eataly. Peruse aisles laden with locally sourced, often organic, food products while listening to Renaissance tales on a free audioguide.
Sink your teeth into a bistecca alla fiorentina
Make your first bistecca alla fiorentina unforgettable at Trattoria Mario, a noisy lunch-only eatery with packed tables rammed jaw to jowl since 1953. The monster chargrilled T-bone steak is served just one way – seared outside and pink inside with a generous slither of blue. Order a side dish of earthy, slow-cooked white beans for total Tuscan kitchen immersion.
If the queue at Mario’s is too long try Trattoria 4 Leonie or All’Antico Ristoro di’ Cambi. Both are also known for the gluttonous steak, have been around for aeons, and (unlike Mario) accept table reservations.
Test your tastebuds with tripe
Squat on a bar stool at tripe cart Pollini and order a steaming bowl of trippa alla fiorentina. The iconic, cockle-warming stew with attitude is slow-cooked tripe with onion, carrot, celery and tomatoes. Or grab a tripe panini dripping with green salsa (made from smashed parsley, garlic and capers sauce) to take out. Florentine fast food at its best!
To make a full-blown meal of it, venerate the offal side of traditional Florentine cuisine with locals at Osteria del Cocotrippone in off-the-tourist-radar Beccaria. Order lampredotto (cow’s fourth stomach chopped and simmered into oblivion) or the house speciality, L'Intelligente (fried brain and zucchini).
Wine-taste in an enoteca
Florence is encircled by vine-stitched hills. Taste the fruits of its earth at Le Volpi e l’Uva (The Fox and the Grapes), a wine bar known for outstanding food and wine pairings. Boutique wines by 150 small producers, including plenty of Brunello di Montepulciano or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, are married with Italian DOP certified cheeses, salamis and spicy peppers stuffed with anchovies and capers.
Experience foodie heaven with grill-sizzled crostoni – chewy toasted Tuscan bread smothered in warm gooey Asiago cheese and truffle sausage or fiery-red Nduja salami, or try the ultimate culinary curiosity, lardo di Colonnata – pearly white pig fat aged in marble vats of herby olive oil.
Eat indecent amounts of gelato
Florentines take gelato seriously. Rivalry among gelaterie artigianale (makers of handmade gelato) is big and flavours reflect the season. Pistachio, pear and caramel, and chocolate with orange are crowd favourites at Vivoli. La Carraia does the best ricotta and pear. Grom is largely organic. And if you really want to get stuck in, Curious Appetite offer a behind-the-scenes tour of the top gelaterias, plus the opportunity to whip up your own gelato.
Learn to cook the Tuscan way
Watch a cooking demonstration or enroll on a half-day class at Cucina Lorenzo de’ Medici, a contemporary cookery school in the Mercato Centrale. Surrounded by the food stalls and boutiques of the city’s chaotic and flavoursome central market, this informal school is the perfect opportunity for foodies to drop in on some lighthearted fun in the kitchen.
More serious cooks will prefer the designer workspace of Desinare, a super-stylish cooking school with a tasty array of half- and full-day courses led by an impressive line-up of guest chefs.
End the day with aperitivi
Sundown ushers in aperitivi (pre-dinner drinks). The sacrosanct ritual requires feasting on copious complimentary snacks and nibbles over cocktails, chilled prosecco or another wine – if it morphs into dinner, it becomes apericena. Open Bar, La Terrazza and Tamero are top addresses.
If you like the sound of homemade mixers, pancetta-infused whisky and saffron limoncello, ask passionate mixologist Marco to create you a personalised cocktail at Mayday. Or if gin is your sin, try the edgy gin cocktails at hip Ditta Artiginiale.
Dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant
You'll need to reserve a table months in advance if you want to dine at Renaissance palazzo Enoteca Pinchiori, the only restaurant in Tuscany with three Michelin stars, where chef Annie Féolde’s refined and inventive Tuscan cuisine is matched by her husband’s spectacular wine cellar.
Rising star Antonello Sardi dazzles diners at La Bottega del Buon Caffè with modern Tuscan cuisine – his springtime menu opens with a sweet button of fresh pecorino cheese mousse, a broad bean leaf and a rosemary blossom. Produce at this single-Michelin-starred restaurant comes from its veggie patch at Borgo Santo Pietro in the Sienese hills.
Linger over Sunday lunch
Sunday lunch clocks up hours of eating. Feast on an extraordinary succession of traditional Tuscan dishes, such as the sublime pappa al pomodoro (bread soaked in tomatoes), at Fabio Picci’s gentleman club-styled Il Teatro del Sale. Or reserve a table with a romantic city view at La Leggenda dei Frati in the historic Villa Bardini. Seasonal local products rule and Tuscany’s signature chicken liver terrine, married here with dried figs and crème caramel, is superb.