How to Learn Some Italian Using Words You Already Know - Lesson 3

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Here we are at the third and final installment of this little series, “How to Learn Some Italian Using Words You Already Know.”

What originally began as my fascination with the amount of English words used in Italian ended up turning into these comical learn-Italian-effortlessly lessons. Aren’t you glad I decided to write them down? Heheheh. :)

In Lesson 1 we saw all the English words Italians use in every day conversations, or that are the same. Words like budget, Facebook, privacy, password, etc.

In Lesson 2 we saw all the Italian words we can learn simply by adding vowels onto the end of English words, like tubo, musica, dieta, cono, etc.

After Lesson 2 you might be feeling pretty snazzy with all the new words you learned. If you spend any time listening to or reading Italian, maybe you have started to keep an eye out for other words that can easily be deciphered. You’ll probably notice plenty of them that didn’t even make it in these lessons!

Therefore, before things get too comfy, I am going to burst your bubble a bit in Lesson 3. How lovely. We are still going to learn some new words, but we will look at a variety of words that are the same (at least written) or that you think would be the same or mean something similar. But they’re not, or they don’t.

For example, let’s look at the word “peperoni.” You might be looking at an Italian pizza menu and spot a friendly face: Peperoni Pizza. (Truly it would probably be called “Pizza ai Peperoni” or “Pizza con Peperoni” but regardless, you understand “pizza” and “peperoni,” right? Maybe not—>) You order your peperoni pizza while snickering at how they spelled “pepperoni” with only one “p” instead of two. Your pizza arrives and to your shock and dismay, you have a cheese pizza with bell peppers, not pepperoni, and are snickering no more. This is an all too common mistake made by meat-loving American tourists, as indeed “peperoni” means bell peppers in Italian, not spicy-meat-sausage-pizza-condiment.

One more for ya: If you saw the word “arma” you might think it means “arm.” I probably would, too. But guess what? It actually means “weapon.” So don’t go around saying what a nice “arma” that person has, thinking you’re complimenting their strong biceps, alright?

You’ll be happy to see that today’s list is not as extensive as the other lessons, but I’m sure it will continue to expand as I’ve been adding new words almost daily to the other lessons since I’ve posted them. If you want to be of help in growing any of these lists, drop me a note in the comments below!


Italian Words That Are Not All That They Seem

  1. Camera (CAH-mair-a) - not a photo camera, but a room. An apartment with two camere.

  2. Lampone (Lahm-PO-nay) - you might think this means lamp, but it actually means raspberry.

  3. Lampo (LAHM-po) - still doesn’t mean lamp, but this refers to a twinkle, flash of light, or lightning. I frequently get this confused with lampone and am forever saying “ohhh, did you see that raspberry in the sky?” It’s embarrassing.

  4. Stiro (STEE-ro) - not stir, but a verb that means “I iron.”

  5. Topo (TO-po) - I’m on topo of the world! Nope. Topo means mouse.

  6. Formica (for-MEE-ca) - You might be thinking formica countertops? Nope. Formica means ant. So you might have a formica or two on your formica.

  7. Peperoni (peh-per-OHN-ee) - As mentioned above, this is not pepperoni misspelled, but actually bell peppers. By the way, I love peperoni on my pizza! Give me all the pizze ai peperoni! ;)

  8. Sale (SAH-lay) - Shopping friends, don’t get too excited, this doesn’t mean

  9. Salsa - salsa means sauce. While Americans take salsa to mean the spicy red tomato and pepper sauce (ya know, chips and salsa?), this is used much more generically in Italian. It can be used to mean a dressing, condiment, sauce, gravy, etc. You can also say sugo, which is a bit more specifically translated to sauce. So if you’re deciding which sauce you want to go with your pasta, you would be better off saying sugo.

  10. Moka - if you hear someone talking about moka, you might be thinking of the mocha with coffee and chocolate. What they’re probably referring to, though, is a moka pot, the instrument of choice for making espresso at home!

  11. Latte - another word that often results with tourists in a conundrum. Latte as it is known in the English speaking world is really a shortened form of caffè latte, which is Italian in origin. So when you try and order a simple latte in Italy, you will end up with a glass of milk. If you want a latte WITH coffee, then go ahead and order that caffè latte, sometimes also spelled caffelatte or caffellatte.

  12. Kebab - While we could call anything in America that’s skewered (fruit, meat, veggies) a kebab, in Italy it refers to the very large hunk of mixed meats that is skewered and slowly roasted while rotating. This meat is shaved as it’s roasted and used to make kebab wraps or sandwiches, referred to as just kebabs. It has origins in the Middle East, and is why most of the kebab restaurants will be Pakistani, Turkish, Indian, etc. It’s delicious, by the way.

  13. Granite (grah-NEE-tay) - more countertops? No, rather the Italian version of a slushy. I’ve never had one, maybe because I don’t really like slushies. I’m sure if I tried one, in its little 8oz-ish cup with fresh fruit flavors, I would enjoy it, especially if I were in Sicily where they’re supposed to be the bomb.

  14. Gusto (GOOS-toh) - I always thought we used this to mean with oomph, with style, in English. As in, “he swirled his cape with gusto.” In Italian, this means taste. So it still kinda works, “he swirled his cape with taste.” Eh, not quite the same.

  15. Punto (POON-toh) - Not a football punt, but a point, period, or dot. Get my punto?

  16. Solo - dance solo, flying solo? Yes, finally one that is more or less correct! Solo means by yourself, alone, or just or only, as in “just one pizza, please!” How many cones of gelato did you eat today? “Solo uno!” (Only one!)

  17. Mano (MAH-no) - if someone asks you if want a mano, they’re asking if you want a hand, not a man, silly. Man is uomo. Mano is hand.

  18. Oro - do you want pizza oro pasta? <——Not correct usage. Oro means gold. The Italian way to say “sweet dreams” is to say “sogni d’oro” or literally, dream of gold! Awwwwwww.

  19. Argento - maybe this one isn’t all that close to Argentinian, but if I didn’t know what it meant that would probably be my guess. It actually means silver! Now that you know how to say both silver and gold in Italian, you can sing your favorite song come Christmas time. Argentooooo e oroooo, argentoooo e oroooo..!!

  20. Avvocato - if you ask someone what they do for a living and they respond with, “I’m an avvocato,” they’re not delusional, they mean that they’re a lawyer. That double v and t for a d makes a very big difference in differentiating between our little green friend and a career choice.

  21. Slip (sleep) - we might say slip in reference to an under-dress or under-skirt, but in Italian this refers to underwear. This can be men’s briefs or ladies’ undies.

  22. Casino (cah-ZEE-no) - you might think Italians talk an awful lot about casinos as you hear them mutter, “che casino!”, but this really means “what a mess.” If you come to Italy to live you too will soon be muttering this under your breath, often and fervently. To say casino it’s actually casinò, with the accent on the end.

  23. Per - this literally means for in Italian, and although it is used in both languages, we use it a bit differently in English. If you want to translate the English per to Italian, sometimes it’s per, other times a. “Let’s make 3 cookies per person” / “Facciamo 3 dolcetti per persona.” “We earn about $100 per day” / “Guadagniamo circa $100 al giorno.” It can also be used to talk multiplication. Five times five equals twenty-five. Or cinque per cinque fa venticinque.

  24. Grasso - what a nice, lovely yard of green grasso you have there! Grasso means fat. We basically just insulted someone’s fat yard. If you want to say grass, say erba.

  25. Grosso - not gross, but another way of saying big, fat, and wide. For example, the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is called “Il Mio Grosso Grasso Matrimonio Greco” in Italian. If you wish to say gross, say schifo. Che schifo! / How gross!

  26. Fine (FEE-nay) - La fine / the end! Not “Fine and dandy!”

  27. Arma - this one we also discussed above, so you should be wise enough to know it doesn’t mean arm, but rather weapon. Unless you swing a good one and want to think of your arm as a good one?

  28. Pronto - “I need the report pronto!” meaning right away, asap…in Italian, this means ready, and also what they say when they answer the phone. “Pronto? ahh ciao Chiara, come va?”

  29. Vesto / Vesti / Veste - none of which mean vest. These are the first, second, and third person of the verb vestire which means to dress, so I dress, you dress, and he/she dresses, respectively. Sounds like an article of clothing but refers to dressing, easy enough to remember, no?


Here we are, 3 lessons later, actually 4 if you needed a refresher on the Italian alphabet and pronunciation. What have learned? Oh, ya know, only 200+ new Italian words!

How to Learn Some Italian Using Words You Already Know - Lesson 2

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In the first lesson of How to Learn Some Italian Using Words You Already know we focused on all the English words Italians use on a daily basis, thus making our lives that much easier when trying to communicate. There are over 70 words, in fact, that are either English, the same in Italian and English, or so similar that you understand anyway, and I keep finding words to add to that list!

To read Lesson 1, click here.

For Lesson 2 we are going to focus on taking the English words you can turn into Italian, simply by adding a vowel on the end. (If you hadn’t noticed from lesson 1, these lessons aren’t exactly serious… they aren’t aimed at the studious, full-time Italian-language student, but rather can be enjoyed by anyone, whether you speak any Italian or not. :)

If you have spent any time around the Italian culture (or just watching The Godfather) you will have noticed that Italian words all end in vowels, and that it’s very easy to imitate them by adding a vowel on to any word. This is often found highly entertaining by other cultures (ahem, American), even if it (obviously) ends with made-up words. '“Yes, ciao, I will take-o the pizza and the pasta to take-away-o!”

If you don’t want to sound like you are speaking Ameritalian or someone who has lived their whole life imitating Italian stereotypes, read this post about the Italian alphabet and pronunciation of key letters. Some words in the list that follows are spelled the same as in English but with a vowel on the end, but the pronunciation might be slightly different. Likewise, some are spelled differently but are pronounced the same, aside from that last vowel, of course. If I don’t indicate how it should be pronounced, that means the accent and pronunciation stay essentially the same as in English.

One more note to remember as we progress: Italian words are split into two categories, feminine and masculine, usually ending in a or o, respectively. The ending of adjectives can fluctuate, depending on if the word or person they are describing is masculine or feminine. For example, “buono” is an adjective that means “good,” and you could say “oliO buonO” or “pizzA buonA.”

One more example to make sure we’re clear, let’s take #1 from the list below. I am an American, (and a woman) so I would say, “sono un’Americana.” I can’t (or shouldn’t) say “sono un Americano” because the adjective “Americano” no longer matches what it is describing, me the woman. So if you see the o/a below or realize a word is an adjective, remember it depends on if the noun the adjective is describing is masculine or feminine!

Ok, ready to add to your Italian vocabulary?


English Words to Which You Can Add Vowels to Make Italian Words

  1. American, Italian, Indian, and others / Americano/a, Italiano/a, Indiano/a - This holds true for several nationalities, but not all. For example, Australian is Australiano/a, but British is Inglese and French is Francese, Ah well, helpful for some!

  2. Person / Persona (per-SOHN-a)

  3. Tube / Tubo

  4. Cube / Cubo (COO-Boh)

  5. Sphere / Sfera (SFAIR-ah)

  6. Case / Caso (CAH-zo) - in any caso…

  7. Event / Evento - Hey let’s go to that evento!

  8. Concert / Concerto (cone-CHAIR-toh)

  9. Art / Arte

  10. Ballet / Balletto - Ah, finally you can pronounce that “t” sound like you’ve always been tempted to!

  11. Dance / Danza (DAH-nza)

  12. Music / Musica (MOO-zee-cah)

  13. Tambourine / Tamburino

  14. Battery / Batteria (Baht-TAIR-ee-ah) - this also can refer to drums.

  15. Angelic / Angelico/a (ahn-JEL-ee-co)

  16. Content / Contento/a - I am so contenta to see you!

  17. Conversion / Conversione (cohn-VAIR-zee-ohn-ay)

  18. Impression / Impressione (eem-PRESS-ee-ohn-ay)

  19. Candle / Candela (cahn-DEL-ah)

  20. Diamond / Diamante (dee-ah-MAHN-tay)

  21. Mark / Marchio note that there is also “marca” but that means a brand or make, such as Gucci or Ferrari, rather than a mark on something.

  22. Television / Televisione (tel-eh-viz-ee-OHN-ay)

  23. Kiosk / Chiosco (kee-OH-sco) - or newspaper stand.

  24. Zone / Zona

  25. Current / Corrente (cohr-EHN-tay) - this can be used for all forms of “current” in English, current in water, current events, etc.

  26. Equilibrium / Equilibrio (ee-quil-EE-bree-oh)

  27. Diet / Dieta (dee-EH-ta)

  28. Vitamin / Vitamina (vee-tah-MEE-na) - Let’s go soak up some vitamina d!

  29. Ingredient / Ingrediente (een-GREY-dee-en-tay)

  30. Rice / Riso ( REE-zo)

  31. Cone / Cono

  32. Carrot / Carota (cah-ROH-ta)

  33. Melon / Melone (Meh-LOHN-ay)

  34. Marmalade / Marmellata (mar-may-LAH-ta) - you might not eat marmalade very often, but “marmellata” refers to all jams, jellies, and marmalades.

  35. Olive / Oliva (oh-LEE-va)

  36. Liquor/Liqueur / Liquore - although liquor refers to stronger spirits (vodka, taquila, etc.) and liqueur to sweeter spirits (Kahlua, Bailey’s, etc.) both of these are encompassed in the Italian “liquore.”

  37. Cream / Crema - this can refer to any kind of cream, such as a face cream or a cream you would eat. Crema is also how you would say “pudding” in Italian.

  38. Spinach / Spinaci (spee-NAH-chee)

  39. Protein / Proteine (pro-tay-EEN-ay)

  40. Pork / Porco it’s also often referred to as “maiale”

  41. Pen / Penna - if this word looks familiar, that’s because yes, penne pasta literally means “pens” in Italian! Remember to lay those n’s on nice and thick, because if you take away one “n” you end up with a completely different word that you definitely don’t want to be ordering for dinner! (If I got you curious, it’s anatomy, not a swear word or worse, but you can go translate it because I prefer to keep this blog G rated. :)

  42. Train / Treno (TRAY-no)

  43. Airplane / Aeroplano (air-oh-PLAHN-o)

  44. Airport / Aeroporto (air-oh-PORT-o)

  45. Bank / Banca (BAHN-ca)

  46. Post / Posta - this can refer to the post in your mailbox as well as the actual post office.

  47. Postal / Postale (post-AHL-ay)

  48. Pharmacy / Farmacia (far-ma-chee-ah)

  49. University / Università (oon-ee-vers-ee-TAH)

  50. Camp / Campo (CAHM-po) also means field, realm, sphere, domain, any of those kinds of camp.

  51. Metal / Metallo (Meh-TAHL-lo)

  52. Metallic / Metallico/a

  53. Atomic / Atomica (Ah-TOH-mee-ca)

  54. Comic / Comico/a also known as a comedian or used as an adjective to describe something funny

  55. Animal / Animale (ahn-ee-MAHL-ay)

  56. Elephant / Elefante

  57. Lion / Leone (lay-OHN-ay)

  58. Dolphin / Delfino (del-FEEN-o)

  59. Serpent / Serpente

  60. Rat / Ratto

  61. Vote / Voto

  62. System / Sistema (sees-TAIM-a)

  63. Problem / Problema

  64. Terrible / Terribile (tair-REE-bee-lay)

  65. Crucial / Cruciale (croo-CHYA-lay)

  66. Special / Speciale (speh-CHYA-lay)

  67. Incredible / Incredibile (in-cred-EE-bee-lay)

  68. Important / Importante (eem-por-TAHN-tay)

  69. Fine / Fino - thin, the dimension, not “fine, be that way.”

  70. False / Falso - true or falso?

  71. Liberty / Libertà

  72. Destiny / Destino (des-TEEN-o)

  73. Ocean / Oceano (och-YA-no)

  74. Divine / Divino/a (Dee-VEE-no) - not to be confused with “divano” which means “couch.”

  75. Noble / Nobile (NO-bee-lay)

  76. Dollar / Dollaro - (DOL-lar-o)

  77. Button / Bottone (boo-TOH-nay)

  78. Distant / Distante (dee-STAN-tay)

  79. Second / Secondo

  80. Moment / Momento

  81. Medicine / Medicina (meh-dee-CHEE-na)

  82. Pulse / Polso (POHL-so)

  83. Palm / Palma

  84. Penicillin / Penicillina (pen-ee-chee-LEE-na)

  85. Vein / Vena

  86. Nude / Nudo/a - Don’t come in, I’m nuda! In English we more commonly say naked rather than nude, but in Italian you get one option. Try not to laugh too much the first time you actually get to use it.

  87. Cigarette / Sigaretta

  88. Rose / Rosa - means rose as well as pink.

  89. Vase / Vaso (VAH-zo) - I got you a vaso to put your rosa in.

  90. Medium / Medio (meh-dyo)

  91. Category / Categoria

  92. Comment / Commento (cohm-MEN-toh)

  93. Phrase / Frase (FRAH-zay)

  94. Alphabet / Alfabeto

  95. Letter / Lettera - as in English, this can mean both a letter in a word and a letter you write someone.

  96. Note / Nota - like a note you write someone along with musical notes, etc.

  97. Icon / Icona (ee-COHN-a)


There is yet another taste for you, that Italian can be easy to learn! And fun(ny). There are many, many more words like this, which is why it can be almost effortless to expand your vocabulary of nouns and adjectives. And this doesn’t even touch upon all the letter combinations you’ll start to pick on, those that are in English but not Italian, then figuring out the Italian equivalent, which enables you to translate words on your own without using a translator or asking a friend. Huh? Let me explain quickly.

Take for example, words in English that end in “tion.”

Frustration. Eradication.

If I tell you that “frustration” becomes “frustrazione” and “eradication” becomes “eradicazione,” you can see that the root of the word stays the same, and the “tion” suffix becomes “zione" in Italian. Easy, right? I bet you can figure out the next three.

  • Extraction = Estrazione

  • Indication = Indicazione

  • Indecision = Indecisione

Did you catch the exceptions? Where one root word didn’t stay the same, and one word didn’t end in “tion”? The “ex” in “extraction” became “es” in “estrazione,” and “indecision” ends in “sion.” This, in turn, could open the next letter combinations you could translate by yourself. There is no “x” in the Italian alphabet, therefore the combination of “ex” usually becomes “es,” and words that end in “sion” often become “sione” in Italian.

  • Expulsion = Espulsione

  • Extrusion = Estrusione

  • Extrinsic = Estrinsico

  • Invasion = Invasione

I’m getting ahead of myself, and going beyond the just the light-hearted lesson I had planned-o today-o, but I’ll leave you with on last word to translate on your own. Conversation…go!

Until next time, alla prossima!





How to Learn Some Italian Using Words You Already Know - Lesson 1

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Did you know that you already know a whole bunch of words that Italians use everyday? You’re basically fluent in Italian and don’t even know it. Ok, ok, not really, but the fact is, Italians use a good bit of English in their everyday jargon. I’m not talking about Italians when they’re speaking in English, I mean the English words that are thrown in to Italian conversations. English words that have come to replace the traditional Italian, or words that were coined in English in recent decades and have wound their way into Italian.

Some Italian words by now are almost obsolete. I’ve spent almost 3 years’ worth of time in Italy, only including the time in which I was learning Italian and conversing maybe more in Italian than English, and still have yet to hear the Italian equivalent of certain English words. For example, “privacy.” Written, spoken, it’s always “privacy.” I didn’t even notice I had no idea how to say nor had I ever heard someone say “privacy” in Italian until someone brought it to my attention. So I had to ask, how do you say “privacy” in Italian? “Privatezza.” By now with "terms of privacy” and the like around the internet, especially here in the EU, “privatezza” has been rendered all but forgotten, I guess. Maybe just uncool.

English is a desired language and thus becomes cool if you can speak any. Plus Italy is so dependent upon tourism that many people’s jobs require them to speak some basic English, if not fluently. Many parents look to English speaking au pairs to teach their children English from a young age, or get them in any programs that involve English native-tongues, no matter the program, just for the language experience. Teaching English is almost always an option for native speakers.

I can’t tell you how often my Italian colleagues in every day conversation would sprinkle in some English. “Yes” would replace a “si,” “excuse me,” “oh my god,” “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” would be used just as often as their Italian counterparts. And my colleagues often weren’t talking to me, the only native English speaker who worked there. Americans learn a second language often in high school, but because we have no need of the language it is never exercised and usually forgotten. Even the basic words we retain we don’t often use, even if we also think it’s cool, because it seems a bit pretentious. At least I think the general consensus is that it is. Here, I don’t know, maybe the desire to learn English (and French, German, Spanish, etc.) is almost so accepted that it’s more common everyone is “practicing” in a way, and therefore not pretentious? Shrug.

Whether you’re looking forward to an upcoming Italian adventure, learning Italian, or simply curious, here is a great way to add some QUICK and EASY words to your repertoire. Heheh.

Buca di Beppo requires full out Italian speaking mode ON

Buca di Beppo requires full out Italian speaking mode ON

Quick Note on Italian Pronunciation

Even if it is a true English word that Italians use, they often pronounce it with their wonderful accent ( and sometimes may not understand you the first time [or ever] if you pronounce the same word but in the correct English way.) So as you are reading the words that follow, you might want to learn or brush up on the Italian alphabet and how to pronounce some of their key words to get the full appreciation. (Click here to do so.) It’s way more fun to pronounce things in an Italian accent anyway, so let your inner Fabio/Martina come bursting forth!

If you want to actually learn Italian or you have a base that you would like to build upon, I have found this book to be very useful in clarifying all the different verbs in Italian. One of my best friends used it while she was in Italy as an au pair, and later gave it to me to use when I first came to Italy!


Italian Words You Already Know

Some they borrow from us, some we borrow from them, either way we understand each other!

  1. Weekend - Il Weekend. By now everyone wishes you a “buon weekend!” instead of “buon fine settimana!” I once heard an elderly gentleman say “buon fine settimana” to an acquaintance on the bus. It actually made me turn around and take note of this gentleman. And that’s it. Just that one time I’ve heard it. It’s really just the older generations that use it. I think it’s a bit sad, really, that some words aren’t hardly even used anymore. As someone who wants to learn Italian and learn it well, it feels a bit like cheating injecting words you already know!

  2. Relax - you could use the Italian verb rilassarsi, but why don’t you relax and use what you already know? ;)

  3. Budget - I was using the Italian “bilancio” for the longest time until I realized that Italians use “budget.” Why do I even try?

  4. Zero - one number down, uh, a couple trillion to go?

  5. Radio - La radio. This I learned when briefly taking Italian lessons. Yay for words that are the same, just a slightly different pronunciation! Rahhhhdio instead of Rayyyydio. Remember those pronunciation rules?

  6. Computer - they even say this one a bit like we do, the u is a “yoo” sound instead of the usual Italian “oo.” But try and roll that r a bit. I know I know, but you’ll get there!

  7. iPhone, Android, iPad, and other well-known technological products and companies - Even though Android seems to have a higher number of cell phone users, Apple is still as desired here as it is in the States. Except an iPhone can cost about €100-300 more than it’s American retail price. Add that in with a weaker economy and it doesn’t take much imagination why Android is still #1.

  8. Social - the only difference here is that Italians don’t say “media” after. It’s always just “social.”

  9. Facebook, Instagram, selfie, etc. - all those trendy words coined in recent years are all the same!

  10. Email - la email…

  11. Password - la password…I don’t even know if these have a translation in Italian. I think they are what they are.

  12. Account - I believe you can also say il conto, the same you would say when asking for the bill or tab at a restaurant. But I’ve never heard anyone use anything other than account, so, no worries!

  13. Display - what a nice display of words we have here! There are several different ways to say this in Italian, such as “mettere in mostra” / to put on display, or “sfoggiare” / to show off, display. But it’s much easier just saying display, now, isn’t it?

  14. Wi-Fi and Internet - need WiFi? You can communicate with one word. WiFi? Si? Grazie!

  15. TV - pronounced “tee-vo,” and short for televisione, but reading it is the same.

  16. Modem and Router - at this rate you might be thinking you can handle calling a help center for internet or something. You can say password, account, email, internet, modem, router…right? Wrong. This bit of knowledge I can pass on to you, internet, cable, and phone companies are awful to talk to all the world round. You may have already known this. ;)

  17. Giga - like social media, they don’t say the second word. Instead of giga-byte, it’s simply giga. I have 50 giga per month, and so far my phone service has only taken unauthorized money from my account once, and they fixed it afterwards, these are two positives of my phone company!

  18. Touch Screen - you could be all fancy and say “schermo tattile” or “schermo sensibile al tatto” but I haven’t seen those readily as touch screen is way easier to say, no?

  19. Cliccare and taggare - these might be the only verbs on this list, but they make me laugh because they just turned English words into Italian verbs. All Italian verbs end in “are” (ah-ray), “ere” (air-ay), or “ire” (eer-ay) in the infinitive form. Thus “click” became “cliccare” (to click) and “tag” became “taggare” (to tag, as in Instagram).

  20. Privacy - as stated above, I finally had to ask, how DO you say privacy in Italian? Ah. Privatezza. But goodness, you’re so uncool if you say the Italian.

  21. Area - pronounced like the name “Aria” this is the same in Italian and English.

  22. Marketing - Italians have taken American marketing to new levels. The kind that makes you roll your eyes and say “marketing.”

  23. Logo - “il logo” logos are logos the world round!

  24. Range - this one seems really random to me. But useful, because I can’t think of how to say it in Italian. Gamma, assortimento, portata, actually there a quite a few.

  25. Babysitter - or you can be a tata!

  26. Stalker - useful. Very useful.

  27. Gas - as in water “with gas.” You’ll hear this quite a bit in restaurants, but not necessarily to be used for gasoline, or the other kind. Um, flatulence?

  28. Spa - the relaxing wellness center, not to be confused with S.p.a. which is the Italian equivalent of our LLC.

  29. Fitness - fitness is so important, people! Even Italians understand this.

  30. Personal Trainer - there are so many at the gym I go to!

  31. Zumba, Spinning, Yoga, Pilates, Box, and other popular sports and activities - there are also plenty of corsi di fitness at my gym. Note that boxing is said just “box.”

  32. Studio - Pilates è in studio 1. Pilates is in studio 1. Only one word is different. Crazy, huh? (Although 1 would be pronounced “uno”)

  33. Sport - lo sport, very important in Italy and Europe.

  34. Basket - like social and box, basketball is just “basket.” Or pallacanestro.

  35. Trek - un trek!

  36. Adidas, Nike, Prada, Timberland, any well-known international brand - except, much to my enjoyment, the pronunciations are sometimes different. Not just the letters but the accent, too. I grew up hearing Adidas as “ah-DEE-des” but here it is “AH-dee-das.”

  37. Performance - or spettacolo.

  38. Record - un nuovo record! Used as in “setting a record” and that type of record, but I haven’t heard it used as the type of record related to music and other meanings.

  39. Stop - I learned some Italian phrases before coming to Italy for the first time, including the useful “basta” (stop, or enough). It would have been nice to know I could’ve also used good ol’ STOP, too.

  40. Bus - short for autobus, but ends up essentially the same in the abbreviated.

  41. Mascara - long a’s, ladies, for long eyelashes.

  42. Shopping - shoppers, rejoice!

  43. T-shirt - mi piace la tua t-shirt! Italian is “maglietta,” but they are interchangeable.

  44. Jeans - jeans are jeans. “Pantaloni” refers to all long pants, but if you want specifically a pair of jeans, the term is jeans.

  45. Push-up - I’m not sure about the exercise push-up, but ladies will have an easy time finding a certain type of lingerie in this style!

  46. Influenza - the sickness, but is also Italian for “influence.”

  47. Stress - lo stress. Yes, even Italians living their dolce vita experience stress. Che stress / what stress!

  48. Idea - what a great idea! Che bella idea! It’s the same, different pronunciation.

  49. Blu - said the same as our blue, but without the e. There is another word for blue in Italian, azzurro, that is more commonly used, especially for medium and lighter blues, but for your purposes, using “blu” is just fine.

  50. In - this is actually Italian and English, and generally used in the same way: Inside something.

  51. Me - also both Italian and English. Chi, me? Yes, you.

  52. Circa - this is usually used in English to determine an approximate date. “He was born circa 1950.” You can use it this same way in Italian, but also in many other ways, such as: with regard to, about, approximately, roughly, thereabouts, etc etc.

  53. Via - Used similarly in the two languages, to express a means of getting somewhere. “I sent it via email.” Only in Italian, however, it is the equivalent of street. I want to live in Via delle Belle Donne! In Italian you can also say “attraverso,” meaning through.

  54. Film - usually used in place of movie. Do you want to go see a movie? Vuoi andare a vedere un film?

  55. Set - film set, set of plates/set di piatti, set of silverware/set di posati…if Italians lift weights in the gym they probably have a number of steps they do. I just said set too many times in my head and now it seems like the most bizarre word. Set. Weird.

  56. Fan - this is widely used in Italian in reference to a fan club (not the ventilation fan), but if you want to sound more Italian you could say appassionato/a, fanatico/a, or tifoso/a for a sports fan.

  57. Video - a videoclip on Facebook or recording on your phone is considered a “video.”

  58. Foto - short for fotografia, but pronounced the same.

  59. Piercing - your parents might not appreciate that there isn’t even much of a language barrier for getting a piercing here. Heheh.

  60. Bomber - I’m not cool enough to know how to use this exactly right in actual English, but I do know that Italians understand it as a cool, “fuoriclasse,” or out-of-their-league person. Cristiano Ronaldo is a bomber. Maybe “This cake is the bomb” and if you made the cake, you’re the bomber? I’m trying, ok!?! Let’s just say it can be used exactly the same in Italian as it is in English, mmmk?

  61. Rock, Pop, Rap, and other types or styles of music - la radio, pop, per favore! Look, we’re already able to easily build phrases from this list. Amazing. “Per favore” I realize is not on here, but you’ll find that in any guidebook. ;)

  62. Bar - bar is the same in both languages, although it is a bit more widely used term in Italy. Bar is used to refer to just about any place that sells coffee. A true bar usually opens early with coffee and pastries, somewhere around 10am transitions to selling sandwiches “panini” and maybe some lunch dishes, and sells alcohol all day long, and finally closes sometime in the early evening.

  63. Hotel - these, of course, you will see everywhere, and if you ask an Italian they will point you to the nearest “otel.” Italian is albergo, but maybe they also eventually adopted hotel because the people who search for hotels, that would be tourists, would find and understand hotel better than albergo. Just a theory.

  64. Pizza - I think this has long been accepted as both English and Italian.

  65. Pasta - Another dual citizen here, except it has a few more meanings in Italian, not always meaning the delicious plate of carbs with wonderful sauces. Pasta can also mean dough, batter, paste, and pastry.

  66. Spaghetti, Gnocchi, Linguini, etc. - these probably seem obvious, however I will add a quick note: for whatever reason, types of pasta are sometimes referred to in their singular form. You may not notice this as a tourist, but if you hang out enough with pasta and Italians, you’ll start hearing “spaghetto” and “raviolo” or “gnocco” and “casereccia.”

  67. Panini - important note on this one…panini is PLURAL. You shouldn’t ask for one panini in Italian, that’s like ordering “one sandwiches.” It’s panino, and denotes any kind of sandwich rather than the American grilled sandwich. Just so you know. :D

  68. Cheesecake - there are many cheesecake gelato flavors and cheesecakes themselves in restaurants and gelaterie, but they generally taste quite different. They are more like a semi-freddo in texture. I don’t know why. I thought it was the cream cheese, but after making cheesecakes at home that turned out great, I still don’t understand. It shall remain a mystery for now.

  69. Hamburger - to be pronounced as Jacques Clouseau from the Pink Panther. Hamburgers are very popular here, and based on the restaurants Italians seem to think that America is stuck in the 1950’s diner era and all we eat are hamburgers, French fries, and milkshakes. Ah well, Americans think Italians only eat pizza, pasta, and wine, so we’re even, right?

  70. Hotdog - not as popular as the hamburger, but it has it’s own following and can be found in most grocery stores.

  71. Yogurt - the yogurt section can be quite extensive in grocery stores, as Italians are rather obsessed with their digestion.

  72. Avocado - millennials, rejoice! No translator needed to find your beloved green fruit. Your wallet will not rejoice, as avocados usually hover about €5/kg (that’s about $2.50-3.00/lb)

  73. Banana - you say “bah-naaa-nah,” Italians say “bah-nah-nah.”

  74. Lime - sometimes called the same as a limone. But lime and lemon are very different, how can I tell what you are offering me if you say limone? I don’t understand.

  75. Sushi and other ethnic foods - entering an ethnic restaurant that then tries to explain under the title what the dish is in Italian, can be very amusing to me. Lo mein that is explained as spaghetti just doesn’t get it for me, haha.

  76. Paprika - spelled the same, but in Italian it has a different pronunciation: PAH-pree-kuh instead of pah-PREE-kuh

  77. Curry - the same, although the u is not pronounced as the Italian u, instead it is a strong a, like in “carry.”

  78. Sultana - we usually say raisin in English, but sultana works in English and Italian!

  79. Brioche - technically a buttery, enriched French bread in French or English, this term in Italian applies to any pastry.

  80. Cocktail - cocktail and most of the classic cocktail names, Mojito, Moscow Mule, etc. will get you far during aperitivo hour.

  81. Espresso, Cappuccino, etc. - yes, all the famed coffee drinks that were invented in Italy are the same and so far we haven’t managed to mess up the pronunciation too much! Good job, everybody!

  82. Broccoli - the same in Italian and English. Random, but hey, we could all use a little more broccoli in our life!

  83. Hobby - an Italian hobby might be sitting at the local bar and people watching, wine tasting, long dinners, long strolls, watching soccer, discussing soccer, watching news discussing soccer, and playing soccer.

  84. Food Truck - Italians have picked up on the food truck trend in America and are following suit with their own trendy hamburger food trucks!

  85. Street Food - like food truck above, except I don’t think that restaurant I saw the other day advertising “street food” fully understood the concept.

  86. Take-away - mangi qui o take-away? Italian is “da portare via” or “d’asporto.”

  87. All You Can Eat - ALL sushi restaurants I have ever seen or eaten at in Italy are always the “all you can eat” formula. And “all you can eat” is always written in English, everything else in Italian. Don’t ask me why.

  88. Freezer - I always appreciated this one because for a while there I could never remember “congelatore.” Maybe because I heard the English more often than the Italian, didn’t stick with me, haha!

  89. Zebra - the same, except I say ZEE-brah, you say ZAY-brah…

  90. Zoo - everyone loves the zoo! It’s the same word except for in Italian you pronounce it “Zo.”


There you are, a whole list of “Italian” words you already knew. My little Italian prodigies!

I’m sure I’m missing a whole slew of English/Italian words, if you want to add to this list drop me a comment below!

The Italian Alphabet and Pronunciation

A nook along Cinque Terre hiking trails in full Italian speaking mode…you don’t like to find crevices that are just your size??

A nook along Cinque Terre hiking trails in full Italian speaking mode…you don’t like to find crevices that are just your size??

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Listening to Italian makes you happy, doesn’t it? It doesn’t even matter if you know what they’re saying or not. The rolls and lilts of the language are filled with an over-exaggerated sense of passion and drama, and you can’t help but smile. Unless they’re yelling, then I’m not smiling. Even if it’s probably just a friendly exchange about the last soccer match. I’m very non-confrontational and the public displays of conflict make me nervous. Run awayyyyyy! In fact, someone once thought I was Hungarian because I was so laid back and calm. Hmmm…

As far as languages go, Italian is really not that difficult to learn. Yes, it’s a foreign language and difficult, but. Have you ever tried to learn Chinese or Arabic? That’ll put things into perspective real quick! With Italian you can learn just a few phrases and suddenly you feel alive and all the hand gestures come as if you were born doing them. But before we warm up our hands and our best “mamma mia” expressions, let’s go over the alphabet and pronunciation of vowels that is oh-so-important.

The Italian Alphabet

Alright sing this and see if you can figure out which letters are missing:

A B C D E F G H I L M N O P Q R S T U V Z

(Pronounced: ah-bee-chee-dee-ae-effe-jee-acca-ee-elle-emme-enne-oh-pee-coo-erre-esse-tee-oo-voo-zeta)

Haha got it? See, Italian is easy because they have less letters than the English alphabet! Only 21, to be exact. But they messed up our nicely coordinated ABC song by Mozart. Rude. (You’ve made the connection by now that the ABC song is the same as Twinkle Twinkle, yes? Great. Ok, we can move on.)

The following letters don’t technically exist in Italian, except for in the foreign words that have been adopted:

J K W X Y

(Pronounced: ee loonga - kappa - doppio voo - eex - eepsilon)

And thusly we have eliminated half of the letters in my first name. Thanks guys!


Pronunciation of Those Vowels in Italian

  • “A” in Italian is a long A as in “ah”

    “casa” (CAH-zah)

  • “E” is usually a hard A as in “mate,” but can also be softer, closer to “eh”

    “re” (RAY [king]) / “permesso” (pair-MEH-sso [permission]); the first e is harder, the second softer

  • “I” is a hard E as in “feet”

    “ravioli” (rah-vee-oh-lee)

  • “O” is usually a hard O as in “poke,” but can also be softer, closer to “moss”

    “otto” (OHT-toe [eight]); the first o is softer, the second harder

  • “U” is a hard U as in “fluke”

    “cappuccino” (CAP-poo-CHEE-no)



How to Pronounce Key Consonants in Italian

  • “C” is a hard c as in “cup” unless it is immediately followed by an i or e in which case it is a soft c as in “chocolate.”

    “cono” (CO-no [cone]) / “cioccolato” (CHYO-co-lah-to [chocolate]) / “cena” (CHAY-na [dinner])

  • “Ch” is always pronounced as a hard c.

    “chiuso” (kee-OO-zo [closed])

  • “G” is a hard g as in “gas” unless it is immediately followed by an i or e in which case it is a soft g as in “Germany.” (J doesn’t exist in the Italian alphabet, so any j sound is made with a g and an i or e. The Italian version of my name is spelled Genny, short for Giovanna.)

    “gatto” (GAH-to [cat]) / “giardino” (jyar-DEE-no [garden]) / “gelato” (je-LAH-to)

  • “Gh” is always pronounced as a hard g.

    “ghiaccio” ( ghyA-chyo [ice])

  • S” is a z sound like the s in “pose” if it is between vowels, otherwise it is an s sound as in “soup”

    “casino” (ca-ZEE-no [mess]) / “pasta” (PAH-sta)

  • “SS” is an s sound like in “messy”

    “bellissima” (bell-EE-see-ma [so pretty])

  • “Z” is a normal z sound as in “zebra” at the beginning of words, otherwise it is a ts sound as in “mats”

    “zucchero” (ZOO-kair-o [sugar]) / “stazione” (Sta-tsee-O-nay [station])

  • “R” is always semi-rolled, not the “er” sound we make in English where the tongue doesn’t come in contact with any part of the mouth.

    “mercato” (mair-CAH-to [market])

  • “RR” is an exaggerated roll. And yes, you can learn to roll your r’s!

    “ferro” (FAY-rrrr-o [iron])

  • “GN” is pronounced like the ñ in Spanish; the g is silent.

    “gnocchi” (nyO-kee)

  • “GLI” when it is in the middle of a word or used as an article (“gli” [plural for the]) is the L version of ñ; the closest example would be like the lli in “million.” This one is harder to write without hearing it, especially because many people struggle with this subtle but particular sound. It’s like saying “Lee” while trying to stretch the back of your tongue between your molars and the roof of your mouth instead of just touching the tip of your tongue to the front of the mouth to make the normal L sound…or in other words trying to say it more from the back of your mouth than just the front. (How are we doing? If there is anyone by you, you may want to explain why you’re contorting your mouth so much.)

    “famiglia” (fa-MEE-lya) / “gli uomini” (LYEE oo-OH-mee-nee [the men])

  • “SC” is an sh sound as in “shop” if it is followed by an i or e, otherwise the letters are pronounced normally as in “escape.”

    “scienza” (shee-EN-za [science]) / “sconto” (SKOHN-toe [discount])

  • “H” is always silent.

    Santa Clause says “ho ho ho” / Babbo Natale says “O O O”


In my head it was going to be a lot easier writing all that out than it actually was. It seems like a lot of information, but don’t worry, it’s actually quite simple with a bit of practice!

Food in Florence: Great Aperitivo

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Aperitivo. You either love it or…don’t know what it is?

Aperitivo in Italy refers to a period in the evening, usually between 6pm - 8pm where people gather to drink cocktails, wine, or non-alcoholic drinks and eat some light snacks and food. You usually pay between 7-10euro for a drink and includes all the food they have set out in a buffet-like style. It’s a bit like happy hour, except the point isn’t to take advantage of the cheap drinks, but to stimulate your digestion before dinner. Ya know, science, heheh.

Plate of random food from buffet at O Bar

Plate of random food from buffet at O Bar

In my personal experience, if I actually want to be able to eat dinner afterwards, I just get a drink without going for the actual “aperitivo” price which includes the snackies. But. Also in my experience, if you plan on going out for aperitivo, especially with a group of students, people on a budget, or people with light appetites, that actually means you’ll linger so long you basically eat a meal of the hors d’oeuvres, or end up ordering a couple plates to share because everyone is too full to eat their own but felt bad that their party wiped clean the buffet bar. The larger your group I think the more likely the latter is to happen, but it’s not uncommon, and either way is highly enjoyable. Either way you look at it you’re with good food, drinks, and company.

A Quick History of the Aperitivo

The Italian word “Aperitivo” comes from the Latin “Aperitivus” which means “che apre” or “which tends to open the bowels.” (Do I sound like the dad on My Big Fat Greek Wedding?) Namely, a drink that is able to stimulate or “open” your digestion from the forthcoming onslaught of food. That thing we normally call dinner.

Apparently, in the 5th century the Greek physician Hippocrates discovered that a drink based on white wine, flowers of dittany, absinthe, and rue could help his patients who complained of loss of appetite. This concoction was then passed down through time until it reached the medicinal doctors of Medieval times. These doctors found that it wasn’t so much these particular ingredients that had this effect, but rather the bitterness of them. For this reason, the principal drinks served during aperitivo hour are based on bitter components.

The actual aperitivo as it is known in Italy today was born in Torino in the late 1700’s by one Antonio Benedetto Carpano, who invented vermouth. It was tasted by the then King of Italy, Vittorio Emanule II, who enjoyed this bitter drink so much he made it an official drink of court. It became a must drink for many famous people to come, such as Cavour and Garibaldi. Entering the 1800’s others eventually invented their own bitter drinks for the aperitivo to be drunk before a meal, with amaro, Campani, and Martini becoming particularly popular and are still the main stays of aperitivo today.

Which brings us to the question, what are the cocktails you can expect to find in Florence and around Italy?

Typical Cocktails in Italy

  • Spritz - prosecco, club soda, and either Aperol or Campari. Born in Italy, this is probably the most famous aperitivo here. There are two main versions, the Aperol Spritz, with Aperol, and the Campari Spritz, with Campari.

  • Negroni - gin, vermouth rosso, Campari. Invented in Florence in the 1920’s.

  • Negroni Sbagliato - vermouth rosso, Campari, prosecco. Created by accident in the 1960’s when a barman went to make a Negroni and instead of gin found in his hand prosecco…the rest is history.

  • Americano - Campari, sweet vermouth, club soda. Created in the latter half of the 19th century in either Torino or Milan.

  • Martini Dry - gin, dry vermouth. Another Italian cocktail born in the 19th century.

These are the typical Italian aperitivi, although be sure to check out the menus or ask wherever you go to see the creations and offerings of that particular place, including all the classics such as mojito, Moscow mule, gin and tonic, etc.

If for whatever reason you don’t want to partake in an alcoholic beverage, you can usually get a tonic with lemon or various other flavors of Schweppes they might have on hand, fruit juice, Crudino (a sweet and bitter non-alcoholic drink similar in taste to the alcoholic ones, I love it), soft drinks, or ask if the barman can make you a special non-alcoholic drink of his or your choice!


Great Aperitivo

In no particular order

Non-alcoholic cocktail invented by the barman.

Non-alcoholic cocktail invented by the barman.

  1. ARTS INN

    Via del Porcellana, 63r, close to the church of Santa Maria Novella.

    A very cool little place specializing in cocktails, two floors and various nooks and crannies where you’re bound to find a cozy little corner to chat with friends.

  2. La Cité

    Borgo S. Frediano, 20, south of the river not far from the church of Santo Spirito.

    This place is also featured on my list for the best coffee in Florence (as is Caffetteria delle Oblate below), because it is such a great and versatile place. Great for meeting friends, studying, going for cocktails or coffee. Like ARTS INN, it has an up and downstairs and much more exciting seating options than your typical place.

  3. La Pescatoria

    Via Palazzuolo 80r, not far from the train station SMN.

    This is the aperitivo for fish lovers. Most of their buffet has something to do with some kind of fish, dips, crostini, salads etc. I think my favorite part was the fried fish, so good! Nice atmosphere as well.

  4. Caffetteria delle Oblate

    Via dell’Oriuolo, 26, in the center not far from the Duomo.

    An aperitivo on the third floor of an old convent. It has views of the Duomo without paying the higher prices of aperitivos usually on hotel rooftops. This place is very popular with students and at times it can be hard to find seating, but sitting on the steps or floor around the terrace is always an option if your bones can take it.

  5. Quelo Bar

    Borgo Santa Croce, 15r, two steps from the church of Santa Croce.

    Very chic place with nice offerings in a relatively quiet street leading straight to Santa Croce. Limited outdoor seating, nice seating inside.

  6. O Bar

    Via de’ bardi, 54, just a few steps from Ponte Vecchio.

    Nice wines and buffet with a great view of Ponte Vecchio and the river! Prices aren’t bad either considering, I believe it’s 10euro for drink and buffet, which is pretty standard.

  7. Gallery

    Via dei Benci, 30, close to the church of Santa Croce.

    This for me is the quintessential aperitivo in Italy. Something about the type of place and their offerings make them appealing to many and accessible, but not super special. This was one of the more frequented places for meeting with friends when I first came to Florence. There are quite a few aperitivo places on the street, and it has quite the night life.

  8. Kitsch

    Two locations: Viale Antonio Gramsci 1/5r on the east edge of the city center, and Via San Gallo, 22r, close to San Marco.

    An eclectic place with a decent offering of drinks and buffet food. Usually one of the first places suggested when trying to meet for aperitivo, as it’s known to most and has two convenient locations.

Seasonal summer pop-ups:

Because these are seasonal places they don’t usually have an actual address, but you can find it on Googlemaps by typing in the name. These places don’t include the buffet but you can choose to order some small plates or meals along with your drinks.

  1. Utopiko

    Lots of unique and hand crafted seating in a park along the river, outside the city center. They have some delicious cocktails, but their non-alcoholic options are limited.

  2. Lungarno del Tempio

    Food truck style food kiosks and bars appear for the summer in this park along the river just outside the crazy city center. Great to finally catch the breeze off the river while sipping on a cold drink after a hot day walking around the city. Note: Typing in Lungarno del Tempio will get you a pin on the map actually across the street, for more accuracy type in La Toraia Lungarno del Tempio which is one of the food kiosks.

  3. Molo Firenze

    Outdoor and great summery aperitivo on the river, just past Lungarno del Tempio. They can get the music going so best if you want more of club vibe than a quiet, chat with my friends type feel.

For a classy aperitivo experience try:

  1. The Fusion Bar & Restaurant

    Vicolo dell’Oro, 3, a few steps from the Ponte Vecchio.

    A part of a hotel, this place is a local institution with competent barmen and original cocktails. The food is Asian fusion cuisine, so don’t forget the sushi! Higher end prices.

  2. Harry’s Bar Firenze

    Lungarno Amerigo Vespucci, 22r, just a 6 minute walk from the American Consulate.

    Elegant ambience in a historic Florentine locale with nice views and elevated prices.

  3. Locale Firenze

    Via delle Seggiole, 12r, between the Duomo and Santa Croce.

    A historic restaurant with a notable bar and aperitivo smack dab in the center of the center. If you decide to stay and dine you’ll find well-thought out Italian dishes. You’ll want to dress up a bit for this place for sure.


If you have any questions or have suggestions to add to the list, leave a comment below! I always love hearing from you guys!

Food in Florence: Where to Find the Best Eats

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Choosing where to eat in a new city is always one of the hardest decisions. Especially if that city is half way across the world and you don’t get over there every day.

Fiesole+pasta.jpg

This is important because I essentially love traveling for two principle reasons: The culture and the food. But how to find, say, good Belgian waffles and frites in Bruges, Belgium, or croissants and baguettes in Paris, France, or pizza and mozzarella di bufala in Napoli, Italy, when most of the places you see are screaming “tourist trap!”?

Unless you are fortunate enough to know some locals, you are completely left to yourselves, aside, of course, from the hundreds of books and online guides touting the 10 best places to eat. The overwhelming part for me is weighing through the endless sites and opinions, some of which are good, and an amazing number of which are not at all reliable. So here I’m just going to throw myself in the mix, as a local in Florence, with some of my favorite places to eat, namely lunch and dinner!

Lunch and Dinner in Italy

First, a few quick notes about lunch and dinner in Italy.

Sit-down lunchtime is roughly from 12:00pm - 3:00pm, with the peak being 1:00pm - 2:00pm. If you go before or after these hours, chances are the restaurant will be closed or not serving lunch anymore.

If you find yourself in need of a snack before lunchtime hits, pop into any bar and pick up a quick sandwich. If I eat a late breakfast at a bar I often notice quite a few working men who pop in for a sandwich starting as early as 10:00am. These sandwiches are pre-made (but should be made that same day!) in the display case and slowly replace the pastries as the morning wears on. You can get a large or small, and they are usually simple with just 2-3 ingredients on a focaccia type bread. You could try a mozzarella, tomato, and lettuce, or prosciutto and tomato, or mortadella (Italian equivalent of bologna) and cheese, or bresaola (prosciutto made with beef instead of pork), arugula, and cheese, etc.

Dinnertime in Italy generally starts from 7:30pm and can linger on until 11 or later, especially in the summer when that is when it finally cools down. Most restaurants don’t open until 7:30pm for the dinner shift. It’s rare to find a restaurant that doesn’t close between the lunch and dinner shifts, as you’ll be able to see from the opening hours below.

Remember, if you sit down there will almost always be a “coperto” or cover charge, usually about 1.50 - 2euro per person, which cover the cost of napkins, bread, etc. And you have to pay for water, even if it’s tap water that comes in a refillable bottle. For more dining and Italy tips take a look at this list.

Hours may vary. You can make reservations on quandoo.it or thefork.it.


Where to Find the Best Eats

In no particular order

  1. Simbiosi Organic

    Via de’ Ginori, 56r, 58r/60r (two locations), near to San Lorenzo.

    Simbiosi has two different locations around the corner from each other. The original location is an organic pizzeria, with great decor: exposed bricks and chandeliers! The second location features organic pasta and other plates, and both locations have a nice selection of organic beer and wine. Oh, and the food is really good, especially the pizza. They appreciate reservations.

  2. Le Follie di Romualdo

    Via di San Niccolò, 39r, south of the city center on the way to Piazzale Michelangelo.

    Open 7:00pm - 1:00am Monday through Friday, 7:00pm - 12:00am Saturday, closed Sunday.

    Romualdo is a well-known “pizzaiuolo” (pizza maker) around Florence and beyond, his being named among the top 20 best pizzas in the world by the New York Times and has received twice the highest acknowledgment from the best pizza guide Pizzerie D’Italia del Gambero Rosso. All that to say, you’ll eat some really, really good pizza here. The other food is good, too! During the summer he has a popup pizza place near the river.

  3. Osteria Cinghiale Bianco

    Borgo San Jacop, 43, just a bit away from the Santa Trinita bridge in a lovely neighborhood south of the center.

    Open 6:30pm - 10:30pm Monday through Friday, 12 - 2:30pm & 6:30pm - 10:30pm Saturday and Sunday.

    Lovely local place with delicious typical Tuscan food and wine, housed in the bottom of a tower from 300 a.d.!

  4. Enoteca Fuori Porta

    Via del Monte alle Croci, 10, on the way to Piazzale Michelangelo.

    This is a cute little wine shop with great meat and cheese plates and, of course, wine. Great for a snack, a light meal, or just a drink. Indoor and outdoor seating and conveniently located on the way to Piazzale Michelangelo (a nice uphill hike to get the views) for a snack after all that exertion. ;)

  5. All’antico Vinaio

    Via dei Neri, 76, between Palazzo Vecchio and the church of Santa Croce.

    Open 10:00am - 10:30pm Monday through Sunday.

    This is the most famous sandwich place in Florence, and have had lines since the first time I went in 2014. They have since expanded to at least 2 locations, one for sandwiches and one Osteria. I recommend going before or after prime lunch time to avoid the long lines; I’ve never been for dinner so can’t vouch for what the lines are like. Take your sandwich to go and sit on the steps of a church or piazza to enjoy your food.

  6. Antica Panineria

    Via Faenza, 53. Between the train station and San Lorenzo.

    Another delicious and cheap focaccia sandwich place. Located not too far from the train station, this makes for a convenient lunch on the train, or there is a nice area outside to sit!

  7. Gustapizza

    Via Maggio, 46r, south of the river.

    Open 11:30am - 3:30pm & 7:00pm - 11:30pm Tuesday through Sunday, closed Monday.

    Decent prices and just really good pizza. This is considered by some the best pizza in Florence. In my personal opinion, as they’ve become well known and busy, their quality control has dropped a bit. Obviously, they still made this list, but maybe instead of THE best they are one of the best. How’s that?

  8. Mercato Centrale

    Piazza del Mercato Centrale, Via dell’Ariento, near to the church of San Lorenzo

    Open 8:00am - 12:00am every day

    On the second floor is the Italian style food court, except everything is made fresh and on the spot. This is great for larger groups because there is something to please everyone, but be warned, it can get crazy up here even if there are hundreds of tables; it’s popular! So aim for a bit before or after lunch or dinner, if you can. There’s pasta, pizza, sushi, hamburgers, steak, vegan, seafood, various typical Florentine options, and more. My only word of warning is that not every stall is made equally. I personally recommend the pizza (that fluffy Neopolitan crust, oh man!), the seafood fresh or fried, the famous Florentine steak (bistecca fiorentina, one of the best), gelato, bread or desserts from the French stall “Bedu,” and vegan. They also have large TVs setup so you can watch the soccer matches, although that also means many seats will be occupied by people who aren’t even eating during those times. Rude. ;)

  9. Da Nerbone

    Piazza del Mercato Centrale, near to the church of San Lorenzo

    Open 8:00am - 3:00pm Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday.

    This is a very busy, very delicious, traditional Tuscan food stand on the ground floor of the Mercato Centrale among all the farmer’s market stands. They usually have a long line but it moves fast enough. The hard part is getting a seat, so have someone ordering and picking up the food, another scouting and claiming a table! I love the Lampredotto (very typical Florentine, I’m gonna go ahead and let you google that one), any of the pasta dishes, and the beef cheek. And I don’t even hardly eat beef! Comfort food at it’s greatest.

  10. Pizzeria Orto del Cigno

    Via di Varlungo, 27, on the east side of the city center not far from Tuscany Hall.

    Open 7:00pm - 11:45pm Tuesday through Sunday, closed Monday.

    A pizzeria that feels like home, because they serve large pizzas that everyone can eat a slice from American style, instead of the individual pizzas. You can get each pizza with 2 or 3 of the topping options, so you can try more! I absolutely fell in love with the parmigiana…definitely one of the top 5 pizzas I’ve ever eaten!

    I recommend taking a stroll from the city center along the river going east, the sidewalk eventually turns into a peaceful reprieve from the touristy center, with nature and the river on your right and locals jogging past. About a 45 minute walk and the pizzeria will be on your left.

  11. Aji Tei

    Viale Spartaco Lavagnini, 20A, not far from the tip of the city center, Piazza Libertà.

    Open 12:30pm - 2:30pm & 7:30pm - 11:00pm Tuesday through Sunday, closed Monday.

    My favorite sushi in Florence, and that’s saying something because there are a ton of Japanese restaurants around. I have yet to meet a sushi in Italy that is not the “all you can eat” formula, but have you ever not wanted to eat all you can of sushi? Their menu is extensive (sushi, sashimi, special rolls, fried stuff, hot and cold plates) and the “all you can eat” includes everythinggggg except drinks, I think it even includes dessert. The price is high, around 30euro a head for dinner, but if you break down how many rolls of sushi I can consume, it turns out to be a pretty good deal. Oh, and the ambience is super cool.

  12. Ristorante Giapponese Rakutei

    Via della Casaccia, 19-21-23, on the east side of the city center.

    Open 12:15pm - 3:00pm & 7:15pm - 11:45pm everyday, except Monday is only open in the evening.

    I just mentioned my favorite sushi above, but this place is also really good and much more conveniently located for where I live, and also for those of you who are staying on the east side of town or at the campground. “All you can eat” once again! Take bus 14 to get here and get off at the “casaccia” bus stop.

  13. PassaGuai

    Borgo San Frediano, 44r, on the south side of the river near to the church of Santo Spirito.

    Open 12:30pm - 3:00pm & 7:30pm - 11:00pm everyday, except Tuesday is only open in the evening.

    This was one of the favorite places my family ate at during our vacation here, a cool little spot with absolutely delicious sandwiches for 4euro. It’s now evolved into a restaurant with an emphasis on meat and fish, but still the same owners and quality food.

  14. Le Sorgenti

    Via Chiara, 6r, right by the Mercato Centrale.

    Open 11:00am - 3:00pm & 5:30pm - 11:00pm everyday, except Tuesday is only open in the evening.

    One of my favorite Chinese places, although there are so many and quite a few of them are delicious! Order lots of small plates and share, they’re reasonably priced. I recommend the taglierini alla griglia (basically grilled lo mein) and the branzino alla griglia (grilled sea bass). YUM.

  15. 米先生餐厅 SIG.RISO RESTAURANT

    Via Sant’Antonino, 8r, close to the train station and Mercato Centrale

    Open 11:00am - 10:30pm everyday.

    Another great Chinese restaurant, I used to live almost next door. This area is a bit like the unofficial Chinatown. I recommend the spicy seaweed! Good prices.

  16. Los Chicos

    Via dei Benci, 15r, near to the church of Santa Croce.

    Open 11:00am - 3:00am everyday.

    Florence has a sadly lacking Mexican food scene. This place, however, can get a you a nice burrito or taco! Last I can remember the tacos are 3euro each, but when did I ever eat just one taco? Oh, and don’t forget margaritas!

  17. Ararat Ristorante Armeno

    Borgo la Croce, 32r, near to Sant’Ambrogio on the east side of the center.

    Open 12:00pm - 11:00pm every day.

    I had never had Armenian food until I ate here, but I can now say I’m a fan! Their food is well-executed with lots of meat and vegetables. The flatbread is DELICIOUS. It’s also a really pretty place, gold silverware, anyone?

  18. Avanti - Pizza & Grill - Ristorante Arabo

    Via S. Pier Maggiore, 6r, close to the Santa Maria Nuova hospital.

    Open 11:00am - 11:00pm everyday.

    The menu is a mix of pizza and Iraqi food, and although I can’t speak for the pizza, I haven’t eaten anything short of scrumptious from the Iraqi section. And why would you need a pizza if you have such Arab goodness in front of you?

  19. Rosticceria Tavola Marrochina

    Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 11, directly opposite the Mercato Centrale on the parking lot side. Beware of the pinpoint on google maps because it isn’t on the right street, even if the address itself seems to be correct.

    Open 9:00am - 11:30pm Tuesday through Sunday, closed Monday.

    This is a little hole in the wall restaurant owned and run by a Moroccan family. The seating can be a bit tight, but the food is delicious and the prices decent. Lunchtime is best, as the options get slimmer the longer the evening wears on. My favorites are couscous (of course), the harira soup, msemmen (thin, crispy bread often filled with cheese, harissa, and boiled eggs or cheese and honey), and the mint tea.

Now I’m hungry…ah well off to eat some homemade vegan sloppy joes, it’ll be just as good. I hope.


More Ideas

This is a list of places that I would like to try one day, either that I’ve heard good things about or they just looked really interesting walking by! If you try any of them before me, let me know in the comments below how you liked it!

  1. Adagio

  2. Cacio Vino Trallalla

  3. Foody Farm

  4. Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura


Where are your favorite places to eat around Florence, what have I missed? Have you tried any of the places on here? Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love hearing your thoughts and experiences!

Coffee Culture in Italy

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Coffee. caffè. قهوة. ቡና. koffie. kafe. սուրճ. קפה. kaffi. caife. café. コーヒー. кофе. 咖啡. káva. kahve. ყავა. coffi. καφές. kope. ikhofi. cà phê. کافی. കോഫി. kahvi. kape. kohvi. kafo. kaffe. కాఫీ. kafija. capulus. kahawa.

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More than 33 ways to say coffee in at least 37 different languages.  (Some overlap, i.e. café is Spanish, French, and Portugal.)  And even the ones that don’t share the Latin alphabet and I can’t even begin to sound out sound similar to the word “coffee.”  I know that because Google Translate and transliteration.  Amazing, isn’t it?  I mean, the languages, not Google Translate, but yeah, that’s pretty amazing also.  So many different cultures and people and centuries, and coffee is so important in so many of them.  Not least of all Italy, which is why I’m writing this post.  (Coffee in Italian is the second language written, “caffè,” and you will hear it and see it, ALOT.) 

In fact, Italy is the birthplace of many of the coffee drinks you drink today, including cappuccino, espresso, macchiato, and latte, although ordering them at Starbucks is going to get you something very different than what you would get in Italy.

So, what are the principal coffee drinks in Italy?

(You can find your own espresso depresso t-shirt on Amazon, yasssss)


The drinks on a typical Italian coffee menu

Cappuccino

Cappuccino

  • Espresso - “Expressed”

    A strong shot of coffee and what is considered “normal coffee.” If you go into a bar and order a “caffè,” they will usually clarify by asking “caffè normale?” which of course, literally means normal coffee. It is drunk throughout the day at any time, and particularly after lunch and dinner to help digestion.

    You can order a “ristretto” (restricted) where the espresso shot is pulled early resulting in a shorter, stronger shot, or you can order a “lungo” (long) which is the opposite, a taller and waterier (is that a word?) shot of espresso.

    The name means “expressed” which could denote any or all of the three meanings of the word in English or Italian. First, the method in which espresso is made, where the steam “expresses” and pressures the coffee flavor into the water, second, that it is made quickly or “expressly,” and third, that it is made “expressly” for one person. This, however, still does not give you license to call it an “expresso,” mmk?

  • Macchiato - “Stained”

    You can order a macchiato two ways: A caffè macchiato or a latte macchiato. Caffè macchiato means “stained coffee” so you will get an espresso with a small dollop of milk, usually foamed. A latte macchiato means “stained milk” and will get you hot milk with some coffee served in a glass, with or without the foamy milk, depending on the different preparations.

  • Cappuccino - “Little Hood”

    The Italian coffee of choice for breakfast (and mine!) and probably doesn’t need much intro. The cappuccino, also called cappuccio which means just “hood,” got its name from the color of the hood of the Capuchin monks which it apparently resembles. According to this site (in Italian) a cappuccino should be 25ml of coffee and 125ml of milk with lots of foam.

    Oh, and you might have heard that you should never drink a cappuccino in Italy after noon or you’ll get kicked out of the country? Not exactly true. It’s mostly because, according to most Italians, milk upsets digestion unless it is a part of the traditional cappuccino and pastry breakfast in which the milk acts as an element of the meal.  But consuming milk after a heavier lunch or dinner, especially at night, is too much.  As this Italian Mamma explains, “When the casein in milk combines with the hot coffee, given the high temperature, it combines with the tannic acids characteristic of the drink (or rather the coffee); this meeting then produces a chemical composition that weighs down the digestion.” I’m not here to vouch if this is sound science or not, just quoting so you can get an idea of the Italian thinking. If you choose to abide by this “rule,” drink your cappuccino by itself or with a cookie, pastry, or something small and light and far away from mealtimes, breakfast aside.

  • Caffè Latte - “Milk Coffee”

    Or caffellatte. In America we have long since dropped the “caffè” and simply order a latte. This strategy in Italy, however, will simply get you a glass of milk. A caffè latte is essentially a cappuccino without the foam.

  • Caffè Americano - “American Coffee”

    A larger cup of weaker coffee in comparison to the classic espresso.  The classic way to prepare a caffè americano in Italy is to add hot water to an espresso.  Yum.  Not.  There are a few places you can find that have drip “American” coffee and even a few who do pour overs. 

  • Caffè Corretto - “Corrected Coffee”

    Because, normal coffee is not correct. It must be corrected, and with a small amount of liquor. The type of alcohol used can vary depending on the region, but usually grappa is used, sometimes brandy, Sambuco, or l’anice, a type of anise liquor, or even Bailey’s.

  • Caffè al Ginseng - “Ginseng Coffee”

    This is definitely one you should try, delicious even if it is a bit pre-fab. It is usually a powder mix they add to a machine and dispense as ordered, so not fresh coffee, but it’s a pungent and sweet little drink that I unabashedly love. You can order an “alto” tall or “basso” short, depending on if you want it to be the equivalent to roughly a shot of espresso or double shot. The sugar usually lies at the bottom so you’ll want to stir it before consuming.

    Ginseng has long been a part of Chinese medicine and has become popular around the world where you can find it in just about any store’s health supplement section. It is supposed to have many health benefits, including being a powerful antioxidant reducing inflammation, benefiting brain function, benefiting against cancer, boosting the immune system, increasing energy, lowering blood sugar, and having aphrodisiacal qualities. However, many of these studies seem to prove only the “may benefit” or “could help” factors with nothing concrete.

  • Marocchino - “Moroccan”

    Despite its name this drink was also invented in Italy, in Piemonte. At first glance it may seem just a cappuccino with cocoa, but it is much better than that. There are quite a few different preparations, but almost all include espresso, cocoa, and steamed milk served in a clear glass. Often the glass is first sprinkled with cocoa, then the espresso is added, then steamed milk and finally more cocoa. The official site of Illy (one of the top Italian coffee roasters, you’ve probably heard of them or seen their coffee in the States) gives the preparation for the Marocchino at home as thus: Place about 1 Tbsp / 10-15ml of hot chocolate in a glass, then prepare directly in the same cup about 2 Tbsp / 20-25ml of espresso, sprinkle with a thin layer of cocoa, then steam about 2 Tbsp / 25ml of milk and add to the glass over the cocoa.

  • Shakerato - “Shaken”

    Coffee shaken in a cocktail shaker with ice and if desired, sugar. The resulting refreshingly icy coffee with a bit of foam is usually served in a martini glass, sometimes a flute glass.

    I like this word because it is an English word that has been Italianified. I don’t think that’s even a word. “Sh” doesn’t exist in traditional Italian spelling, nor does “k.” They say a “sh” sound, but it is spelled with “sci” or “sce.” Essentially they took the word “shaker” and turned it into an Italian verb, shakerare, which means to shake drinks in a shaker. Then this drink’s name is the past tense, shakerato, meaning shaken. It makes me laugh, neither truly Italian or English!

  • Caffè d’Orzo - “Barley Coffee”

    For those who prefer decaffeinated drinks you have the choice between ordering your favorite coffee decaffeinated or with orzo / barley instead of coffee beans.

    Decaffeinated coffee, as you probably know, are coffee beans which have gone through a process to remove the caffeine. They process usually involves hot water and methylene chloride, of which trace amounts will end up in your coffee (it’s also used as paint stripper, yum). The USDA requires that a minimum of 97% caffeine be extracted for coffee beans to be considered decaffeinated. Decaffeinated coffee will always have a small amount of caffeine in it.

    Crushed barley is used much like coffee beans to attain a dark and bitter drink which assimilates coffee, although it has its own distinctive taste. It became popular during war times in Italy when coffee beans became too expensive. Unlike decaffeinated coffee, barley is completely caffeine free, but not suitable for those who can’t consume gluten.


The Italian coffee experience

You could parachute out of a plane and land just about anywhere in Italy and still be in sight of some place that sells coffee.

My happy face while trying the coffee at Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè, a historical cafe and roastery in Rome.

My happy face while trying the coffee at Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè, a historical cafe and roastery in Rome.

The Italian bar is a way of life here. “Bar” is a general term for any place that sells coffee. Often the name of the place has “bar” in the title, but this can also include any cafe or pasticceria that sells coffee. A bar usually has, what do you know, a bar with a rung at the bottom for standing comfortably with one foot propped up while you wait for and down your coffee.

Anytime you see an old friend or need to meet up with a colleague, you head to the nearest bar, offer them a caffè, throw it back, and you’re each on your way. And this can happen several times a day, because I don’t think I’ve met an Italian yet who stops at one coffee a day. It’s very different from the lingering 2 hour catch-up with friends or I’m-just-going-to-sit-here-and-use-the-free-wifi-on-my-computer-and-get-some-work-done experience in America. In fact, the very few times I’ve brought my computer and sat in a bar or pasticceria I felt very strange, and very millennial. Even if I linger over my coffee for more than say, 20 minutes, by the time I leave it’s a whole new crowd. The exception seems to be some of the older generation who will sit outside and people watch for hoursssss.

If you are looking for more of an American coffee shop type experience, there are a select few that are on the cutting edge, and these are the only ones that I don’t feel the oddball out if I linger too long or decide to bring my computer. You’ll find that the other young and international people who take their coffee seriously and felt more at home in a “coffee shop” type setting have gravitated to these places as well.

Then there are the restaurants, where you will always find caffè as your post-meal digestive, a must for many Italians, lunch or dinner!

For the best coffee around Florence, read this.

What are your favorite coffee drinks in Italy? Let me know in the comments below!

Food in Florence: Where to Find the Best Coffee

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Italy is known for it’s coffee. Your coffee beverage of choice was probably invented in Italy. Cappuccino? Yep. (Caffè) Latte? Yes. Macchiato? You bet. And of course, the king of coffee in Italy, the espresso. It’s by far the most commonly consumed coffee, so much so that all you have to do is enter a bar and order a “caffè” or “caffè normale” (literally translated, normal coffee) and you will be served an espresso. It took me awhile to realize that I didn’t need to specify an espresso when I order because it’s a given; the Italians just ask for “un caffè.”

Duomo cappuccino art

Duomo cappuccino art

That said, it’s surprising how much bad coffee I’ve consumed in Italy. I believe a lot of it comes down to poorly sourced beans and/or over-roasted beans. (If beans have an oily appearance they have been roasted too long; they lost their oil!) Combine that with equipment that doesn’t get cleaned or wiped down enough and baristas who don’t have the passion to even perfect their cappuccino and you get a rather bitter experience. Don’t mind the pun. This list will help guide you to GOOD coffee in Florence so you don’t have to feel the burn from bad coffee. Again, I’m sorry for the pun. (Maybe not really.)

The places on this list range from a more traditional Italian coffee experience (downing an espresso quickly while standing at the bar or sitting) to the trendier locales with ample seating and ambience where people might come to study or work on their computer, which is essentially the American coffee shop experience. But no matter the style, the common denominator is the good coffee experience, whether sipped or thrown back. You might recognize some of these places from the Most Scrumptious Breakfast list, because good breakfasts and good coffee definitely have an overlap. But good coffee doesn’t always mean good pastries, and vice versa, hence the different posts.

To read more about the coffee drinks you’ll find in Italy, click here.


Where to Find the Best Coffee in Florence

In no particular order

  1. Ditta Artigianale

    Location 1: Via dei Neri, 30/32r, between the church of Santa Croce and Palazzo Vecchio Location 2: Via dello Sprone, 5r, very close to Palazzo Pitti

    Open 8:00am - 12:00am Monday through Friday, 9:00am - 12:00am Saturday and Sunday

    Ditta Artigianale was founded in 2013 by an award-winning barista and is considered by many the best coffee in Florence, and they are usually busy to show it. This has one of the closest vibes to an American coffee shop with the quality coffee, cool and informal atmosphere, and competent baristas. Many people come here to work as well as socialize, drink coffee, and eat. They have single-origin coffee choices and you can buy their whole beans or have them grind them for you to make coffee at home as well as a delicious cold brew.

  2. La Ménagère

    Via de’ Neri, 8, right in the center by San Lorenzo and the Mercato Centrale

    Open 8:00am - 2:30am every day

    A large caffè that serves coffee and food with different rooms on the main floor, basement, and even outside that is designed for lingering with friends or work. You can even buy botanicals or select house items, or listen to live music some evenings.

  3. Mercato Centrale

    Piazza del Mercato Centrale, Via dell’Ariento, near to the church of San Lorenzo

    Open 8:00am - 12:00am every day

    Up on the second floor of this historic wrought iron building you will find a large Italian-style food court. In the center there is a bar where you can order coffee, or you can find a place to sit and a waiter should eventually come to ask if you’d like something to drink, at no extra charge. It can get extremely busy during the lunch and dinner hours, so I would recommend going in the morning when it is calm or between 3:00pm and 7:30pm to avoid the crowds. Bonus: you can order a large (and maybe even an extra large?) cappuccino called a “cappuccione” for around 2euro (and maybe 3 for the extra large!)

  4. Coffee Mantra

    Borgo la Croce, 71r, near Piazza Beccaria on the east side of town in a very local area

    Open 7:00am - 7:00pm Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday

    A new and hip little coffee place in the Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood. I recommend getting your drink to go (I believe they even do flat whites here) and take a stroll around the Sant’Ambrogio market around the corner or any of the antique markets nearby.

  5. Santarosa Bistrot

    Lungarno di Santa Rosa, on the south side of the river.

    Open 8:00am - Midnight weekdays, 10:00am - Midnight Saturday and Sunday

    A lovely caffe with lots of beautiful green surrounding. It creates a wonderful escape from the bustling city center and is one of my favorite places to catch up with friends over a nice cup of coffee or tea.

  6. La Cité

    Borgo S. Frediano, 20r, on the south side of the river not far from the church of Santo Spirito.

    Open 10:00am - 12:02am Monday through Saturday, 2:00pm - 9:00pm Sunday

    A two story cafe and book store, this is a great place to work on projects or find a private nook for deep conversations over a good cup of coffee. Very cozy and artsy.

  7. Chiaroscuro

    Via del Corso, 36r, between the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio.

    Open 7:30am - 9:30pm Monday through Saturday, 8:00am - 9:30pm Sunday

    I always thought this cafe had a classy classic feel to it, great for meeting up with people or a quick coffee but not so much for using it as a place to work from. They have coffee sourced from around the world displayed on their wall and you can even choose which beans you want for your cup of coffee.

  8. Caffetteria Piansa

    Via Vincenzo Gioberti, 51r, just outside the city center on the east side.

    Open 7:00am - 7:30pm Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday

    Piansa roasts their own coffee and sells to other places around town. If you find any cafe that uses the Piansa beans, it’s probably going to be great! Here you can even get pour overs and buy Chemex and filters!


Food in Florence: Where to Eat the Most Scrumptious Breakfasts

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Starting off a new Italy series all about Food in Florence that I’m calling…wait for it…Food in Florence! Yay, you guessed it!

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I’ve been getting enough requests this past year from friends and friends for friends visiting Florence that I think it’s time to start compiling some helpful and easily accessible lists and tips of what to do/where to eat in this adopted city of mine, Florence. Creating custom “to do” and “to eat” lists is not very time efficient I find…or maybe I just give an overwhelming amount of information…nah, that couldn’t possibly be it. :)

It’s great fun to create lists that help people get the most out of their time in Florence. My favorite way to see a new city is exploring and wandering without any tour guides (with certain exceptions), while having read up a ton beforehand and bookmarked things to see, places to shop, and foods to try and where to try them. The biggest problem I always run into while preparing for a trip is knowing which lists are authentic and whose opinion I should trust. The lists in this new “Food in Florence” series would have saved me quite a bit of time before I came to Florence for the first time. I hope they will be useful to you and help you decide where you want to dine around Florence without falling for the tourist traps, specifically in this list where you can find the most scrumptious breakfasts.

As a disclaimer, these lists will probably be ever evolving because 1. Florence has a million and one places to try, 2. New places are always opening, 3. I’ve only lived here just over 2 consecutive years and 4. I probably don’t eat out nearly as much as you would expect for someone who lives in Italy. (Whaaat I don’t eat pasta for lunch and pizza for dinner everyday?! Lame.) Just remember, I’m a real person with a real budget. :)

What is a typical Italian breakfast?

You’re going out to breakfast, but what can you expect to find on the menu? What do Italians typically eat for breakfast?

Italians don’t go to a sit-down type restaurant for breakfast, which is usually what entails if you go out to breakfast in America. Instead, most Italians have their favorite local bar that they go to several, if not every, morning of the week. A cappuccino is usually eaten with a pastry, and just as often eaten standing and chatting as it is sitting down and reading the morning newspaper. At just over 2euro for a cappuccino and pastry, it makes for a very affordable breakfast out. If there is a menu, it’s probably a coffee menu on the wall. The pastries are chosen through the display case. It’s common to ask what they’re filled with, if one is unsure. You can expect varying croissants and sugary puff pastries filled with the classics: cream, chocolate, Nutella, jam (usually apricot or blackberry) and apple, along with more specialty fillings that will vary by place, such as cream and orange, whole wheat with honey, pistachio, etc.

What is the best time to go out for breakfast?

The famed hot chocolate at Caffè Gilli

The famed hot chocolate at Caffè Gilli

Whatever time you want. Really. Most pasticcerie and bars open between 5:30-7:00am, but pastries will be served until they’re gone, which is often into the afternoon. Of course, some busy places will run out by noon, so my only word of advice would be to go before then. You can manage that, right?

Or, if you’re like me and like to eat right away, have some fruit and snacks to eat first thing in the morning, and then eat a leisurely second breakfast or elevensies at a caffè once you’re out and about.

You’ll find people eating breakfast anywhere from the early morning hours to late morning, and it is socially acceptable to eat a pastry and a cappuccino in the afternoon as a snack, or a cappuccino by itself, contrary to popular American belief. See #12 on this blog post if you want to know why. So have at it! Just don’t drink a cappuccino with any food item other than pastries/cookies, k? Cappuccino and pizza taste gross together anyway.

Breakfast Etiquette

Bottega di Pasticceria

Bottega di Pasticceria

As a general rule, it’s best to pay at the cash register before ordering your pastry and drink at the bar. Many places don’t care if you eat or pay first, even if they have signs up asking you to pay first, however…some places DO care and if you’re not familiar with that particular locale, pay first to be safe.

It’s also advisable to ask before you sit down as some places up-charge for the “sit-down service.” Ya know, paying up to twice the price for your drink for the luxury of sitting down and usually them bringing you your order. Don’t think that carrying your own drink to your table is going to get you any discounts. You’re really paying for occupying the table, the service I like to think of as bonus so you might as well enjoy it!

The only place on the list below that should have an up-charge is Gilli and possibly Bottega di Pasticceria. Since they are classy and all about the experience anyway, I think we can forgive them.


Where to Eat the Most Scrumptious Breakfasts

  1. La Ménagère

    Via de’ Neri, 8, right in the center by San Lorenzo and the Mercato Centrale

    Open 8:00am - 2:30am every day

    Large and uniquely beautiful space, each room is a little different. Very cool atmosphere. There is even an area where you can buy some merchandise and flowers. Lots of pretty plants! Indoor and outdoor seating. Great coffee. A bit on the pricier side.

  2. Santarosa Bistrot

    Lungarno di Santa Rosa, on the south side of the river.

    Open 8:00am - Midnight weekdays, 10:00am - Midnight Saturday and Sunday

    Beautiful outdoor caffe where you can choose to sit outside among the greenery or in the main area with the roof if it rains. So cozy. I love this place when I want to get away from the hectic city life for a moment.

  3. Caffetteria delle Oblate

    Via dell’Oriuolo, 26, in the center not far from the Duomo.

    Open 2:00pm - 7:00pm Monday, 9:00am - Midnight Tuesday through Friday, 10:00am - Midnight Saturday, closed on Sunday.

    An old convent turned library with a third story caffè, this place is super cool and has spectacular views of the Duomo to boot. You can sit in the caffetteria or take your food to any of the 4 sided terrace overlooking in the inner open courtyard. There are seats and tables on most sides, but they are often occupied with studying students. When this happens I usually just sit on the floor, no one will mind. Note, the caffetteria will charge you 10 cents per person who eats outside of the caffetteria area. I find this ironically humorous as most bars will charge you if you sit down IN their area, not if you take away. Italy, the land of inconsistency.

  4. Bottega di Pasticceria

    Lungarno Francesco Ferrucci, 9c, south of the river on the edge of the city center

    Open 7:00am - 10:00pm Tuesday through Sunday, closed Monday

    This is a lovely open two story caffe that has an elegant feel to it, although don’t feel as though you need to dress up! Certain parts of the second story floor are made of glass, a warning to those who are wearing dresses and skirts! ;)

  5. Caffetteria La Loggia

    Via Pietrapiana, 12, not far from the church of Santa Croce

    Open 7:00am - 8:30pm every day

    A small little place but popular with the locals and me! A good variety of pastries and coffee, they even have some specialty drinks such as Hazelnut or Pistachio Coffee, very sweet but interesting to try! If there are no available places to sit, you can always drink your coffee and eat your pastry standing up at the bar, like the Italians do, or go and sit in the nearby Piazza della Loggia which the city of Florence recently redid.

  6. Caffè Libertà

    Piazza della Libertà, 27r, at the top tip of the city center in Piazza della Libertà

    Open 5:00am - 9:30pm every day

    This caffe is home to probably some of my favorite pastries in all of Florence, and that’s just talking about the pastries. The desserts are mouth-watering as well. I personally recommend the apple filled pastry, but I know others who rave about the pistachio filled pastry. Indoor or outdoor seating.

  7. Caffè Pasticceria Serafini

    Via Gioberti, 168r, just outside the city center on the east side

    Open 7:00am - 9:00am Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday

    Serafini is located in a very local area and has wonderful pastries and desserts. It can get busy, but there is indoor and outdoor seating and always the option to eat at the bar or take away. They have a great chocolate and pear pastry.

  8. Caffè Michelangelo

    Via Ghibellina, 116r, in the center near to Santa Croce

    Open 6:00am - 8:00pm Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday

    Another great local caffè with yummy pastries and coffee. There are a couple of baristas here who can make a mean cappuccino.

  9. Caffè Gilli

    Via Roma, 1r, on Piazza della Repubblica

    Open 7:30am - Midnight every day

    Gilli is the oldest caffè in Florence, established more than 270 years ago by a Swiss family. Their hot chocolate is renowned and their sweets and chocolate beloved by many. Situated in a beautiful building with a large covered outdoor sitting area right on Piazza della Repubblica, this is the place to go if you’re looking for a high class and historic experience. Just remember you’ll be paying higher prices, i.e., a normal hot chocolate costs 3-3.50euro, Gilli will charge you somewhere around 7euro.


Caffetteria delle Oblate

Caffetteria delle Oblate

Buon Appetito!

Want to see some of your favorite spots added to the list? Let me know in the comments below!

All About that Wheat Flour - FARINA part 2

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If you’re reading this, you have probably have some form of wheat flour in your home. Even the person nearest to you, who is most likely not reading this, probably has some kind of wheat flour in their home. It almost sounds funny to say wheat flour because it is universally known as just flour. Flour refers to wheat flour, and only the other types of flour need to differentiate themselves. Rice flour is no less a flour, but we need to say “rice” in front of “flour” otherwise it will be assumed we are talking about flour; that is, wheat flour.

All-purpose, bread, cake, pastry, self-raising, strong, durum, semolina, whole wheat, whole wheat pastry, and graham are just some of the names for wheat flour types…what do you always have on hand? Besides maybe the price and brand of your flour, what else do you know about the substance that goes into so many hundreds of recipes? Should you care? It may not make a life or death difference, but if you enjoy cooking and baking, or generally like learning, then learning to understand wheat flour varieties and how best to use them can take the food you make to a whole new level!

If you’d like to read Part 1 and learn how flour is used in Italy, click here.

The Six Categories of Wheat

In your American pantry you probably have an all-purpose flour, a bread flour, maybe a cake flour, maybe a self-raising, possibly a few others. If you know when and how to use these flours (or just follow a recipe), you might not need to know where or what kind of wheat is actually grown and ground to make these. But once you become familiar with the types of wheat, their properties and best uses, you can make more educated choices about your baking and end up with a superior result. Even the most nominal baker will eventually come across recipes that call for cake flour or bread flour, and knowing more about the wheat characteristics and which kinds are used to make these flours will help you understand if you can substitute say, all-purpose flour, and the results if you do so.

The first thing to know is that wheat can be defined by these six characteristics:

L to R: durum wheat (semola), soft wheat for sweets, soft wheat (manitoba) for bread

L to R: durum wheat (semola), soft wheat for sweets, soft wheat (manitoba) for bread

  • Soft wheat has a higher moisture content and less gluten, suitable for making cake and cookies and more delicate baked goods

  • Hard wheat has a lower moisture content and higher protein/gluten* content, usually between 12-14%, suitable for bread making

  • Red wheat has a slightly higher protein than white and a bolder taste

  • White wheat is milder in taste even if the color is not so different from red once milled into flour

  • Winter wheat is usually planted in the fall and harvested in the summer, with the exception of countries that have too harsh of winters, such as Canada where it is planted in the spring

  • Spring wheat is usually planted in the spring and harvested in the fall, with the exception of countries that have too hot and dry of summers, such as California in which case it is planted in the fall. You can read more about winter and spring wheat here.

*Many use the terms protein and gluten in wheat flour interchangeably. This is because gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, the kind that is “developed” when you knead bread and gives it the elastic/chewy quality. In most cases, the higher the protein content, the higher the gluten. It is important to note that all gluten is protein, but not all protein is gluten, as your celiac friends should be able to tell you. Also, all wheat contains gluten, but not all gluten comes from wheat. Make sense? You can read more here or here for better understanding gluten in the light of gluten allergies, or here for a good explanation of gluten. For my purposes today, and baking in general, if someone says a flour is high in protein, and someone else says a flour has a high gluten content, they mean the same thing. And they both mean the flour is good for bread making.

There are thousands of varieties of wheat grown around the world, but chaos can be brought to order with the following six principle categories, using the characteristics we reviewed above:

  1. Hard Red Winter Wheat (HRW)

  2. Hard Red Spring Wheat (HRS)

  3. Soft Red Winter Wheat (SRW)

  4. Hard White Wheat (HW)

  5. Soft White Wheat (SW)

  6. Durum Wheat (DW) is the hardest of all wheat, used for pasta making

The flour you buy from the store will most likely fall into one of these six categories. The bread flour in your pantry is most likely a hard red or white spring wheat; your cake flour is probably milled from a soft white wheat; all-purpose is usually a mixture of hard and soft wheat. You’d know now, for example, that baking a loaf of bread with all-purpose or cake flour will not yield a wonderfully chewy loaf like using bread flour would; they don’t have the gluten required to achieve the chewiness.

If you’d like to start experimenting with flour varieties, check your area for a local mill. If you live in the States and are not fortunate enough to have a mill near you, check out Bob’s Red Mill, in store or online. They have some clearly labeled high-quality flours. You could buy some of their whole-wheat hard red flour and whole-wheat hard white flour and make some simple bread loaves, trying the two wheat varieties side by side.

Happy baking!

Mixing flours

Mixing flours



Navigating the Italian Flour Section - FARINA part 1

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Farina in Italia

You’ve recently moved to Italy, still walking around completely starry-eyed from the beauty of the country, and are about to go grocery shopping because you realize, unfortunately, you can’t order pizza every night. So you decide to make it at home, crust and all. (Sneaky, aren’t you?) When you arrive in the flour section, you realize that it’s going to be a touch more than just translating “flour” to “farina” and trying to figure out which ones are all-purpose, cake flour, and bread flour. Instead, you find not only types of flour, but numbers to boot. What does it all mean? How are you supposed to use flour in Italy?

Or maybe you’ve lived in Italy for awhile and have been experimenting with the different flours with results ranging from baked goods turning out great, turning out awful, or turning out…different. This was me the first year of my life in Italy. Add on top of that ovens that don’t have temperature gauges, are strange sizes, or only cook from the bottom, you get some interesting results. Can’t I just buy a dang bag of all-purpose flour without having to figure out all the factors in this Italy baking equation?!? No, Jenny. No you cannot.

After talking to people (is there therapy for bakers? Can that be a thing?) and other expats here, reading many articles online, and of course my own many trials and error, hopefully this post will help demystify the flour section a bit for you! Reading this blog post, which is part 2, on the six categories of wheat will also help you, as some of that will then be helpful to understand (or translate) in Italian. Let’s start with a quick Italian flour cheat sheet, then keep reading to understand the properties of the Italian flour better.

Italian Flour Baking Cheat Sheet

  • For cookies, bars, cakes/cupcakes, biscuits, scones, or anything that needs a tender crumb, use Farina di grano tenero, 00. This is your “cake flour.” Nobody wants a chewy cake.

  • For bread, I recommend starting off with Farina di Manitoba, grano tenero, 0; this is similar to standard American bread flour. As you progress, you can start to add in Farina di grano duro, or Semola Rimacinata di grano duro. These flours will have a different feel and look to them as you knead your bread and in the final product, which is why I recommend starting out with just a small portion, around 25% of the total flour, in your recipes until you know how they act.

  • For every day needs you can buy one bag of Farina di grano tenero, 00 and one bag of Farina di Manitoba, grano tenero, 0 or Farina di grano duro and mix them together to make your own homemade all-purpose flour.

Farina Explained

Grano Duro and Grano Tenero

Hard wheat and soft wheat, or as they are known here in Italy, grano duro and grano tenero, will be written on just about every bag of standard flour.

Breads and pastas usually use grano duro, or hard wheat, because of the higher gluten content. Most sweets and cakes use soft flour or grano tenero. Keep in mind however that there are some breads made with soft flour, as you will find in the bakery section at your local grocery store, or a combo of both soft and hard flour.

Flour Grinds: 00, 0, 1, 2

This is pretty straightforward: The smaller the number, the finer the flour. And in your local grocery store, 00 and 0 will be the most common by far. They don’t have every variety of flour in every grind, so the work is mostly already done for you. If you know you want a soft/grano tenero, you’ll probably find only 0 and 00. You won’t have to decide between a soft/grano tenero 00, 0, 1, or 2.

Semola and Semola Rimacinata

Semola, also know as pasta flour or sometimes semolina in the States, comes from durum wheat and has a yellowish hue. It is usually grown in the spring and is the hardest of all wheat, which makes it ideal for pasta and bread making. In Italy it comes in two primary forms: Semola and Semola Rimacinata (reground, or twice ground, making it finer). Semola is used for eggless pasta and Semola Rimacinata is used for egg pasta.

Farina di Manitoba

Named after the Canadian province of Manitoba, this is the “bread flour” of Italy. This one always threw me for a loop, because it is a grano tenero, yet has a high gluten content. Because of its unusual characteristics, it is often categorized as a “special” flour. It is often used in the fine grind of 0 and is great for breads that require long-leavening periods, such as French Baguettes, pizza, and breads that use natural yeast or madre lievito. Read more about Manitoba Flour here.

Farina per Pizza, Pasta, etc.

Because Italy is the land of pizza, pasta, and bread, you will find plenty of bags of pre-mixed wheat varieties that are supposed to be perfect for rustic breads, or focaccia, or pizza, or pasta. I’ve never bought any of these because I’ve been preoccupied with figuring out how to use all the other flours, but I’m sure they’re great for their specific purposes!

Farina e Lievito

This would be the equivalent of the self-raising flour in the States. I don’t use this in the States nor in Italy, but I’ve read that it works well here! You could also make your own, adding 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt per cup (120g) of flour. (I recommend using baking powder from the States as I’ve heard that the Italian baking powder/lievito in polvere does strange things.) I would use farina di grano tenero 00 if you’re planning on making biscuits or cookies.

Specialty Flours

There are also many specialty flours here to inspire your baking or aid your gluten-free needs. Some worth noting are saraceno (buckwheat), farina di riso (rice flour), farina di mais (cornmeal), farina d’avena (oat flour), teff, farina di ceci (chickpea/garbanzo bean flour), among others.

Happy baking and good luck with the farina Italiana and finicky ovens!

Hard-to-Find Ingredients in Italy

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If you’re planning on spending any amount of time in Italy in which you will want to cook, bake, or generally not always eat in restaurants (I know, it’s hard, but your bank account will thank you!), this list might come in handy.

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You might think that Italy will have everything you need, they bake and cook so it’s just a matter of translating, right? Yes...and no. It’s not as different as it could be, I can imagine living in China or the DRC would present a bigger challenge for finding and cooking with familiar ingredients and brands. But this is still a “foreign” country and will present its unique challenges. The best way to tackle these challenges is to meet them head on, and hopefully with the ones that are important to you in your suitcase!

What follows is a list of ingredients and items that could fall into these categories: nonexistent - expensive - elusive - and, - it’s just not the same. Compiled from my own experience and that of fellow expat friends, I hope you find it helpful, and, as always, let me know in the comments below what should be added or your own stories! I’m sure there are things I don’t even think about that others might really miss!

Some ingredients are carried in all main grocery stores and just located in strange places, some are only found in specialty stores, and others you might want to consider bringing with you in your suitcase. Little Ethnic stores are your friends! Of course, this list is not all-inclusive, I chose not to list most of the items that are “name brand” or not mainstream; i.e. your favorite brand of laundry detergent might not exist, but there are plenty of other detergents that do exactly the same thing, so I don’t have Arm & Hammer listed as non existent, or likewise, I won’t have Andes Mints baking bits listed because most people wouldn’t think of those let alone miss them. Make sense? Ok let’s get grocery shopping!

The “American” Section at Vivimarket…yes! Betty Crocker strawberry frosting, I have missed thee! Not.

The “American” Section at Vivimarket…yes! Betty Crocker strawberry frosting, I have missed thee! Not.

  • Asian Ingredients - Ingredienti Asiatici

    If you want spring roll wraps, soy sauce, canned coconut milk, sriracha, or anything that’s more Asian than Italian, chances are you are not going to find it at the supermarket. The large Esselunga I shop at does have an Asian section (it’s a tiny end cap) but the prices are high. So, head to any Asian grocer instead! The products are authentic, variety greater, and prices much better! You might even end up with food items (we hope they’re food?!) you’ve never seen before to try, and it might remain a mystery because the packages often lack any English, Italian, or any Latin alphabet!

  • Apples - Mele

    I love apples. I don’t love apples in Italy. They are everywhere, but I can’t understand why they are gross. It can be apple season but when you bite into a beautiful apple you get a mouthful of pith. Blech. I grew up picking fresh apples every fall with my mom and siblings so maybe I’m just apple-spoiled? The only apples that I consistently like, crisp and sweet, are the Ambrosia apples at Esselunga.

  • Avocados - Avocado

    Avocados are found pretty easily, but they are expensive! They are usually between 3.50-5.50euro/kilo. And they’re not always the beloved Hass, often there is a smoother, greener variety that comes from Israel.

  • Baking Powder - Lievito in Polvere

    Baking powder doesn’t come in containers or tubs like it does in the States. You will usually find it in small packets (often with the artificial vanillin flavor) in the baking section…but beware! Rumor has it it doesn’t work well, causing desserts to rise too much too fast or not rising at all. I haven’t personally tried it, as this is something I bring with me and a container lasts a long time! You could try the self-raising flour, I’ve read that works reliably well.

  • Baking Soda - Bicarbonato di Sodio

    This is cheap and sold in all grocery stores, it’s just not in the baking section like you’d think it would be! Look on the end caps in some stores by the Alka Seltzers or by the bottled water or soft drinks in others.

  • Black Beans - Fagioli Neri

    Don’t ask me why, but the black beans are not always with the other beans at Italian grocer stores. Sometimes they don’t carry them, sometimes they are in a “special” section maybe with other seeds and nuts. But they do exist! Pinto beans however, are yet to be seen.

  • Cabbage - Cavolo

    Italians love their cabbage, especially when their cavolo nero or black cabbage comes into season. However, black cabbage seems more similar to kale than it does the variety of cabbage we use in the States, that light green head of cabbage. If you have a hankering to make say, sauerkraut or pickled purple cabbage, what do you do? Scour your nearest grocery store, I saw for the first time towards the back of produce section a “regular” head of cabbage! I have on occasion seen the purple cabbage, but because fruits and vegetables are still very much sold seasonably, you can’t count on them year round. The green cabbage I saw was called crauti, their name for sauerkraut, but I believe it’s also called cavolo cappuccio bianco.

  • Candy Bars and Candies - Barrette di Cioccolato e Caramelle

    You can find these here: Snickers, Mars, Twix, Kit Kat, Skittles (since last year), M&M’s, Smarties (the Canadian M&M’s), Lindt, Bounty, Lion, Ferrero Rocher, and various other European varieties. Reese’s can be found at Vivimarket in Florence for a significant price.

  • Canned Pumpkin Purée - Zucca in Scatola

    In Italy, this is liquid gold. To find pumpkin, you are going to need to go to specialty stores. In Florence, I know of two places that carry it. One is ViviMarket, the other is Pegna. Both places will run you about 4.60-4.80euro per 15 oz. can. I know. Like I said, liquid gold. You can find fresh pumpkin in the store, but it is not pie pumpkin and will give you a strange, strange pumpkin pie if you try and cook and purée it yourself.

  • Cereals - Cereali

    I rarely eat cereal and I doubt you are coming to Italy dreaming about cereal, but one can’t help but notice that though cereal and granola is easily found, the selection is definitely smaller than that of an American grocery store. I’d say this is for the better, but just in case you’re a Lucky Charms or Fruit Loops die hard, realize they might not have your favorite cereal beyond the basics. There are rice krispies for making homemade granola bars, desserts, and Rice Krisipie Treats, just so you know. :)

  • Cilantro - Coriandolo

    Fresh and dried parsley is everywhere, but cilantro? Not as much. I have found it on rare occasion in the grocery store, but you’ll have a much better chance if you head to any Asian grocer. And there are plenty, at least in Florence!

  • Chocolate Chips - Gocce di Cioccolato

    Regular-sized chocolate chips are not to be found, just mini. But there is something about chocolate chip cookies with mini chips that are just not the same. The minis are expensive, too, upwards of 2euro for 6 oz of chips/1 cup. Otherwise, you can buy a bar of chocolate for less and chop it yourself for custom chocolate chunks.

  • Dill - Aneto

    I haven’t come across dried dill here, but I can sometimes find fresh dill. But not always. So plan ahead if you want to make homemade pickles or add fresh dill to chicken salad, like I do. :)

  • Flour - Farina

    There is a plethora of flour here, no worries! The tricky part is figuring out which kind you need, because the types of flour go beyond just all-purpose, bread, and cake. Someday I will write a post dedicated to the flours here and how they are best utilized, but for now just a quick overview. First, there are the two kinds of (wheat) flours; hard wheat “grano duro” and soft wheat “grano tenero.” Hard wheat is mostly used for crusty bread, pizza, and pasta because it has a higher protein content, whereas the soft wheat is used for softer breads and desserts. Second, there is the grind of the flour noted by numbers: 00, 0, 1, and 2. 00 denotes the finest grind, 2 is the coarsest. Beyond this there are also all the specialty flours you can find, including: self-raising flour as mentioned above under baking powder, farina di manitoba which is closest to what we call bread flour, almond flour, chickpea flour, cornmeal, rice flour, and more.

  • Grape Juice - Succo d’Uva

    For all the juice variety you can find, only some grocery stores carry grape juice, and it’s only ever one type. Usually purple grape juice, I’ve never seen white. It seems all their grape juice is made into wine, none leftover for juice, haha!

  • Gum - Gomma

    Yes, there is gum in Italy, but it’s a bit more expensive and not as good as American gum. Some of it is just gross, like licorice. If you like licorice, lucky you!

  • Hydrogen Peroxide - Perossido di Idrogeno/Acqua Ossigenata

    This is not food, but if you use it for disinfecting wounds, mouth wash, removing stains, or any of its numerous uses, it might be helpful for you to know that it is readily available here, but the packaging made it harder to locate. Its bottle is usually white and generic and small, not the signature large brown plastic I’m used to buying in America. Search near the bandages and eye drops!

  • Maple Syrup - Sciroppo d’Acero

    Maple syrup costs a small fortune. It can be found in most grocery stores and also at Vivimarket in Florence. A small bottle, roughly 8 oz, will cost you about 5-7euro. This is the real stuff, pure maple syrup and not high fructose corn syrup, but I believe Vivimarket carries the Aunt Jemima stuff if you’re feeling nostalgic, but I think a bottle of that will cost you more than a pure bottle, almost 8 euro! Ironic.

  • Marshmallows - Toffolette

    Marshmallows are available here, but don’t expect Jet-Puffed fluffy big white mallows. To be honest, I’ve never bought them, but I’ve always heard they are just plain weird with a texture like stale marshmallows.

  • Mexican Ingredients - Ingredienti Messicani

    Like the Asian ingredients, the Mexican ingredients can be found, but maybe less readily. There is a large Asian presence in Italy and no shortage of Asian grocers and restaurants, but the same cannot be said for Mexican. In Florence in fact, there is only one taco/burrito place I can think of. So you will have to find or make your own tortillas and sauces as best you can. Like the Asian section at the Esselunga I frequent, there is a small Mexican section with enchilada sauce, sour cream (it’s not refrigerated, I’m scared), refried beans, corn and flour tortillas, and other miscellaneous. Oh, and the can of refried beans costs more than 2euro. I would cook and mash my own, but I haven’t seen pinto beans here to make delicious refried beans. Black will have to do.

  • Molasses - Melassa

    I have tried to ask at Coop and Esselunga for Molasses with varying responses. One lady was convinced they carried it only to find they don’t, and the other lady just looked at me like I was crazy. I am happy to report that it can be found at some specialty stores, for sure at NaturaSi. They are the WholeFoods of Italy, high prices and all, but a good place to checkout for natural products and specialty items the mainstream stores might not carry!

  • Peanut Butter - Burro di Arachidi

    The main stores carry just Skippy, which costs almost 5 euro for a small bottle, or Calvé, a less expensive Dutch (?) brand. Natural peanut butter is not to be found, unless you can grind it yourself. But a life without peanut butter is sadness, so here’s the trick: go to the Chinese markets or Arab butchers, which carry more than just meat, and you’ll find the Calvé or other brands you probably haven’t heard of but for much more manageable prices. Then the next time you go back to the States stock up on Smucker’s and guard it with your life. If you’re interested in other butters, check out NaturaSi which has almond butter, peanut butter, and possibly some others.

  • Pecans - Noci Pecan

    I thought for a long time these were non existent here, but they just like to hide. They are usually not with the other nuts like walnuts and almonds, but if your local grocery store carries them they might be by the “party aisle,” or near the soft drinks, drink mixes, peanuts and party nut mixes. But be warned, an 80g bag will run you between 3 and 5 euro a bag. I splurged once and made a pecan pie for Thanksgiving….I spent 12euro just on the 2 cups (240g) of pecans. Ayayayay.

  • Pretzels - Salatini

    Similar to marshmallows, pretzels are available and stale tasting. These I did eat once, and haven’t again since. I bought them to make a pretzel crust for a pie, but after twirling around in my food blender for too long without breaking down, I realized these were not your ordinary pretzels. These are special stale pretzels best not used for crusts.

  • Salad Dressings - Condimenti per Insalata

    This probably doesn’t need to be translated because you won’t need to ask or look for it. Just bring it with you if it’s important to you, like Ranch. I never would’ve thought of this but I do have some friends that this was CRUCIAL for. Salads here are always dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and sometimes balsamic vinegar. I’ve never turned back.

  • Sour Cream - Panna Acida

    I haven’t tried this yet, the fact that it’s not usually found in the refrigerated section scares me a bit. I know, I’m sure it’s like the shelf stable milk products, but still. This is found in the Mexican section at my local Esselunga.

  • Spices - Spezie

    Let’s talk about spices. When you think of Italian cooking, you can probably make a guess of which spices they will for sure have. Garlic, onion, parsley, oregano, basil, sage, bay leaf, cumin, turmeric, thyme, rosemary, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, marjoram, coriander, curry, and saffron are everywhere. Then there are whole cloves but no ground cloves. The first time I went to make a pumpkin pie I was trying to hand grate cloves…kids, don’t try this at home. Other spices like adobe chili, or smoked chilis, cardamom, mixes like garam marsala, or any ethnic spices that aren’t mainstream you will probably have to import yourself. Mint you can find at the Arab butcher shops.

  • Sweet Potatoes - Patate Dolci

    Sometimes I can find these at the grocery store, sometimes not. A more sure bet will be Vivimarket, which has them every time I have gone, and are usually grown in the US, yeah!

  • Vanilla Extract - Estratto di Vaniglia

    The REAL stuff, not imitation or vanillin like is found in every dessert here. And no, the real stuff doesn’t exist here. Either bring it with you or make your own! I usually bring a bottle with me to use while my homemade stuff is aging, it takes a minimum of 3 months.

Always remember, even when you’re missing your creature comfort food, that it’s not so bad eating food like this…

Always remember, even when you’re missing your creature comfort food, that it’s not so bad eating food like this…

Food in Florence: A Complete Guide to the Best Gelato

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March is coming to a close, the weather has taken a turn for the warmer, the sun is making a regular appearance and so are the tourists, and most importantly, the gelato shops have reawakened from their winter slumber. I ate my first gelato of the season/2019 a couple weeks ago, and it was…good. I mean, it was amazing to eat gelato again, but it only ranked “good” because the actual gelato was a bit on the icy side. I’ve had gelato from that shop before and it was really good, we’ll just say they were having an off day. It’s possible my tongue is out of practice of eating gelato, I mean, you don’t become a sommelier by drinking wine “occasionally.” In the few weeks that have passed since that first gelato, I think it’s safe to say my tongue is back in practice.

In celebration of gelato and sunshine, I have compiled a list of some of the best gelaterie (gelato shops) in and around the Florence city center. The list is quite extensive but includes all of the gelato shops worth eating at. I’ll name some of my favorites, as well as favorites from various expat friends and locals, which will be noted with an asterisk (*). As you will see, taste in gelato can vary and very few people will nominate the same gelato shop as “Best in Florence,” hence the inclusive list with pointers to help you locate gelato that sounds interesting to you, whether it’s your first gelato ever or you are just looking to expand your gelato resumé! If you’ve had great gelato in Florence and think it should be on this list, let me know in the comments below!

Nota Bene: Anytime you see mountains of colorful gelato in the display case it is TO BE AVOIDED. At all costs. These places are meant to fool poor, unsuspecting tourists and line their owners’ pockets with money when they are essentially selling you sugary, artificially colored ice, lies, and sadness. You will find them grouped mainly around main attraction points; in Florence there are many near the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio and in between. This bears repeating because these shops are still open, which means people are buying their “gelato,” and this makes me very sad. Also to avoid is the overpriced gelato, again, usually found near tourist areas. Even if the gelato is decent, I wouldn’t pay more than 3ish euro for the smallest size, no matter the city. At that point they are just capitalizing on your naiveté. The only gelato above 3euro on this list is Venchi, starting at 3.20, but they are a well known chocolatier and can get away with it I guess. Good gelato is often, but not always, in metal tubs with lids so that you can’t see any of the flavors, just the little signs placed by each lid. I say not all because just less than half of the gelaterie listed below keep their gelato in these tubs.

First Things First

Cup or cone? Small or extra large? Milkshake? All good things to have decided before hand so you can walk in and focus on what flavors you would like. A standard small cup or cone will get you 2 flavors, and sometimes you can choose up to 5 for extra large sizes! You can ask to try the flavors, if you are feeling absolutely stumped. I almost always go for a cone, and I will tell you why, besides being delicious. There is nothing to throw away at the end except for a napkin, therefore being more economically-friendly. You save using a cup and the little plastic spoon, although some places will stick a spoon in your cone, too. You could always tell them a spoon isn’t necessary, if you catch them in time. Bonus: If you sample a flavor, keep your spoon to use with your cone or cup! Also, if you don’t eat gluten, ask about the cones as some places use gluten-free cones. At the bottom you can find a glossary for gelato shop lingo and common flavors.

The best gelato in Florence in no particular order:

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  1. Gelateria dei Neri*

    One of my all time favorites, if you’ve read about any gelato in any guidebooks or blogs, you’ve probably seen Gelateria dei Neri pop up. And for good reason, it’s one of the best! They have a wide variety of flavors and also granita. There can be a line out the door at busy times, but no worries, it moves fast.

    Price: Starting at 1.80 for cup or cone

    Location: Via dei Neri 9, - City center, very close to the Church of Santa Croce

    Flavor to Try: Cremino alla nocciola (Think vanilla gelato with copious amounts of Nutella swirled in, a very rich flavor), Cremino al Pistacchio (similar to the Cremino alla Nocciola, but with a pistachio cream), Limone (lemon), or Burro di Caramello Salato (salted caramel).

  2. MySugar*

    Winner of the Gelato Festival in Florence in 2016, this is the new kid on the block, only open since 2015 and quickly winning over hearts. This is also one of my favorites and the favorite of my friend Madeline. I would say that they have the absolute best consistency of all gelato I have tried in Florence. Their assortment of flavors is somewhat modest, but what they do, they do with excellence.

    Price: Starting at 2.00 for a cup, 2.50 for a cone

    Location: Via de’ Ginori 49r, - City center, around the corner from the Mercato Centrale

    Flavor to try: Arachidi (peanut) or Limone

  3. La Carraia*

    I was introduced to this gelateria by my language partner as one of her favorites, and it quickly became one of mine as well. They have a great assortment of flavors.

    Price: Starting at 1.00 for a “taste” cone, standard cup or cone from 1.80

    Locations: Piazza Nazario Sauro 25r, at the end of the Carraia bridge, and Via de’ Benci 24r, very close to the Church of Santa Croce.

  4. Sangelato*

    This is the gelateria I go to most because it’s in my neighborhood! Still a 30 minute walk there, but that way you earn it, right? They have a selection of vegan flavors. Also to try are the crepes or Sicilian brioche stuffed with gelato! They have a great stracciatella (chocolate chip) and pistacchio!!

    Price: Starting at 1.90 for cup or cone

    Location: Via Marco Minghetti 17r, a bit out of the way on the east side of the city center, about a 15 minute bus ride from the center. Take the number 14A or 14B bus. This is very convenient if you have an airbnb on this side of town or staying at the Firenze Camping in Town, it’s on the way!

  5. Perché No*

    All-natural gelato and to boot they have several mousse flavors. Need I say more? This was the gelato shop of choice for my friend Hannah and I during our 2015 trip.

    Price: Starting at 2.50 for cup or cone

    Location: Via dei Tavolini 19r, between Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo, right by the church of Orsanmichele.

  6. Grom

    By now Grom has become a recognizable international gelateria with locations well beyond its origin of Italy, including the USA, France, Japan, China, and more. I prefer to support small businesses when I can, not to mention the extra touch of love and care when the founder of a small business is present, but hey, Grom is delicious!

    Price: Starting at 2.60 for cup or cone

    Location: Via del Campanile 2, two steps away from the Duomo

  7. Cantina del Gelato

    This is the only gelateria where I have found a successful pumpkin flavor. A seasonal flavor to be sure, but their other flavors are often creative and delicious as well!

    Price: Starting at 1.00 for a one-flavor kiddy cone, 2.00 for standard cup or cone

    Location: There are two locations, one in Via de’ Bardi 31 on the south side of the Arno river very close to Ponte Vecchio, and the other near Piazza Beccaria in Borgo La Croce 30r on the east side of the city center.

  8. La Strega Nocciola

    I wasn’t originally a fan of this gelateria because their name means the hazelnut witch and their prices are on the more expensive end of gelato, 2.80 for a small. But good gelato is good gelato, and La Strega Nocciola has very good gelato, not to mention some unusual flavors: lavendar, white chocolate and cinnamon, etc.

    Price: Starting at 2.80 for cup or cone

    Location: There are 4 locations, the first in Via Ricasoli 16r, near the Duomo, the second in Via de’ Bardi 51r, on the south side of the Arno river very near to Ponte Vecchio, the third in Via dell’Olivuzzo 118, southwest of the city center near the Isolotto neighborhood, and the fourth in Piazza Giuseppe di Vittorio 3, even further southwest in Scandicci.

  9. Il Gelato di Filo*

    This gelateria will always hold a dear spot in my memory. It is conveniently located at the bottom of Piazzale Michelangelo, ya know, one of the most beautiful piazzas in Florence with its stunning vista of the city and also a sweat-inducing hike up to it? Yes. That one. This became the favorite gelato of my family and I when we visited in 2014, frequenting the shop multiple times in our 6 day tenure in Florence. We even had nicknames for the brother and sister who worked there. (We don’t actually know if they were related, but hey, it is part of our working theory.) We recommend either getting a gelato as an energy boost before you go up, or as a reward when you make it back down. Or, both before and after, because even that view will take it out of you. They also have some of the cheapest cones in Florence!

    Price: Starting at 1.50 for a cone, 2.00 for a cup.

    Location: Via San Miniato 5r, at the bottom of the side stairs (not the zig zag way up the front) up to Piazzale Michelangelo and San Miniato.

  10. Badiani*

    Badiani won the title in 2015 for the best gelato in Europe, and a year after opened a shop in London. Favorite shop of my friends the Pethtels, and lucky them, they live nearby! For the location being outside the city center I’d say they are a bit expensive, but they have a larger shop and indoor/outdoor seating, which is always a bonus.

    Price: Starting at 2.00 for a cup, 3.00 for a cone

    Location: Viale dei Mille 20r, outside the city center in the Campo di Marte neighborhood; about a 5 minute walk from the stadium or 10 minutes from the Campo di Marte train station.

  11. Venchi

    One of the best known Italian chocolate stores in Florence also has really yummy gelato! Their stores are generally a bit hectic, but busy because they are known and conveniently located. Their gelato is expensive, but worth the splurge for special occasions.

    Price: Starting at 3.20 for cup or cone. Prices may vary by location.

    Location: There are three locations, one at Piazza della Stazione 1 in the Santa Maria Novella train station, the second in Via Calzaiuoli 65r near the Duomo, and the third in Via Calimaruzza 18 near to Piazza della Signoria.

  12. Gelateria de’ Medici

    This gelateria has a wide selection of flavors and is open late, until midnight or 12:30am on Friday and Saturday.

    Price: Starting at 2.00 for a cone, 3.00 for a cup

    Location: There are two locations, one in Piazza Cesare Beccaria 7r on the eastern outskirts of the city center, and the second in Via dello Statuto 3/5r northwest of the city center.

  13. Il Procopio*

    This place is best suited to those who like “fantastic” flavors; those with lots of condiments such as chocolate and sauces and chunks of cake/cookies, etc. They have very few “pure” flavors, but I always see people walking around with the mango flavor, so it must be good! One of the favorites of the American blogger in Florence, GirlinFlorence.

    Price: Starting from 2.20 for cup or cone

    Location: Via Pietrapiana 60/62r, not too far from the Church of Santa Croce; across from the Loggia del Pesce.

  14. Il Gelato di Cristian Beduschi

    On the first floor of the Mercato Centrale there is a wonderful gelato. They don’t have the widest selection of flavors, but you can also get chocolates, other desserts like tiramisù, and hot chocolate.

    Price: Starting at 2.80 for cup or cone

    Location: First floor ( aka second floor for Americans) of the Mercato Centrale on the same side as the pizza and pasta booths.

  15. Edoardo*

    Famous for their homemade cones and the scent that drifts well beyond their doors, Edoardo is the favorite gelateria of my friend Rachel. They are on the expensive side, but their gelato is organic and they have a good selection of vegan gelato and sorbet. Most of their flavors are beyond delicious, even if sometimes their menu can seem simple, but they have on occasion missed the mark with flavors and iciness. Beware, they often have a line, and in recent days they have implemented a number system. If you forget or don’t know to take a number, as was my experience, they may refuse to serve you. I waited 10 minutes in line and then they told me they can’t serve me unless I have a number, I wanted to make a humiliated beeline to the exit but my husband stood up for me and the customer whose turn it was graciously let me order anyway. I heard from other people after this incident that they still didn’t know about taking a number, so it very well may depend on if there’s a line and who’s working that day if they decide to implement the number system. Which is very…Italian. Anyway, you can find the numbers outside the door.

    Price: Starting from 2.80 for a cup, 3.50 for a cone, cash only

    Location: Piazza del Duomo 45r, two steps from the Duomo

    Flavor to try: Zabaione

  16. Vivoli

    Heralded as a historic gelateria and one of the most famous in Florence, Vivoli delivers delicious gelato and a cute locale. However, because of their fame they tend to have lines and are on the expensive side, not to mention no cones.

    Price: Starting at 2.00 for cup

    Location: Via Isole delle Stinche 7r, near to the Church of Santa Croce

  17. Sottozero

    Gelato places like these won’t usually find themselves in guidebooks or on blog reviews because they are not in the city center and don’t get the foot traffic of tourists. This one is popular with students because it’s very near the university and dorm housing, and should be with you too if you have an airbnb nearby!

    Price: Starting from 1.80 for cup or cone

    Location: Via Anton Francesco Doni 47r, west of the city center in the neighborhood of Novoli

    Flavor to try: Yogurt (sweetened with stevia!)

  18. Rivareno

    Gelato sourced from all-natural ingredients with interesting flavor combos.

    Price: Starting at 2.30 for cup or cone

    Location: Via Borgo degli Albizi 46r, not to far from the Duomo.

  19. Carapina

    This used to be one of my regular locations when I lived nearby, alas, no more.

    Price: Starting at 2.00 for a cone with one flavor, 2.50 for cup or cone with two flavors

    Location: Piazza Oberdan 2r, just east of the city center, but in the summer they also have a food truck down by the Arno!

  20. La Gelateria Il Sorriso

    Generous portions and lots of flavors, I believe this is also one of the few places that lets you put 3 flavors even in the smallest size cone or cup! Win.

    Price: Starting at 2.20 for cup or cone

    Location: Via Erbosa 70, a bit out of the way in the neighborhood of Gavinana southeast of the city center, but if you are staying in the area or just want to experience an Italian neighborhood with zero tourists, head on down there. Take the bus numbers 8, 23, 31, or 32 to get there from Piazza San Marco, about 20 minutes.

  21. La Caminia

    This gelateria really surprised me with their gelato. I walk by every once in awhile but had never gone in due to the generally bright color themes that usually denote a tourist trap. Then they made a special flavor in honor of the 200th(?) anniversary of the US consulate mission to Florence and I had to go try it. In doing so I discovered a wonderful new gelato stop with many flavors to choose from with even the simplest bursting with creamy flavor.

    Price: Starting at around 2.00 for cup or cone (I need to double check this)

    Location: Like Gelateria Il Sorriso above, La Caminia is found in the Gavinana neighborhood not far from the large Coop supermarket.

  22. Gelateria Santa Trinita

    Due to its location and overall appearance this place can sometimes be mistaken for “tourist” gelato. Fret not, not only is it uber-creamy, but it is decently priced with generous portions!

    Price: Starting at 2.20 for cup or cone

    Location: Piazza dei Frescobaldi, 8r, at the end of the Ponte Santa Trinita; one bridge over from Ponte Vecchio.

    Flavor to Try: They are known for their Sesamo Nero (Black Sesame), it’s subtle and nutty and mysterious.

  23. Gelateria della Passera

    Recommended especially for those who love fruit flavors!

    Price: Starting at 2.00 for cup or cone (I need to to double check this)

    Location: Via Toscanella 15r, on the south side of the Arno in the Santo Spirito neighborhood; very close to the Palazzo Pitti.

  24. Donamalina Cure Cioccolateria - Gelateria

    Another place a bit outside of the city center, but we have to cover all bases, don’t we? They have chocolate and confections, too!

    Price: Starting at 2.50 for cup or cone (I need to double check this)

    Location: Via Antonio Pacinotti 30r, bit north of the city center in the neighborhood of Le Cure.

  25. Le Botteghe di Leonardo*

    Natural gelato with a good selection of dairy-free, but their milk-based flavors are pretty great! Some even use latte di bufala, that is, water buffalo milk, and it’s extra creamy. Favorite of my friend, Brianna!

    Price: Starting at 2.60 for cup or cone

    Location: Via de’ Ginori 21r, very close to the Mercato Centrale.

    Flavor to try: Kabana (kiwi and banana), stracciatella

Gelato Lingo

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Alright, here is a simple formula for you if you’re feeling adventerous. First, pick what you would like, the size, and then decide which flavors you want. Most people working in gelato shops speak English, so if you have further questions feel free to ask! In fact, you might order in Italian but they will often reply back in English.

“I would like a…” “vorrei un/a…”

Cono = cone Coppetta = cup Frappé = milkshake Granita = type of slushy

Piccolo/a = small Medio/a = medium Grande = large

“With…and…” “Con…e…”

Cioccolato = chocolate Fondente = dark chocolate Stracciatella = chocolate chip

Nocciola = hazelnut Pistacchio = pistachio Arachidi = peanut

Gianduja = chocolate/hazelnut Crema = cream with eggs, similar to a custard

Fior di Latte = A creamy gelato base, the equivalent of vanilla in America, except it’s no vanilla

Zabaione = custard with wine, usually sweet marsala

Caffé = coffee Cocco = coconut Cocomero = watermelon Fragola = strawberry Limone = lemon

Arancia = orange Lampone = raspberry Melone = melon Mora = blackberry Pesca = peach

Pera = pear Pompelmo = grapefruit Amarena = sour cherry Frutti di Bosco = mixed berry

Example: “Buongiorno! Vorrei un cono piccolo con nocciola e pistacchio, grazie.” (Good morning/afternoon! I would like a small cone with hazelnut and pistachio, thank you.)

Or, “Buonasera, vorrei una coppetta media con limone e fragola.” (Good evening, I would like a medium cup with lemon and strawberry.)

Happy Gelato-ing!!!

Buying International Plane Tickets and Booking Accommodation

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Airplane Tickets

Buy them on a Tuesday before 12pm EST, on a freshly restarted PC with your Google cookies wiped, a credit card that expires in no less than 2 years, in your pajamas, facing north. Just kidding.

I’m going to make this easy on you: There is no magic trick or gimmick for these things. There is a lot of information floating around about when to buy airline tickets.  Some true, some false.  For example, I've read that airlines put tickets on sale Monday evening, therefore you should buy tickets on Tuesday.  At least for international tickets, I've never seen that happen. I have noticed that flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday seems to be the cheapest, but that’s not the same thing and not always consistent.  A lot depends on timing, such as season and fuel prices, but it seems most is unpredictable and seemingly random. Then again, if it was predictable, I probably wouldn’t have been googling this subject myself once upon time, now would I?

Don’t despair, however, there are plenty of things you can do to find the best options out there, just keep in mind that “best” is relative. And, just as there is more than one way to frost a cake, what follows is one method of many for hunting down that cheap(ish) ticket. (If you want to know how crazy I can get about plane tickets, read this overly long blog post.)

First, some obvious things to keep in mind:

  1. Flying off season will usually yield cheaper results, sometimes significantly. But not always! It never hurts to check.

  2. Off season may vary depending on location. For example, traveling during the summer to Europe is going to be peak season, but that doesn’t mean Jun-Aug is the busiest the whole world round.

  3. The more flexible you are with your dates, the more likely you will be to find a cheaper ticket. Same goes with flexible departure/arrival airports. The only problem is, you can end up spending hours upon hours searching date and location possibilities. But hey, you’ll know you found the best combo!

  4. Watch out for overnight layovers. You might find cheaper flights that way, but in my experience I’d rather pay the few bucks more to avoid it. Anyway, if you keep looking, you can usually find the same or similar flight price without overnight layovers.

  5. Booking through third parties (i.e. Expedia rather than Delta) may yield cheaper results, but if you run into any problems, they have been known to be extremely unhelpful. (I also have never been able to do the 24 hour check-in online when I bought a ticket through a third party. I checked-in at the airport the day of and everything was fine, but still. Being told there was an error or your ticket can’t be found is not reassuring.) In fact, recently third parties are about the same price, if not more expensive, anyway.

Now that we’ve got those reminders down, here’s how I go about finding tickets:

About 4 months before your desired departure choose a site like Kayak.com where you can look at multiple prices at once (choose the +/- 3 days for both the departure and return dates, so you can see a whole week’s worth of prices around both dates).  Make a note of the dates and prices that work best for you, then check back about once a week to see how the prices are rising or dropping.  Kayak, among many other sites, allow you to create free notifications of certain travel dates. You’ll get an email if the prices drop, go up, or even if they’re holding steady. I would never trust completely to these notifications and still check manually, but they’re a helpful tool.

At 2-3 months before desired departure you should have a good idea of what the prices for your dates are doing, and what airlines are cheapest. Chances are the prices haven’t moved significantly, but if they have, especially up, don't worry. There's a good chance they'll drop again, just keep checking back. When you feel ready to buy (I think 2 months* before is a good balance), go ahead and check Kayak again and then go to the website of the airline with the best deal. If everything looks good, buy!

*It is possible to buy tickets sometimes even up to a week before departure with decent prices, but I bet you they were cheaper two months ago. It also makes me very nervous to wait that long, knowing the prices can go up very high.

Tada! There you have it. Nothing magical. But with this method I always feel confidant I got the best prices.

Other helpful hints:

  1. As of circa January 2018, the lowest fares between Europe and North America no longer include the first checked bag. The first checked bag is $50 each way, or you can pay a more expensive fare, such as $80 more total, and get the first bag free along with several other perks, like choosing your seat and being able to change your ticket. Not cool, you guys. Not cool.

  2. azair.eu is a helpful site for flights within Europe or Asia, with lots of filters so you can hone in on what you’re looking for.

  3. I advise against using the app “Hopper.” I added several of my upcoming flights over a period of time so it could keep track of them, letting me know the best time to buy. However, in all the flights and different locations and dates I added, I could find a much cheaper plane ticket myself every single time they notified me of the “best price", go ahead and buy. So, if you still like the app, just keep in mind you’re probably not actually getting the best price.

  4. CheapFareGuru.com used to be one of my go to sites. They were always the cheapest by a good bit. Their site is a bit sketchy looking, but I’ve bought tickets through them a couple times and never had problems (other than not being able to check-in online). I say “used to” because their flights don’t load for me anymore. I dunno.

Accommodation

As for hotels and airbnbs, all the cute and affordable ones book up quickly, so I would start looking at least 4 months in advance, especially for popular tourist destinations such as Rome, Paris, London, ya know, all the places you want to go.  

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Hotels vs. airbnb? Totally depends on what you’re looking for. I think booking an airbnb is much simpler, but I don’t think it’s always cheaper. Hotels need to stay in business and thus prices seem to have become more competent, so I would recommend looking at some hotel sites and compare them with airbnb before making a final decision.

A tip for lodging, especially if you are staying in an airbnb type place, before moving or touching anything, take pictures of the whole apartment.  That way, if your host decides to blame a broken outlet (or worse) on you after you've gone, you have proof to show them and the third party (such as airbnb) that that is how it was when you arrived.  

Do you have any tips or tricks for finding good plane tickets and accommodation? I’d love to hear them, share in the comments below!

A Beginner's Guide to Italy: 20 1/2 Things the Guide Books Might Not Tell You

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Welcome to my first "All Things Italy" post!  I'm glad you're here.  I'm glad to be here, too.  In fact, let's take a moment and be thankful to be on this earth.  Great.  It's good for the soul to be able to talk or write about things, and in this instance, hopefully helpful to whomever may come across this blog!  Whether you have been, are planning to, or are still dreaming of traveling to Italy, I hope my trial/error, observances, and gleanings from friends both national and international will be of use to you; or if nothing else, an insight into what the folks on the other side of the globe are up to, more than just the politics on the news.  

If you're anything like my mom and I while planning trips, you've probably read every edition from the last decade of The Backpacker's Guide, Rick Steves, Planet Earth, and Forbes, exhausted every airline website for cheap tickets, booked all your airbnb's, and compiled endless lists of what and how to pack, language cheat sheets, top sights to see in each city, foods not to miss, directions for the subway/train/bus to get from A to B, what NOT to wear, what souvenirs to buy, and a list of the local emergency phone numbers and services.  And if this not how you plan your travel experiences, well, let's just say you probably save a lot of time, spend more money, are less stressed, and might miss out on some of the little experiences.  But that's why I'm writing this, to share some of the things learned with endless hours of research, reading, traveling, and now living in Italy.  So if your brain is spinning with information and Rick Steves left you with more questions than he answered, hopefully this list will help you navigate smoothly in Italia by pointing out some of the little, albeit important things. 


1. First things first: 911 won't work in an emergency

You're in a foreign country and someone just stole your purse or you tripped down some stairs while staring at some ancient building.  What do you do?  

Call 112.  The European Union has a universal number of emergency (this is a great idea) however, it's taken some countries longer to adopt it than others, and in some provinces in Italy it still isn't completely integrated.  In these instances, it will connect you to the police emergency line, which in theory should be just as effective.  Thankfully I've never needed to call.  Listed below are all the emergency numbers in Italy that will connect you to specific departments:

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  • 112 for the general number of emergency or carabinieri (para-military) - for all emergencies or cases of danger, criminal activity, etc.

  • 113 for polizia di stato (state police) - crime, neighbors are making too much noise, the stoplight is broken, etc. (I know everyone keeps their eyes peeled for malfunctioning stoplights while on vacation.)

  • 114 emergenza infanzia (child emergency) - for young people until the age of 29 in peril, bullying, kidnap, etc. (I know, you had pictured a 2 year-old who accidentally drank some bleach, but instead it's a 29 year-old who says somebody's picking on him at the bar.)

  • 115 vigili del fuoco (Firefighters) - for FIRE!

  • 116 soccorso stradale/carro attrezzi (road rescue/tow truck) - for car troubles

  • 118 emergenza sanitaria/ambulanza (health emergency/ambulance) - for yes, any health emergency.

2. Theft is common

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You've read it once, you've read it a million times.  Because it's true, and it does not discriminate.  It's happened to friends while I was with them, famous celebrities, and people I know have prevented it from happening.  Stay vigilant and smart about your belongings at all times and you should be fine.   

Women, across the body purses are wonderful, although be thoughtful of your strap.  If someone could tug your purse hard and break the strap, consider wearing something different.  The backpack purses are nice, too.  Men, wherever it is that you keep your wallet that's hard to get.  

And those flesh colored under-the-clothes purses for your most preciouses and extra cash?  Don't bother.  Uncomfortable, lumpy, hot.  What if you don't want to leave valuables or cash in your hotel or apartment?  Let's put it this way:  You should really only have as much cash on you as you're going to use in a day or two, a credit card, and your passport, and all those things should stay on you.  Everything else probably shouldn't be with you on vacation, anyway.  

Be extra vigilant on buses, while dining (no purses on chairs), busy areas, and wherever there are begging gypsies, the more correct term being the Roma people.  They are easy to spot, dark skin and hair, usually have bright colors on, the women with long skirts and often heels, and layered shirts.  They have various tactics for getting money, shaking cups at you, laying on the street or feigning handicaps to evoke sympathy, or sometimes, downright stealing.  The Italians in general (around 80%) are unfavorable towards them, but they are humans and should be treated as such, even if they have lamentable habits.  But don't we all?

Keep these tips in mind and again, you should be fine! 

3. Those bracelets and trinkets offered to you for free are never free

Speaking of theft, the cons are not alway so obvious as purse snatching.  The tactics or objects vary by city, but a common one has to do with a bracelet. 

My first experience was in Rome, in Piazza del Popolo, where a seemingly friendly man approached me and insisted on tying a thread bracelet around my wrist.  I said no, thinking I would have to pay, but after he repeatedly insisted and wouldn't leave me alone, smiling all the while, I finally allowed him, partly so he would go away.  I told him numerous times I didn't want to pay for it, I didn't have coins to pay him, etc., but he continued to tie the bracelet, taking his sweet ol' time and complimenting me and my mom the whole time.  As soon as he finished I thanked him sincerely but he wasn't about to let us go.  He started out quietly, asking for anything, just a coin, 50 cents, 1 euro, but we repeatedly told him no, he had told us it was free.  Then he got angry and insisted I give the bracelet back, cursing and insulting us all the time it took me to unknot it. (Why did it have to be a TIE bracelet?!?) Then he sulked away.  

Similar things happen in Florence, but usually the bracelets are beads, and the person will be very cordial, shake your hand (in fact, they often grab your hand and won't let go) and ask you all kinds of information making small talk, but ending in asking for money: they need to eat, have to feed their babies, etc.  Of course, you feel bad taking the bracelet off and it makes it harder when they don't want to accept it back while pleading with you, so then you feel pressured to give them a euro or two.  All part of a tactic, and I'll tell you this from experience, it's usually best to avoid them if you don't want to give money and don't like saying no a million times.  

It's not fun to refuse, I feel bad for the situation so many of the immigrants are in, but I also don't like some of the tactics they use.  I know several people who have tried to help, stopped and talked long whiles with some of the people begging on the streets.  Then, the next day, they see them again, shaking their cup or sitting on the street, but they act like they don't know them.  Or, sitting by signs that say "Help, I'm hungry" and they refuse perfectly delicious food.  Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol play a big part and a few will even be up front about it if you ask them.  

4. Don't trust a restaurant that has "greeters" standing outside 

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You're tired, feet hurt, sunburned, and starving after spending the day sightseeing.  All you want is a nice sit down restaurant with a giant bowl of pasta and a glass of wine.  A smiling man in black with a red bow tie and apron smiles and greets you with a "Buonasera!" as you pass, then continues to offer you something to drink, pizza, pasta, or anything else you might like in fluent English, gesturing to the menu written neatly on a blackboard next to him, also in English with choice Italian words anyone would understand.  If anything like this happens to you, simply reply with "no grazie" or "no thank you" and walk away.  This is not a place that will give you authentic or even good Italian food.  If the greeter proceeds to advertise that none of their food is frozen or microwaved, please turn your walk into a sprint.  If the restaurant is in full view of a major landmark of that city, there's a good chance it's tourist food and the high prices reflect that.  You want to take your time strolling in some smaller streets, often away from the historic city centers and crowds, and find the places that have mostly Italians at them and might not seat a lot of people.  Stay away from catch phrases such as "authentic," "cucina Italiana," or anything that tries to indicate its Italian-ness; Authenticity doesn't need advertising.  

5. Water is not free

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I'm not just talking about that bottle of water to carry around with you, any restaurant you go to you're going to have to pay for water.  Italians don't drink tap water or serve it in restaurants, and with good reason.  The water here is hard, very much so in Tuscany; I've seen the pebbles of calcium and who knows what else stuck in a friend's kitchen sink water filter after just a few hours and heard how the water will run gunky and brown at times.  Then think how old some of the pipes are under these ancient cities, and you can understand why the Italians consume so much bottled water.  If the idea of paying for water in restaurants seems ridiculous, as it did to me for so long, just make sure to drink plenty of (cheaper) water before and after the restaurant, and order a bottle of wine with your meal instead. :)

An exception to the rule would be the taps around the city, the water is usually pretty tasty from there and great to fill up water bottles.  Some are quite deluxe because they are connected to underground springs.  There's one in Piazza della Signoria where you can choose from natural or sparkling water.  ("Wis gas")

6. Expect a cover charge at most restaurants

Known as "Il coperto," this fee usually hovers between 1.50-2.50 euros per person, and covers that "free" bread they brought you at the beginning of the meal, napkins, silverware, and tablecloth.  If you notice on your bill that the "pane" or bread is listed separately from Il coperto, as I once noticed indignantly, that often happens when the bread is made in house, or "produzione propria."  Nothing is free in Italy, and if someone insists on giving you a gift, you should be highly suspicious.  (see #3 above) 

6 1/2. Really, it's not necessary to tip

I know, I know, if you're American, you're going to feel like a real jerk not leaving a tip.  Honestly, no one is going to think you are a tight wad.  There just isn't a tip culture here.  You can think of the money that went toward paying for the water and cover charge as your tip, if that makes you feel better.  If you really want to leave a tip because of exceptional service, leave a couple euros.  But don't feel guilty if you don't!

7. "To Go" and Doggy-bags aren't common  

Taking away and eating in are two very separate categories for the Italians.  Either you eat at a restaurant without taking home a doggy bag, or, for certain places, like bakeries and pizza places, you can get your food to go.  Even when the portions are large, like when one pizza is considered one serving, they don't ask for to-go boxes.  They eat the whole pizza.  Their dinners are usually long and sociable, with plenty of time for eating and digesting.  It always impresses me how even the kids and petite women can pack away a whole pizza.  Those who are watching their figure, however, usually leave the crust.  Of course, if you want a to-go box, go ahead and ask for it, just expect some weird looks and tinfoil instead of a box.  And coffee to go?  Better not, unless you're at Arnold's Coffee, the "American" coffee experience.   

8. Coffee = Espresso

Espresso, or as they more commonly call it, "caffé normale," is the most common coffee beverage here, usually drunk at the counter in a matter of minutes.  If you prefer a touch of steamed milk in your espresso, order a "caffé macchiato." Don't forget to try a cappuccino in the country where it was christened, or my favorite sweet coffee, caffé al ginseng.  Really, it's sweet and delicious and nutty and ginseng supposedly has some health benefits.  If you really miss American coffee, order the americano, which is just water added to an espresso.  Drip coffee is becoming more of a thing here, and a select few places do a pretty decent Chemex or V60.  

Most of the typical coffee choices come unsweetened (I'm a fan).  Oh, and remember if you order a latte, you're just going to get a glass of milk.  (Latte means milk.)

9.  Ice? What's that? 

Ice isn't a given here, so if you can't stand drinking a soda without ice, you might want to request it.  If you are in a place used to dealing with tourists, then they might ask.  Otherwise, your soda/drink will *probably* come cold, but no ice.  Or maybe just cool.  Italians think abrupt temperature changes are unhealthy, so an ice cold beverage on a hot day? That's a no-no.  You might come down with a cold.  

10. The bar is not just a place for alcohol and adults

The word "bar" in Italian means much more than a place to congregate later in the evening and throw back a few drinks.  My friends and family may think I've turned into a lush for as often as I talk about "going to the bar."  It's true they serve alcohol any time of day, no one ever has to say "It's 5 O'clock somewhere," but bars are so much more than beer and mixed drinks. 

The bar is an integral way of life here.  You can find one just about on every corner, open from 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning where the Italians linger a few minutes to throw back an espresso, eat breakfast and sometimes their lunch break, discuss the latest soccer (calcio) match, read the newspaper, talk about the weather, gossip about the neighbors, and people-watch.  They might return several times throughout the day to the bar nearest their home or workplace, or the elderly generation might just sit and watch passers-by for hours.  Then, somewhere around 6:00pm, the bars magically turn into what I grew up knowing as a bar and they no longer serve coffee.  All around, bars are quite magical.  

11. Sitting down at a bar or cafe may double the price of your hot chocolate

There are three types of caffès here: The type that charges more if you sit down to enjoy your beverage, the type that charges more only if you order sitting down instead of first ordering at the bar, and the type that charges the same no matter what you do.  

If you're not sure, order at the bar and then, ideally after you've paid, ask if you may sit down.  That way they won't surprise charge you 5 euro for the hot chocolate you thought was 2.5.  This usually happens in more upscale locales rather than your humble local bar, but nevertheless, it's always better to ask and be safe than sorry.   

Another thing to note is that some bars and caffès don't care whether you pay as you order or after you've enjoyed your treats, while others require you to pay first and then show your receipt to the barista.  If the latter is the case, there will probably be a sign, so keep your eyes open, or, just ask.  (I'm a big fan of drawing as little attention to myself as I can, and prefer to observe how the locals do it or read signs before proceeding.)  

12. Italians will faint if you drink cappuccino after 12:00pm. Or will they?

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After reading in just about every guide book and blog that Italians will all but have a heart attack if you drink a cappuccino after noon, you can imagine my shock when one time my Italian language partner ordered a big ol' cappuccino at 4:00pm.  After scraping my eyebrows off the ceiling I asked her how she could betray her country like that (I'm sure I didn't phrase it that way) and she kindly explained to me the logistics. 

You see, drinking coffee with milk in it together with food is wonderful for breakfast, but for lunch and dinner, espresso is what you drink after the meal to help aid digestion.  Milk would upset your digestion with any meal heavier than breakfast, so that's why you should stay clear "after 12:00pm," or the usual cutoff for breakfast hours.  But.  If you are drinking the cappuccino in the afternoon at say, 4:00pm, or any time you're not eating food, you're in the clear.  At that point there is no food digesting to be messed up.  You'll only see the Italians fainting and throwing evil glares if you order a cappuccino with that pasta and truffles.  Seriously, they don't go together.  

13. You can drink anytime, anywhere

If you exit early in the morning, the evidence of last night's partying might not be swept away yet. Boxed wine, how classy.

If you exit early in the morning, the evidence of last night's partying might not be swept away yet. Boxed wine, how classy.

Yes, I'm talking about alcohol.  Due to open-container laws in the States, you have to think twice about where to pop open that beer.  There is no such law here, and you can take along that bottle of wine and wine glasses to any piazza, park, or romantic spot you'd like.  As I mentioned above, there is no 5 O'clock social rule here, and have seen people drinking beers before 9:00am while I'm still finishing my cappuccino, or opening bottles of wine at 11:00am for a little pre-lunch.

Drunkenness is frowned upon here, and so even while the land may be flowing with Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, all but the younger generations know how to drink responsibly.  Drunkenness usually occurs on special occasions such as soccer matches and holidays.  If you stay out later at night, the sloshed you see are probably American students and the younger generation of Italians out partying and clubbing. 

14. Kids' menus aren't common

This one was brought to my attention by friends with kids.  After it was brought up, I realized how right they were.  It's rare that I've ever seen a kid's menu.  Children here usually eat whatever the parents eat, and once they are older, get their own plate.  Makes a lot of sense to me, rather than getting some completely non nutritious mac n' cheese or chicken tenders that they probably won't end up eating anyway.  

15. Don't touch the fruit!

Or a nonna might scold you.  My mom and I wouldn't know that by experience, nope.  Really, they're very touchy about their fruit.  Plastic gloves are provided in every grocery store and at markets, where the person at the stand might not let you touch the fruit at all but put the fruit and vegetables in bags himself as you point out what you want.  

One time while at the grocery store, I didn't want to waste a plastic glove to get just one apple, so I decided to sneak over and snatch an apple sans glove before a nonna saw me.  While I was standing there a woman came up next to me to get some peaches, and actually apologized to me that she wasn't using a glove.  She obviously hadn't noticed that I was in no place to judge, also without a glove.  Two rebels touching the fruit, lalala.   

16. Use free bathrooms when they are available to you

The free services of a restroom in your hotel, the bar where you just drank a cappuccino, or the restaurant you just ate in should all be utilized when possible.  The moment you step out the door of your hotel you will be at the mercy of the Italian city centers, where there are fewer public bathrooms than you'd like, hard to find when you need one, and consequently, if eas