I hear a lot of people say, “I don’t like Florence.”
To be honest with you, it upsets me a little every time… and not just because I went to school there decades ago and love it in the strange way you do places where you step foot off the train and it feels like home. It’s not just that.
It’s that, yes, there can be many tourists nel centro, in the heart of Firenze… but there is also Michaelangleo’s Davide, Brunelleschi’s Dome, the Ponte Vecchio, the beautiful Piazza della Signoria, the cobblestoned streets where the Dark Ages blossomed into the Renaissance… and we’re going to let scheduling our visits at the same time as hordes of other tourists ruin our profound appreciation of the largest intact Renaissance city on the planet? Come on, people!
This, by the way, is the Ponte Vecchio from my Mom’s room… there is no photo trickery here, there were no other buildings in between them.
What gets me even more is when people say they can’t find good food so they only ate panini or foccaccia standing up in touristy bars. People, people, people. If you can’t eat well in Florence, I’m not quite sure how I can help…
Here’s where we’ll start: one trick in places like this = in the early moments of meal times (as the bells strike noon, for example, or even a little earlier) follow the old ladies in very nice coats.
You think I’m kidding?
They will lead you to places like Fedra and Daniele’s All’Antico Vinaio, Via dei Neri 65/r, which we headed toward for lunch Friday (It’s closed on Mondays.).
It’s a rosticceria (think extensive deli, roast chicken, roast pork, simple enoteca) between the Piazza della Signoria and Santa Croce and has just a few tables in the back. It’s not fancy. I mean plastic plates not fancy, but throughout our meal a steady stream of local Mammas and Nonnas purchased container after container of pasta & vegetables, and chickens ready for or fresh from the oven.
The best part? For 10 euros (!!!) you can get a large first course of pasta (including the hearty lasagna of many layers with a creamy bechamel) and a second course of 1/4 roasted chicken or other meat dish plus vegetables. I couldn’t believe the price was so low so I only ordered 1 vegetable (brussel sprouts, I love them!) but I could have gotten more. 10 euros! It was amazing. Never, ever say you can’t find good, cheap, quick food in central Florence. It was enough for two, especially with the lasagna as the first course.
Where to next? Depends on what you’re looking for. If it’s cold and you’ve toured the Uffizi after lunch, have the thick and creamy hot chocolate at Rivoire, which has been serving since 1872 right in the Piazza della Signoria. It’ll cost almost as much as your lunch, but the people watching is fantastic. Linger. There are snacks at the bar I wish we’d noshed on. We could have stayed longer and had hot cioccolata then segued right into prosecco and snacks at the bar before dinner. The people watching was that good. Could’ve stayed for hours.
For dinner right in the heart of town I like the Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco. We had two great pasta dishes this visit: the papardelle with cinghiale and tagliaerini with truffles. Yum. Dessert was oustanding: we had tiramisu, profiteroles and panna cotta. I’m not a big fan of panna cotta, but anything with that chocolate sauce on top would be great!
We had another outstanding dessert at La Giostra, a place where the waiters speak a disturbing amount of English and are super-helpful. I’d say visit this place mostly for the experience of meeting the closest thing to Jack Sparrow you’ll ever see alive and in person in this lifetime (unless, of course, you are lucky enough to work on the films or know Johnny Depp in person) and the semifreddo drenched in freshly carmelized, hot raspberries and strawberries. It was marvelous. If you know Johnny Depp, the Jack Sparrow-like owner is fabulous and the dessert is well worth the trip. The berries had a slight warm crunch to them from the just-hardening sugar. Note to Self: Must try that at home.
A mi piace molto Firenze. We enjoyed our trip very much and hope you will too… at least you’ll eat well now for sure!
They say if you rub the boar’s snout you’ll return to Florence again and again. Maybe since I kissed him one day I will live there…