A foodies guide to Florence.
When people think of Italy they most often or not immediately think of food. Food is a huge part of Italians lives and a big part of what makes Italy one of the most loved places in Europe. People told me about the food being great in Florence but it wasn't until I tried it for myself that I really understood. So for that reason alone, today's blog post is a guide to eating in Florence. Get ready for a serious amount of food envy and salivating and come with me through a journey of culinary wonder.
When visiting any city I always aim to try and find a food market, there is something so enjoyable about being surrounded by colours, new smells and new tastes. Each country has its own vibe, some are indoors some are out, but what is guaranteed is that you will get the chance to try something a little more authentic for a fraction of the price you would in a tourist restaurant. Located near Santa Maria Novella Church in the San Lorenzo area of Florence the market is fairly easy to get to, we chose to walk there after a long morning of sight seeing and it was perfect timing with our tummies rumbling ready to try some tasty Tuscan style lunch. The ground floor of the market is made up of fresh produce, meat, fish and delicacies and is like a wonderful colourful explosion.
On the first floor of Mercato Centrale in Florence is a fabulous more modern style designed area filled with stalls of food artisans where you can try anything from Pasta, Bread, Fresh Mozzarella, Pizza and even Gelato as well as a bar area to enjoy a delicious Tuscan wine. This was jam packed and the atmosphere electric, full of both tourists and locals enjoying lunch. Dan and did a loop of the area, struggling to decide what to have and finally we ended up at Ill Fritto e le Polpette a place serving the most delicious snacks. We ordered a big bowl of deep fried chicken and vegetable fritters and a three of their juicy golden meatballs in fresh tomato sauce which we also mopped up with our fritters. SO deliciously satisfying.
In the area of Santo Spirito is a lovely square surrounded by restaurants with outdoor seating where locals enjoy their lunch in the sunshine. Having walked a long way in the morning site seeing, Dan and I decided to have a quick bite to eat before going back to the room for a rest before dinner. As we didn't want to spoil our dinner with something too filling we decided on grabbing something light and easy so we wandered around and stumbled upon a very packed pizza place called Gusta Pizza. There was a queue outside of the door which is always a sign for good grub. We planted ourselves in the line and checked over the menu, and after much deliberation we ended up choosing a Calabrese; a salami and tomato based pizza with mozzarella, basil and an extra dash of Parmesan. The guys at the place were so nice and friendly, everything was made in front of us from scratch then placed in a fire oven to be cooked in less than 5 minutes. We grabbed our ticket, ordered two beers then headed off with our hot pizza box and cold drinks in hand to sit outside on the steps of the Santo Spirito church in the square. Hands down one of the most enjoyable lunches we have had in a long time. Gusta Pizza is a must when in Florence - especially when enjoyed in the sunshine!
You may have noticed a trend appearing in the location of these foodie places in that they are all pretty much from the same place. When searching where to stay I put it to my Instagram followers to recommend the best area and you guys did not let me down. Santo Spirito notched up the most votes as a place to stay and this was such a good shout as it really was as good as everyone said especially for places to get good local, affordable food. Tamero's was, no exaggeration, next door to the apartment we stayed in and I really do mean next door. Tamero's was not only was the coolest little place decor wise we ate but it also served the most delicious modern cuisine of the whole trip. Inside the decor was full of art, grafitti on the walls, funky book shelves and impressive bar layout. After 11pm the place turned into a small club with live bands from jazz, rock, funk and soul and the atmosphere was buzzing both inside and out. The food was fast but, beyond fresh. My choice for dinner was the 'Once upon a Ragu' dish which slightly differed from a traditional Ragu. Fresh pappardelle served with the softest, melt in your melt chunk of slow cooked beef instead of a more traditional ragu meat sauce. It was the bomb. Dan went for Raviolli with Ricotta in a sage butter sauce and he ate it all before I could even snap a picture, so that gives you an idea of how good it was.
In business since 1872 Nerbone restaurant in the lower ground of Mercato Centrale has to be the secret gem of our trip. Our Airbnb owner kindly left us with a list of recommendations and this was one of them. Nestled in the corner of the bustling market is a small restaurant that has been serving traditional Tuscan cuisine form a tiny kitchen in the market for over 100 years. What I loved most about this place is there was no glamour or fanciness, just good, wholesome, affordable food. You can't miss it when you get into the market as there will, no doubt be queue. We waited only 10 minutes to be served and we even managed to grab a bench table which apparently are like gold dust. Among the crowds you will find a lot of locals, drinking jugs of red wine and eating and chatting over bowls of fresh steaming pasta and with prices as low as six euro a bowl you cannot go wrong. This is also a great place to try traditional 'Lampredotto' which is cuts of offal eaten in a sliced bread roll. This was something that I couldn't stomach, (being that it is actually made of cows stomach) I know what kind of foodie am I? Dan and I did however go for a roll of slow cooked slice pork each as well as a sharing a bowl of home made Ragu Pappardelle. The roll was crispy and chewy, slathered in olive oil and meat juices flavored with rosemary and fresh herbs. The pork was melt in your mouth tender, beats any deli meat I have ever had in the UK, be warned it can get messy so take some hand wipes if you can! Now onto the pasta, whilst it may not look like anything fancy, it most certainly stole the show. The meat sauce, the fresh pasta the cheese - everything about it was magic. If I could turn back time I would have made it two pasta bowls and one roll, but oh well you live and you learn.
So I broke a rule with this place, one which I try to never break when travelling and that is eating at the same place twice. Oops. However I just could not resist going back again after seeing a plate of spaghetti that I just needed to try. My first meal at Borgo Antico I ordered Spaghetti Vongole a dish made up of clams, garlic and white wine, the plate was larger than my head and perhaps the most delicious pasta seafood dish that I have ever had in my life. However as always in true Callie and Dan style we had major fomo food envy after this amazing tomato and chilli spaghetti that we saw as we walked by a few days later for lunch. Anything with chilli gets a thumbs of from and surprisingly I had very little of it on our stay in Florence. So on our last day, before we caught our cab back to the train station Dan and I shared a bowl of the best tomato pasta I have ever had in my life. Yep, really, it was that good. It was the most gorgeous sunny day and we sat outside among the bustle of the local flea market, and had our last pasta dish of the holiday and I can almost taste it now.
You cannot go to Florence and not try Gelato, you just can't. So what's the diffrence between Gelato and ice cream you ask? Well according to google Gelato means ice cream in Italian but is an a much creamier version of ice cream that uses less cream to achieve a more smooth, intense flavour and in Italy it is unforgettable. Creamy like nothing you have had before and more flavours than you could ever imagine. In terms of the best Gelato, Vivoli is up for me as the best in Florence. As the oldest ice cream shop in Florence other Gelateria's have a lot to live up to. Found in the Sante Croce area of Florence in a small off street you will find the little shop where Gelato dreams are made of. Dan and I ordered a pot to share of three flavours - Strawberry, Chocolate and Pineapple and they didn't disappoint. The chocolate was the best, but went perfectly well with the fruit for cleansing the rich and creamy taste of the chocolate from the palette. If I recall we paid less than 5 euros for three flavours which if you ask me is a total steal. The place got pretty packed shortly after we arrived and I guess I know why; this place is truly the best.
So that's it folks - here are my favorite places to eat in Florence, thank you to all that recommended places to me they really were fabulous. Let me know in your comments your favorite places in Florence