Local Flavors: where to eat and drink in Florence


Food is big business in Florence, to the extent that the city council introduced a law limiting the opening of new bars and restaurants in the UNESCO-listed city center.

This measure was in response to concerns about the excess of tourist-focused dining options there, exacerbated by the tripling of restaurants in just 10 years between 2005 and 2015.

In the center of the Renaissance city, there is approximately one dining establishment for every 31 residents. While the array of options seems endless, Italians, generally being creatures of habit, tend to gravitate towards familiar foods. Lengthy queues outside TikTok-promoted venues are met with disapproval, and terms like “traditional,” “authentic,” and “genuine” have been so overused when describing new restaurants that they’ve lost their meaning.

For Florentines, no culinary novelty will outshine a reputation built over the years. We stick to what we know and are generally skeptical of everything else. Here are my tried and trusted places to eat and drink.

Bar Piccioli has a daily changing many of fresh pastries © Angelo Zinna

Breakfast

The day starts with a shot of bitter espresso – the first of many – at the nearest cafe. In my case, that’s Bar Piccioli, a dimly lit, old-school patisserie in Borgo Ognissanti.

Italian breakfast is quick. Many foreigners who arrive in Italy for the first time are often surprised that a sweet pastry and espresso, typically enjoyed standing up at the bar, are what locals consume to kickstart their day. But pastries can go a long way if done right, and Claudio, Piccioli’s owner, has been serving exquisite cornetti (croissants) and other morning delicacies fresh out of the oven for decades.

The daily changing variety of crunchy croissants – filled with anything from zabaglione (egg and Marsala custard) to pistacchio – are a safe bet, but depending on when you visit you may also find maritozzi (brioche buns) filled with whipped cream, custard and pine nuts, shortbread, and seasonal specialties such as rice frittelle (fried bites), prepared in early spring. 

A group of elderly people sit at an outdoor terrace at Circolo Rondinella enjoying coffee and views of Florence
Circolo Rondinella is a great place to while away a few hours over a coffee and views of Florence © Angelo Zinna

Coffee

I would love to feature Circolo Rondinella in every category of my list. It’s a place where you can easily spend the whole day, from breakfast to dinner. There’s something special about sitting, coffee in hand, on the faux grass in the outdoor area, which overlooks the Arno River and the 14th-century Torrino di Santa Rosa. Here, you’ll often find groups of elderly men gathering daily for a glass of wine and engaging in lively games of briscola, peppered with good-natured swearing.

In terms of food, don’t expect anything especially refined here. Coffee is your standard espresso shot and lunch is a changing menu of seasonal pastas and main courses. That’s the draw of Rondinella – not trying hard to be special in a city where hundreds of restaurants and cafes compete for people’s attention.

Circoli, or social clubs, are a cornerstone of Tuscan culture and are found scattered throughout the region. These clubs typically revolve around a cultural activity. Circolo Rondinella served as the former headquarters for the local calcio storico historic football team, a fact evidenced by the collection of memorabilia on display. They’ve long been a place for members of the community to come together and build ties. Rondinella stands out as one of the few circoli still operating in central Florence. 

When you visit, remember to order at the bar and pay in cash.

Close-up of an aubergine-based lunch dish at a traditional Italian trattoria
Il Vegetariano’s plant-based menu is packed full of flavor and fresh Tuscan ingredients © Angelo Zinna

Lunch

These days, most restaurants offer at least a couple of plant-based dishes on their menu, but eating in meat-centric Tuscany can get a bit repetitive for vegetarians. Il Vegetariano stands out with a daily changing selection of a dozen meat-free specialties inspired by local recipes and prepared with ingredients sourced directly from Florence’s surroundings. Look out for creative dishes like potato and black cabbage gateau with parmesan fondue.

Il Vegetariano, found behind the hand-carved wooden sign marking the entrance, has been operating since the early 1980s. It pioneered vegetarian eating before it was cool in a city known for its T-bone steak. This is not just a good vegetarian restaurant — it’s a good restaurant overall, as the flow of regulars sitting amid quirky decor shows. Don’t forget to try the cakes.

Close-up shots of wine bottles in a Florentine wine bar
Vineria Sonora is a wine and music bar © Angelo Zinna

Aperitivo

If you love your wine with a bit of background music — vinyl spinning on the turntable— and haven’t yet fallen for Aperol’s aperitivo marketing, Vineria Sonora is your wine-filled, pre-dinner drinking spot. This funky enoteca (wine bar) on Via degli Alfani is known for its impressive selection of natural, organic and biodynamic wines from independent Italian producers, and its weekend DJ sets. Stop by to start your night with unique wines, from an orange Trebbiano from Tuscany to a sparkling Pinot Noir from Northern Italy.

L: Plate of grilled artichokes. R: A group of men sit at a table in an Italian restaurant
Trattoria Accadì is where you’ll locals enjoying hearty, homecooked Tuscan cusine © Angelo Zinna

Dinner

By 9pm, after a few glasses of wine, you might find yourself ready for something more substantial. Just around the corner from Vineria Sonora is Trattoria Accadì, the perfect place to continue your evening. The trattoria has a cozy feel with dark wood furniture and a hand-written menu featuring Tuscan classics including fried artichokes and hearty, traditional stews such as peposo (with spiced beef) and ribollita (with seasonal vegetables). Plus, you’ll find a few unexpected Japanese touches in the old-school decor, a nod to the chef, Toshifumi Mitsubiki, whose passion for Italian cuisine led him to move to the opposite side of the world and open Accadì.

Interiors of an Italian late-night bar with neon signs, bikes hanging from walls and customers chatting over drinks
The party continues well into the night at Circolo Aurora © Angelo Zinna

Bar

Late-night drinking happens on the south side of the Arno River and, more specifically, in Piazza Tasso, where Circolo Aurora serves its cocktails under Florence’s ancient city walls. Removed from the crowded Borgo San Frediano and Piazza Santo Spirito – where most bars in this part of the city are found – Circolo Aurora draws locals to its bar with regular live jazz nights and open mic sessions. Choose your drinks from a list in a vintage photo album with actual vintage photos, a touch that is very much in line with the nostalgia-inducing decor of the bar, comprising ’80s action figures scattered around the room, old advertising posters and a vintage bike hanging from the wall. Since the pandemic, Florence’s live music scene has experienced a sharp decline, but Aurora keeps culture alive, especially during summer months when tables spill on the square and music can be heard flowing from the bar.

Here is more expert guidance to help you plan your trip to Florence

Find your way around the city with our guide to transportation
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Budget travelers can save some money with our tips





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