Are you wondering what to eat in Florence during your first visit to Tuscany? Read on to discover 29 must-eat Florence food favorites that you simply should not miss in Italy’s renaissance city.
Who would be crazy enough to visit Florence during a global pandemic? That would be us.
Yes, we visited Florence between lockdowns with the primary goal of eating all the food in Florence and we accomplished our goal. And guess what? Without the typical crowds, our experience was as glorious as Florence’s majestic Duomo.
You’ll understand if you’ve previously traveled to Italy.
Popular dating back to the Middle Ages when Florence was the Renaissance’s epicenter, the Tuscan city draws art lovers who greedily gaze at art created by Botticelli, Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Meanwhile, history buffs revel while strolling on the same streets and bridges previously traversed by the Medici family and Galileo.
Both of our previous visits were great but the city was crowded. Marathon runners swarmed the streets during our 2010 visit while fashion week attendees struck a pose while filling all of the city’s nooks and crannies when we returned in 2018.
Things got super crazy during that second visit when we decided to rise at 7am – seemingly ahead of the tour groups for a morning walk – only to be greeted by an armada of delivery trucks loudly putt-putting and spraying exhaust fumes across the Piazza del Duomo.
Any dalliance with Florence and intimacy appeared utterly impossible and the idea of visiting Florence without crowds seemed like a fantasy… until it wasn’t.
With some luck and and pluck, we made it to Florence for a glorious week between lockdowns in late 2020. This trip was different from our first two hectic visits. Not only was the city less crowded, but we also had a food mission that fueled us from dawn until way past dusk.
After scoring an awesome apartment just a block from the Duomo, we spent our days eating at restaurants, licking gelato cones on half-empty streets and sipping a surprising amount of third wave / specialty coffee. We wandered into most restaurants without reservations and joined our friend Coral on a super tasty food tour that plunged us into the heart of the Sant’Ambrogio Market.
And we drank wine. Lots of wine.
Discover our Italian food favorites.
Ironically the most magical aspect of our third visit wasn’t the wine or the food. It was actually visiting the Galleria Dell’Accademia and gazing at Michelangelo’s David without any queues or crowds.
It was one of those travel moments that we’ll never forget and not just because we easily took 100 photos of the world’s most captivating statue from every angle. But we also won’t forget the food. After all, that was the primary motivation for our trip.
Table of Contents
- Florence Food Favorites
- Classic Florence Dishes
- Florence Cheap Eats and Street Food
- 15. Brunch
- Local Products
- Florentine Desserts
Florence Food Favorites
After eating the best food in Florence at restaurants, in markets and on the street over three separate visits, we’re finally ready to share our picks for the must-eat foods and drinks that all travelers should experience at least once in person. Maybe twice.
Read on to discover our Florence food favorites and the ones you need to eat during your visit.
Classic Florence Dishes
Florence is one of the great food cities in all of Italy. While its signature dishes haven’t reached the global fame of Neapolitan pizza or Roman pasta, the city specializes in a range of classic Tuscan food that may be less familiar to many but equally satisfying to most.
We recommend starting with the following classic dishes:
1. Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Although Bistecca Fiorentina is easily the most famous dish served in Florence, it’s not for everybody. However, this hunk of dry aged Tuscan steak is the number one Florence dish to eat for carnivores with a healthy budget and hearty appetite – preferably with a carafe or, better yet, a bottle of red Tuscan wine.
Not your typical slab of steak, Bistecca Fiorentina is thickly cut, served on the bone and flame grilled with a charred outside and rare (some would say raw) center. The meat itself comes from grass-fed white Chianina cows raised in Tuscany’s hills and its simple preparation involves salt, pepper and fire.
After somehow missing out on Bistecca Fiorentina during our first two visits, eating Florentine steak was our top priority during our most recent visit. We accomplished this goal at Osteria Santo Spirito and were tempted to accomplish it again at Trattoria Mario.
Charred on the outside and flavored with both salt and olive oil, our kilo and a half Florentine steak was big enough to share but not so big that we had leftovers. Apparently, it was just the right size.
Some Americans, who prefer a more pink center, may not love the way that Bistecca Fiorentina is prepared. However, we say when in Rome, or in this case Florence…
Despite Florence’s status as a cultural capital, many of the city’s best dishes have humble roots. Some of the best dishes fit into the food categoy of cucina povera (i.e. poor cooking) and date back to when Italian peasants cooked creatively back in the day due to limited resources.
Ribolita, a bread-based soup, is one of these dishes.
Legend has it that Florentine peasants cooked Rioblita centuries ago by reboiling stale bread and adding cannellini beans, cabbage, kale and whatever veggies were on hand. Nonnas and chefs have continued the tradition of using day-old bread to create this classic dish at homes and in restaurants around the city.
Where to Eat Ribolita in Florence
Most trattorias serves Ribolita in Florence. We recommend ordering several bowls to find your favorite.
3. Pappa al Pomodoro
Florentine peasants clearly had ready access to lots of stale bread as evidenced by Pappa al Pomodoro, a soup featuring bread as a key ingredient. However, unlike Ribolita, this starchy red soup adds tomatoes as well as basil, garlic and olive oil.
We’ve eaten soup all over the world and Pappa al Pomodoro is one of our favorites whether it’s served piping hot in the winter or refreshingly chilled in the summer. We even cook the Tuscan tomato bread soup at home.
Where to Eat Papa al Pomodoro in Florence
Most trattoria serves Papa al Pomodoro in Florence. You can order it as a primi (i.e. starter) instead of a salad.
4. Lampredotto Panini
Most Americans don’t like offals. We get that. While Daryl loves all the gnarly bits, Mindi isn’t a fan. However, eating Lampredotto (i.e. cow stomach) is a must for all who can stomach eating tenderly cooked meat from the cow’s fourth stomach.
Plus, it’s yet another Florentine dish created by peasants which has withstood the test of time.
While travelers can order Trippa alla Fiorentina at Florence restaurants, the safer option for anybody with tripe trepidations is to order a Lampredotto Panino from a street vendor. Nestled inside a soft roll and topped with zesty salsa verde, the slow cooked meat is both easy to stomach and fun to eat on the go.
5. Pate di Fegato
Pate di Fegato straddles the chasm between peasant food and luxury cuisine.
More rustic than foie gras, this Florentine chicken liver pâté has been championed by both farmers and nobility for centuries. The only confusing thing about eating Crostini topped with Pate di Fegato in Florence is semantics.
Some Florence menus call the dish Crostini di Fegatini while others call it Crostini Neri or even Crostini Toscani. We don’t care what it’s called. If the tasty dish made with chicken liver, capers and anchovy paste was good enough for Catarina de Médici, then it’s good enough for us too.
Where to Eat Pate di Fegato in Florence
Most trattorias and enotecas serve Pate di Fegato in Florence. The better ones pair the savory pâté with Crostini.
Ordering a Tagliere settles the tough choice between pairing wine with cheese or charcuterie during a Florence aperitivo drinking session. Although the word tagliere literally translates to cutting board, the classic enoteca version comes topped with cheese and charcuterie.
Typical boards include Florentine salumi like Finocchiona and Lardo di Colonnata as well as other Italian favorites like Prosciutto, Mortadella and Sopressata. Cheese, olives and cannellini beans turn the meat selection into a party on a plate. Or, we should say, a party on a tagliere.
It’s a well known fact that Italian chefs excel at making noodle dishes. Bologna’s chefs make Tortellini by hand and smother tagliatelle with ragu while Roman chefs whip up Cacio e Pepe and Carbonara with pastas like linguine and bucatini.
If you’re wondering what type of pasta to eat in Florence, we recommend starting with the following dishes:
7. Pasta with Truffles
In much of the world, shaving truffle on top of pasta is a decadent thing to do. In Florence, it’s called dinner. The actual translation of truffle in Italian is tartufo but you know what we mean. Otherwise, see below to learn more about Italian truffles.
Anybody who loves fresh truffles will want to eat pasta with truffles when the expensive black and white gems are in season. We were no exception to this rule.
While many choose to pair truffles with taglioni, we ate a dish with umbrichelli, an ultra-thick strand pasta, and fresh sausage at Club Culinario Toscano. It was a good choice that included enough truffle shavings to satisfy our craving until our next trip to Italy.
We first encountered Gnudi during our Cesarina home cooking experience back in 2018. Between sips of wine and various nibbles, we learned how to cook the naked ravioli from scratch before eating them smothered with sage butter sauce.
We also learned that Gnudi originated in Sienna less than 50 miles from Florence.
But what are Gnudi?
Basically, Gnudi are Tuscan gnocchi made with spinach and ricotta. The name refers to the fact that the dumplings resemble the inside of a ravioi without the outer shell. The word gnudi loosely translates to naked.
Where to Eat Gnudi in Florence
Most trattorias serve Gnudi in Florence. Another option is to buy fresh Gnudi at a local market if you’re staying in an apartment with a kitchen.
9. Tagliatelle Funghi Porcini
While many people travel to Italy in the summer, we prefer Italy during the autumn months when the weather is cooler and the crowds are sparser. Who are we kidding? Autumn is the best time to eat porcini mushrooms and truffles.
Whoever thought to add porcini to pasta was genius. Foraged from local forests, the meaty fungus adds umami earthiness to pasta and other dishes. However, the true genius added truffles to the mix in a dish called Tagliatelle Funghi Porcini e Tartufo. This combination of pasta, porcini and truffle shavings is nothing short of divine.
Where to Eat Tagliatelle Funghi Porcini in Florence
Most trattorias serve Tagliatelle Funghi Porcini in Florence during the autumn months. When you see it on a menu, order it!
Florence Cheap Eats and Street Food
Assuming you don’t order Bistecca Fiorentina, you can easily eat well at most Florence trattorias without breaking the bank. One trick is to skip the secondi (i.e. main dish) and save room for a post-dinner gelato cone. Another is to order house wine instead a specific vintage.
However, we get that there may be times when you want to eat a quick, inexpensive bite that’s not at a trattoria. We recommend the following Florence cheap eats options for those times:
Don’t judge us but panini was the first food we ate after arriving in Florence.
We had just enjoyed cappuccinos at Ditta Artigianale and needed a little something-something to tide us over until a late lunch. The panini at Semel drew us in like moths to a flame.
Semel’s panini are compact sandwiches that pack protein inside Tuscan bread. More than just salami and cheese, these proteins include delicacies like herring, anchovies, roast pork and tuna. Added extras like fennel, truffle and figs elevate the Italian sandwiches to the next level
Since each panino only cost €4 at the time of our visit, we paired our sandwich duo with glasses of wine. At a total cost of €10 for two panini and two glasses of wine, we considered the snack break to be both a tasty treat and a cheap eats win.
Aperitivo is one of the many reasons why we love Italy in general and Florence in particular. Not only does an aperitivo session involve winding down after a busy day, but it also provides the opportunity to pre-game dinner with liquid libations and salty snacks like Crostini.
Don’t be confused by Crostini’s literal translation to toast. This aperitivo staple comes adorned with toppings like Pate di Fegato (see above), anchovies, cured meat, cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.
Eaten by peasants back in the days of cucina povera who used stale Tuscan bread and whatever food was on hand, typical modern Crostini are simple, affordable and fun to eat. Consider ordering a couple varieties and pair them with wine. At least that’s what we like to do when we enjoy aperitivo in Florence.
Where to Eat Crostini in Florence
You can find Crostini at most enotecas in Florence. We recommend starting evenings in Florence at spots like Enoteca Bellini, Il Santino, La Casa del Vino and Le Volpi e L’Uva.
Although Schiacciata literally translates to smashed, its flat shape is just half of the the focaccia-like bread’s story. The other half is the delightfully simple flavor derived from salt and olive oil.
Some people pile on meat and/or cheese to create sandwiches while others (like us) are happy to eat Schiacciata straight out of a wood-fired oven. Then there are those who prefer the dessert version. Learn more about Schiacciata con l’Uva below.
Based on the number of Florentine pizzerias serving Neapolitan pies, Florentines clearly share our love for Neapolitan pizza. While we approve of their passion, we are yet to find amazing pizza in Florence.
Read our Naples pizza guide now.
We’ve eaten decent Neapolitan pizza at Florence’s Il Pizzaiuolo years ago and more recently at Duje (formerly Santarpia and currently Largo9) in late 2020. Pizzeria Giovanni Santarpia, located away from the city center, looks to be worth a special trip.
Where to Eat Pizza in Florence
Manage your expectations when you eat pizza in Florence. While it will likely be better than pizza in you hometown, it wont be as good as pizza in Naples or Rome. Berbere is probably your best pizza option in Florence but you could try Il Pizzaiuolo or Largo9 if you’re set on eating Neapolitan pies. Better yet, find a way to get to Pizzeria Giovanni Santarpia.
14. Fiori di Zucca Ripieni
Fiori di Zucca Ripieni literally means stuffed squash flowers and that’s exactly what this dish is. However, unlike most dishes involving flowers, Fiori di Zucca Ripieni actually tastes good.
Flowers always look so appetizing yet often disappoint us with their vegetal, bitter flavors. Italian chefs solve this problem by frying seasonal squash blossoms before filling them with creamy, fatty ricotta.
In our opinion, it’s the best way to eat squash blossoms.
Where to Eat Fiori di Zucca Ripieni in Florence
Most trattorias serve Fiori di Zucca Ripieni in Florence during the autumn months and beyond. Order it as a primi when you see if on a menu.
Brunch is a global phenomena that’s made its way to Florence along with Ramen and Mexican food. It’s also a great way to kick off a day of touring in Florence.
We discovered the city’s best brunch spot, Melaleuca, by accident. We originally walked to the charming cafe for flat whites and returned to eat Nduja Chili Eggs and a heaping pile of American-style Pancakes a few days later. We should also mention that Melaleuca has amazing cinnamon buns. (The owner was raised in Florida.)
While many travelers think about leather gloves and gold jewelry when they think about local products in Florence, food travelers know that food products are the city’s real gems. Accordingly, trips to indoor and outdoor stalls at markets like Mercato Sant’Ambrogio should be part of any trip to Florence.
While you’ll likely want to eat EVERYTHING in Florence, be sure to try the following local products first:
16. Cured Meat
Italy is a wonderland when it comes to cured meat. Tuscany’s Finocchiona, dry-cured salame with fennel, is often the star of a Florentine Tagliere but it’s just one of many meaty morsels to try.
Although the best Tuscan cured meat is produced outside of Florence, local butchers and shops sell options like Lardo di Colonnata, Prosciutto Toscano and, of course, Finnochiona to the masses. Try them all to find your favorite. You can easily guess which is ours. Hint – It almost rhymes with Pinocchio.
Where to Buy Cured Meat in Florence
Butchers, food markets and even grocery stores sell excellent cured meat in every Florence neighborhood.
If you’ve eaten Pecorino Tuscano, then you’ve eaten cheese produced in Florence’s region.
The signature sheep’s milk cheese is sold all round the world. But, as is the case with many food products in Italy, Pecorino is best eaten in Tuscany where it’s produced in a multitude of ways and occasionally studded with truffles and walnuts.
You’ll want to start your Florence cheese crawl with Pecorino Toscano since it’s the local cheese royalty. Although famous Pecorinos are produced in areas like Sienna and Pienza, you can taste them in Florence during your crawl.
Where to Buy Cheese in Florence
Florence has a plethora of cheese shops though local markets and chain grocery stores like Conad and Coop also sell interesting cheese options.
18. Pane Toscano
Pane Toscano sounds fancy but, as it turns out, Tuscan bread is fairly flavorless due to the lack of salt in its recipe. This omission dates back centuries and is both traditional and typical. However, don’t rule Pane Toscano out in your exploration of food in Florence.
Not only is Pane Toscano a key ingredient in dishes like Ribolita and Pappa al Pomodoro, but it’s also a great vessel for olive oil, meat and cheese. However, if you crave salt in your bread, there’s always Schiacciata.
Where to Buy Pane Toscano in Florence
Florence bakeries and markets sell Pane Toscano. You may want to try a slice or two at a restaurant before buying a loaf.
You’ll find truffles all over the North of Italy. The most famous are from Alba in Piemonte though we hunted for truffles in the Bologna province before eating them at a local festival in Savigno. Closer to Florence, hunters forage for truffles in Tuscan towns like San Giovanni d’Asso and San Miniato.
We get that not everybody loves the earthy fungus. We also get that not everybody can afford its luxury price tag. But those who do won’t want to miss the indulgence during any autumnal trip to Florence.
Where to Buy Truffles in Florence
Specialty shops like Procacci sell truffles as well as truffle products including truffle honey, truffle oil and truffle salt.
Finding bakeries in Florence isn’t difficult… they’re everywhere. When faced with a dizzying array of some of the world’s best desserts, knowing what to order is an entirely different story.
While the ordering challenge will be real no matter how much advance research you do, choosing one or more of these local dessert favorites is a good place to start:
20. Schiacciata all’Uva
Schiacciata all’Uva is Schiacciata’s dessert cousin with wine grapes and sugar added to the savory smashed bread’s recipe… but the recipe doesn’t stop there. Baking Schiacciata all’Uva involves filling two layers of bread with grapes and adding more on top.
Most Schiacciata all’Uva have grape seeds but you can find seedless version if the seedy crunch bothers you.
Once baked, the jammy pastry is moist and satisfying without being cloyingly sweet. It’s yet another reason to visit Florence in the autumn months since that’s when grapes are harvested.
Where to Eat Schiacciata all’Uva in Florence
Bakeries sell slices of Schiacciata all’Uva all over the city during the autumn. Be sure to try a slice at a bakery like Forno Pugi if your visit coincides with the harvest months (i.e. September and October).
Bomboloni are Italy’s version of the Berliner which is Germany’s version of the filled doughnut which is Austria’s version of… you get the point. Bomboloni, which are commonly found at Italian cafes, can be filled with cream or jelly and are often found in the same case as Cornettos, Italy’s version of France’s Croissant.
While we typically wouldn’t eat American-style donuts in Italy, we were more than happy to eat a terrific Bombolone at Ditta Artigianale in Florence. After all, Bomboloni were invented in Tuscany and Florence is in Tuscany. Using this logic, not eating a Bombolone in David’s city would simply be wrong.
Where to Eat Bomboloni in Florence
While we can personally vouch for Ditta Artigianale’s Bombolini, most cafes and pasticceria in Florence include Bomboloni on their menus.
Gelato is proof that desserts don’t need flour or eggs to taste divine. Italy’s version of ice cream accomplishes this feat with milk, cream, sugar and a range of fresh fruits and nuts.
Sure, you can eat great gelato in Italian cities like Bologna, Naples, Rome, Venice and Verona, but there’s nothing like licking cones in the city where modern gelato may have been invented by either Bernardo Buontalenti or Cosimo Ruggieri centuries ago.
23. Budino di Riso
Although its name translates to rice pudding, this Tuscan dessert is actually a tart with a rice pudding center and a shortcrust pastry exterior. Beyond rice, the Budino di Riso recipe includes wholesome ingredients like butter, cream, eggs, milk and sugar. Lemon zest, the final ingredient, provides extra zip and zing.
Locals eat these rice-based tarts with coffee in the morning, with tea in the afternoon and with sweet wine at dessert. You can eat your Budino di Riso whenever you desire a sweet treat.
Where to Eat Budino di Riso in Florence
Most pastry shops in Florence include the Budino di Rison in their pastry roster.
The Zuccotto has a long and storied history in Florence that dates back to the 16th century.
Some stories link the trifle-like dessert to Bernardo Buountalenti, the Florentine architect who may have invented modern gelato. Other stories claim that the dessert was named after a pumpkin (i.e zucca) even though pumpkin isn’t a Zuccotto ingredient. Then there are the stories that link the Zuccotto’s shape to Florence’s majestic Duomo.
While we don’t know if any or all of these stories are true, we do know that the Zuccotto is a tasty dome-shaped sponge cake with tasty fillings like ricotta, whipped cream, chocolate and even gelato. It reminds us of Emilia-Romagna’s Zuppa Inglese in a good way.
Where to Eat Zuccotto in Florence
It’s surprisingly difficult fo find Zuccotto at restaurants in Florence. Order it for dessert if you see it on a menu.
Don’t feel bad if you confuse Cantuccini with Biscotti when you see or taste the crunchy almond cookies for the first time. Baked twice in the oven, the oval sweets are technically Biscotti even though Florentines have been calling them Cantuccini for centuries
What’s not confusing is how to eat Cantuccini in Florence. Locals ritualistically dip them into sweet Vin Santo wine both to soften the hard cookies and to make them taste even better. See below for more about Vin Santo. You should do the same.
Where to Eat Cantuccini in Florence
You won’t have to look hard to find Cantuccini in Florence. You should be able to buy fresh cookies at bakeries and bagged cookies at food stores unless you’d rather eat them at restaurants or cafes.
Drinking in Florence is fun. This is a city where you can consume caffeine all day long and sip potent potables until the wee hours of the night.
We’ve got you covered whether you’re a coffeeholic, wine enthusiast or cocktail connoisseur with the following drink options:
Italy is in a class of its own when it comes to coffee. The country has the oldest operating coffee shop (Caffè Florian) in Venice and gets credit for both espresso and the moka pot. There’s an art to ordering and drinking the muddy brew that we fully respect, though we can only drink so much classic dark-roasted Italian espresso.
Read our Florence Coffee guide to discover our favorite Florence coffee shops.
Luckily, Florence has a healthy mix of historic and modern cafes. This is a city where you can drink either hand-pulled espresso shots or handcrafted flat whites depending on your personal coffee style. We drink both but skew toward the latter.
Chianti is typical local wine produced with Sangiovese grapes in the Chianti region, just 25 miles from Florence. But it’s just one of many wines produced in Tuscany, one of Italy’s premiere wine regions.
Dinking local wine in Florence starts with Chianti and continues with a parade of glasses filled with Brunello di Montalcino and Super Tuscans. Plan to drink wine at lunch and dinner as well as at bars and cafes.
You can even take a wine tour in the Tuscan hills if you have time. However, there’s nothing wrong with sipping wine at a local enoteca. In fact, doing so is a must.
Where to Drink Wine in Florence
28. Vin Santo
Vin Santo’s history involves monks and the plague.
Today, however, the holy wine is a dual purpose beverage enjoyed by everybody. Not only do Tuscan locals sip the nutty, sweet, late-harvest wine as a digestif, but they also dip Cantuccini cookies into the amber elixir. We approve of both of these purposes.
Where to Drink Vin Santo in Florence
Vin Santo is easy to find at restaurants and bars around the city. It’s also readily available at liquor stores and grocery stores if you want to buy a bottle as an edible souvenir or gift.
While you can drink a Negroni at bars around the world, there’s nothing like drinking the classic cocktail in the city where it was invented.
According to Italian folklore, Florentine bartender Forsco Scarselli invented the Negroni in 1919 when Camilo Negroni requested an Americano with gin instead of club soda. With the addition of an orange twist, a cocktail icon was born.
We recommend pairing Negronis with Crostini and other aperitivo classics. Then again, you can also sip stiff Negronis at Florence cocktail bars later at night.
Where to Drink Negronis in Florence
Most cocktail bars, enotecas and even cafes have the three Negroni components – Campari, gin and vermouth – on hand. You should be able to order the iconic cocktail at any or all of them.
Useful Florence Facts
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: May 1, 2021