Once again, Happy Tuesday! I'm still holding down the fort in Italy, but have transitioned from Florence to the Tuscan countryside for a week long yoga retreat in Cortona. My goal this week is to take some much needed rest from being on the go non-stop, and to do that I plan on unplugging as much as I can (lucky for me, the wi-fi here is pretty spotty). With that said, I'm holding off on some of the larger posts I still need to tackle (Ireland, Amsterdam, Barcelona... I know, I'm really behind). So let's talk Florence quickly.
Florence is an incredible city with so much to offer: history, architecture, art... and the food! In all honesty, we didn't do much sight-seeing (actually, not one single museum- gasp!) But I have all intentions of venturing back someday and will give my time and respect to all the masterpieces that deserve it when I do. The purpose of this particular trip was really a time to catch up with family, and so we decided to do that while eating our way through the city (no complaints here). In the process, I discovered some incredible finds (thanks to some recommendations from you!) that I could't not share. So whenever you're looking for the best restaurants in Florence, be sure to hit as many of these culinary gems as you can:
LUNCH + DINNER
Just between via dell'Ariento, via Sant'Antonino, and via Panicale, you'll find Florence's infamous Mercato Centrale- where vendors sell the primary ingredients of Tuscan cuisine. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, seafood-- they have it all. The main level functions much like a traditional Farmer's Market, but head upstairs for a cafeteria style assortment of restaurants using these farm fresh ingredients. It's the perfect spot to browse, snack and shop for some gifts to bring home (truffle honey anyone?)
We started our second day at La Menagere after overdoing it on the carbs the previous day, and it couldn't have been a better remedy for our poor, puffy-selves. For starters, the interior is absolutely gorgeous: While the structure itself is beautifully minimalistic (white walls with romantic arched ceilings and the perfect rustic charm), it's complimented with the perfect pops of color from the generous arrangements of beautiful floral arrangements. As if the decor wasn't stunning enough, the food takes it to the next level: colorful salads, juices and smoothies using farm fresh Tuscan ingredients make for food that looks just as good as it tastes. I'm told it's also a fantastic place to come for dinner and after my experience for lunch, you certainly don't have to twist my arm.
We stumbled into 4 Leoni on our first night in Florence after the first place we ate was full. ***HEADS UP*** It's always a good idea to have dinner reservations each night you spend in Florence. A lot of the best places are intimate, which means not many tables and they will book up quickly. Luckily for us, 4 Leoni happened to have one last table up for grabs and we gladly snatched it. They have everything you'd hope to find in an Italian eatery: delicious handmade pasta, a romantic ambiance, carafes of wine flowing generously, and staff that treats you like family. Start with the burrata and bruschetta, but save room for the main event: pasta! I died and went to heaven after trying their white truffle pasta (pictured above). Truffles are currently in season, which made the experience that much better. Even though 4 Leoni was a place that we happened upon, I'd make a reservation and go back next time I'm in Florence without question.
We attempted to go to Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco (or The White Boar) our first night but learned the hard way that reservations in Florence are often a must. Lucky for us, they had a table available the next night so we nailed a reservation down stat. I'm so glad we did, because this was easily my favorite meal we had in Florence. The table next to us basically insisted that we try the truffle and onion flan, and I'll be forever thankful that they did. I'm not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I think it might be the best thing I've ever tried in my life (I'm also a truffle fanatic, so if you're not you may want to reconsider.) They also had an incredible Pappardelle with Wild Boar Sauce (pictured above). For dessert, try the Panna Cotta with Caramel-- incredible.
La Giostra is easily the most romantic restaurant I've ever been to (so naturally, I went with my dad and step-mom...) The only lighting in the building is from the string lights on the ceiling and the candles on the table. Aside from the lovely ambiance, all of the food was delicious-- they even give you a platter of appetizers while you wait for your meal (no charge-- just included in the service cost). They also have quite an impressive history and running list of clientele, who all agree it's a spot you simply cannot miss whenever you visit Florence. As previously stated, be sure to make a reservation!
Neighboring Mercato Centrale you'll find Trattoria Za Za, a charming Italian kitchen with an extensive menu selection (they have just about every Italian dish you can think of-- meaning plenty of delicious truffle options). We went for a proper sit-down lunch after wandering the market, and I loved everything I tried that we ordered (you really can't go wrong). If you go during the day and the weather is nice, sit outside on the patio and watch the people go by at Mercato Centrale. And for dinner? Head inside to their cozy, somewhat eclectic dining room for a romantic ambiance with the same delicious taste.
Ristorante Buca dell'Orafo offers tradtional Tuscan dishes in a typical Florentine atmosphere. You'll find them right by the Ponte Vecchio bridge, nestled in a It's also hands down the best lasagna I've ever eaten in my life. The interior is intimate and on the small side, so they only have two seatings (the first is at 19:30) so be sure you have a reservation whenever you decide to go.
Just before you head south across the Ponte Vecchio Bridge there's a hidden gem just inside Continentale Hotel. Take the elevator to the 6th floor and you'll find their rooftop terrace bar that offers sweeping views of the city. They have an incredible selection of aperitifs (if you like gin, try the Boboli- which is shaken with Bombay, Campari, Cointreau and d'orange juice filled with Franciacorta).
At the end of the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, I spotted the elaborate displays of gelato in the window of Caffè Pontevecchio and knew I had to try some. Little did I know they only offer one size and it would be the largest helping of gelato I've ever been serve (but I was okay with it).
Venchi is a famous brand of chocolate in Florence that's been around since 1878. But in more recent years (starting in 2006) they began producing gelato in order to give customers a new product that was different from their beloved chocolate, but still had the same natural ingredients and crafted feel. Their gelato doesn't have any industrial bases - just a few simple + select natural incredients (fresh milk, fresh cream, sugar, top quality fruit and their chocolate Venchi). Add it all together, and you get a rich, all-Italian gelato with completely natural colors (no lime green pistachio or bright pink for strawberry- the shades are exactly the same as the fruit they come from).
I'd argue that just about all the gelato I've tried in Italy is delicious, but ask a local Italian and they'll tell you otherwise. Pamela, our host for the week, claims that Perché No! (or Why Not!? in English) is the only good gelateria. A bit extreme? Maybe- but I'd agree with her that it's the best gelato I had in Florence.
I'm sure there are dozens of other places in Florence not mentioned above that are wonderful, but a girl can only eat so much in a few short days. I'm so happy with all the places we went (thanks again to everyone for sharing your recos with me on Instagram!) and I hope you'll get the chance to try them all someday too!
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I'm off to practice yoga (for the second time today #humblebrag) and work off some of this damage I did last week. Thanks for stopping by, and stay tuned for an announcement regarding my trip that I'm excited to share in the next couple of weeks!