There are plenty of reasons to visit Florence, including its jaw-dropping beauty, its impressive history, and its world-class art, but for many people (read: us), a serious reason to continue visiting the Cradle of the Renaissance is that the food in Florence is simply divine.
With a long culinary history and a local cuisine primarily focused on simple, hearty, flavorful foods, traditional Tuscan food is famous around the world–so it only makes sense that as the capital of Tuscany, the food in Florence would be some of the best of all.
After many visits to Florence, and with many more to come in the future, we continually count Florentine cuisine among the most important reason that we consider Florence one of our favorite cities in the world.
Wondering what to eat in Florence?
Here are some of the best Florence foods to add to your list!
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Table of Contents
Best Things to Eat in Florence, Italy
Bistecca all Fiorentina
One of Florence’s most famous dishes, Florentine steak is a specific cut of meat from part of the loin close to the leg, traditionally coming from female cows that have never given birth.
These steaks are enormous (ie, not to be consumed by only one person), and pricey for the area–they’re best reserved for a special night out. Typically, Florentine steaks are sold by weight in restaurants.
They are tender, juicy, and very tasty, and a must-try dish when looking for the best food in Florence!
What better way to start the day than with a creamy cappuccino paired with a sweet pastry?
The Italians aren’t much for a heavy breakfast, but with a morning tradition like that, it’s hard to argue with them.
Around 11:00 AM, Italians tend to stop drinking cappuccino and switch to espresso, so if you feel like following cultural norms, check your watch before you order!
In Florence, we found that asking for a generic coffee anytime after 11:00 AM resulted in receiving a delicious espresso.
Typically, I don’t drink my coffee black, but these were so tasty that I don’t ever add a single thing to any of them.
Fagioli con Salsicce
Beans with sausage is the epitome of rustic Tuscan cuisine, and a fabulous reliable option if you’re trying to decide what to eat in Florence and want something simple and filling.
I know, I know–olive oil is something to cook with or add to salad, it’s not a dish worth calling out on its own.
Typically true… but not in Tuscany.
Olive oil is not only plentiful and delicious here, but it’s also a cultural event.
Because fresher olive oil is considered to be better olive oil, the harvest of olives each fall creates a frenzy to obtain a fresh batch of extra virgin olive oil.
We were lucky enough to be in Florence during the olive harvest a couple of years back, and we can now attest that yes, fresher is better–the olive oil we had that week is both the greenest and the most flavorful that we have ever experienced.
We’ve been dreaming of it ever since, and now consider it one of our favorite things to eat in Florence!
Is there anything better than classic fettunta (you may know it as bruschetta, its name in other parts of Italy)?
It’s hard to imagine when biting into a slice in Florence, where the tomatoes are perfectly ripe, the bread is fresh, the garlic is potent, and the olive oil is some of the best in the world.
And hey–compared to many of the other foods available to eat in Florence, you don’t have to feel very guilty about the nutritional quality of this one!
Traditionally made of leftovers, ribollita is a hearty stew-like dish that starts with leftover bread and cannellini beans, along with cabbage, laccinato kale, and an assortment of other vegetables that happen to be on hand.
It’s tasty, simple, and filling, and is one of the best things to eat in Florence.
One of the most expensive foods per weight in the world, both black and white truffles grow in abundance in Tuscany, making Florence one of the best places to eat them–on pasta, on bread, cooked into truffle oil… the possibilities are endless.
They say that truffles carry such a specific taste that you either love them or hate them at the first bite–for Jeremy and me, it was definitely love at first taste, and they’re our first response whenever we’re trying to decide what to eat in Florence on a beautiful fall afternoon.
Pappa al Pomodoro
Tomato soup made with old bread that is soaked in the tomatoes until it is soggy–sound a little gross?
You’d think so, but no:: pappa al pomodoro is a Tuscan specialty, and it is absolutely delicious. Every recipe we’ve tried was a little different, ranging from very liquidy with chunks of bread in it to so thick that it is almost a paste, but they are all tasty.
Though clearly traditional to Italy as a whole and not just to Florence, the idea of not adding pasta to your list of things to eat in Florence is a thought that shouldn’t even be entertained–it’s absolutely delectable, and everything from pasta with wild boar sauce to the simple and classic pasta al pomodoro is available in Florence.
Tuscany is possibly the most famous wine region in the entire world (though the French may argue that), so it comes as no surprise that there are oodles of different types of wine being created in the region–but none are quite so classic (forgive the pun) as the Chianti Classico.
Spicy, dark and delicious, we have yet to meet a bottle of this wine that we don’t like.
Defined as containing at least 80% Sangiovese grapes grown in the Chianti region and recognized by its rooster seal, Chianti Classico’s are hard to resist and have become one of our favorite wines (even if I do get the urge to quote Hannibal Lector each time I open a bottle, an unfortunate by unavoidable association).
More Tuscan Wine
Delicious Tuscan wines don’t stop at Chianti Classico, though, so be sure to explore wine in Florence beyond its most famous variety!
Super Tuscans, vin santo (dessert wine), Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino are just a few other world-class Tuscan wines that are easy to get your hands on in Florence and deserve to be sampled while there!
A delicious panino is one of my personal favorite things to eat in Florence.
Made of Tuscan bread and stuffed with a combination of local meats and cheeses, a panino served with a glass of red wine is a simple and unforgettable lunch.
If you’re looking for an excellent one, All’antico Vinaio is the most famous panino shop in Florence and makes a reliably tasty sandwich–but show up early to avoid the absolutely massive lines!
For something a bit less crowded, we also love Il Panino del Chianti, which is located fairly close to the Ponte Vecchio!
Traditionally smothered in a chicken-liver pate, crostini is a typical Tuscan appetizer and a great option if you’re trying to decide what to eat in Florence and hope to expand your palette a bit!
There’s a bit of a debate about the origins of gelato, but the dessert is most commonly attributed to being created by a Florentine, and there’s nothing quite like enjoying a dessert that is famous worldwide while strolling around the city it was created in.
If you’re looking for a gelateria with homemade gelato instead of gelato produced off-site, typical advice is to avoid the tempting displays of enormous gelato mounds and aim for a shop that keeps their gelato in the classic silver cans, out of sight.
We’re probably the worst people to offer advice about gelato, because our experience is essentially that we have never had a bad scoop in Florence–but Gelateria Edoardo wins points for creative flavors (cinnamon gelato, omg), My Sugar is so delicious we’re dreaming of it months later, and Gelateria Della Passera wins points for being creamy, delicious and cheap–just two Euros for a cone with two scoops!
When pricing out a single scoop of gelato in a cone (and get the cone–people who get cups are mysteries to us), 3 euros is fair but a bit inflated for tourists, 2-2.5 euros is good, and anything above 3 euros is to be scoffed at and avoided.
These crisp almond biscuits remind me of what we think of as biscotti in the USA, but the secret to enjoying them is all Tuscany: served as a dessert, cantucci cookies are dipped into sweet wine (traditionally Vin Santo) and eaten once the wine has soaked into the cookies, softening them.
The resulting taste is fantastic, but they also come with a tradition: according to our host at Tenuta Torciano winery during our day out with Fun in Tuscany, cantucci also have a flirting ritual behind them, which our host shamelessly had Jeremy and I (several glasses of wine into the meal at this point) act out!
Here’s the thing: pizza is absolutely not a typical food in Florence, and isn’t a traditonal Tuscan food in any way.
Traditional Italian pizza as we know it outside the country hails from Naples, and that is absolutely where you’ll find the best pizza in Italy!
However, we know that not everyone will have a chance to visit Naples as part of their trip, and there’s a good chance you’ll want to try to the best pizza you can get your hands on, right?
Luckily, Florence is home to a shop that sells delicious Napoli-style pizza at competitive prices: Gusta Pizza.
It does get very crowded, so we recommend showing up early for lunch or planning on taking your pizza to go and eating it in front of the Palazzo Pitti while people-watching–both are excellent options.
Types of Restaurants in Florence
In addition to bars (which act as both coffeeshops and what we consider a typical bar in the USA), panino shops (casual sandwich shops), and cafes, you’ll find three distinctly different types of places to eat when exploring the food in Florence.
Keep in mind that in the modern age, especially when in touristy areas, these names don’t necessarily mean what they should mean–in modern Florence, you’ll find them used more to add flair to the name of an establishment rather than as a literal description–but they are an interesting piece of Italian culture and worth keeping in mind when exploring Florentine cuisine.
Here they are–in order of formality.
Ristorantes are typical restaurants and considered to be a bit more formal than the other establishments listed here. These will typically have the highest price point and the largest menus.
Trattorias are more casual and local than ristorantes, and generally serve hearty, unpretentious food in a casual, laid-back atmosphere. You can expect larger portions than in a ristorante, but generally fewer choices (not that you’ll need more choices, as everything is delicious).
Menus will change regularly here.
Osterias are traditionally extremely informal, with low prices, limited menu choice, and a very casual atmosphere.
Menus will shift regularly. Traditionally, osterie were found mostly in the countryside.
Cool Experiences With Food in Florence
Have breakfast the Italian way.
What’s even better than drinking a cappuccino in the morning? Participating in the Italian ritual for doing so.
Rather than sit at a leisurely cafe, head to a bar (aka coffee shop in American-speak) and order a cappuccino and possibly a pastry of your choice to enjoy while standing at the marble counter.
Once you’re finished, head over to the cash register and pay.
Voila! You’ve not only had a fun-and-easy cultural experience with breakfast, you’ve saved some money, too–coffee is generally more expensive in Italy if you drink it at the table, rather than standing at the bar.
Take a Tuscan cooking class.
We were hosted by Walkabout Florence for an absolutely amazing cooking class in the hills of Tuscany, and we can safely say that it is an experience we will never forget.
Not only was the view incredible (seriously, a farmhouse overlooking Tuscan countryside with a glass wall to best appreciate the view–swoon), but we worked our way through an impressive menu: bruschetta, handmade pizza, roast pork loin and potatoes, tiramisu, and handmade pasta with a homemade Tuscan sauce that we oversaw from beginning to end.
The chef, Isaac, made the perfect leader for coaching us through the traditional Tuscan tricks for getting, as he put it, “the most flavor out of the least work”–a cooking philosophy we can solidly get behind.
It’s always hard to know how much “learning” will actually take place at a tourist-style cooking class, but in between generous helpings of Chianti Classico we picked up some tips and tricks that will stay with us for years to come–including rubbing down your bread for bruschetta with a whole garlic clove before adding the toppings, something so obvious, easy, and delicious that I don’t quite know how we managed without it before.
Want to enjoy the same cooking class we took in the Tuscan countryside?
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Shop at the Mercato Centrale.
Looking for fresh cuts of meat, fruit, cheese, wine, spices, pasta, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a plated-and-served meal, or about fifty thousand other food-related things? Head to Mercato Centrale.
We frequently the market as our fruit, vegetable, and cheese supplier–along with occasional pasta and fresh pesto supplier–when shopping for food in Florence, and every time we go in we appreciate the hustle and the bustle a little bit more.
The interior of the market is vibrant and colorful, with interesting sights around every corner. If you’re the type to want to walk around taking photos of everything that catches your eye, well–be sure to leave plenty of time in your schedule for wandering Mercato Centrale.
Be sure to plan your visit around their hours: the market runs from roughly 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM Monday-Saturday, with some stalls staying open later. Mercato Centrale is closed on Sundays.
Take a walking tour of the food in Florence.
We were hosted on our food tour of Florence (aka the aptly named “Dine Around Florence” tour) with Walks of Italy, and our charming guide, Julia, made sure that we left even more enchanted with food in Florence than we were when we arrived. It helped that she lived in the Santa Spirito neighborhood our tour focused on–she was a wealth of information both at our stops and between them.
The tour consisted of four official stops (plus one bonus stop Julia made toward the beginning of the tour to show us an uncrowded and gorgeous view of the Ponte Vecchio), all special in their own way: a visit to a meat-and-cheese store for salami, cheese, Tuscan bread and wine; a stop at Enoteca Mondovino for a tour of the most interesting wine cellar we’ve ever seen and tastings of oils and spreads; a dinner including the famous Florentine Steak; and, of course, we finished with a stop for gelato.
In other words, the “walking” part of the walking food tour of Florence wasn’t so much a design choice but a physical necessity.
While all the stops were memorable and special in their own way, it was Enoteca Mondovino that stood out during our food tour of Florence: upon arriving in the wine shop, we were immediately whisked through a locked door and downstairs to the basement, where wines with labels from decades passed sat, dusty but neatly organized.
I even took photos of wines from the year my dad was born and the year my grandparents were married!
When we headed upstairs again (through a different stone staircase than the one we initially came down), we were greeted with a long table in a private room, where we tasted everything from olive oil that was pressed only that day (absolutely amazing, and yes, we bought a bottle) to a truffle spread to 40-year-old Chianti Classico.
Since taking this amazing tour, we’ve been paying customers of Walks of Italy several times–their well-planned and unique tours make them one of our favorite tour companies around!
Ready for your own walking food tour of Florence?
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Have lunch at a panino shop.
Florence’s cozy panino shops are one of our favorite places to grab a quick bite to eat in Florence for lunch.
Generally, one sandwich is more than enough for a lunch–for best results, wash it down with a glass of Tuscan wine!
Settle in for a complete Italian meal.
Whether you do it on a tour, at an upscale restaurant on a special night, or simply for a casual lunch out, while experiencing food in Florence be sure to set aside the time (and by time, I mean multiple hours) at least once to work your way through the four traditional Italian courses in a single sitting: antipasto (appetizer), primo piatto (this is where you’ll usually find pasta dishes, though it can be other things), secondo piatto (the meat course), and dolce (dessert).
Even then, it’s not over–coffee traditionally comes after the dolce course, and an amaro (a bitter shot, such as grappa, to aid digestion) may follow the meal.
If all of that still isn’t enough food, you can order a cortorno, or side dish, with your secondo piatto, which is usually vegetables.
If you’re feeling like a financial splurge, go to a nicer restaurant and have each course paired with a specific wine–you may have to roll yourself home after all that food and wine, but it’s definitely a food experience in Florence that you won’t forget.
Experience wine tasting in Tuscany at a local winery.
Wine tasting in Tuscany–of all the people in the world who have travel bucket lists, I’d say that this European day trip is probably one of the more common items to see over and over again.
Tuscany is one of the most popular destinations for wineries in Italy, and with good reason!
If you’re going to do it, though… do it right.
While we’ve gone wine tasting in Tuscany before, our most formal and complete wine tasting in Tuscany is the one we did recently near San Gimignano as part of our day hosted by Fun in Tuscany.
After we had already gone horseback riding through the vineyards and visited the adorable town of San Gimignano, we headed to Tenuta Torciano winery for one of the most delicious and memorable wine tastings that we have ever had.
Before we even sat down at the table, the property itself already made sure we would remember it: the winery is home to several of the most interesting looking chickens we have ever seen, one of which our tour guide put on my head!
The meal with wine, though, was definitely the highlight of our visit.
Together with our small tour group (just eight people!), we worked our way through eight wines. We also tried some amazing 30-year aged balsamic vinegar, some tasty olive oil, and tasted truffle oil for the first time in our lives–it was served over one of the best lasagnas we have ever eaten, and Jeremy and I are still talking about that dish weeks later!
With all that alcohol, we definitely needed the food: in addition to the lasagna, we had a salami and cheese plate each, a salad (with balsamic vinegar, of course), and some cantucci cookies.
Getting hungry for some of the best things to eat in Florence? I know I’m craving about ten different foods after writing this post, which is impressive because I have enjoyed some generous helpings of Italian food already today!
Our experiences with exploring things to eat in Florence (and in Tuscany overall) have helped cement this city as one of our favorites in the world, and though the food is far from being the only reason we’ll come back–it’s definitely one of the major factors.
Many thanks to our partners for hosting us on some of our food experiences in Tuscany: Fun in Tuscany for our wine tasting experience as part of our day out with them, Walks of Italy for taking us on our Dine Around Florence walking tour, and Walkabout Florence for hosting us on a cooking class in Tuscany at their farmhouse in the hills surrounding Florence. All opinions are, as always, our own.