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.
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
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.
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.
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.!
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. ;)
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.
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!
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?
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. ;)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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?
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.
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!
Cacio Vino Trallalla
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!