How to eat your way through Florence, Italy
In a nation renowned for the quality of its cuisine, Florence stands out as one of Italy’s greatest gastro hotspots. It's most celebrated for its artistic and architectural history—it is the Cradle of Renaissance art, let’s not forget—but dig deeper, and you’ll uncover a culinary scene to rival any on the planet.
Knowing where to look for the very best foodie experiences can be tough. But to help you narrow it down, we’ve uncovered six unmissable Florentine experiences. All you need to do it pack a map and take an appetite.
1. Let a local guide your tastebuds
Stay at the Westin Excelsior, Florence and you’re no more than a 20-minute walk from all of the foodie stops in this piece, with the sole exception of Pasticceria Giorgio. If that wasn’t reason enough to check in, the Westin also offers a Personal Food Shopper service.
In the company of an expert food journalist, you’ll be guided through the city’s gastro hotspots, dropping in on the boutiques, gourmet stores, and local markets you might otherwise miss. Best of all, your guide will also assist should you choose to send a shipment of Florence's finest food back home.
Westin Excelsior, Florence: Piazza Ognissanti 3
2. Feast like a Florentine
Florence’s "cucina povera"—the kitchen of the poor—informs many of today's classic dishes, with bread, pasta, beans and tripe featuring heavily.
Lampredotto is another staple and a Florentine specialty. Worry not that it’s the fourth and final stomach of a cow, for when it’s slow-cooked with tomato, onion, parsley and celery, it tastes more like succulent roast beef. Head to the legendary Da Nerbone and ask for panino al lampredotto, served between broth-soaked bread and topped with salsa verde.
Da Nerbone, Mercato Centrale, Via dell'Ariento, 50123
3. Seek out best bistecca of your life
The flagship of Florentine cuisine is Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a carnivore’s delight. It's a thick porterhouse cut of beef weighing in at anywhere from two to eight pounds, flame roasted on the outside and always—always—rare within. It's cut from the local Chianina cattle breed and cooked for just 3-4 minutes on chestnut wood.
Head to Osteria del Caffe Italiano and your chef will add salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil to complete what should be one of the best steaks of your life.
Osteria del Caffe Italiano: Via Isola delle Stinche,11R-13R, 50122
4. Enjoy classic Italian staples at the Mercato Centrale
Mercato Centrale is home to Florence’s oldest, largest and finest food, spread out over two floors inside a 19th-century iron-and-glass building.
Located as centrally as its name suggests, Mercato Centrale serves as a showcase for local food producers and a buzzing venue for eating, drinking and round-the-clock revelry. Open daily from 10 a.m. until midnight, head here for such classic staples as house-made mozzarella, fresh pasta, hot pizza, and the very excellent truffle risotto.
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, Via dell'Ariento, 50123
5. Uncover Florence’s "secret" bakeries
Florence is a city with a booming "secret" bakery scene, known only to those in the know.
After dark, as the city sleeps, a number of plain-fronted bakeries work tirelessly to create the sweet creations sold in cafes, bars and pasticceria across the city the following day. If you know which door to knock, you’ll find it’s possible to buy hot-from-the-oven crema-filled cornetto to see you through to breakfast. (Keep it to yourself, but Pasticceria Vinci & Bongini is one of the very best.)
Alternatively, if you want pastries during daylight hours, head to Pasticceria Giorgio in the residential Soffiano neighborhood. The queue that snakes out the door testifies to the quality of its custard-filled millefoglie and schiacciata alla Fiorentina, an airy, orange-flavored carnival cake.
Pasticceria Vinci & Bongini: Via del Canto Rivolto 2.
Pasticceria Giorgio: Via Duccio di Buoninsegna, 36, 50143
6. Fine dine like a Florentine
If your taste-buds demand high-end, and your budget can stretch, head to Enoteca Pinchiorri, the only restaurant in Florence to boast three Michelin stars.
Fittingly, it’s located in a Renaissance palace and offers a 15-course tasting menu that will cost you €225, excluding wine. Expensive, yes, but as the 2016 Michelin Guide enthused: “The cuisine at this restaurant is a fine balance of classic and modern, taking the best from both styles to create elegant dishes served in a luxurious and cosmopolitan ambience.”
Less expensive but no less impressive is Ora d’Aria, serving excellent nouvelle-Florentine cuisine around an open-kitchen.
Enoteca Pinchiorri: Via Ghibellina, 87, 50122
Ora d’Aria: Via dei Georgofili, 11R, 50100
7. Gorge on glorious gelato
Italy long ago perfected the art of gelato, and in Florence you’ll never struggle to find exquisite examples. Grom and Gelateria dei Neri are both excellent, but we’d suggest you head to Perchè No!—translation: Why Not!
In the business since 1939, its all-natural creations will tantalize your tastebuds. Expect honey and sesame seed, green tea, ricotta and candy fruits, plus a series of daily specials. Why not, indeed.
Gelateria dei Neri: Via dei Neri, 9/11, 50122
Perchè No!: Via dei Tavolini, 19R, 50122
The Westin Excelsior Florence is a 2017 SPG Member Favorite Hotel & Resort—bidding for this iconic destination ends April 20. Check out the auction details here, and good luck!