In January I was lucky enough to live in Florence for three weeks for a short term university exchange. In that time I managed to eat my way through the city, from trying the best pizza between classes, to hopping from one incredible pasta place to the next, to ignoring the European winter and tasting all the gelato I could! Since I spent so long in Florence, I was able to try heaps of different eating spots (and sometimes go back a second and third time!) so I feel confident enough in my recommendations to pass them onto fellow travellers heading to this Italian city! Keep reading to see what places I recommend, what you absolutely must order from their menu, and to pick up some tips I learnt while I was there! If you enjoy this post please give it a “like” so I know, and let’s get into the Florence food guide!
My opinion of SimBIOsi can be described in four words – the pièce de résistance. I’m so sentimental about this restaurant because it was the first place Natalie and I visited that knocked our socks off, rocked our world, and truly lived up to everyone’s expectations of exceptional Italian dining. Every little thing about SimBIOsi is authentically Italian. From the exposed brick interior, to the open kitchen you can look into and see your meal being made, to the long communal table everyone can sit around, it’s all just so beautiful. And I haven’t even mentioned the food yet! SimBIOsi’s pasta menu is all about quality over quantity as they offer around eight different organic dishes, each one just as delicious as the next. We went here three times during our stay, and if I lived in Florence longer I would have worked my way through their entire menu.
Menu Winners: Macaroni with broccoli and sausage (pictured above), wild boar ragù pappardelle and finally the macaroni with pumpkin, “fontina” cheese and lime cream and crunchy pistachios (pictured below) – all exceptional, all delicious.
Good for: Dinners and lunches, groups of any size (but know you’ll most likely sit next to a stranger when seated at the communal table, but I actually loved this feature as we got to chat to the people around us!).
Jessica’s Tip: SimBIOsi has two separate restaurants right next to each other, one offering just pasta and one offering just pizza. I tried their pizza for lunch once and it was great, but I definitely love the pasta restaurant more! I also never found this separation of food to be annoying, because if you’re going to SimBIOsi, you won’t want anything but their incredible pasta.
Ah, Il Vivandiere, also now known as ‘where the wild boar meatballs are‘. When I returned home to Australia, one of the first things I said was “I now have an addiction to wild boar!” But the meatballs at this restaurant are seriously something to write home about. They’re so tender, juicy, flavoursome and just incredible. Pair them with an entrée of your choice and a glass of wine and you’re good to go. Il Vivandiere is also the epitome of a romantic candlelit dinner because the mood lighting in this place is just on another level. It’s all exposed brick with wooden chairs and tables, soft jazz music, and an entire back wall covered in vintage bottles of wine. We came here about half way through our trip and came back later to celebrate our last night abroad!
Menu Winners: Obviously the meatballs, but the lemon tiramisu on the dessert menu is out of this world delicious, so definitely order that as well!
Good For: Romantic dinners, small to medium sized groups.
Trattoria Zà Zà
This restaurant needs an award for the sheer scale of operation it performs every night. It’s huge! And almost every single table in the mammoth sized restaurant was full with a mix of locals and tourists, so we knew we were on to something good. The lovely staff efficiently organised a table for us, and before we knew it were were able to check out the menu and order! What I loved most about this place was, even though it was surprisingly huge and you noticed another area of dining each way you looked, it still felt intimate and cosy, but not cramped. It’s wooden table and chairs felt homey, and lined above us on the walls was an abundance of little plastic toy dolls. It was unconventional, but we didn’t question it because we were too distracted by the amazing food.
Menu Winners: Gnocchi with red sauce (a simple dish to recommend, I know, but it was the first time I had ordered it in Italy because it’s surprisingly rare to find on menus, and it lived up to all my expectations!)
Good For: Dinners, groups of any size, travellers as it’s in good proximity to the train station.
The Lunch Rush
Don’t get me started on this place because it genuinely felt like I had walked into my Nonna’s kitchen for dinner back home in Brisbane. Firstly; this place in the definition of no frills. Your meal is placed in front of you with no fancy plating up or redundant rosemary accessorising, it’s just there – and it’s sensational. Just really simple, authentically Italian dishes done perfectly. Secondly; Osteria Bungustai is run by four women, two cooking in the glass fronted kitchen at the front of the restaurant which you can look into and see them working away, and two others waiting on you and running the place. They’re all lovely, and we got to wave at the chiefs in the kitchen both when we entered and left, and it just gave the restaurant such a warm feeling!
Menu Winners: Do your tastebuds the ultimate favour and order the ricotta cheesecake. I’ve never really enjoyed this dessert, but of course a little tucked away restaurant in Florence converted me. The texture was like nothing else I had ever experienced as it was so light and fluffy and not heavy in the slightest. Plus, the slice was warm. It was the perfect end to my meal.
Good for: Small to medium sized groups.
Jessica’s Tip: On Google, and their front door, it says Osteria Buongustai is open for lunches and dinner only on Saturday nights. However, we went there one Saturday night and they were closed, so I’m unsure of their actual hours. However, we went back for lunch during the day and they were open, so if you’re planning on going, don’t leave it too late in the day!
We stumbled upon this place at the start of our three week stay and it served us so well! What Cucciolo lacks in seating and restaurant size, it makes up for with its huge range of food! From personal pizzas, to a spread of different pastas, to panini, pies – they’ve got it all! All their food is super affordable but tastes so delicious. The owners are also so lovely because we ordered an amazing pasta the first time we went, and then the second time it wasn’t there. We asked why, thinking they just do a normal rotation of dishes, but the owners actually quickly whipped up a personal batch just for us! So they really care about their customers and go the extra mile.
Good for: Grabbing lunch or takeaway, small groups only as there is little seating, but feel free to ask for takeaway and eat your snack as you wander the streets of Firenze.
Jessica’s Tip: I don’t think they’re open Monday as they’re open on the weekends, so check their availability, because you might end up like us who were so keen to go back one Monday, only to see they were shut!
For Your Sweet Tooth
After hearing that career/family/life goals goddess Zoë Foster Blake defined Gelateria De’Neri’s gelato as ‘outstanding’ and ‘very NOMNOMNOM’, we couldn’t not go and see what all the fuss was about. And the fuss well and truly lived up to the hype. I think this is the best gelato I’ve ever tried. When I first walked in and viewed their flavour selection, I wasn’t too blown away. But once I started eating my go-to mix of hazelnut, chocolate, and whatever else I’m feeling in the moment, goodness me – it was to die for. The texture is so unique and so hard to capture, but Gelateria De’Neri did it perfectly. Their gelato is smooth, but also airy and fluffy, but nothing like mousse, it was still creamy and gelato like. It was a small difference compared to the other gelato I had tried so far in Florence, but it definitely stood out above the rest!
On par with the gelato place above is Cantina Gelato, which is a winner in our hearts as it was a 3 minute walk from our accommodation, was also recommended by Zoë Foster Blake, and was on the way to and from university – gelato cones all round! Their flavours are incredible, so literally every one they offer is a menu winner!
Good for: Small to medium sized groups as there is zero seating inside, however they have some tables and chairs on the street and we all sat out there one night eating our gelato while people rode past on bikes or walked their dogs!
Jessica’s Tip: When looking for an authentic gelato place, go where the gelato is hidden away in steel tubs, the titles of the flavours are in Italian, and there are no neon signs or artificial colours or flavours in sight.
Not only does Don Nino win for its location (it’s right next to the Duomo so you can see the stunning green and white monument from your seat!) but it has the best cannoli I have ever tried. Just like with ricotta cheesecakes, I have never been a huge fan of cannoli because they’re quite rich. But these were on another level. I have no idea how to describe their filling, it was almost like icing in a way? I tried two different types while I was there for three weeks, one being their pistachio flavour (which is my favourite) and one being their ricotta one. On my final visit I asked for one end to be filled with ricotta and one with pistachio and, frankly, I’m not sure how I’m still alive because it was just so freaking delicious.
Good For: Groups of any size as they have heaps of seating both inside and out but it still feels warm and cosy.
Menu Winners: Their cannoli! Especially the pistachio flavour, which isn’t overwhelmingly nutty. You can also choose what to place on top, from nuts to chocolate chips, and I highly recommend the dark chocolate chips, they just set it all off! ALSO – how could I almost forget about their incredible Italian hot chocolates? They’re thick, indulgent, and get poured from a huge vat. Order yours with or without whipped cream on top for the perfect thing to warm you up during an Italian winter!
Jessica’s Tips: We didn’t usually sit outside because we were in Florence during the colder months, but if you do sit outside, be aware of the beggars who will come up to you and ask for money. They would always walk away once they realised we wouldn’t respond, but it’s just something to take note of as the Duomo is a huge tourist attraction.
Not Italian, But Still Sensational
When you’re living somewhere for three weeks, constantly going to Italian places can become a bit mundane. We were all craving flavours and textures you just can’t really get on an Italian menu, so here are the two spots I recommend for when you’re sick of Italian food – because hey, it happens!
I could write a song about Dim Sum, it’s spectacular. Why is it that the best Asian food I’ve ever had was in Florence? Questions aside, the restaurant Dim Sum is a must do when in Florence and after something other than the norm. The first time we came here it was a freezing cold day, probably the coldest day we experienced while living there, and by this point a cold was niggling away at most of us. The spicy flavours, hot broth, juicy dumplings and delicious vegetables worked a miracle on us all and warmed us to our core! I’m obviously not an expert on Asian cuisine, but Dim Sum’s food was on another level and definitely wasn’t run of the mill. I can’t recommend it enough!
Menu Winners: Their pork dumplings in broth give you the best of both worlds as I was after a noodle soup for something to warm me up but also wanted dumplings, so this dish was perfect! The first time we went here I ordered a noodle soup for myself and it was huge and meant for sharing, so just be aware of what sounds like a family sized dish! I also loved their pork buns as well.
Good for: Cold days, lunches and dinners, groups of any size.
If you’re craving some Mexican, Tijuana has you covered! From nachos to burritos to quesadillas, it’s all happening here! Their food is delicious, affordable, and they have great serving sizes! They have a super extensive menu too, so if you just want something for yourself, or share with a friend, or order something for the whole table, there’s something for every occasion.
Menu Winners: Literally anything, but the DIY burritos are super fun to make, and if you still have room after eating all of that, you can eat the corn chip bowl your guacamole came in! Wash everything down with a jug (or four) of Sangria for the table or a margarita (I recommend the peach!) and you’ve got yourself a good night.
Good for: Groups of any size if you’ve made a booking, dinners, girl’s nights, the lot!
So there we have it, my guide to eating your way around Florence! Trust me to be able to write about Italian food for two and a half thousand words! If you ever find yourself heading to the beautiful city of Firenze, I hope this post flagged some must visit restaurants for you! What are some of your favourite eating spots? Leave me a comment below (and don’t forget to say where you’re from!) as I’d love to know what people around the world recommend.
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All the love,