I know there are people who care not about what they eat while they are traveling. I am not one of those people. I think that experiencing the food and wine of a country is simply an extension of the exploration of that culture. The challenge: there are only so many meals available to you during a trip. Imagine that on a trip to Italy, you spend 4 nights in Florence. Provided that you are actually doing something other than eating your way through the city (not a bad idea), it only gives you a dozen our so opportunities to sample the local fare. I leave breakfast out of the mix. It’s usually included at the hotel and even the best hotels have uninspired breakfast fare in my opinion. It’s a good time to save money and calories in preparation for all the deliciousness later in the day. So with only a handful of chances to eat, you should really make the most of it. Don’t eat at touristy places, avoid anything that is premade and wrapped in cellophane and please please please don’t eat at McDonalds. You aren’t saving any money and believe me it is exactly the same as at home. Exactly. Here is my short list of yum in Florence:
1. Bistecca alla Fiorentina – I know that this is reserved solely for the carnivores in my life but this is Tuscany’s signature dish and really is not meant to be missed. Be warned however – this T-bone steak comes al sangue – bloody - so if you are a shoe leather kind of steak eater, skip it. For those who are squeamish about very rare meat, go for the tagliata con rucola – sliced sirloin with arugula and parmesan shards.
2. Gelato – When I was working as an English tutor in Florence, I was out running errands with the father one evening and he asked me if I would like a gelato. When I told him that I was not hungry his reply was “Ashley, one does not eat gelato because she is hungry”. Wise words from a very wise man. There is a constant debate about the best gelateria in Florence (or in any Italian city for that matter) but in my opinion, there are a few that really stand out:
b. La Carraia
d. Perchè No?
3. Panino from Maledetti Toscani – this little hole in the wall on the Via dei Cerchi is the perfect stop for a quick sandwich on the go. Spicy salami, pecorino cheese and marinated veggies on focaccia makes a perfect lunch to take into the Piazza della Signoria which is right around the corner. Perch on the wall and people watch – heaven
4. Foccacia mista at Verrazzano – If a more proper lunch is in order (ie, one where you have a chair, a table and a clean bathroom) give Verrazzano a try. Part bakery, part restaurant, this is a perfect stop for a light lunch. Last time I was in Florence we ordered the focaccia platter that was gorgeous. A huge variety of toppings including mushrooms, tomatoes and basil, peas and ricotta made a perfect refreshment as we rested our weary feet after a long morning of touring.
5. Marocchino at Caffe Giacosa – coffee in Italy is an art and no where more than the Caffe Giacosa (Roberto Cavalli’s very chic café). The marocchino is a version of an espresso with a touch of milk and chocolate. Heaven!
6. Midafternoon Snack at Procacci - snack time with the Antinori family means a big glass of Tuscan red (or is that a glass of big Tuscan red –either way works) and a little truffled sandwich (I’m drooling on my keyboard)
7. Butter Chicken at Sostanza – also known as Il Troia – this restaurant ranks up there as one of my favorites in Florence. Order the butter chicken. Trust me.
8. Lemon Ravioli at Taverna Bronzino – this restaurant is a bit off the beaten path but I love its staff , its quiet and sophisticated atmosphere and oh, that lemon ravioli….
9. Caffe Shakerato at Rivoire - Elevated iced coffee in a coupe glass - it feels like the coffee that James Bond would drink.
10. Happy Hour at the Westin Excelsior – the drinks and the nibbles are good but the view is spectacular. This is a must on everyone’s to do list in Florence.
Have you been to Florence? Do you have a favorite dish, drink or place to eat? Please add to it here in the comments.