Florence, Italy (Firenze): Best Restaurants, Sites, and Gelato!

by Victoria on October 3, 2013

Bicycle Races near the Duomo in Florence, Italy

After spending a beautiful 4 days in the Northern Italian region of Piemonte taking in a beautiful wedding, meeting a wonderful group of people, and just wining and dining to my heart’s content, it was time to move on to the city of Florence (Firenze). I was lucky enough to be dropped off there for a full week of exploring this new city – of which I had heard from many was a favourite part of Italy. I have a girlfriend who lives in the city currently, but was out of town in Paris for fashion week, so I was able to stay at her apartment and also meet up with another friend from Vancouver traveling through the area. It’s funny how no matter where I go, my home always seems to be close by!

Regardless, here is another custom travel map I’ve culled together – this time via my friend who lives in Florence, along with many others who provided me with valuable tips when asked. Thank you! Like my others in this series, you can open the larger map itself to see all the details, websites, and locations, but I’ve also written out the text below if you just want a quick roundup. Feel free to follow me on Twitter or Instagram to get a quick snapshot and history of my meals and daily experiences as I make my way from place to place.

Restaurants:

 

Spaghetti Vongole

Osteria Santo Spirito: The best place I ate a spaghetti vongole in all of Italy! Rich, buttery goodness, and plenty of clams. For an even richer treat, go for the gnocchi with truffle oil and soft cheese. Note that the serving sizes are very large here, and many dishes are served in half orders or else can be shared. A great place for people watching in Santo Spirito square!

Negroni: Try the set lunch menu for 12 Euros while people watching on the patio with a cocktail or wine. Zoe, next door, is also quite a busy place off of the main tourist strip.

Zoe: Although I never ate here and only tried out Negroni next door for lunch as it was closed, Zoe is a popular spot for cocktails and aperitivos. Covered patio, so even on rainy days, you can still dine and drink outside.

Gelato – Unknown Name: Although I don’t recall the name of this fantastic gelato place, it was by far my favourite in Florence, and I managed to get back there 3 days in a row. Amazing rich nut flavours – try the almond, pistachio, and hazelnut options – but really, you can’t go wrong here! Also a delicious fig, strawberry, and daily specials. Also much more reasonably priced than the tourist spots over the Ponte Vecchio. Stop by after lunch nearby, on your way to the Piazza Michelangelo.

Ristorante Santo Graal TagliatelleFuori Porta: A great patio for dining and drinking over lunch, watching people walk by on their way up to the Piazza Michelangelo. Try one of their large crostini to start, and a fresh pasta dish. Throw in a little prosecco, and buon appetito!

Ristorante Il Santo Graal: Great atmosphere, this restaurant is catered for English speaking tourists as well. Definitely on the higher end of the scale, the service is fantastic and they will do a great job with food and wine recommendations and make sure you thoroughly enjoy your meal. Fantastic presentation.

Obikà Firenze: Go with a group and try the Grand Tasting menu of mozzarella with a bottle (or three) of wine. The orzo salad was also fantastic. Expect slower service, but definitely call for reservations and ask to sit in the courtyard.

Obika Mozza Restaurant

La Casalinga: Near Piazza Santo Spirito, this local spot looked phenomenal and was always lined out the door during lunch. Unfortunately, I never made it inside after 3 tries, as the wait was impossible and there are only 4 dining tables for 4. If possible, aim to get reservations, but make sure to speak Italian! Or else just show up right when they’re about to open (whenever that may be). I will definitely aim to go back next time!

Quick Eats:

 

Gusta Pizza: Great place for cheap and easy (not to mention delicious) take-out pizza, near Santo Spirito.

Libations (Wine & Cocktails):

 

Le Volpi e l’Uva: A fantastic wine bar with an incredible selection. This was closed when I attempted to go one day (you never really know in Florence), and otherwise, it’s a bustling place for glasses of wine with aperitivos. Supposedly one of the best in not just Italy, but all of Europe!

Piazza Del Vino

Rivalta: Head over to Rivalta with the locals on Sunday night (beach night). Enjoy an aperol spritz cocktail or a glass of wine on the patio with some aperitivos, or even from the wall lining the Arno River. Wine for €6 and cocktails for €8, generally speaking, plus the food buffet. Fantastic for people watching. Make sure to go early to get an outside seat, if you want an actual table, or else be prepared to stand up or wait in line.

Piazza del Vino: Definitely pay a visit to this great enoteca for a wine tasting. They run a few days each week, and are

Aperol Spritz from Rivalta

often followed by wine paired dinners. Contact them for more information, and join in with local Italians for a fun experience!

Colle Bereto: On a Friday night, hit up this popular Italian spot, where you’ll feel like everyone has stepped straight off the pages of a GQ magazine. Armani owns the nightclub upstairs, called Prive, and you should be able to get a table and bottle service for 150 Euros, or if there’s just one or two of you, see if they’ll let you in to sit at the bar and just pay for what you drink. You won’t find any tourists here, and we accidentally stumbled to the hot spot.

Sites (History & Beauty):

 

Piazzale Michelangelo: Walk up the stairs to this beautiful Piazza and watch the sunset on a sunny day over the city of Florence. Stunning panoramic views of the city and a fake statue of David, if you don’t make it over to the Accademia at some point during your trip.

View from Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence

Uffizi Gallery: One of the two most well-known collections of art in all of Europe (the other is the Louvre in Paris). Ever wonder where you can find Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” or “Bacchus” by Caravaggio? Look no further! Reserve your tickets at least a day in advance, in order to skip the lines (although you will still need to line up a couple of times to pick up the tickets and then for your designated visiting time). This is MUCH better than showing up at the door and waiting for an hour minimum. Reserve here.  For the must-sees, check out http://www.uffizi.org/artworks/

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore: An incredible basilica, you can walk inside free of charge, or pay 10 Euros for an all-inclusive ticket to walk up the stairs to the top of the duomo. Be prepared for waiting in long lines, unless you want to pay a substantial charge more to skip the line up (around 45 Euros more). Phenomenal marble exteriors.  Tickets can be purchased from multiple spots – inside the bell tower, or right down the stairs in the basilica.

Beautiful Walking / Running Route: After finishing up at the Piazzale Michelangelo, make sure to walk down around the back side of the hill along Viale Tree Lined Streets Viale GalileoGalileo and Viale Machiavelli. This is a lovely quiet tree-lined route with beautiful buildings and resorts and peek a boo views over Florence. Perfect for a relaxing afternoon stroll or a scenic run

Ponte Vecchio: Walk across the famous Ponte Vecchio and take pictures over the river. A very busy tourist spot, so beware!

Gallery of the Academy: The big draw here is of course Michelangelo’s statue of David. Don’t miss out on this one – I stood in awe at the magnificent strength that the statue evokes. Make sure to book from the museum site at least a day in advance for reserved tickets, and to skip the 45 min+ line-up at the door.

Shopping:

 

View from the Ponte VecchioPiazza del Mercato Centrale: There is a daily central market held in the mornings until around 2 PM. A large variety of stalls sell all things Italy, including fresh produce, wines, scarves, local leather products, and much more. Don’t miss it!

Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella S. R. L.: Although you wouldn’t even know it existed when walking by, the inside of this historic 16th century pharmacy is extremely beautiful. Find everything from custom perfumes, facial and body products, teas, and liquers.

Accommodations (High Roller Alert!):

 

Grand Hotel Villa Cora: Ok, so I didn’t stay here, but after walking along the tree-lined streets the back way from the Piazzale Michelangelo, I wandered into Hotel Villa Corathis building building and it turned out to be this stunning resort. Definitely on the luxurious end of the scale, but would make for a lovely romantic getaway, that’s still near the city center. Maybe next time! 😛

Please let me know in the comments if there is anything more you would like to see in my travel maps that would be useful for you and I’ll see what I can do! Additional sites / restaurants / etc are welcome – please list below!

Next stop – Paris, the City of Love!

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