After living in Florence for over 10 years I certainly have my favourite places to eat and drink. Since my student days of skimming by on a minimal budget have passed (thank God!) and I can choose restaurants based on other criteria, I thought it would be refreshing to have new insight. So I asked my current intern Lorelei who is a young american student visiting Florence for the first time to share her Florence experience with me….well at least the eating and drinking part. I think she did a great job and has certainly opened my eyes to new experiences. Enjoy!
La Milkeria – Coffee and Desserts $ Address: Borgo degli Albizi, 87, Firenze If you have a sweet tooth, I firmly believe you should try La Milkeria at least once. It’s the cutest little café and delivers a presentation just as charming, and I’ve had great service every time. From waffles to crepes, it’s all made fresh in the front window—a brilliant idea on their part I must say, as watching Nutella being drizzled on someone’s waffle is an especially tantalizing invite. You can top your dessert with just about anything; fresh fruit, gelato, or both. However, I know they sometimes struggle with taking card, so make sure you have cash on you.
The Oil Shoppe $ – A soup, salad, and sandwich shop Address: Via Sant’Egidio, 22/r, 50122 Firenze Hours: Closed Saturday and Sunday Oh, the Oil Shoppe. To most, it’s nothing but a hole in the wall. But to me—to us poor, starving study-abroad students—it is our holy grail, and we will be loyal followers until the death. It’s a small restaurant, but colorful and inviting, with long tables and plenty of stools lining the walls. Almost everything is between 4 and 6 euro. The service is outstanding—they even make an effort to learn your name—and the menu is infinite, with everything being made fresh before your eyes by a handsome Italian man. You can get your food to stay or to-go, and usually it’s very quick; however, if you come during lunch hour, you may experience between a 10 and 15 minute wait. I know a lot of people live for Oil Shoppe’s various buckets of leaves—I think they call it “salad” or something (weird, I don’t get it), but anyway, for what it’s worth, the number 4 panino (turkey, pesto, sun dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes and arugula perfectly pressed on toasted bread—plus double turkey for .50 when I’m feeling Hungarian) is food for the soul.
L’Margaritaio Cocktail Bar $ – Inexpensive “Mexican” style margaritas and quesadillas Address: Via dell’Anguillara, 70, Firenze 055 290374 Hours: 5:30pm-2:00am If you’re coming here for Mexican, well—just remember you’re in Italy. The chicken is…questionable; the vegetables are…weird and frozen, and the guacamole is visually comparable to baby poop (as for taste, I can’t confirm). Basically, I close my eyes, dip my chip, and don’t ask questions, and by some miracle I usually end up enjoying my meal. When you’re in Italy looking for Mexican cuisine, beggars can’t be choosers. That being said, if you’re as easily as impressed as me in the culinary department, this place will likely satisfy your craving—and best of all, it’s inexpensive. On that note, I must confess their means of salvation is the frozen margaritas. They’re towering, delicious, and two will have you feeling pret-ty good, with personal favorites including Gogi Berry, Pina-colada, and Blood Orange. They’re 7 euro, which, meh—“help me, I’m poor,” but even I agree it’s an indulgence you can spare. What’s even better, if you can make Happy Hour hosted between 5:30pm and 8:30pm, frozen margs are only 4 euro each. Pair it with a large plate of nachos (trust me, you’ll want the large), a good group of friends, and you’ll have yourself a time well-spent.
Move on: Best Beer & Vinyl $$ – Old-School American Music Bar and Restaurant Address: Piazza Duomo Move On is a classy bar and restaurant with an effortlessly cool twist on old-school American music culture. The place is spacious and accommodating, complete with a cool record store on the second floor. The food measures up to the aesthetic feel—but if you’re in doubt, the ricotta and spinach ravioli tossed in a butter and sage sauce won’t disappoint. However, as it’s tucked in the realm of a major tourist attraction, it’s not the cheapest place around.
Lo Scudo $ – Cozy Italian Restuarant Address: Via dell’Oriuolo, 53/r, 50122 Firenze Sitting right near the Duomo, Lo Scudo is a cute, traditional-Florentine style restaurant tailored to the likes of American tourists with an endless menu presented in all languages. In good spring/summer weather, they open the front of the restaurant and you can enjoy the sun and fresh air. It’s very affordable, and the personal pizzas are extremely satisfying.
Ditta Artigianale – Coffee and Brjnch Shop $ Address: Via dei Neri, 32, 50122 Firenze One of the best places for a Sunday’s brunch is absolutely Ditta Artigianale. It’s a small café-style, with energetic model waiters and baristas who turn the music up and dance like no one’s watching (but we’re watching—we’re definitely watching). And if you find yourself starving and staring at the menu, the Madame croquet with avocado is something my friends and I dream about night and day, while the cakes and pastries more than satisfy my sweet teeth—I have many.
Gatto e la Volpe $ Address: Via Ghibellina, 151/r, 50122 Firenze With an underground cellar-feel and infinite red brick, you’re really able to soak in the Italian dining culture. Gnocci and pesto is an absolute must, and did I mention unlimited wine?
Toscania Ristorante and Pizzeria – Italian Restuarant $$ Address: Via Dell’oriuolo 18/R, 50122 This place is a personal favorite in Florence—and for good reason. You walk in, you’re seated, poured a glass of champagne, and soon served an appetizer that depends on whatever mood the chef’s in—all complimentary and without even having to ask. I could’ve ordered everything on the menu, but the first time I saw the pizza, it nearly broke my heart. The “pizza for two” is delicious; with thick, soft crust that melts in your mouth, and while it’s priced as if it feeds one, it’s enormous, so bring a friend—or five. However, if you’re at all wide-eyed for steak, I insist you give this place the honor; it’s a notable investment, but enough to feed the table and more than worth it. All in all, you’ll find the reasonable bill a striking contrast to the immaculate service and impressive decor, which left us just as confused leaving the second time as we were the first.
Kitsch $ Address: Via S.Gallo 22 Kitsch is one of my favorite places for aperitivo, a typical “drink-and-buffet” in the Italian culture. Here, aperitivo typically runs 7-10pm and costs only 10 euro, including 1 alcoholic beverage and an endlessly generous buffet of filling food; pastas, bread, vegetables, pizza—even seafood dishes. On a Friday or Saturday night, it can become crowded and finding a place to sit can be tough, especially if there is a group of you, so I recommend getting there earlier rather than later in order to score a table.
Festival del Gelato – Endless Flavors to Choose From $ Half of me is ashamed to include this on my list, as it is generally considered a “tourist attraction” by Florentine natives, while the other half of me wants them to cater my wedding. I swear there must be 30 flavors to choose from (and as any modern American, I like my choices—enough to order the same thing every single time). Half cheese cake/half Nutella served in an oversized waffle cone; I like to call it “A dream come true.” And as the price isn’t necessarily a nightmare either, I’ll have you know poor-me was able to afford groceries and gelato in the same day—may we bless this establishment. My top restaurants and bar suggestions coming soon!