My Florentine Foodie Experience

This summer I travelled to Tuscany’s capital, Florence. During my stay I gorged an obscene amount of pizza, ice cream and some amazing traditional local dishes. However, the food outlets fell into one of two categories: a waste of money, or an experience that you don’t want to end. Wherever the tourists outnumbered the locals, the odds were stacked against you and so when I had the opportunity to travel, I found those hidden local restaurants – which serve the best food and have the best atmosphere.  If you don’t want to waste your time combing through the hundreds of restaurants, have a glance at My Florentine Foodie Experience to get a heads up on the best places to wine and dine during your stay. 

At the beginning of my trip, as I strolled the markets around the centre of the city, I stumbled into the merceto central (central market place). I had been to the market the day before and explored the stalls with all the fresh fruit and vegetables, cured meats and an array of cheeses but what caught my attention was the string of business men that were wandering in. What I hadn’t realised was that the upper level of the market had been transformed into a street food canteen, set out like a food court. If you are ever in Florence, this is the place to eat lunch; there is so much food to offer. My favourite (where I indulged more than once during my stay) was Pizza Capri – at a reasonable eight euros for a huge pizza – it is to date the best pizza I have ever had. The freshness of the tomatoes and mozzarella is a taste which I don’t ever think will be surpassed.

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Pizza Capri on location at Mercato Centrale

It was also at the market that I had my first taste of tripe… sounds gross I know but surprisingly was rather delicious. Tripe, or lampredotto, is a delicacy in Tuscany – originally deemed as peasant food – this dish has not become trendy and can be found throughout Florence at various street vendors selling it in home-made baked buns with a variety of sauces – I highly recommend the chilli sauce.

If you want to see what Florence is really like – away from the throngs of tourist tours and money belts – you should venture to Santo Spirito, a small piazza across the Arno River.  The square is at its best at night when hoards of students adorn the steps of the church at the north side. The Piazza has a life of its own, not to mention the restaurants, cafes and bars are some of the best the city has to offer. Its charming setting will seduce anyone. My penultimate day in Florence was spent strolling around this area and eating at Gusta Panino in the square – the aubergine lasagne here is to die for. This quaint tratorria was probably one of the best places I ate during my stay; the building and experience felt like it was something out of the past: very little menu choices but each of those choices divine. The pasta is made fresh every day and is set alongside traditional home cooked food.

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On the penultimate night I thought it was time to splash out with my extra spending money and treat myself to a bit of ‘silver service.’ Attached to the Number 9 Hotel, the Il Prove del Nove is a restaurant known for its fine dining – I had not comprehended was that it was run by a culinary school.  I need not have worried as the food is probably the best I have ever consumed whilst the service was attentive without being at all intrusive. All the bread that is served alongside their courses is home-made which allows the seasonal Tuscan dishes to speak for themselves. What I liked about this restaurant was that although it was what one might deem ‘fancy’ it has still stuck very much to its roots. The dishes have modern twists but like all the best food I had experienced, the chefs let the ingredients speak for themselves. I had a main of beef fillet cooked in a salt and pepper crust accompanied by an onion puree, peach slice and rocket salad. I thought I had died and gone to culinary heaven. This restaurant is worth the extra pennies and I would highly recommend to any foodie who travels to this region.

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Main Course: Beef with Onion Puree, Peach slice and green leaf salad; Dessert: white chocolate and coffe mousse.

My final word is gelato, or ice cream. If you go to Italy and do not sample the ice cream then you are committing a carnal sin in my book. There are an abundance of flavours ranging from lemon to cookie dough and back all the way through to sticky cherry. And yes, I found a triple triple chocolate flavour! The Italian ice cream alone is definitely worth the trip!

I fell in love with Florence and with its food within a few days of arriving. There is so much to offer if you are willing to hunt for it. And believe me when I say it is worth it – you would get sick after spaghetti Bolognese every night!

Rachael King

Image: Ricardo Cuppini via Flickr

One Comment
  • Jennifer
    2 October 2014 at 10:47
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    Great article Rachael! A fun read, I hope I get to go there one day!

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