Florence opened my eyes to the world even before I had ever set foot on a plane, had a passport, or dreamed of living overseas. My mom lived there for a year in the late seventies, and she told me countless stories of her Florentine life while I was growing up. I know all about the friends she made, the parties she went to, the adventures she had as a young woman, and of course, the things she ate.
Many of the stories she has told me have stuck with me, and I’d be lying if I said the food-related ones were not front and center whenever I go to Florence. Tuscan cuisine is some of the best in the world, so I’ve decided to write this post about where to eat in the city center of Florence, with a few tips for other spots that are a bit further away from the crazy crowds, too!
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Where to eat in the city center of Florence
In many Italian cities, it’s easy to get sucked into touristy restaurants where you’ll get a bad meal and pay too much for it. In the city center of Florence, it’s extremely difficult to avoid tourists and restaurants full of them. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to find a place that’s full of locals (at least in my experience, anyway).
My tips on where to eat in the city center of Florence are all places that I’ve eaten at, most of them more than once. They’re not going to be joints exclusively frequented by Florentines, unfortunately, but they all serve great food in a pleasant atmosphere.
Honestly, I’ve given up trying to find a place that’s full of locals. I’m sure these places do exist, but they’re probably quite far from the city center. Even the restaurants around Piazza Santo Spirito, which generally has a less touristy/more local feel, have tourists in them.
My current theory on Florence is that although you might end up eating somewhere with other tourists, that doesn’t necessarily mean the food is bad and that you’ll be overcharged.
All of the restaurants on this list have been recommended to me by people who live or have lived in Florence, and I’ve also found some of them through local bloggers. If you like getting tips from local bloggers too, I highly recommend checking out Girl in Florence. Her awesome blog has squillions of tips for places to eat (and things to do).
As a final tip before we start, I suggest booking ahead of time for any restaurant in the city center of Florence, especially for dinner.
Pronti? Andiamo a mangiare!
Osteria del Boccanegra
Via Ghibellina 124 – 12 – 2:30; 7 – 11:30, closed Sundays
I love this place. There are always tourists there, but that definitely won’t stop me from eating at Boccanegra again (and again, and again). I would eat there even if there was a bus tour full of Texans wearing MAGA hats and American flag t-shirts there. It is that good.
I would pretend to be Canadian, but yes, I would still eat there.
Boccanegra is actually three spots in one: there’s a pizzeria, an osteria, and an enoteca. If I’m not mistaken, the menu at the pizzeria is limited, so if you want something besides pizza, ask to be seated in the osteria.
The tagliere di Boccanegra consists of cold cuts, cheese, and crostini with various toppings. It’s one of the best taglieri I’ve had in Italy. The meats are cut at a deli slicer in the osteria, so you can watch the board be prepared as you wait for it. The last time I had it, it came with thinly sliced prosciutto, salame, an absolutely delicious soppressata flecked with spicy peppercorns, thick, creamy slices of cheese, and the prized item: crostini. There are three different kinds: one topped with seasoned cannellini beans, one with plump, juicy tomatoes, basil, and olive oil, and the last, which I am drooling about as I write, with the famous Tuscan fegatini, or chicken liver paté.
Trattoria 13 Gobbi
Via del Porcellana 9R – open daily 12:30 – 3; 7:30 – 11
+39 055 284 015/Website
This trattoria is not only delicious, it’s also a fun place to eat. The eccentric decor and beautiful place settings are a feast for the eyes.
The feast for your belly is absolutely fabulous, too. The crostini ai fegatini here are to die for. Don’t miss them.
Via del Moro 85R – 12 – 11 daily
I’ve posted about this place before because it was the perfect spot to eat while traveling with a vegan friend last summer. They have great offerings for all diets.
My absolute favorite thing about Mattacéna is that they have half portions of many of the items on the menu, so you can try more than one dish without filling up.
On a recent trip to Florence with my parents, we found ourselves in a quandary about where to go for lunch. It was cold and everyone was hungry, so we decided to head for Mattacéna because it was nearby. We walked in and were greeted warmly, and the host brought us to the very last open table.
As we settled in and started looking at the menu, I noticed that we were the only people in the restaurant speaking English. Had we done the impossible!? Had we found a restaurant in the city center of Florence that’s frequented mostly by locals!? I can’t say for sure, but I can say that I’ll be going back to Mattacéna.
Via dei Neri 39r – Website
I ate at Bacco Matto for the first time just a few months ago. It was recommended by our AirBnb host. I was hesitant at first because it’s on the same street as All’Antico Vinaio, which is hugely popular among tourists, but we decided to go for it.
There are very few tables in Bacco Matto because it’s so small, but everyone was happy with the menu. I had a nice bowl of soup that was perfect for the gray February weather and a delicious glass of red wine. The menu changes seasonally, so have a look at their website before you go.
Fishing Lab alle Murate
Via del Proconsolo 16R – +39 055 240618 – Website
My most recent trip to Florence was in August. If you know Italy, you’ll know that many places close for a few weeks in August, especially around Ferragosto, which is a national holiday.
We were actually in Florence over the weekend of Ferragosto, so I knew I had to do some research to find out which places would be open.
Lucky for me, Georgette at Girl in Florence updates her “where to eat in Florence in August” post annually. I have her to thank for the delicious meal we had at Fishing Lab All Murate (and another one that I’ve included below).
Aside from the menu, which was absolutely perfect for a hot summer night, Fishing Lab is also a museum! The interior boasts a fresco that includes the oldest known depiction of Dante Alighieri, and below the ground floor, there are Roman ruins. God, I love this country.
We booked a table at 9 and the place was heaving. It had a fun, buzzy vibe, and our waiter was personable and funny.
I would highly recommend the fritto misto di pesce and the langoustines.
Where to eat in the Oltrarno neighborhood of Florence
If you’re interested in seeing a different side of Florence, cross the river and enter the Oltrarno neighborhood. It’s my favorite area of the city, because it’s a bit quieter and has some beautiful, lively piazzas and places to eat.
Osteria Santo Spirito
Piazza Santo Spirito 16/R – Website
I went to Osteria Santo Spirito for the first time on my most recent trip to Florence. I was a bit dismayed when we arrived, because the place was full of tourists, but I had read good things, so we went for it.
Fuzzy fleece blankets were placed on each chair, and heat lamps buzzed over every table to keep out the February chill. The staff joked around with us and the server was patient with our big group. The food was good – Tuscan fare with some riffs on dishes from other regions. We left warm, happy and full.
On a visit to Florence a few years ago, Sweetheart and I decided to veer off a bit and find a place to eat in the Oltrarno neighborhood, across the river. We stumbled upon La Prosciutteria, peeked inside and were stunned to hear only Italian being spoken by every single table. Of course, we had to eat there, and I’m so glad we did.
The food at La Prosciutteria is some of the most photogenic I’ve seen in Italy. They specialize in taglieri and source all their food locally. The also have a great selection of local wines.
When we moved to Bologna and saw one there, we realized that La Prosciutteria is actually a small chain with a few locations around Italy.
Pictured above is the standard tagliere for two people, which as you can see includes meat, cheese, crostini, fresh fruit, sottoli (veggies preserved in oil) and some jams. They also offer a deluxe tagliere if you’re feeling fancy, and have sandwiches as well.
Via Santa Monaca 7 – 11 – 3; 6 – 12, closed Sundays
This is another find from when I was traveling with my vegan friend. Vivanda is also in the San Frediano area of the Oltrarno neighborhood and has great options for omnivores and herbivores alike. All the food is organic.
The manager made our meal exceptional by stopping to chat and recommending a bottle of wine that’s from the owners’ own label, Dalle Nostre Mani (From Our Hands). It was so good that we ordered a second one to take home. The wine is produced the Tuscan hills using traditional methods from start to finish.
Trattoria 4 Leoni
Via de’ Vellutini 1R – Website
This was the other place I found out about thanks to Girl in Florence’s annual roundup of restaurants that are open in Florence in August. Grazie, Georgette!
I booked our table on an app. When we arrived at the trattoria, it became obvious that no one had checked said app that day. This happens. So often that I addressed it in my post about restaurant booking apps and websites in Italy.
We weren’t upset. I was just happy to be in Florence with my sweetheart on a beautiful summer night.
We told the host we’d wait. He was kind enough to give us a free glass of prosecco to sip while we waited on a bench in the piazza, enjoying the cooler evening temperature and people watching.
When a table freed up, we sat down and looked over the menu. We started with a tagliere di salumi (and a crostino with liver paté because I can’t not consume at least one at every meal in Florence).
For dinner, Jeremy got a dish we had never tried – il gran fritto dell’aia. It’s a mixture of fried chicken, rabbit and vegetables (eggplant, onion and zucchini). Being fried, it could have been heavy, but it wasn’t. The portion was just the right size and the veggies lightened it up a bit.
I had a pasta with zucchini and a few dollops of burrata. It was a nice dish for a hot summer night.
Where to eat Gelato in Florence
My favorite gelateria in Florence is Gelateria dei Neri. Formerly a hole in the wall located a few buildings down, the gelateria is now bigger and busier. There’s often a line outside, but don’t be put off, because if you can stand to wait, you’re in for a real treat.
I always get salted caramel and milk chocolate, and treasure every bite. It’s deliciously creamy and bursting with flavor. You can actually taste the butter in the salted caramel.
Gelateria dei Neri – Via dei Neri 9 – 10:30 – 1am; closed Mondays
So there you have my list of where to eat in the city center of Florence. Every time I go, I try some new places and update this post. My goal is always to find places where locals eat, but I also have to remember that sometimes, restaurants become popular with tourists and locals alike, just because they’re good.
Where to drink in Florence
There are lots of places to drink in Florence, many of which cater to American study abroad students.
During our trip in August, we checked out two really excellent cocktail bars that I’d highly recommend, especially if you’re not into the study abroad bar scene. That’s not to say there won’t be study abroad students at these bars – the city is crawling with them – but they’re not pubs with cheap shots, an NFL game on TV, and chicken wings on the menu.
The first was La Ménagère, a restaurant/bar/florist/shop hybrid that has gorgeous decor and delicious drinks. Check out my post on La Ménagère for all the details.
The second was Love Craft, a whisky bar in Borgo San Frediano. Interested in dropping in for a drink and the cosmic horror vibe? Check out my post on Love Craft here.
Where do you eat in Florence? Share your tips in the comments!
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