Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the society.

Photo

Florence Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations


  • Please log in to reply
205 replies to this topic

#61 ericeric

ericeric
  • participating member
  • 22 posts
  • Location:Manila

Posted 03 May 2004 - 09:23 PM

Il Ritrovo, 4 via di Pucci, 055/281688

April 2004. A disaster. I think we caught them on a really bad day. I knew we were in trouble from the time we walked in for dinner. The place was full but 95% tourists, like ourselves. Not a good sign. Most were still waiting for their food. Also not good. The manager and one waitress were attending to tables as best they could, but you could see the panic in their eyes.

It took over hour to get our food after seating. While waiting, two separate groups of musicians came in, performed for a few minutes and wouldn't leave the tables until they got a donation. I shared my foreboding with my wife.

We had pasta w/duck ragu, fagioli, and a 1 kg bistecca. Hmmm, not a hint of duck in the ragu. What could it be? The table beside us returned their pasta to the kitchen; not being boiled in hot enough water we overheard. The bistecca challenged the steak knives. Similar struggles in the other tables. The fagioli, to be fair, was good. The beans had a creamy texture, were served hot with a splash of olive oil. A good dish on a cold night. Our bread, however, was in cellophane packing. Expensive bistecca and wine list + 3 euro cover charge per person + separate service charge.

Oh well.

#62 cinghiale

cinghiale
  • participating member
  • 578 posts
  • Location:Le Marche/Italy

Posted 05 May 2004 - 08:20 AM

Osteria Le Logge
Via del Porrione 33 (just off the Campo)
Siena
T: 0577/48-013
October, 2002

Very warm, friendly restaurant. I believe it was formerly a farmacia.

Posted Image

Due to train schedules, two of our party of five had to leave early, so we booked the table at opening time (7:30). We ended up having the table for the whole evening and were under no pressure to turn it, despite a line out the door (of course, we were consuming heartily throughout)

Posted Image

The malfatti are the house specialty and are very good. The chicken livers were outstanding.

Posted Image

Posted Image

Rabbit and quail were winners for secondi (sorry about the blurry picture)

Posted Image

Very nice panna cotta.

Posted Image

Respectable, affordable wine list. Apparently, the owner also owns an enoteca near the restaurant.

Posted Image

The owner, Gianni Brunelli, appears to be quite a character, too, keeping guests and staff alike pretty amused. In keeping with his former profession as communist union boss, the reception area features oversize photos of him w/Castro and, I believe, Le Duc Tho.

Posted Image

Dinner for five (incl. cocktails and liberal grappa) ran about €250.

#63 Fontodi

Fontodi
  • participating member
  • 1 posts

Posted 26 May 2004 - 11:19 AM

Florence- An inexpensive, consistently good restaurant is Osteria De Benci. Via de Benci, 13r. Save room for the flourless chocolate cake.

#64 ethandt

ethandt
  • participating member
  • 4 posts

Posted 09 July 2004 - 11:07 AM

We had two incredible meals at Osteria Del Cinghiale Bianco:

www.cinghialebianco.it

Incredible food, great atmosphere and the owner was extremely friendly.

#65 Schmelz

Schmelz
  • participating member
  • 1 posts

Posted 18 July 2004 - 11:32 AM

Trattoria Il Caminetto
I would like to recommend this restaurant very highly. I have eaten there at least once on each of my last four stays in Florence during the past 14 years. The most recent visit was in May, 2004.
The restaurant is up one of the side streets from the south side of the Piazza Duomo. Two of us ate there for E51.70 including an antipasto and pasta each, wine, mineral water, and service. The meal was excellent.
The address is Via dello Studio 34r. The phone number is 055 2396274. However, we did not need reservations when we went there about 8: p.m. twice. The retaurant filled up rapidly on a weekend night.
Joan Schmelzle

#66 Craig Camp

Craig Camp
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 3,274 posts
  • Location:Napa Valley

Posted 05 August 2004 - 10:15 PM

Eating Firenze by Robert Brown
<a href='http://www.cornerstonecellars.com' target='_blank'>Cornerstone Cellars, Napa Valley</a>

#67 Pranian man

Pranian man
  • participating member
  • 53 posts

Posted 13 August 2004 - 07:04 AM

I am looking for three restaurants in Florence, with separate function rooms if necessary, that can seat 50-60 people and, most importantly of course, serve excellent food.

Having never been, I don't know what my chances are of finding three such establishments. Can anyone help?

This is for three evenings (a Wed, Thurs & Fri) in November.

Also, where does Florence fit into the gastronomic map of Italy? Having briefly been to Piedmonte, I sensed this region may have more to offer that Tuscany. Is there a " gourmet capital" type region as there is in the Catalan and Basque area of Spain for example?

#68 divina

divina
  • participating member
  • 712 posts
  • Location:Florence Italy

Posted 13 August 2004 - 05:40 PM

I live here in FLorence and will be glad to help..
more info please.. budget..how fancy..time

#69 Pranian man

Pranian man
  • participating member
  • 53 posts

Posted 15 August 2004 - 11:05 AM

Great, thanks. Help would be much appreciated. The website looks great, perhaps we could incorporate something from Divina into one of the evenings as I wanted to have some kind of Italian, particularly Tuscan, gastronomic themed evening.

I will put together a list of the details tomorrow. Shall I send them to the email address on the Divina website?

#70 Pranian man

Pranian man
  • participating member
  • 53 posts

Posted 16 August 2004 - 12:15 AM

Also, in the mean time, does anyone know anything about the following restaurants that I have had brough to my attention (from a non-eG source I should add - so they may not be up to scratch):

Ristorante La Posta
Paszkowski
Ristorante Alle Murante (apparently more upmarket).

Finally, does anyone know anything about Hotel Fenice Palace where I will be staying (i.e. is it suitably near the city's gastronomic attractions)?

#71 Pranian man

Pranian man
  • participating member
  • 53 posts

Posted 16 August 2004 - 03:35 AM

Provisional details at this stage.

Dinner at 8.30 PM on:

Wed 16th Nov - 40-60 people, around 100 Euros per head (inc food & drinks). Maybe some rustic and simple fayre, typical of the Tuscan countryside.

Thurs 17th Nov - push the boat out night with up to 70 people, around 150 Euros per head with (the Italian equivalent of) haute cuisine - perhaps a tasting menu with a local, Florentine take on it. Maybe have some sort of chianti tasting event or food preparation demonstration or other local gastronomic theme. Open to ideas!

Fri 18th Nov - 40-60 people, aim around 100 Euros per head. Something a little different from the other two evenings and relatively straightforward, but no idea what!

#72 divina

divina
  • participating member
  • 712 posts
  • Location:Florence Italy

Posted 16 August 2004 - 12:15 PM

with that budget sounds easy.. write to me via my site!

#73 plragde

plragde
  • participating member
  • 14 posts

Posted 22 August 2004 - 05:11 PM

Here are some places we enjoyed in July 2004. Emily Wise Miller's
"Food Lover's Guide to Florence" was quite helpful, not only for
restaurants, but for wine stores, light meals, bakeries, and
gelato. Meals for the four of us cost from 35 euros (Trattoria Mario,
meat menu) to about 100 (Osteria Castelvecchio).

Trattoria Mario: everyone's favourite (we ate here three times). The
"market workers' canteen" ambience is gone; all the diners were
tourists. But the restaurant hasn't compromised its approach, and the
food is excellent for the price. Go at least twice, once for a regular
weekday lunch (the tagliata con rucola was excellent), and once on a
Friday, when they serve seafood.

Quattro Leoni: nice piazza setting, good service, and a treatment of
Tuscan classics that remains respectful while introducing some fresh
notes (e.g. fiaschette with fresh pear and Taleggio). A very pleasant
meal.

Cibreo Trattoria: also full of tourists (we were the only ones who
attempted to speak Italian) but the food made up for it: not flashy,
but very solid, with a quality I am tempted to call "clarity". A lot
has been written about this place, so I will just say that it lives up
to its reputation, and you can count on there being a number of
standards on the menu, plus a couple of daily specials.

Il Pizzaiuolo: across the street from Cibreo. The best pizza we had in
Florence, and the only one comparable to ones we had in Naples. Spring
for the mozzarella di bufala. Only drawback is no wine on the menu,
only beer (I don't really care for Italian beer).

Nerbone: Simply a great boiled-beef sandwich. My kids kept asking to
go back for breakfast.

Vecchia Bettola: Owned by the Nerbone people. They overdo the "rustic"
theme a bit, but the food is excellent, particularly the gnocchi
(called topini here; we had them with sugo di coniglio, or rabbit
sauce) and the roast duck. No English heard (maybe because it's way
out near the Porta San Frediano); waiters and kitchen (visible through
a small delivery window) were working pretty hard.

Osteria de Benci: An interesting menu, with dishes such as spaghetti
dell'ubriacone (boiled in red wine before being tossed with oil,
garlic, and pepperoncino) and large, well-garnished plates of grilled
meat. We were stuffed after primi and secondi.

(Siena) Osteria Castelvecchio: Creative food with a vegetarian
emphasis. This was our favourite restaurant when we spent a week in
Siena several years ago, and its quality has not dropped. Here's what
we had on the 25-euro tasting menu: crostini misti, but with a twist:
instead of chicken liver, these were all-vegetarian, with finely-diced
zucchini, spinach, eggplant, and peppers (intense and pleasant
tastes). Then came gazpacho, served with an ice cube in it (not
quite appropriate for the weather, which was cold and rainy, but it
tasted good). After that came two primi on one plate: penne in sweet
pepper sauce, and a risotto with diced zucchini and carrot. Then we
had slices of arista (roast pork) with an apple-prune compote, and a
slice of grilled beef with oregano. Dessert was a chocolate torte with
chunks of apples in it, and a scoop of some kind of citrus
mousse. Nice wine list, so I had a bottle of Castello del Poppiano
Riserva 1999 (Chianti Colli Fiorentini) instead of my usual carafe of
house red. Pleasant vaulted interior.

(Pisa) Osteria dei Cavalieri: A better meal than we had any right to
expect in touristy Pisa (which, once you get away from the
concentration of sights, is not that touristy after all). Genuinely
friendly service, good food (notably tagliatelle ai funghi porcini and
grilled squid), and a nice house white. You'll find it on the way from
the Campo dei Miracoli to the market. There are a couple of places in
the market piazza itself that looked good, but they were only open for
dinner.

#74 Cucina

Cucina
  • participating member
  • 176 posts
  • Location:Washington, DC

Posted 13 November 2004 - 11:39 AM

Villa San Michele
Fiesole (about a 20 minute cab ride from Florence)
See Villa San Michele's website

May 2003
Okay folks. This is very over the top but worth every penny. You don't have to stay here (although if you can, you should because at times it's been ranked one of the top 20 hotels in the world and deservedly so). Villa San Michele is an old Monastery whose facade was designed by Michael Angelo. Dining on the terrace overlooking all of Florence is a one of a kind experience and worth every penny but if your counting them, don't go. Smart casual for lunch - jacket and tie required for evening and ladies dress to the nines.

I'm not even going to begin to tell you what to order. It was all good and more artfully presented than anywhere I've been before or since.

Visit the website and look at the menu - they also offer a cooking school for guests.

Edited by Cucina, 13 November 2004 - 11:54 AM.


#75 Cucina

Cucina
  • participating member
  • 176 posts
  • Location:Washington, DC

Posted 13 November 2004 - 11:52 AM

IL LATINI
Via dei Palchetti 6/r, Florence, Italy
Phone: 055/210916

May 2003
This is a family style restaurant that was recommended by a friend but I accidentally stumbled by it when I was shopping and had lunch. They had a fixed price lunch menu that day with various choices - all wholesome and hearty - well prepared, fairly priced. They have a magnum bottle of Chianti on the table and it's help yourself.

The best part about this restaurant - especially if you are travelling by yourself or with just one other person - is that they have a community table where they seat odd numbered guests. This turned out to be the highlight of my whole trip. May is Florence's highly regarded music festival and I ended up seated across from a world famous conductor who was in town to direct Mozart's La Clemenza Di Tito. I ended up scoring tickets to the opera, seats in the President's box and an after opera dinner invitation at the French Cultural Ambassador's home. Can't guarantee you'll have the same luck, but it's certainly worth trying.

#76 Joe H

Joe H
  • legacy participant
  • 695 posts

Posted 13 December 2004 - 02:08 PM

Sostanza, as noted above is a superb steak house known for its bisteca fiorentina. This is the oldest operating restaurant in Florence located on a narrow street just behind the Excelsior. There are only 10 or 12 tables and everyone is cramped together in the small room. Americans tend to be seated with other Americans for what is a very real adventure in dining unlike anything in the States. In back is a closet size kitchen with a grill and butcher's block where steaks are cut fresh. Three inch thick steaks are pounded and then grilled over grates (wood?) for ten or more minutes. Sides include two kinds of beans and spinach with olive oil. The best dessert is a "meringue cake" which is off the menu but extraordinarily fattening and good.
The steaks ARE comparable to Luger's, they are legitimately THAT good. Also, even with the dollar so weak to the Euro, a relative bargain. Wine is limited but very fairly priced. Although most steaks are listed as individual cuts, as noted above, they will grill especially thick 3" + steaks on request. A very REAL find that you MUST reserve for, at least a week in advance even for a weeknight.

I also like Il Pizzaiola also mentioned above.

Still, with visits to about 25 to 30 restaurants over the years in Florence, Sostanza is the one that I would and have returned to every time. Along with Venice's Alle Testiere, for the money and for the style, experiences and excellence that is unique to Italy and cannot be found on this side of the Atlantic.

Edited by Joe H, 13 December 2004 - 02:10 PM.


#77 bronihk

bronihk
  • participating member
  • 54 posts

Posted 06 January 2005 - 09:24 AM

just got back from tuscany and had some wonderful meals, as alwyas, in florence. of note (and to reiterate):

quattro leoni:
my sister frequented this trattoria when living in florence about 2 years ago. apprently, back then, it was a favorite among locals and food people in the know. when we went last week, the walls were plastered with famous diners who had been there so i'm guessing its been a bit mainstreamed by now...that said, its bar none my favorite place to eat in florence 3 years standing. they're righfully famous for their fiocchetti di pere con salsa di taleggio e asparagi (little pasta purses stuffed with taleggio and pears topped with aspargus spears and a light cream sauce) which to me borders on dessert in its decadence. their peposo, beef stewed in chianti with tons of black peppercorns, is fall apart delicious in its simplicity and the peppercorns have acheived quite the perfect texture from the hours of cooking. i've had their cinghiale con la polenta serveral times and still think its the best i've ever had in tuscany. the most shockingly wonderful dish, on our last visit, was the grilled chicken. our waiter told us it was butterflied thigh marinated for an hour and then grilled a bit. i tend not to order chicken (and this actually wasn't my dish) but have to highly recommend this dish. amazing. last thing i have to push is a hot antipasto: baked artichokes with bresola and, i think, tallegio. i hate using this word in reference to food but i must here: it was simply sublime. ambience is great: tucked back in the altroarno on a little piazza with big wood beams, brick interior. my dad kept calling it 'funky', which i'm not sure is the totally accurate term but it is cozy and homey for sure.

pane e vino
this restaurant is mentioned in several guide books and recent reviews have been quite good, for good reason. although i tend to like florence's more casual places (trattoria style, boccadama, etc) and this one's a tad fancier with white table clothes and funky modern place settings (or at lest the plates), i really enjoyed our dinner here, especially the primi and antipasti. two people at our table got an incedibly decadent ravioli primi stuffed with leeks and breasola in what could be the perfect cream sauce with dots of pured sundried tomatoes (which they seem to really like here). i went what could be deemed the non-traditional route and started with an arugala salad with strips of sundried tomatos and chunks of burrata dressed perfectly with olio nuovo, which i think may be the way to do a salad. my secondo was rabbit stuffed with the ubiquitous porchetta and a fennel gratin. i tend to stear away from rabbit but loved this dish. very rich, very wonderful. the vegetarian entree, a mozeralla/eggplant terrine type thing, was also excellent. if you're looking for something a bit more upscale but not pretentious, pane e vino's quite a good option.

pugi
this isn't a restaurtant or trattoria or even a sit down place. just a forno/pizzeria place on piazza san marco (they have another spot now nearby, smaller with less hours). i'm obsessed with anything this place makes. go and get whatever comes out of the oven while you're there. salty wonderful foccia like crust. i seriously go straight from the aiport to pugi when i can.

last little bit of advice: anytime a pasta is stuffed with taleggio, get it.

#78 Gastro888

Gastro888
  • participating member
  • 1,339 posts

Posted 02 February 2005 - 07:14 AM

Hello!

I will be visiting Florence for the first time in a few weeks. My main purpose for this trip is to visit Apicius Cooking School and see what it's like and learn more about their programs. I will have one and 1/2 days free to wander around the city. I will be traveling alone (I am female - I've been to Rome before and didn't find it intimidating but I travelled with my best friend).

So far I've learned that Florence is pretty much like any European city, relatively safe for women. And that I should try the Florentine steak as well. I am planning on checking out the main market in the early morning.

I would greatly appreciate any hints/tips/advice the eG community could give me in the following areas:

1. Does anyone know of the Apicius Cooking School?
-If so, what are your opinions on it? I am looking at the Food Communications program. My main worry is that since the school's not accredited my degree will not hold as much value. (I want do work in the food industry and thought this would be a good stepping stone)
-Anyone with personal experience, I would love to hear your story!

2.What quality cheap eats suggestions would you have around the city? I'm not looking for a glamour spot - give me a hole in the wall with great food at a reasonable price and I'm happy. Food above decor! :biggrin:

3.What should I eat/buy foodwise? What are the food experiences I MUST have while I'm there? (I can't hold my liqour to save my life so wine's not high on my list! :laugh:)

4. What is the ONE thing I must do while I'm there?

I apologize for the long post!

Thank you in advance for your help!

#79 albiston

albiston
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 1,021 posts
  • Location:Jena. Germany

Posted 02 February 2005 - 07:25 AM

Hello!

I will be visiting Florence for the first time in a few weeks.  My main purpose for this trip is to visit Apicius Cooking School and see what it's like and learn more about their programs.  I will have one and 1/2 days free to wander around the city.  I will be traveling alone (I am female - I've been to Rome before and didn't find it intimidating but I travelled with my best friend).

.....

View Post


Hi!

I can't help you with the school, but maybe Divina, our resident Fiorentina :smile:, can help.

Regarding eating spots, what to buy and so on, have a look at the past threads in the forum. Just to give you a few pointers: there's the pinned Florence and Siena restaurants thread, How to really visit FIrenze written by our own Pan, a thread about Firenze as meat eaters paradise and more.

One thing I would not miss is Mercato centrale and the lampredotto sandwich sold there, at least if you like offal.
Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

#80 Gastro888

Gastro888
  • participating member
  • 1,339 posts

Posted 02 February 2005 - 07:42 AM

Ah, yes! Lampredotto! I read about that in my guide book. Which part is it? Large or small intestine or is it tripe? For sure I'll try that.

Thanks for the tips! Wow, Pan's been to alot of places!

#81 Adam Balic

Adam Balic
  • participating member
  • 4,882 posts

Posted 02 February 2005 - 08:06 AM

Lampredotto is the fourth stomach (the acid or true stomach), I love it.

For an actual hole in the wall place I would not miss I Fratellini (2 blocks from Piazza della Signoria, off Via Calzaiuoli, Near the Duomo), which is a fiaschiteria that sells wonderful panini and wine from a doorway. You stand in the street taking in the vibe, drinking cheap wine and munching excellent panini. Porchetta is good, as is the truffled pecorino with rocket and the wild boar salami. A few Euros of pure joy.

Apart from the cental market, don't miss mercato Sant' Ambrogio (Near St. Croce), there is a small restuarant/dinner inside that does cheap and cheerful meals (Farro salad is good).

The piazza at S. Spirito offers some good cheap options (has not been as good in recent years).

#82 Gastro888

Gastro888
  • participating member
  • 1,339 posts

Posted 02 February 2005 - 12:52 PM

I'll be staying near S. Croce so thanks for the tip!

Tripe rules...I'll definitely try the Lampredotto. Yum.

Mercato Sant' Ambrogio is a daily market or open only on certain days? I wonder if I can get guanciale in Florence...

#83 Kevin72

Kevin72
  • society donor
  • 2,576 posts

Posted 02 February 2005 - 01:51 PM

I had a dish with guanciale in it in Florence, so it should be around somewhere. Mercato Centrale had numerous butchers and delis inside.

Most market places are open until 2 I think and then close, and re open at 5 or so.

#84 divina

divina
  • participating member
  • 712 posts
  • Location:Florence Italy

Posted 02 February 2005 - 11:02 PM

Ciao!
I am flying back to Florence tomorrow..
I haven't heard really good things about Apicius.. but it is sort of the only game in town.. for someone that wants to come and study for any period of time.

Do you already have any culinary experience?

There are real chefs teaching in the school... but it is still new..

I have lived in Flroence for 20 years ( came as a single woman travelling alone.. it is very safe)
there is a dining guide on my site..and I would be glad to meet with you and see if I can help!

#85 Gastro888

Gastro888
  • participating member
  • 1,339 posts

Posted 03 February 2005 - 06:59 AM

Really? What things have you heard about Apicius? Please, do tell! I need all the help I can get.

No, I don't have former culinary training. I grew up in my parents' Chinese restaurant.

I was looking at their food marketing program in particular, not their culinary program because I do not want to be a chef per se but I want to do something related to food. My background is in marketing.

I would appreciate meeting up with you! Perhaps we can PM and discuss?

Thank you, divina!!!!

#86 divina

divina
  • participating member
  • 712 posts
  • Location:Florence Italy

Posted 04 February 2005 - 09:46 AM

I quess I don't know why someone would come to Florence to study marketing.. when America is the home of marketing!

I do understand using school as an excuse to live in Florence though!

#87 Gastro888

Gastro888
  • participating member
  • 1,339 posts

Posted 07 February 2005 - 09:17 AM

America is the home of marketing but the school offers a program in food marketing. They teach you food styling, food photography and gear the program to the food industry. I thought with my background that this program would be a good stepping stone.

America may be the home of marketing but Italy is the home to great fashion and gelato!

#88 Fiona

Fiona
  • participating member
  • 17 posts

Posted 02 March 2005 - 01:38 PM

I lived in Florence for 4 months with a guy from Florence, and needless to say I learned alot about the Florentine restaurants. Above all, the best place we went was called Perseus. There are actually two of them one in Fiesole, and one just outside of the city center. Either one will be easy to get to if you just hop in a taxi and say Perseus. There were no tourists at this restaurant, and it is possible to sit inside or outside. There is usually a pretty long wait, but trust me it's worth it. They have a good wine list, and some very fresh simple pastas (I had Linguini with fresh squash flowers). But the specialty is fiorentina bisitecca. Florentine steak, and this plays know how to do it better than any other. It is tender, and moist, and perfectly seasoned. If you don't want steak they have an assortment of other varoius types of meats. Don't go here if you are a vegetarian though. If you are looking to get off the tourist path and eat authentic food from Firenze this is the place.

Edited by Fiona, 02 March 2005 - 01:39 PM.


#89 praline

praline
  • participating member
  • 2 posts

Posted 06 March 2005 - 06:25 PM

Hi Gastro,

You’ll most likely have a great time in Florence, especially since it sounds like you’re willing to explore off the beaten path. I attended Apicius, though, and would definitely not recommend it, particularly if you're hoping to apply your experience there to a professional slot in the industry. Their marketing is impressive and savvy, but if your experience is anything like mine was (and several of the other people in my classes), you’ll be shocked at the difference between what is advertised, and what you actually encounter. Just be careful not to let your natural excitement about being in Italy color your decision about whether you attend Apicius. I had been gently warned about this by a lackluster review from one of the school’s former students, and really wish now that I’d listened. If you'd like to discuss further via email, feel free to let me know.

Now to the more pleasant part: visiting Florence. This is a blanket statement, but in general, I’d stick more to Oltrarno (on the south side of the Arno) than the more tourist-packed parts of the city. If you want an authentic, Florentine “neighborhood-y” experience, try lunch or dinner at Trattoria Casa Linga, just right around the corner from Piazza Santo Spirito. If you’ve ever eaten at “meat ’n’ three’s” in the southern U.S., the experience is similar; it’s basic food, but tasty, and a lot of fun eating with no one but locals.

Florence isn’t known for its pizza (Naples is), but you’ll find great pizza at Mangiatoia, on Via Romana, just one block past Pitti Palace. They have a restaurant upstairs, but it’s more fun to eat at the little semi-circular bar in front of a wood-burning oven when you first enter. You can get a delicious margarita pizza and a quarter-liter of their sparking house white (fairly good, actually, for house wine) for about 8 euros. Mangiatoia offers very friendly service, was usually filled with locals, and definitely became a favorite haunt. Dante, a block south of Ponte alla Carraia, can be fairly touristy, but has good food, as well. On that same block, try Marino’s, a very friendly, wonderful little pastry shop. On the corner of that same street is a gelato shop that’s out of this world. And if you want to try a very authentic tripperia, definitely have dinner or lunch at Il Magazzino, right on Piazza della Passera. All of these restaurants are in Oltrarno. This is another blanket generalization, but by and large, you’ll basically do well to avoid places with menus in both Italian and English out front; the menus in English more often than not seemed to directly correspond to the quality (and authenticity) of the restaurant’s food.

Another good option that’s definitely fun is Teatro del Salle, which is located on Via de Macci, not far from Santa Croce. The food is amazing, and the experience is definitely memorable; the kitchen has enormous windows that open out to the dining area so you can watch chefs at work, and fresh dishes of roasted meat, fresh cheeses, fresh pasta, beans and marinated vegetables, salads, etc., are constantly brought out to the table, with a giant bellow announcing which dishes are ready that comes from their exec chef in the kitchen door. There’s a $10 membership fee (for one year), but it’s most definitely worth it; you’ll basically be paying 14 euros for lunch that includes as much food as you’d like, as much wine as you’d like, plus coffee and dessert -- with nary a tourist in sight. I’d be hard-pressed to think of a place where you’d get that level of food quality and ambiance for that amount. If you do visit, introduce yourself to Deborah, a very gracious Irish-American woman who serves as a sort of hostess/maitre d’. She has all sorts of information on Florence and the culinary scene. And Teatro del Salle is just about one block from the San Ambrogio market, a fantastic, enormous indoor-outdoor market that’s quite an experience. Makes for a great afternoon.

In response to your question about the one thing you’d need to do in town, it’s hard to narrow it down that much, because I’m not sure what your specific interests are. If I could only list three, though, I’d suggest: Santa Croce, Pitti Palace, and a tiny coffee house called Café degli Artigiani, right at Piazza della Passera. Its owners, Cinzia and Marco, are so welcoming and fun, and if their young son is there, he even helps you with your Italian. If you go in warmer weather, you’ll wind up wiling away hours on their small patio, just people-watching, sipping fantastic coffee drinks, listening to accordianists who stroll by, and watching small kids play in the piazza. It’s great fun, and a wonderful memory.

It’s also easy to walk to the train station in Florence and take inexpensive day trips to fun towns like Lucca (you can rent bikes and bike around the city wall that surrounds the city), Siena, Bologna, Parma, and most definitely Cinque Terre, if you have time. I’ve never seen anything more lovely and interesting than this string of five inlets, each one very different from the others.

Florence is definitely a fun city to visit, but I'd carefully consider all options before making a final decision about your choice for school. There are so many great programs out there.

Hope this info helps somewhat--buona fortuna!

#90 Paul B

Paul B
  • participating member
  • 261 posts
  • Location:West Vancouver

Posted 15 June 2005 - 02:14 PM

I've been to Florence three times now, each time on the budget of an academic, so I've had to eat cheaply, especially the times I packed along my family. One of the stands in the Mercato market has been mentioned, but there is another one, called (of all things) Porks. I believe it is in the north east corner of the main floor. Very cheap and fresh pastas. If you cross to the south of the Arno and walk west until you pass through the big gates you'll hit the Trattoria Sabatino. Run by a family that makes its own olive oil and wine, it is bright, loud, cheerful, and cheap. I've also had good luck ordering pizza in Florence. We stayed at the Hotel Perseo, just down the street from the duomo, and the staff there happily placed pizza orders for us from a place around the corner. Good stuff.

But you know, the best meals I've have in Italy weren't in Florence, Rome, or Sienna, but in Bergamo. Twice I've stayed in the Hotel Piemontese right across from the train station. Attached to that hotel is a restaurant that is a great deal of fun and very generous with the food. Whenever I think of the perfect pizza, I think of the meal I had there. I'd go there tonight if I could.

Ciao.
Paul B