Find out about the best boutique hotels, traditional trattorias and even gluten-free options in famous Florence.
There’s little doubt that, in Florence, you’ll need to eat and sleep. After all, the endless parade of world-class galleries, museums, churches, palaces, art and more will tire even the hardiest traveler out, and you’ll be in sore need of both rest and repast.
Lucky you, then. Florence is replete with wonderful places to dine, from Michelin-starred temples of gastronomy to humble trattoria serving up tried-and-tested Tuscan classics. There’s street food, most notably the ubiquitous lampredotto, which might not be for everyone – it is cow’s stomach, after all.
When it comes to places to stay, they again run the gamut from boutique chic to sheer luxury, budget to blowout. We’ve picked a selection of the best restaurants in Florence, and the best places to stay once you’ve eaten your fill of the delicious local specialties.
Florence’s left bank
The Oltrarno district was a somewhat neglected corner of Florence for many years, but recently it’s been lavished with attention – an arty area that is the Florentine equivalent of Paris’ Left Bank. It’s packed with great places to eat and artisan shops. Here you’ll find hotel AdAstra, housed in a 16th century palace and boasting a view of Europe’s largest private garden. It’s a blissful escape from the tourist bustle, an oasis of peace and calm, and the terrace in summer is a riot of flower scents. Rooms are eclectic, individual and, with just 14 of them, there’s plenty of peace and quiet too.
Here you’re handily situated for restaurants with a largely informal vibe. There’s exceptional pizza at Berbere on Piazza dei Nerli, the only Firenze branch of a small, artisan chain. Start with the small snacks they call cicchetti, then go for outstanding pizza that ranges from the simple to the extravagant – beets in cream with sautéed leeks and nduja with smoked mozzarella and lemon zest are among the toppings. All the ingredients are scrupulously sourced. Is it the best pizza in Florence? It might just be.
There are many storied Trattoria in Florence, all of them vying to convince you of their legendary status, place in history, tradition and so forth. Trattoria Cammillo is the real deal. Run by the same family who opened it in 1945, you’ll find waiters who’ve worked their entire lives here, a long menu all made freshly in-house, their own olive oil and Tuscan classics served without fanfare or pretension, but full of flavor.
The ribollita – a traditional bread and vegetable soup – is one of the best in the city, thanks to that very same olive oil as a finishing touch. The bistecca Fiorentina is also up there, while there’s organic wine and a perfect tiramisu to finish. You’ll find it on Borgo S. Jacopo – it’s closed on Wednesdays.
After a humble but delicious meal, perhaps it’s time to push the boat out on where to stay. J.K. Place Firenze is perhaps the city’s most esteemed boutique hotel, setting a new standard for the area. And what an area. The Piazza Santa Maria Novella is a fine place to stay, with the church of the same name here and only a short stroll to Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo. The elegant interior is matched by the wonderful service – you’ll check in over a drink and all the staff are full of insider’s info about the city they love. The hotel is discreet, the rooms are soundproofed and the buffet breakfast delicious.
Florence is one of the best cities in Italy for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease to dine out. First, look out for the labels ‘senza glutine’ or ‘glutine libero’ on the menu. Second, head straight for our top tips. Ciro and Sons has standard pizza and pasta, but also prides itself on extensive gluten and lactose-free options. Opt for the classics – Margherita, Napoli – or the superb Pizza Bellagio, which combines chicory, blue cheese, bresaola and mozzarella.
At Trattoria di Garibardi in the foodie hub that is the Mercato Centrale, there’s a dedicated separate gluten-free menu that offers octopus, fennel salami and a huge range of pizza, pasta, fish and meat dishes.
There’s no reason why a hunt for the best gelato in Florence should exclude celiacs. At Perche, No! on Via dei Tavolini, you’ll get to sample all-natural gelato that they’ve been making since 1939. As well as celiac options, this also has choices for vegans and interesting seasonal flavors including fig and apple pie or rose, although you won’t go far wrong with the classics.
Doze near the Duomo
For a different kind of stay, the Granduomo offers rooms that are more like serviced apartments – spacious and ideal for those who don’t want the formality of hotel service. What these rooms also offer is pretty much an unparalleled location – you’ll look out straight at the Duomo.
If you can peel yourself away from the window in the restored 17th century palace, you’re truly in the thick of the action here. It’s a place that’s perfect for families too, with ample space and small kitchens if you want to prepare food you’ve bought at one of Florence’s markets. With only six rooms, service is personal too – they’ll book attraction tickets for you and will attempt to find recommendations in the city that are suitable for you and your family, not just generic tips.
Florence’s finest restaurants
Having come all this way to one of the world’s prettiest cities, you might be tempted for a blowout dining experience at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Florence. You’re spoiled for choice.
The three-star Enoteca Pinchiorri sets the standard high in the Santa Croce area. A magnificent wine list (with many rare vintages available by the glass – unusual but welcome) and impeccable service set the scene for ambitious Italian cooking. Roasted ravioli with mascarpone, cabbage, caviar and smoked tea, or glazed veal with chicory and grapefruit are both stellar.
At the one-star La Bottega del Buon Caffe they use a farm-to-plate philosophy that sees many ingredients come straight from their own garden and farm, including meat, herbs and vegetables. This freshness and seasonality can be tasted in dishes such as risotto with cavolo nero and licorice and pigeon breast with cashew and spinach. There’s a whole tasting menu dedicated to vegetarians too. It’s a taste of the real Tuscany, served with refinement.
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