While living in Italy, we often went to Florence to take in some serious culture, good shopping and great food and wine. Here are some of our recommendations:
What to Drink
After a long day of sightseeing and shopping, Florence offers the perfect backdrop for a glass or two of Tuscan wine from nearby vineyards. Here are some of our suggestions on what to look for (from our wine guide app for iPhone)
Tuscany’s wine options are vast and quality is high, although, when compared to other regions in Italy, the price-to-quality ratio is not quite as compelling. That said, as a general rule, you should stick to red wine options in Tuscany, where sangiovese-based wines are the stars . Some of our favorite wines come from these great appellations:
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
- Chianti Classico DOCG
- Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
For wines based on international grape varieties (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, etc.), the Maremma area, located in a relatively undeveloped portion of Tuscany along the Ionian (west) coast, offers some great wines at attractive prices.
Where to Eat
The following three restaurants consistently delivered world-class food and were the favorites that we returned to again and again.
Cavolo Nero is our go-to restaurant in Florence. Located off-the-beaten-path (in the oltr’arno), this charming and elegant restaurant serves excellent, fresh food that changes with each season. Cavolo Nero’s super-friendly staff is happy to help you navigate the menu and its wine list. Another plus? The wine and food are very reasonably priced.
Cavolo Nero. Via dell’Ardiglione, 22; S.Frediano; Tel: 055/294 744; closed Sundays.
Another one of our favorite restaurants, we recommend dining at the trattoria, over the more formal ristorante and café across the street Excellent food that stays true to its Tuscan roots. Note that the Trattoria does not take reservations, so keep this in mind, because you will likely have to wait for a bit to be seated.
Il Cibreo Trattoria: Via dei Macci, 122R; Ristorante: Via dei Macci 118r; Telephone 055/234 1100; closed Sundays and Mondays.
To sample a real Florentine steak (bistecca fiorentina), there’s no better place than Coco Lezzone. You must to call one day in advance to reserve una bistecca fiorentina (priced by the kg, that is, 2.2 lbs). Also try their delicious ribollita (traditional vegetable bread soup). We recommend sitting in the older front room as it is has a more authentic feel.
Coco Lezzone (no website). Via Parioncino, 26/r, Telephone 055-287178; closed Sundays and Tuesday evenings.
Where to Shop
Florence is known for its shopping. Here are two of our favorite stores:
- Yesterday’s Fausto Santini Outlet (Via Calzaiuoli, 95R; tel 055/239 8536). High-fashion shoe maker, with gorgeously unique shoes for men and women at prices that are 1/3 of those in the Milan boutique.
- Paolo Carandini (Via de’ Macci, 73R; tel 055/245 397). Paolo Carandini sells his beautiful, handmade leather goods (journals, bags, etc.) out of a tiny workshop in the city center.
Where to Go
Cultural Walking Tour: Florence Frescoes
The presence of large number of Last Supper frescoes (called cenocoli in Italian) in Florence’s historical city center allows visitors to view several sites over a few hours or a few days, giving them a brief but complete lesson in comparative art history. In this travel guide, we highlight the best of the Last Supper frescoes of Florence (spanning 1335-1645) and look at how they relate to Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic depiction in Milan (1496-98). Learn more about Last Supper frescoes in Florence…