Where To Eat & Drink In Florence
From markets, cafes, and restaurants to finding the best gelato or cocktail for aperitivo hour, here are first hand recommendations from our team and Florentine locals.
Editor’s Note: This story is published in The Florence Issue of Life & Thyme Post, our exclusive newspaper for Life & Thyme members. Get your copy.
Dining in Florence is about much more than eating. Florentine life happens in the restaurants, cafés, markets and bars. Locals and visitors surround each other, engrossed in conversation or thought, against the backdrop of plates landing on tables and forks meeting plates.
Florentine hospitality has a language of its own, as well as centuries of history that has given it a chance to evolve into what it is today—but a common denominator is a sense of warmth and welcome.
Spend the time getting to know Florence through its cuisine and it will reward you tenfold. Here are a few recommendations on where to start from our correspondents.
1 Mercato Centrale
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, Via dell’Ariento, 50123 Firenze
Founded in 1874—just one year after the Sant’Ambrogio Market—and located on the opposite side of town near the busy Santa Maria Novella train station, the Central Market is much larger, spanning two floors and two different eras.
The ground floor has remained more or less unchanged over the years and offers a selection of Italian ingredients (such as meats, cheeses and produce) similar to that of Sant’Ambrogio. But some stands also represent the heritage of the immigrant workers who manage them today, including several Latin American spaces where you can find foreign-grown products like dried chiles and fresh mangoes.
While the ground floor caters primarily to those intending to cook at home, the top floor is a modern food hall with a variety of restaurants offering take-out and dine-in options ranging from coffee to cocktails, pizza to pasta, dumplings and sushi. —EV
Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio
Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, 50122 Firenze
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Sant’Ambrogio Market, which has been serving the Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood at the edge of Florence’s medieval center every day except Sunday (with few exceptions, even during the Covid 19 pandemic) for all these years.
The market consists of a small building filled to the brim with everything from cured meats and aged cheeses to fresh fish and warm focaccia—not to mention the best handmade pasta in town—as well as dozens of seasonal fruit and vegetable stands that are assembled outside from the early morning until lunchtime. —EV
Via dei Renai, 15, 50125 Firenze
This location has seen a few different incarnations in my days, but it’s almost always a youngster trying to make it happen. Vivaldi has been there for about 15 years and it’s a family affair. You can see the whole family hanging out, serving gelato, or spending time in the hip room in the back. Florence has always been kind of the Vienna of Italy, with cafes that have an intellectual, beatnik feel to them. —GA
Piazza della Signoria, 5R, 50122 Firenze
When I came to Italy, this auto-mechanic, who is now my godfather, took me in. His family kept an eye on me, and he would take me to Rivoire before we’d walk around the city, showing me historical sites. My godfather was deeply passionate about history, but was trapped in this auto shop where no one listened to the things he was excited about. So we would go to Rivoire and have our espresso. He forbade us from sitting because he didn’t want any of his friends to see him where the tourists or the visitors enjoy their espresso. But it’s one of the best cups of coffee and one of the best hot chocolates in the world. —GA
Borgo La Croce, 71R, 50121 Firenze
The most Italian way to begin the day is to drink an espresso while standing at the bar of your local coffee shop. Coffee Mantra carries on this tradition, while also embracing the third wave coffee movement through a partnership with Gearbox Coffee Roasters, a roastery located just outside of Florence.
The minimalist decor of the compact space that makes up Coffee Mantra allows the coffee to be the star of the show, and the staff are eager to explain what it is that makes this coffee so special. Gearbox is the only roastery in town that goes beyond printing the tasting notes and descriptions of the roasting process to also highlight the farms, and even the individual names of the farmers, who grew the beans. —EV
Via dei Neri, 30/32R, 50122 Firenze
For those looking to enjoy coffee made with care in a more spacious environment at a relaxed pace, head to Ditta Artigianale. Fortunately, with four locations scattered throughout Florence’s historic center, there is usually one within walking distance.
Ditta also provides one of the city’s most extensive menus for coffee lovers of all kinds, ranging from an expertly prepared espresso to a caffè leccese (a Southern Italy specialty of iced coffee with almond milk) to their signature Coffeemisù (made with mascarpone and cookies). —EV
Via Roma, 1R, 50123 Firenze
Caffè Gilli is a Florentine institution. The café opened in 1733—before Italy, as a country, unified—and the interior remains ensconced in the elegance of the era. From your morning coffee to your evening nightcap, and each meal in between, Caffè Gilli has something for every moment of the day—plus an outdoor seating area to take in the view of the lively Piazza della Repubblica. —EV
Gucci Giardino 25
Piazza della Signoria, 37R, 50122 Firenze
Would you expect anything less than opulence from Gucci? This all-day café and bar boasts a luxurious interior reflective of Gucci’s design sensibilities, and an excellent cup of espresso. Plus being on the Piazza della Signoria offers a front-row seat to the replica of David, Palazzo Vecchio, and great-people watching. —RR
Via delle Seggiole, 12R, 50122 Firenze
While aperitivo hour may be what Italy is most famous for, there’s no lack in the late-night cocktail scene if you know where to look. In the San Giovanni neighborhood, Locale has found a home in the historical Palazzo Concini. Taking up a main floor and basement, Locale represents a new generation of hospitality businesses in Florence that are pushing for innovation against the backdrop of history and tradition. —RR
Borgo Tegolaio, 21R, 50125 Firenze
For those in search of the city’s best cocktails, Florence’s not-so-secret speakeasy is the place to go. From the moment you arrive and descend the dark staircase beneath a chandelier at the entrance, you are transported to another time and place. With an arched, exposed brick ceiling and a carefully curated mix of antique objects, wooden furniture, and luxurious rugs, Rasputin’s style is a mix of Europe and Russia from another era. Illuminated by the warm glow of the candelabras scattered around the room, the atmosphere invites you to settle in for a while to slowly sip one of their unique cocktails or strike up a conversation with their highly trained bartenders for an education on the finer details of superbs spirits and masterful mixology. —EV
Via degli Alfani, 39R, 50121 Firenze
There are no shortages of places to enjoy a glass of Tuscan wine in Florence, but for a truly special taste of Italian terroir, spend an evening at Vineria Sonora.
This small, quirky wine bar is near to some of the most visited Florentine monuments—including the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (known more commonly as Il Duomo) and the Galleria dell’Accademia, home to the David statue—but the atmosphere is far from touristy. While nestled among wine bottles and vinyl records, you can sip some of Italy’s best natural, organic and biodynamic wines and learn from the knowledgeable staff, who can walk you through the regionality of various grapes and winemaking styles. —EV
Via Luna, 1, 50121 Firenze
Traveling away from the hustle and bustle of the city center and turning down the charming Via Luna (Moon Street) onto an alley strung with curtains of ivy and twinkle lights, it is easy enough to arrive at BarBar—if you know to look for it.
As aperitivo hour approaches (around seven o’clock in the evening), settle into a seat on the patio and order a cocktail from their short and frequently updated menu. It is the ideal place for a spontaneous apericena through the addition of a meat-and-cheese board—but you may want to hold out for their dinner menu, which presents new and not overly complicated takes on old Italian favorites, like their spaghettini aglio e olio peperoncino (thin spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes) made with black garlic. —EV
Cibrèo & C.BIO
Via Andrea del Verrocchio, 8R, 50122 Firenze
Chef Fabio Picchi—one of Florence’s most famous chefs—passed away last year, but his legacy lives on in the form of several restaurants and a specialty food market, all of which are clustered in the Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood, except for a new café housed in the Helvetia & Bristol hotel a few blocks from the Duomo.
Picchi’s deep passion for Tuscan ingredients is apparent on each of the menus he helped create, demonstrating respect for classic regional recipes, such as the tomato-centric dish pappa al pomodoro, while also exploring contemporary interpretations. —EV
Via Calimaruzza, 12, 50123 Firenze
While there are plenty of good sandwiches in Florence, Nicola of La Nicchietta is my guy. He gave me sandwiches when I couldn’t pay for them. And that’s what Florentine street food is—it’s picking your team and becoming a regular. The shopkeepers get to know you, and you have a little chat. You might have your sandwich and move on, but they’ll remember you. In spite of all the people he met, Nicola always remembered me. —GA
Simbiosi Organic Pizza
Via de’ Ginori, 56R, 50123 Firenze
On the outskirts of the city-center, Simbiosi is firing off some of the best pizzas in town. The crust is imbued with air bubbles that char in the blazing pizza oven, and the cheese stretches as you pull a slice away before melting in your mouth when you take a bite. But the menu doesn’t end with pizza—the antipasti and salads are both worth taking a detour from pizza to taste. —RR
Via della Chiesa, 16R, 50125 Firenze
Just around the corner from Santo Spirito in an unassuming stone building that blends into the rest of the street, but Matilde Pettini’s Dalla Lola is one of the best restaurants in Florence. With her menu on a piano stand, Pettini practically dances around the tight dining room unloading arms full of dishes rooted in Florentine classics. As the fourth generation of the family behind Trattoria Cammillo, Pettini’s flavors at Dalla Lola are inspired by the history of the region, but rebel against the confines of the cuisine. —RR
Piazza della Passera, 2, 50125 Firenze
Florence is an offal city, and one of the best expressions of that is at Il Magazzino. If you’re looking for tripe, this is the place to go. It shows up in almost every section of the menu (not including desserts) in different formats from polpette di lampredotto to a classic trippa alla Fiorentina. The brick arches and tiled floor definitely don’t hurt the experience either. —RR
Via della Spada, 27/Rosso, 50123 Firenze
Between Piazza Santa Maria Novella and Piazza della Repubblica is Trattoria Marione. You can spot it by looking out for the line of people waiting for the doors to open at 7:30 p.m. for dinner. But don’t be dismayed by the line; by some power of Italian hospitality, everyone fits inside their dining room. This is a place for the classics. Get the osso buco and a few types of pasta. Go with friends, order dessert, and fall into the rhythm of dining out in Florence. —RR
Via del Porcellana, 25/R, 50123 Firenze
Come here for the pollo al burro, or butter chicken. The smell of butter inside the tight trattoria is intoxicating; it’s almost enough to get drunk off of without opening a bottle of wine. But it would be a mistake to stop with the chicken. Buy the wine, order off every section of the menu, and take your time. The rest of the world will still be there when you’re done. —RR
Via dei Serragli, 32R, 50124 Firenze
Tucked behind the Basilica di Santo Spirito, it is rare to find a line at Sbrino like those at the more popular gelato shops in the neighborhood—but don’t let that fool you. While many gelaterie in Florence entice passersby with brightly colored gelato piled high with toppings, Sbrino is less flashy and more focused on quality.
Self-named as the Gelatificio Contadino (Farmer Gelato Shop), Sbrino emphasizes the excellence of Italian agricultural products, including local seasonal fruits and, most importantly, dairy. Through their social media and signs in the shop, they enthusiastically announce that the milk comes from Maria, a dairy farmer who works with her husband and daughters on a farm in the Tuscan countryside. —EV
Via Isola delle Stinche, 7R, 50122 Firenze
One of the primary questions you’ll get asked when people visit Florence is, “Where’s the best gelateria?” Now, I try to not live in a world of bests and firsts and better-thans—but the best gelateria in Florence is Vivoli. It is also one of the oldest. They make their gelato in an artisanal and traditional way, while also keeping ingredients as seasonable as possible. —GA