Dark, dreamy espresso and light-as-clouds gelato. Golden olive oil and deep red Chianti. The food is undoubtedly one of the biggest joys of a Tuscan holiday. However, in cities as popular as Florence there are always tourist traps that are best avoided. To make sure no meal is wasted, read our day-in-the-life guide to local Tuscan eating and make the most of every bite.
Breakfast: how do you like your coffee?
The first meal of the day in Florence is short, sweet and likely to have you fizzing with energy for your morning sightseeing. Find a café with a good line of people standing at the bar – this is probably a local spot. Take your place among them for a quick espresso, or dip a buttery brioche in a frothy cappuccino.
Coffee etiquette: You have until 11am to sip milky coffee if you want to live like a local. After that, “un caffe” (espresso) is the only way to order.
Lunch: welcome to the slow food movement
You’ll soon see the wisdom of having such a light breakfast. Lunch in Tuscany is a leisurely affair – and even in the big city, Florentines will frequently take a few hours over it. If you have time to spare, you could attempt to work your way through a multi-course feast:
- Antipasto: appetisers include toasted bread topped with lardo di colonnata – cured strips of pure pork fat that have to be tried at least once.
- Primi: look out for ribollita – a classic vegetable and bread soup. You might also spot hand-made pappardelle pasta.
- Secondi: in a region known for its wild game, expect to see wild boar, hare and pheasant on the menu – stewed, roasted or made into a pasta sauce.
- Contorni: popular side dishes include grilled artichoke and succulent cannellini beans drizzled with olive oil.
- Formaggi e frutta: from springy pecorino with pears to ricotta with berries.
- Dolce: after all that indulgence, dessert is often surprisingly light: fresh fruit or hard cantucci biscuits dipped in sweet Vinsanto wine.
- Caffe: lunch closes with espresso, naturally.
If that seems like overkill, it’s perfectly acceptable to pick just one or two courses. Many locals eat at home, but a Florentine favourite for a sit-down lunch is Vini e Vechi Sapori, a small osteria with a handwritten menu pinned to the door, close to the Uffizi.
For a quick bite, few places beat the Mercato Centrale (open until late). On the ground floor, stalls are piled high with fresh produce. While upstairs, a stylish food court gives you the chance to pick from antipasto platters, freshly prepared pasta and more. Take a seat for table service from the market bars.
Wildcard: Florence isn’t all traditional Tuscan feasting. If you’ve been exploring Santo Spirito, drop into ultra-hip #RAW for raw vegan fare. Think zingy, cold-pressed juice, and salads and ‘burgers’ spiced up with fresh, flavour-packed sauces.
The afternoon heat is made for gelato. Edoardo may be right next to the Duomo, but it’s the real deal. Sample freshly baked and rolled waffle cones topped with organic ice cream made to the family recipe. Queues are frequently half an hour long, but it’s well worth the wait.
Aperitivo: bubbles and bites
On long summer evenings, bars and restaurants throughout the city set up buffets for aperitivo. A local favourite is Caffe Sant’Ambrogio – order an Aperol spritz or a glass of wine, then you’re free to pick and choose from small plates of local specialities.
If you’ve spent the day in the designer boutiques of Via de’ Tornabuoni, Procacci makes for a refined aperitvo of truffle sandwiches – perfect with cold white wine.
Dinner: Tuscan feasting, round two
If you still have room, evening is the time to go in search of one of Florence’s most famous meals: bistecca alla Fiorentina. Trattoria Mario is one of the most authentic places to tackle this enormous T-bone steak – brought whole and sizzling to the table to share.
Top tip: True Florentine bistecca comes from the Chianina cow – a heritage breed that’s grazed the grasslands of southern Tuscany since Roman times.