Florence is a food city! I have eaten my way through Florence and was rarely ever disappointed. However, there are, as always, a few places that are especially good and hence worth sharing here with you.
Florence serves some of the best ice cream I have ever had. (And I should confess here that I have a serious weakness for ice cream and have hence eaten cette deliciousness wherever I can find it.) While there are countless options, the truly delicious ice cream you want is across the Arno River at Gelateria La Carraia (Piazza Nazario Sauro). They have a good selection of flavours, ranging from classics to some more unusual ideas (and they even serve very good mousse au chocolate.) Each and every one is perfectly creamy and simply delicious!
Another option I found myself returning to, though not with the same gusto as to La Carraia, was Venchi in the centre of town (Piazza del Mercato Nuovo). This is a chain well known for it's chocolate...hence, the chocolate ice cream is particularly good.
Italian food is truly delicious. I could eat Italian all day, every day. And the one place in Florence that always satisfies my need for really good Italian food was Trattoria Cammillo (Borgo S. Jacopo, 57/r). This place is always busy and frequented by Italians, which is always a good sign. The menu has a lot of options including changing daily specials - my favourite is the homemade pasta. All the action is overseen by one formidable Italian woman who keeps the whole place running smoothly.
If you're looking for something less trattoria-like and more elegant, I suggest you simply go a little further down the street to the Borgo San Jacopo Restaurant (Borgo San Iacopo 62/R - 50125 Florence). The cuisine is refined Italian, delicate and extremely good - and boasts a Michelin star. However, the best part of this restaurant is the terrace overlooking the Arno, which is a rare find and true treasure in Florence.
If you're just out for an Italian lunch that does not require an afternoon nap after, I recommend Cantinetta dei Verrazzano (Via dei Tavolini 18/20). They have a bakery, serve focaccia, and offer a small but tasty lunch menu. The atmosphere is easy, busy, and Italian. Perfect for a delicious lunch!
Trattoria 13 Gobi (Via del Porcellana 9R). More delicious Italian food served in a great setting. I loved the fact that food was served on beautiful hand-painted ceramic dishes.
Gusta Pizza (Via Maggio, 46R). Not strictly speaking a Trattoria, this place is nonetheless a must. The locals buy their pizza here and then find a step to sit on or take it to the next bridge, where they dangle their feet over the Arno and enjoy a cold beer. Beautiful pizza!
AND SOMETHING DIFFERENT
After weeks of pasta I was craving something fresh and green. Thankfully, I found just the right places...in fact, two of them. The first is 5ecinque (Piazza Della Passera); all the produce is organic, the food is healthy and very good, the interior is smart and laid back and during warm weather you can sit outside on the lovely piazza.
The second is Libreria Brac (Via dei Vagellai 18), which on top of serving great vegetarian food, also functions as a bookstore, exhibits art and offers Wi-Fi. This place is definitely hip and artsy. There is a bar you can have lunch at, a courtyard where you can enjoy a cup of freshly brewed tea, and a restaurant for lunch and dinner. It has a great vibe with the possibility of buying a cool book or piece of art, and all the while serving something fresh and vegetarian.
And finally, sandwiches. Amblé (Piazzetta Dei Del Bene, 7a). This place serves delicious sandwiches, (you can create your own or choose from their daily menu) and sells the tables and chairs you sit on. It's perfect for a quick delicious bite. Though arguably the best sandwiches of Florence are found at All'Antico Vinaio (Via dei Neri, 74/R). Easy to spot because of the always present cue. A classic is anything flavoured with truffle! YUM!
And if you cant make up your mind, then of course there is the Four Seasons, which is the ultimate hotel, with its absolutely stunning grounds. We spent some time at the pool just enjoying the sun and calm atmosphere. Of course, you can also dine here. There are several options … all of the ones we tried were good.
Well, if in Florence you have to go see all the Italian treasures. There is the David by Michelangelo, which is on view at the Galleria dell’Accademia. Make sure you book in advance to see all of these, because otherwise you find yourself cueing for hours. Then there are the Uffizi Galleries - which provide an endless amount of spectacular art. My advice would be to come here as early as possible (i.e. when the museum opens its doors), giving you a bit of space to enjoy the art rather than bustle about with hundreds of others.
Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore of course is another classic Florentine sight. However, if you want to avoid the cue, I suggest tackling the smaller cue on the left hand side of the Cathedral, which will permit you to go up the Cathedral’s dome from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city. Furthermore, you get to walk along the dome and admire its beautiful paintings.
Personally, I love visiting monasteries — they always exude a sense of calm and serenity. So, I love going to see the Convent of San Marco where you have the privilege of seeing Fra Angelico’s divine frescos, each painted in a separate cell. The monastery’s cloisters are also beautiful and leave you feeling serene and centred.
Another personal church favourite is the Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte, which is beautifully situated above Florence. However, the highlight is walking up those steps and then entering into the beautiful interior. For those interested, you can attend mass held in Gregorian Chang on Sunday’s. (For mass times check here)
For a mini city break enjoy Giardino di Boboli and its beautiful hidden away green treasures, fountains and sculptures. If you’re up for it, you can explore the Pitti Palace, with its endless expanses of art, history and culture.
And finally there is the possibility to explore the impact the Medici left on Florence. In town, there is the Medici-Riccardi Palazzo, which is home to the Chapel of the Magi and provides a glimpse into the unbelievable history of its previous owners. Outside of Florence in Fiesole, there is the Medici Villa in Fiesole, famous for its beautiful gardens. Sadly, I have never managed to organise this, as booking and planning is required ahead of time. (In fact, Fiesole in itself is worth a visit, showcasing fantastic ancient Roman ruins — including a beautiful Roman theatre.)