Florence, nestled upon the banks of the Arno River, is a city teeming with culture, history, and wonderful food. Similar to other locations in Italy, there is no shortage of amazing dining options. The difficult part is making sure you don’t find yourself in a tourist trap or in a swanky restaurant that charges 35 euro for pasta. Budget travelers are always looking for the sweet spot – places that are authentic, inexpensive, and delicious. Luckily, we visited a few places in Florence that fit that description and are happy to pass them along.
Our Favorite Places to Eat & Drink in Florence
It can be especially hard to find good restaurants at a reasonable price when you don’t understand the majority of the words on the menus. We certainly found ourselves a few places that were less than impressive. In this article, we’ll describe our four favorite dining experiences in Florence:
- Gustarium: custom sized slices of pizza
- Trattoria 4 Leoni: rustic Italian restaurant
- Florence Central Market: food hall offering a range of options
- Signorvino: wine bar with simple snacks
- L’ Vinaino: fresh charcuterie and good wine
Lunch – Pizza
Location | 4 minute walk from the Duomo, 5 minute walk from Ponte Vecchio
If you are like us, often the hardest part about going out to eat is deciding what to order, especially when everything on the menu looks delicious. Gustarium, a small pizza joint located between Ponte Vecchio and the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Fiore, solved that problem. Instead of ordering either a whole pie or a few slices, they let you order by a certain size.
Let me explain – when you walk in, there are a number of square pizzas lined up behind the counter. The pizzas are all prepped with toppings, cheese, sauce, etc. but haven’t been finished in the oven. You scope out your options, and when you have decided on which pizzas you want, you can order whatever amount of each pizza and pay by weight. You will show the server how much of each pizza you want with your hands – six inches, twelve inches, two inches – it’s all fair game.
The benefit is that you can try as many different types of pizza as you’d like. We got a few different types of veggie pizza and I was able to try some with zucchini flower, sardines, and fish roe, just because I was curious (would give it a 6.5 out of 10, very fishy flavor). The pizza itself is delicious. Thick, pillowy dough, gooey dollops of cheese, and fresh toppings – the perfect Italian lunch.
2. Trattoria 4 Leoni
Restaurant – mid upscale
Location | South of the Arno River, 3 minutes from Ponte Vecchio
There is no better endorsement of a restaurant than the fact that we both still dream of our dinner at Trattoria 4 Leoni. Tucked away in a courtyard, this is not a restaurant the average tourist will stumble into. With dim lights and stone walls, it feels like the embodiment of a Tuscan trattoria, and there is a reason it has been in business since 1995. We were greeted at our table with a small glass of champagne, which may not be the standard operating procedure, but we won’t complain!
We followed that up with more wine (do I need to keep writing about wine??) and fried zucchini flowers to start. Cheesy, crispy, and yet still delicate, they were amazing. Next, we ordered the pear ravioli with taleggio and asparagus. Let me put it this way – if you are in Florence and do not try this dish, you have made a grave mistake. Perfectly thin pillows of pasta filled with subtle cheese and the slight sweetness of pear is perfectly paired with the luscious, salty taleggio and bites of asparagus to give it some freshness. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. We then moved on to the grilled octopus, which was perfectly seasoned, charred, and tender. All-in-all, a meal at 4 Leoni cannot be beat.
Please note that 4 Leoni comes with a higher price tag than the rest of the options on this list, but if you are willing to splurge a little, this is the place to do it!
3. Florence Central Market
Food Hall – lunch
Location | 5 minute walk from Santa Maria Novella Church, 6 minute walk from the Duomo
It is a little unfair to put Mercato Centrale on this list because its more than just a place to eat and drink – it is an experience unto itself. After making your way through the never-ending maze of stalls selling leather goods, souvenirs, and other items, you will walk into the first floor (or ground floor if you are Italian) of the Mercato Centrale and immediately be overwhelmed by the sights and smells. The ground floor consists of a number of stalls selling produce, meat, cheese, fish, wine, olive oil, truffles, and other local products to take home – either to prepare a meal for dinner or for future use in your home country. Even if you are not planning on cooking a meal in Florence or bringing anything home, take some time to stroll around and check out the local offerings. We purchased a bottle of wine to drink at our apartment later in the afternoon, but many shops offers shipping around the globe or packaging options for the long journey home.
The second floor (or first floor if you are Italian) is filled with stalls selling prepared food ready for quick consumption. Tables are set up throughout the market and wine is available for sale. Our advice is to do a quick lap and decide what you want, find a place to sit, and then have one person order food while the other saves the table. The market fills up at lunchtime so be prepared to fend off invaders from your table.
The best part about the market is that you will be able to try many different types of Florentine cuisine. There are vendors serving pizza, pasta, cheese/charcuterie, sandwiches, chocolate, cannoli, gelato – the options are endless. I was feeling adventurous and opted for a beef tongue sandwich, which was much better than it sounds, and maybe a bit more appealing than the more typical tripe sandwich (lampredetto). It was quite the sight to see the server pull a large cow tongue out of a boiling pot of broth, shred the meat right onto the roll, and top with an herbal, green sauce. Nonetheless, there are plenty of more “normal” options for the less culinary-adventurous.
Wine Bar, Lunch/Dinner, Great for Appetizers
Location | South of the Arno River, 1 minute walk from Ponte Vecchio
Signorvino is a modern, expansive wine bar, sitting on the southern bank of the Arno River with up-close views of the Ponte Vecchio. With wide windows and an unmatched patio, it is as much known for its views as it’s delectable Florentine snacks and expansive, but inexpensive, wine list.
There is also a large wine shop, which is the perfect place to grab a bottle before heading up to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sun set over the Duomo. That being said, Signorvino is the type of place where you are likely to run into a group of 20-year-old American college students studying abroad, taking pictures of their wine glass to post on Instagram. But that doesn’t make the view of Ponte Vecchio any less impressive.
5. L’ Vinaino
Sandwich shop/fresh meat/wine bar
Location | South of the Arno
Admittedly, we only happened to stumble into this humble little hole in the wall because it was located directly across the street from our Airbnb. But what a hidden gem we found! Il Vinaino is a tiny restaurant and bar serving freshly shaved slices of meats and homemade bread, making it the perfect place for delicious charcuterie paired with a glass of wine (note you have only two options here: red or white!).
L’ Vinaino is located here, off Borgo S. Frediano on the south side of the Arno (you won’t easily find this place with a google search).
We hope this list serves as a helpful starting point in figuring out where to eat in Florence. We are obviously not experts in this domain by any means, but we only recommend places we truly loved!
Planning a trip to Florence? Be sure to check our guides to spending 2 days in Florence and 9 days in Italy:
For all things Italy: Italy Travel Guide
Have you been to any of the places on this list? Let us know what you thought in the comments section below!