There are few destinations which draw a lengthier bucket list for visitors than Florence. But what’s on the agenda once you’ve meandered across the monumental museums, marvelled at the majesty of the Boboli Gardens or indulged in the iconic craftsmanship of Florentine fashion houses… An epicurean adventure, of course!
Truly – one of the greatest revelations of our recent (honeymoon!) trip to this captivating city, was that the food is as rich as its constitutive culture. Herewith are the hedonistic highlights from our five nights in Florence…
An experiential evening
Translating to “carousel,” La Giostra is one of those other-worldly gems bursting with a winsome personality. It was established by the late Austrian prince, Dimitri Kunz d’Asburgo Lorena and is still a noble family-run endeavour in present day, overseen by his twin sons Dimitri and Soldano. The latter cuts a particularly zany figure as he manoeuvres through the vaulted candle-lit space, greeting guests and talking them through his favourite dishes!
Good times at La Giostra start with a complimentary flute of spumante (sparkling wine) and antipasti. The burrata boat ought not to be missed, while the Sacher Torte makes for outstanding finish (but then again, what else would you expect of a family recipe with links to the Hapsburgs of Austria). Needless to say, everything in between is rather terrific too.
Borgo Pinti, 12r – 18r ; Firenze – FI, Italy | +39 055 24 13 41 | https://www.ristorantelagiostra.com/
A creative celebration of Traditional Tuscan cooking
Hyper-talented chef Fabio Picchi, has earned a formidable reputation by nurturing a family of restaurants positioned in front of Florence’s most credible food quarter, Sant’Ambrogio Market. Each sees Picchi work his magic on classic Florentine and Tuscan recipes, rendered with creative panache.
While the more formal ristorante is billed as a must-visit, I’m partial to the more reasonably-priced trattoria, which offers a pared down selection from the same kitchen. There is no standardised menu in place at either, nor a single pasta-based dish in sight. Seasonal ingredients are taken very seriously here, amplifying the symphony of flavours delivered to your plate.
Offerings run the gamut from ribbolita (a Tuscan soup made with stale bread, beans and veggies) and a daily gateau (which takes shape in a ricotta and potato soufflé on our visit), to polpette di pollo e ricotta (impossibly-delicate chicken & ricotta meatballs, baptised by a rich pool of tomato gravy)… This is really life-affirming cooking to cajole and captivate one’s senses!
Via Andrea del Verrocchio, 8r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy | +39 055 234 1100 | http://www.cibreo.com/en/cibreo-trattoria/
Haute couture meets haute fashion
Everything about this chic venture between Gucci and three Michelin-star chef, Massimo Bottura – is iconic.
Housed within a 14th-century Palazzo in Florence’s famous Piazza della Signoria (just a stone’s throw away from Uffizi Gallery), Gucci Osteria is part of the painfully-cool Gucci Garden (an experiential museum & concept store hybrid). Interiors are a picture of Gucci glamour, with green-hued walls and plates patterned with the fashion house’s unmistakeable floral motifs.
The playful dishes offer a twist on Italian classics, while also drawing from Bottura’s globe-trotting travels. Think Peruvian tostadas, pork belly buns, lobster rolls and haute hot dogs. Veggie options are limited but the artful texture of a slow-cooked egg, subsumed with potato cream and speckled with crisp Jerusalem artichokes, is delightfully satiating for this bonafide vegetarian. As for dessert, just the names on the menu are enough to evoke intrigue… We’d recommend Charlie’s sandwich, (layered with ganache, ice cream, nuts and milk chocolate), followed by a wander around the exhibitions within Gucci Garden!
Piazza della Signoria, 10, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy | +39 055 7592 7038 | https://www.gucci.com/us/en/store/osteria-bottura
Pizza by the Ponte Vecchio
The Golden View Open Bar
As its name suggests, The Golden View presents picture-postcard views across the River Arno, looking out onto the Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery. The pizzas are praise-worthy too, prepared with dough that has naturally risen for 48 hours. My top pick would be pizza del babbo which dials up the decadence with a salty ricotta stuffing, cocooned within its crust!
Via de’ Bardi, 58/r, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy | +39 055 214502 | http://www.goldenviewopenbar.com/en/home-en/
A glimpse of 1960’s Florence
There’s something instantaneously comforting about the wood-panelled dining room of Il Barretto.
Situated a few steps away from the Ponte Vecchio, the intimate space is redolent of a bygone era, matched by a menu showcasing Tuscan classics. Of course, if the litmus test of any good Italian restaurant lies in its tiramisu – a dessert which literally translates to “pick-me-up” – then the reassuring rendition at Il Batretto is one that can instantly set the world to rights!
Il Barretto, Via del Parione, 50, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy | +39 055 294122 | http://www.ilbarretto.it/eng/index.php
For truffle lovers
Savini Tartufi Truffle Restaurant
As it turns out, the only thing better than a terrific tiramisu is a terrifically-truffled tiramisu at Savini Tartufi – a truffle-themed restaurant run by the fourth-generation Savini family, famed for cultivating the finest quality truffles in Italy.
Tucked away inside the oldest hotel of Florence, NH Porta Rossa, the understatedly-elegant establishment lends itself to an an epicurean extravaganza led by the seasonal truffles of Tuscany. A visit in February introduces us to bianchetto, a white species of the tuber, intense in flavour with an astonishing garlicky after-taste. It’s best enjoyed when generously shaved onto silken strands of taglioni, with the saltiness of a simple butter & parmesan sauce deftly enhancing the flavour of the truffles. It’s a truffle tiramisu which proves the real treat though, with clouds of truffle-scented mascarpone piled high on a crunchy almond biscuit base and a touch of fresh truffles adding a final flourish!
Porta Rossa, Via Porta Rossa, 19, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy | +39 055 399 5913 | http://www.savinitartufi.restaurant/savini-firenze/
A low-key evening
If you find yourself in Florence for as long (or even longer) than we did, there are bound to be evenings when you might fancy a fuss-free dinner at an eatery which goes about its business quietly. La Bussola rises well to the occasion with a wine list that is more than decent and dishes that are simply delicious. The pizzas particularly stand out, proving again that you don’t need to venture to the south of Italy for an authentic Neapolitan-style pizza!
Via Porta Rossa, 58/R Firenze ; Piazza Davanzati 3/R Firenze +39 055 293376 |http://www.labussolafirenze.it/
Tea-time or aperitivo hour (depending on your preference!) are signalled by the ticking of a Swiss clock above the glass doors separating the tearoom and the bar inside Caffè Gilli – the oldest café in the city. It was established by a Swiss family close to three centuries ago, in Medici-era Florence, as a pastry shop selling sugared dougnuts by the Duomo!
Desserts are still a strong selling point in present day, with the café now situated in the central Piazza della Repubblica. Once a haunt for writers, artists, and actors, it remains a draw for both locals and tourists alike, not to mention a bolthole for designers visiting town for the Pitti Uomo fashion shows!
Via Roma, 1r, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy | +39 055 213896 | https://caffegilli.com/en/
You didn’t think I was going to close this guide without a mention of gelato, did you? Florence is after all, the birthplace of this joyously-creamy riff on ice cream!
While you can find gelato piled high at every street corner, many so-called gelaterias are in reality tourist traps, compromising authenticity in favour of pre-made mixes and artificial colouring. So, it’s worth venturing off the beaten path for the real thing, far more pleasurable than any gelato you might have experienced before…
Unassumingly positioned on the the Oltrarno side of Ponte alla Carraia, the cheery green and citrus-hued shop of La Carraia is a must-visit for densely-decadent scoops of gelato, made with the concentrated nectar of fruits, nuts and even seasonal herbs. The result is intensely creamy, with flavours ranging from timeless favourites to the more offbeat “torta della nonna” (grandma’s cake) and ricotta! Prices are temptingly-low (with taster cones starting at €1) and servings are liberal. As for any worries of an expanding waistline, they’re all-too-easily dispelled with a stroll across the picturesque Ponte alla Carraia, after!
Gelateria La Carraia, Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25/r, Palazzo Pitti |+39 055 280695 | http://www.lacarraiagroup.eu/index.php