Florence has a very special place in my heart. Having never actually lived there or even been for longer than 4 days at a time it still somehow feels like a bit of a second home.
A friend of mine spent a few years living there and working for a cobbler, honing her skills and creating some beautiful bespoke shoes (check out her stunning Instagram of her work). Of course, whilst she was living there I selflessly tried to visit her as much as I possibly could. When she moved back to London last year to do her masters at the Royal College I was overjoyed to suddenly have my best friend living down the street, however devastated to have lost my Florence connection of a free place to stay and to be wined and dined like a local. In the autumn last year we both returned to the city so she could catch up with friends whilst we ate our way around our favourite spots.
Here is a guide to the places we have whiled away many afternoons over bruschetta and white wine, and where we had many elaborate feasts followed by far too many Montenegro’s in Santo Spirito.
Not only my favourite restaurant in Florence but high up on my favourites of the world. This is because of the simple elegance of this restaurant, from the quaint piazza setting to every plate that comes from the kitchen. Never before have I fallen in love with a dish so simple as the ‘Bruchettta all’olio’ which is literally just toasted bread covered in olive oil and salt yet somehow tastes like something from a Michelin starred kitchen.
On the many long afternoon lunches we have spent on the terrace of this restaurant sipping glass after glass of white wine, we have eaten our way through a respectful amount of the menu. The simple and delicate fried courgette flowers are not to be missed, so lightly battered and crisp they almost melt in your mouth. Go for the creamy burrata with prosciutto, or if your feeling a bit cured meat out by this point in your trip have it with the roasted vegetables which is equally delicious. If it’s on the menu upon your visit then you must order instead the classic Florentine dish of coccoli, prosciutto and stracchino. Stracchino is an even more decadent dip like version of burrata, and the coccoli are these heavenly little fried dough balls. enjoy.
For mains you can’t go wrong with one of their simple pasta dishes like the tagliatelle with goats cheese and tomatoes. But the star of this restaurant and a dish I have eaten time and time again (twice on my last trip in fact) is the fruity pear fiochetti in a creamy taleggio sauce with chopped asparagus. The simple perfection of this dish is what Italian cooking is all about.
Make sure to make a reservation in advance or be disappointed.
Another special spot and where we have spent many nights feasting our way through the long menu is Club Culinario Toscano da Osvaldo. Located on a quiet side street not far from the Piazza di Santa Croce, behind the small entrance is this secret and cosy spot adored by locals. From classic Florentine dishes to the sometimes strange but delicious regional dishes that the talented young chef Damiano makes, this is a place to spend a long evening with great friends, food, and wine.
Work your way through the appetizers like polpette, crisp breaded meat balls with green sauce and mayonnaise, Codfish deep-fried in chickpea batter or the indulgent burrata with black truffle. Try the selection of Tuscan and Umbrian cured meats, or the squacquerone cheese which comes with fried courgette flowers and slices of cured Mocetti port shoulder, my top starter here.
If your in the mood for fresh pasta then order the tortilla with the wild boar ragu or the ravioli with ricotta and spinach in Occeli butter. Explore some traditional dishes for your main like the delicious rabbit casserole with olives and fennel or the show stopping classic Florentine T-bone steak. The skewer of roasted octopus is also quite fantastic.
Whatever you pick on this long menu, make sure your order some sides of the crispest fresh fried potatoes with sage and garlic and the unbeatable eggplant parmigiana with smoked buffalo mozzarella.
Finish your meal with the raw cheesecake and a few Montenegro’s. You’re done.
Piazza dei Peruzzi, 3R, 50122
Discovered only on our trip last autumn, this charming little restaurant is on the same piazza as 4leoni. Its the perfect spot to spend lunch when you have really overdone it on too many cured meats and ragus. With a lovely and unusual vegetarian menu for Florence, go here for simple pasta dishes and middle eastern inspired plates.
Whilst lunching here I ate the most elegant eggplant parmigiana I have ever had. Just when you thought there is no improving a eggplant parmigiana the delicate layered serving comes with a side of burrata. Winning combo.
Finish your meal with a traditional vin santo, a Italian sweet wine served with delicious cantucci biscotti for dipping.
With three spots now in Florence, I had nursed many hangovers whilst taking shelter from the rain at the original cosy cafe on Via De’ neri, with their strong coffee, comforting croque-monsieusr and delicious baked goods. This visit we popped into their huge mid century coffee shop/gin bar in its glorious new setting for a couple of post lunch vinos, and I definitely recommend it for a visit.
Piazza Santo Spirito
The beating heart of Florence’s trendy scene, by day this piazza is a great place to have lunch on a terrace of one of its many osterias or browse the vintage and vegetable markets. However by night is when it comes alive and locals descend upon the many bars and perch them selves on the steps of the subtly beautiful Santo Spirito church with a pizza and booze.
To eat head to Osteria Santo Spirito for the tortellacci with walnuts and cream sauce, platters of cured meats, and the devilishly indulgent baked Gnocchi with soft cheese gratin and truffle oil. Warning, pasta dishes come in two sizes and I advise you, opt for the smaller unless a few of you are sharing. Learn from our mistakes. Another spot for great and big pasta dishes is Borgo Antico where I had a fantastic seafood linguine.
A trendy and more modern edition to the square is the Tamero PastaBar. Although a few odd things on the menu, the pasta is of course beautiful. As is the cocoli and stracchino.
The best thing to do in this piazza as night falls, particularly when you have an evening of drinking ahead, is to get a pizza to go from around the corner and take it to sit on the steps with a bottle of wine and a few friends. Then head to the bar Volume for more drinks and work your way around the square from there.
Giardino delle Rose
Instead of going all the way up to the Piazza Michelangelo, stop off at the Giardino della Rose. A beautiful and sometimes quiet rose garden which is one of my favourite places in Florence. Stop of at a bakery (I recommend Le botteghe de il fornaio of Santo Spirito) and gather a pack lunch of delicious pizza slices to enjoy whilst you relax and take in the stunning view of Florence from this very special spot.
My final advise is to make sure you bring a half empty suitcase, then go to Eataly and fill that suitcase with all sorts of delights. You will not be disappointed.