Food in Florence

Visiting Florence can be a real feast for the taste buds. The first step into experiencing the best the Renaissance city has to offer is getting to know the traditional cuisine from a local’s perspective. For those obsessed with Michelin stars, beware - typical Tuscan food comes from peasants! Typically, dishes are made with abundant grains, cheese, meats and local produce. Olive oil, beans, wild boar and the famous steak ‘bistecca fiorentina’ are just some of the other famous ingredients that make Florence a mecca for foodies.

pappa al pomodoro by _Max-BAs we all know, Italians love – and we mean love - to eat. A proper meal normally includes several courses and the primo is normally a soup or pasta dish. One of the most popular local treats is pappa al pomodoro - a simple dish of bread, oil, garlic and tomato sauce with spices. Ribollita, a close runner-up, is also a bread-based soup made with cabbage, beans and normally served in the colder months. Black-leaf cabbage is the standout star in this dish.

Local eating etiquette

With most traditional meals in Florence you will be served bread as part of your coperto, or service charge. You might notice that the bread can often have a bland flavour. This is on purpose - the idea is to use it to dip in leftover pasta sauce or use as a blank slate to soak up more powerful flavours, like rubbed garlic on a toasted slice.

First things first

Some typical appetizers you’ll come to recognise are crostini misti and affettati. The first is an assortment of sliced bread commonly covered with liver pâté and other local sauces, while affettati is cold sliced meats served on a wooden board.

Crostini by ohallmannWhen it comes to starters, one of our favourites is pasta e fagioli, which literally means ‘pasta & cannellini’ bean soup. Containing a little bit of paprika and tomatoes, it’s quite a heavy soup, bursting with flavour. Moving on to pasta, a must-try is Pappardelle sulla leper, a broad pasta made with a ragout of hare. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a local delicacy. Ravioli di cinghiali - stuffed pasta with wild boar - is delicious winter pasta best paired with a glass of local Chianti wine.

Main courses

For your secondo or entrée, bistecca alla fiorentina is by far the most famous meat dish in town and should be eaten medium-rare if you want to savour the full flavour. Ordering a steak well-done is a faux pas in Italy. This thick T-bone steak is taken from the Chianina breed of cow and our advice is to order only one, since it can easily feed a few people. Typical sides include patate arrosto, roasted potatoes with rosemary, and fagioli all'uccelletto, beans with tomato sauce. If you’re craving fish, baccala or cod is also a very popular dish (from Livorno) in Tuscany.

Bistecca by thepinkpeppercornIf you’re of a stern stomach, impress the locals by ordering a sandwich made with trippa (tripe) or lampredotto (the final stomach of a cow) which are traditional street foods in Florence that date back hundreds of years.

The best way to wind down a fabulous meal is by having an espresso, because after all cappuccino has no business being consumed after 11am. A passeggiata or after-dinner walk will help speed up your digestion and provide an opportunity to try a gelato to finish off your day.

The restaurants we recommend

Here are some fabulous trattorias to help kick-start your Italian gastronomic education in Florence.

Il Latini, Via dei Palchetti 6R50123 Firenze, Tel 055/210916.

This traditional and unassuming little restaurant has been in the same family for generations, and it shows. Booking ahead is a must and don’t bother ordering from a menu, they know what you want! A great place to try the bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine steak).

Osteria il Buongustai, Via de' Cerchi 15R, 50122 Firenze, Tel 055/291304.

A small hole-in-the-wall near Piazza della Signoria and one of the best local lunch spots for traditional Tuscan dishes. Try the daily menu and cheesecake. Ideal for lunch.

Da Nerbone, Piazza Mercato Centrale 47R, 50123 Firenze, Tel 055/219949.

For those who want to try a lampredotto sandwich, this is one of the best places in town.