I've been to Florence twice, in 2011 and 2015. This northern Italy locale is by far one of my favorite European cities. That's probably because I love all things Italian cuisine, from fresh mushrooms to pasta to sparkling water. I'm often asked for my top recommendations on how to travel through this amazing city (and don't miss my tips for traveling like a girl in Europe!). Here are my best tips, from the perspective of a vegetarian registered dietitian nutritionist. Don't worry! I'm not going to tell you to only eat salads during your stay in Florence. But I do include my favorite Italian salad in this post.
I'll jump right into my absolute favorite meal. I love it so much I've eaten it every time I've visited Florence.
So here it is: Spaghetti dell'Ubriacone, or drunken spaghetti, from Osteria de Benci. The spaghetti is soaked in red wine and garlic, and thus it turns a deep purple-red color. And it is oh-so delicious.
I haven't tried making the dish myself yet, but the waiter told me the secret ingredients are bouillon (if trying this at home, I would use vegetable bouillon), garlic, olive oil, hot pepper, a red wine like Chianti, and a finishing touch of parsley.
Another thing I love to eat in Florence is pizza. You can order it by the slice, and you can buy the tiniest slices so you can try many different flavor combos. You'll see little pizza shops sprinkled throughout the city.
And of course, we must discuss gelato! All throughout Florence, you'll see storefronts with heaping piles of often very brightly colored gelato. Skip those shops and head straight to one of my favorites! I promise the gelato will be tastier and fresher.
Start with Vivoli, said to offer the world's best gelato. I love this gelato shop so much that I visited it twice during my first trip to Florence. You pay for the size serving that you'd like, then you take your receipt to the counter to choose your flavors. FYI that Vivoli closed on Monday, so plan accordingly.
If you live in or are visiting Orlando, you can visit what Vivoli calls "the younger sister" of the original Florence shop, at the Walt Disney Resort in Disney Spring. Lucky you!
The other gelato shop you must visit while in Florence is La Carraia. I didn't know about this locale until my second time in Florence. Once I did, I made sure to visit a couple of times.
There are two locations. If you head to the one at Piazza Nazario Sauro, you'll get a beautiful view of the city, including the Duomo. I was lucky enough to eat my gelato during sunset!
Now, you're probably wondering to find the best vegetables and beans in Florence! Well, head to La Vecchia Bettola for lunch to get your fill.
I was in Florence during mushroom season, and so the first thing I ate at this adorable little restaurant was a porcini salad. I definitely recommend it if it's on the menu during your visit!
And I couldn't leave Florence without ordering Tuscan white beans, a northern Italy staple. They're so simply seasoned and supply vegetarian protein. I finished my meal (and almost every other meal while in Florence!) with an espresso.
Let's move on to my No. 1 favorite activity when visiting any European city, shopping at local food markets. Mercato Centrale, the main food market in Florence, did not disappoint. Previously known as Mercato di San Lorenzo, the market was revived in 2014 with food stalls that remind me of other international markets, such as Time Out Market Lisboa.
I haven't been to the market since its revival a few years ago, but I imagine you can still pick up bottles of wine, fresh fruit, and local cheeses. The market is also a great place to pick up souvenirs to bring home, including truffle oil, truffle salt, and balsamic glaze.
While you can eat at the market, I highly recommend buying picnic essentials and hiking your food picks up to Piazzale Michelangelo for a magnificent view of the city.
The hike is filled with a lot of steps, but the view is so magnificent that it's worth it!
In addition to purchasing food from markets, I also popped into neighborhood grocery stores and bodegas. I often found plentiful amounts of fresh fruit, like figs and persimmons, that aren't always available at home. I brought these back to my apartment rental to snack on!
Now I have to talk about one of my favorite topics: truffles. Some of the best meals I ate in Florence came from asking local shopkeepers about their favorite eats. This is how I came to know about Trattoria da Ginone.
I dined here with my friend Kristin, and we made all our choices based on the waiter's recommendations. We ate an amazing pasta with black truffle entree, paired with a very reasonably priced Barolo (just about 5 euros a glass). If you drink Barolo back home, you know it can be very steeply priced.
The first time I visited Florence, a colleague told me to visit Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco. I had no idea what was in store, but I'm so glad I followed this advice. This egg-and-white-truffle dish was one of the best meals I've ever had. I definitely recommend pairing it with the house wine, served in adorable ceramic pitchers.
And you can't skip the tiramisu, one of my all-time favorite desserts. You can order it at almost any restaurant, and I've never had one that was disappointing. Although, the tiramisu at Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco is rumored to be the best in Florence.
And of course, one of my favorite things about Italy is you can pop into a coffee shop at anytime of day for a quick pick me up. Because public restrooms aren't much of a thing, I often bought an espresso as my "toll" to use the bathroom in a restaurant or bar.
I hope you found these tips useful. If you've visited Florence, I'd love for you to add any food suggestions to the comments below!
What are your thoughts on this topic? What are your favorite things to eat in Florence? If you have anything to add to my list, please do so in the comments below!
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