Florence Local Food Walk (Self Guided), Florence

Food is one of the great Florentine passions, and the great thing about having a delicious authentic meal, a snack, delicatessen, or a quality gelato here is not having to spend a lot of money for it. In general, the “osterias” and the eateries nestled in Sant’Ambrogio Market will offer cheaper and more casual food with an emphasis on home cooking, but there's no shortage of “smart” places offering more expensive upmarket cuisine. There will probably be times when you do not want a large meal, and Florence offers a range of places for more casual eating – among these, the pizzerias (usually open only in the evening, especially if they have wood-fired ovens) and the “enotecas” or “vinerias”, which offer a selection of wines to try, too. Take this self-guided tour to explore some of the most notorious of the above-mentioned – and bring an appetite!
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Florence Local Food Walk Map

Guide Name: Florence Local Food Walk
Guide Location: Italy » Florence (See other walking tours in Florence)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: greghasleft
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Central Market (Mercato Centrale)
  • Enoteca Alessi
  • Caffè Gilli
  • Rivoire
  • Osteria All’antico Vinaio
  • Ditta Artigianale
  • Osteria Il Gatto e la Volpe
  • Vivoli
  • Osteria dè Benci
  • Sant'Ambrogio Market
  • Duje Pizzeria (Santarpia)
1
Central Market (Mercato Centrale)

1) Central Market (Mercato Centrale)

Florence's 19th-century Mercato Centrale is actually comprised of two separate areas: a covered one, home to all things food, and an outdoor area that occupies the surroundings streets of the covered building, selling leather goods, clothing and many souvenirs for nice prices (great bargains on leather coats, jackets and purses).

If you are searching for Tuscan food, go to the indoor area. On the ground floor, you will find butchers, fishmongers, fruits, vegetables and specialty shops that sell local olive oils, truffle honey, cured meats, cheeses, specialty sauces, and much more. Many specialty shops offer free sampling.

Upstairs is the food court featuring a host of delicious local culinary delights. Here, not only you can taste the food but, through the glass windows, you can also watch how bread is baked, how the bufala cheese is handcrafted, or how artisan gelato is made from scratch. To really enjoy your meal here, try visiting outside the usual dining times as it gets a bit crowded.

Among the highlights:
~ Il Pane e la Pasticceria – watch French baker and Bakery World Cup champion David Bedu, as he bakes everything from baguettes to traditional breads, to the most exquisite French pastries, such as choux and éclairs;
~ Martino Bellincampi's shop serving buffalo mozzarella in a typical Roman-style salad as well as the Neapolitan 'mozzarella in carrozza', a fried mozzarella sandwich which is the ultimate guilty pleasure;
~ ARÀ, with its signature dish – the "arancini" (deeply fried rice balls stuffed with different flavors), but also plenty of other Sicilian-style desserts; try the "cannoli", "cassatini", or a "granita";
~ Il Tartufo, offering excellent black and white seasonal truffles in dishes like pasta, salads, sandwiches, various spreads, and even beer;
~ La Pizzeria, serving Marco Fierro's perfectly crispy, fresh, wood oven-baked pizza made with the highest quality Italian ingredients;
~ Pasta Fresca – perfect to taste both classical and creative pasta dishes and to attend cooking shows;
~ Il Vegeteriano e il Vegano – the ideal stand for vegetarians and vegans.

The outside market is closed by early afternoon, while the food court is open until midnight.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Enoteca Alessi

2) Enoteca Alessi

An enoteca is a shop selling regional wines, although in the case of Alessi, such definition is a clear understatement. Enter this big and bright third-generation shop, glide through the aisles of colorfully packaged biscotti, caramelle, and cioccolatini, and eventually you will find your way to the back, where the wines are featured (along with a broad range of spirits, liquors, beers, olive oils, jams, aged balsamic vinegars, and on and on...).

In the inviting wine cellar downstairs, you can select from over 2,500 labels and savor your choice with an enticing array of Tuscan cold cuts and traditional cheeses. The wines are all great and range for all people's budget – from €10 right up to several thousand euros. Worry not, though – staff will be more than happy to chat and make recommendations.

If you're in need of a quality snack/light lunch spot that has a vast Tuscan/Italian wine list, then this is your place. Surprisingly, it is very quiet and relaxed, too, despite only being a block south of the Duomo and the immense amount of tourists.

Tip:
The most famous Tuscan reds – notably Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti – are made from the Sangiovese grape and are produced inland, on the hills of Tuscany. Their quality is very high, as wineries have combined the best of traditional and modern techniques. For a fair price, you will not only get to sample these and other wonderful wines, but also receive a wealth of knowledge about what you are tasting.

Opening Hours:
[Enoteca] Mon-Sat: 9am–7:30pm; [Winebar] Mon-Sat: 11am–7pm
3
Caffè Gilli

3) Caffè Gilli

Founded in 1733, this most appealing of Piazza della Repubblica's expensive caffés moved to its present site in 1910. With its wood, marble, frescoed ceiling, and glass glinting in the light of Murano chandeliers, the lavish Belle Epoque interior is a sight in itself (there are rumors of an imminent modernization), but most choose to sit on the big outdoor terrace that's perfectly placed for people watching.

On a cold afternoon try the famous hot chocolate – it is very thick (almost like liquid pudding), topped with whipped cream, and comes in various blended flavours: almond, orange, coffee, gianduia, and cocoa. Gilli also serves delectable cakes, fruit tartlets and "millefoglie" (sheets of puff pastry filled with rich vanilla or chocolate Chantilly cream).

Tip:
Join the locals standing at the bar to enjoy an "aperitivo" drink with complimentary nibbles.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7:30am–12am
4
Rivoire

4) Rivoire

For more than a century, this elegant, family-run caffè smack dab in the center of Florence has been the meeting point for morning ristretto and pastry, winter afternoon hot chocolate (topped with freshly whipped cream), or a refreshing Aperol spritz and other “aperitivi”.

The pastries and prize-winning chocolates here – made on the premises – are irresistible. They also sell them boxed if you are looking for a nice souvenir for family; apparently, a few of the chocolate boxes are modeled after Tiffany & Co., and some even have real silver spoons inside!

Whether you eat/drink inside or out, stop by to take in the beauty of the Piazza Signoria. You can find much cheaper caffès but would be hard-pressed to beat the location and the cultural experience. After all, you are facing one of Firenze's most notable buildings – the Uffizi, surrounded by artists, politicians, journalists and bohemians who come here to be in awe of history and human magnificence.

Tip:
Look out for special treats such as “frittelle di riso” (sweet rice fritters) or the “schiacciata fiorentina”, a sweet bread of Carnival time in Tuscany.
To avoid paying a sit-down service fee, enjoy these with your coffee while standing by the bar (in this way, too, you will get served more quickly).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7:30am–10pm
5
Osteria All’antico Vinaio

5) Osteria All’antico Vinaio

With locations on both sides of the street – two take-out, and one sit-down – this place has earned an international reputation. For €5 you can get an excellent sandwich from fresh focaccia bread, mouthwatering cheeses, and meats (porchetta, salami, prosciutto) that they carve as you watch. All sandwiches are massive – big enough for two – with a generous portion of toppings such as truffle cream, eggplant, zucchini, and countless more to choose from (feel free to build your own). If you like spicy, you won't regret the “Inferno”. Vegetarian options are not on the menu but staff will help create them on the spot. So just join the shorter of two queues, buy your sandwich and find a nice spot either by the Arno or Piazza della Signoria to indulge in one of the finest eating experiences in the city.

Tip:
If looking for a more sit-down-style restaurant, the same owners have some limited seating in the back. You can not get sandwiches here, but you can go for a meat/cheese/vegetable tray with bread. Finish it with some authentic local pasta, or with an amazing "secondo" (second course).

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am–10pm
6
Ditta Artigianale

6) Ditta Artigianale

With industrial décor and welcoming laid-back vibe, this ingenious coffee roastery and gin bar is a good place to hang, especially in the morning. The creation of three-times Italian barista champion Francesco Sanapo, it's famed for its first-class coffee and outstanding gin cocktails. If you want to mingle with younger Florentines over a flat white, cold brew tonic, or cappuccino made with almond, soy, or coconut milk, come here.

For those who are in for something substantial in the mornings, there are also pancakes with peanut butter and maple syrup, creamy scrambled eggs, and of course the Croque Madame (ham and cheese sandwich with an egg on top). Later in the day they also serve warm and cold lunch snacks; however, by that time, the place is packed and many times some dishes in the menu are finished early.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am–12am; Sat, Sun: 9am–12am
7
Osteria Il Gatto e la Volpe

7) Osteria Il Gatto e la Volpe

If you're looking for authentic Tuscan food in a casual, intimate atmosphere and at a very reasonable price, this hidden gem – a short walk away from the Bargello or Santa Croce – is the place for you.

Firstly, the staff here is incredibly friendly and accommodating, and is happy to explain the menu items or offer some great recommendations. The menu is always varied – pasta, gnocchi, wood oven pizza, the famous Florentine steak are just a few of the highlights to look for. Especially recommended is their syrupy balsamic vinegar, which is made in house and one of the best you'll ever taste (try it with olive oil and freshly baked bread, which are phenomenal in themselves!). Make sure to save some room for quite a number of delicious homemade desserts, too, as they ARE worth the calories.

To top it off, the Tuscan wine is eminently drinkable, and you will get terrific advice on which goes best with your meal. You might even be given complimentary limoncello or grappa shots at the end!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 11:30am–11:30pm
8
Vivoli

8) Vivoli

If you are going to try gelato – do it in Florence, where it was created. And this particular shop opened as early as 1929 – the oldest gelateria in the city. They have upwards of twenty flavors and small servings starting at €2.5 to upward of €6 depending on your appetite. They make their artisanal gelato from scratch in small batches every morning, and you can tell fresh fruits were used to make the smooth, dense, and intense concoction (no additives and no artificial preservatives). Note that it is served exclusively in a cup, as tradition dictates – and never in a cone! Additionally, their affogato – hot espresso poured over vanilla gelato in a pre-chilled cup – is drinkable perfection.

In the back of the little gelateria are small tables and chairs to sit and enjoy the experience. If you are nearby for breakfast, their cappuccino, pastries, and out-of-the-oven homemade cakes are superb. Try also the affogato – hot espresso poured over vanilla gelato in a pre-chilled cup. You will love this dessert, even if you don't like espresso!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 7:30am–12am; Sun: 9am–9pm
9
Osteria dè Benci

9) Osteria dè Benci

Founded in 1994, Osteria de' Benci instantly became a cult location for local Florentines. While sitting here for any length of time you will hear the phrase "welcome back" uttered often. This is a place whose food and attitude inspire a return visit. It is also incredibly reasonably priced considering the quality and the location.

Try their pasta umbreico ("drunken spaghetti") cooked in red wine and garlic sauce – the restaurant's signature pasta dish; then order a traditional "bistecca fiorentina" – the famous local steak – for secondi. The beef here is superb, very succulent and tender, well seasoned with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon and traditionally grilled over roasted chestnuts to be served rare (somewhere between a "rare" and "medium rare" in a traditional American steak house). Even with an appetite, you'll want to share your t-bone, because it is huge!

The menu has an otherwise good selection of local, seasonal dishes, as well as good, inexpensive house wine.
Possibility to sit outside or inside – both intimate and relaxing.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Thu: 7:30–11pm; Mon, Fri-Sun: 12:30–3pm / 7:30–11pm
10
Sant'Ambrogio Market

10) Sant'Ambrogio Market

This market's intimate scale and excellent fresh produce made it a favorite among Florentines since 1873. The bustling outdoor section features tantalizing pyramids of beautifully displayed fruits and vegetables of the season, with sellers equally courteous whether you buy one apple or a dozen. The edibles are juxtaposed with a cheerful hodgepodge of constantly changing wares – from clothing and shoes to household items, flowers, beads... Not really a touristy place, but good for finding things you may require (floppy sunhats?) or may have forgotten to purchase.

Step inside the covered interior (where you will be greeted by a large mosaic Florentine lily on the floor) for an enticing sprawl of stands selling all types of meats and many varieties of fresh and aged cheeses, prosciuttos, salamis, breads, honey, fresh and dried pastas, grains, beans, eggs, olives, spices, sauces, oils, fresh and salted fish, milk, yogurt, and coffee.

Also inside you'll find the famous Trattoria da Rocco, perfect for a first introduction to grandma's Tuscan kitchen. It was – and still is – a "tavola calda", meaning that the food is prepared early and served in heaping portions all during lunch, six days a week (Mon-Sat: 11am–2:30pm). Definitely a bargain for the price, and very fast! The serving sizes are so big that you might want to think about sharing to ensure a nice variety.

The other place not to miss, called I' Trippaio di Sant'Ambrogio (Mon-Sat: 7am–2pm), serves good authentic Florentine lampredotto cooked in various ways. Convenient, no-frills, affordable. Due to the fatty cow's stomach, the taste is very unique, and they'll spice it up on request. Feel free to grab a cup and pour your red wine from the massive bottle on the counter (though you do pay for the glasses you drink).

If you like to mingle with locals, get lots of free samples, and have an authentic Tuscan food experience, Mercato Sant'Ambrogio is your best bet.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Tue, Thu, Sat: 7am–2pm; Wed, Fri: 7am–7pm
11
Duje Pizzeria (Santarpia)

11) Duje Pizzeria (Santarpia)

Across the street from the Sant'Ambrogio food market, the Duje offers lots of interesting types of thin-crust Neapolitan pizza with tasty ingredients like burrata cheese and truffle. On a good day the service is friendly and fast, but you will either have to make a reservation OR show up at exactly 7:30pm (there are only six chairs available for guests with no reservations), and if you're lucky you can sit on a high chair, watch the chef in action, and choose from the many classics interspersed with some interesting innovations (expect toppings such as courgette flowers and pancetta). Lovers of red pizza should not bypass "La Quattro Pomodori" made with four different types of tomatoes.

While the traditional Neapolitan fries are a delicious appetizer and go well with the many artisanal beers, do leave some room for their spectacular sweets, also – the homemade gelato is a real treat.

The room is fully air-conditioned and feels great after a walk, sporting ceramic tiles decorated in style and beautiful drawings on the walls.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 7:30–11pm

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