While I wouldn’t classify myself as a bonafide “foodie,” I do have a soft spot for all things snacks and sweets, I’m talkin’ gelato and fried zucchini! Despite my tempestuous relationship with food involving my being vegetarian plus allergic to basically half of the food pyramid, when in Italy I feel compelled to throw my allergies to the wind and dive full force into every plate that lands in front of me.
Italian cuisine is rightfully world renowned, and studying abroad in Florence last summer gave me the opportunity to explore Florentine gastronomy. While the food overall is par excellence some challenges can surface as a visitor. For example, a meal is around a 3 hour commitment, great for socializing with friends, not great when sightseeing. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to look for a quick and delicious bite. Well, after a month of tireless indulgence… I’m proud to present to you the 7 most heavenly and quick treats that you must eat in Florence, Italy!
Fancy a cozy environment where you feel like a local? One that is paneled with polished wood, accented with anecdotal Italian heirlooms, ornate décor and pops of fresh flowers? Perhaps it’s also a hybrid dessert counter and chic café? Look no further than Cantinetta dei Verrazzano, conveniently situated nearby the bustling and central Piazza della Repubblica.
Stand at the pastry counter and sample all of the goodies behind the glass, or sit down and order from the menu. My choice? Iced coffee and a veggie cecina, a thin pastry made of chickpea flour and topped with veggies drizzled with oil. Perfetto!
If you’re craving an iced coffee and want one that is actually good — no, one that is legitimately amazing — go to Verrazzano.
Like many of the winding, narrow, cobblestone streets which form a maze of confusion for many lost tourists in Florence, Via de’ Ginori is no different. It just so happened that my apartment shared this street with an unassuming little treasure called Le Botteghe di Leonardo. So my daily ritual of getting lost usually ended with me inside this adorable and tasty ice cream spot. While there’s no shortage of gelato in Florence, finding Earth shatteringly good gelato requires great talent — or dumb luck.
In this circumstance, we’ll go with the ladder, (legitimately lived just a few doors down)! Regardless of how I found this gem that uses only natural, organic ingredients for authentic Italian ice cream recipes, the first bite blew my mind. The velvety texture melts on your tongue and the potent sweet flavors instantly turned me into an addict. My go-to flavor combo is nutty pistachio with tart mango, a delectable contrast but intoxicating none-the-less. I had no defense against this gelato, and found it necessary to get my fix as often as possible. I’m only human, people!
While we’re on the subject of being defenseless to delicious food, you must try…
If you want to try the best pizza in the world, off the beaten path and across the River Arno, go to Gusta Pizza. Located in the Oltrarno quarter, adjacent to the historic piazza, Santo Spirito — a crowded local hangout — this cozy spot bakes wood-fired stone oven pizza packed with fresh flavors.
Potent leafy basil, parmesan shavings, flaky crust and light tomato sauce, the house special appropriately named, Gusta Pizza, is a simple yet scrumptious feast of flavor.
You know it’s good when there’s a line out of the door before the place even opens, which I had no problem waiting in… often.
La Ménagère, yet another rockstar on my trail through Florence, is an intimate and trendy restaurant perfect for escaping the summer heat. This is not your grandma’s Florentine cafe — it’s hip and gorgeous. There’s even a wall garden and free Wi-Fi, a blogger’s dream! Or… a florist’s dream? A floral blogger’s dream? Either way, it’s gorgeous. They have delicious tapas, notably, vegetarian tapas including a veggie slider. Halleluja, they exist in Italy! While all of this marries together to create a great dining experience, the real show stopper comes from behind the bar.
I present to you, The SPRITZ, the infamous Italian aperitif featuring Prosecco, Aperol and sparkling water. While most Italian spritz’ come garnished with a cute little orange slice, the Spritz La Ménagère doesn’t mess around, it’s packed to the brim with fresh fruits and veggies. I mean, one could really justify skipping dinner in favor of a few spritz’, right? Who’s with me?
One of my absolute favorite ways to eat in Firenze is to go to Mercato Centrale and hop around the stalls stuffing my face with everything in sight. I blame this heightened satisfaction on trips to Hometown Buffet as a kid. Fortunately my palette is somewhat more refined than fried chicken and boxed mashed potatoes these days, and Mercato Centrale only serves to push me further into snobbery… but, I’m rambling now.
I absolutely love this bursting-with-life market set inside the coolest industrial complex. It’s like stepping out of Renaissance Italy (which I love) and into the modern world, and offers a nice shift in scenery. Everything from pizza to veggie burgers can be found here, there’s even a €330,000 truffle! The pièce de résistance for me though is the tiny little unassuming cannoli cart, nameless to me and completely inconspicuous… I could probably eat about a dozen of these little babes because they’re just THAT good.
A flaky yet crispy outside filled with a cloud of cream in the center, doused in pistachio crumbs (cue the angelic music because these are my fave!) and a zesty orange peel. It is… AMAZING! I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you basically haven’t lived until you’ve experienced this cannoli.
If you’re a sugar junkie like me, pair it with a frozen iced coffee from the coffee bar, they drizzle it in chocolate. Basically, it’s a better combo than mango and sticky rice, pb & j, Bonnie and… you get the idea.
I am a serious sucker for a good smoothie. Combine it with a hummus wrap and I’m basically in heaven. Perhaps eclipsing my nagging sweet tooth is my love and appreciation for fresh food. Well, that’s exactly what I found at bar Itaco, the snack lover’s equivalent of Italian paradiso — sorry, I think Dante missed the mark on that one. j/k no one offends Dante. Ok, moving on…
I absolutely adored this cozy and colorful space. With a menu offering a variety of light lunches like wraps and salads, and fruity flavorful smoothies, there wasn’t much else I needed in life than to sit, sip and savor the fresh goodies that Itaco offers. It’s really the perfect spot for a quick meal outside of a panini, which, I love a panini… but one can only eat so many panini’s, right?
If you’re craving fresh, quick and cute… bar Itaco has ya covered. I also hear they have a pizzeria on Via dei Servi 116/118, where you can order a version that yummy chickpea flour concoction, cecina. Anyone tried it? Best believe I will be making a trip there when I return to Florence!
Now how could I go and write a post about the best treats in Italy without giving an honorable mention to the notorious aperitivo? Italy, thank you… you are a genius for your invention. Buy one drink, and get access to a buffet of finger foods? Sold! For as little as 6 Euro you can fill up on a hardy meal while getting a soft buzz.
There are no shortage of spots to delight in an aperitivo in Florence. Keep your eyes peeled for little A-frame chalkboard signs perched outside of cafes listing the price and time they’re serving aperitivos. Recommending one spot is futile when every corner, street and neighborhood has its own hallmark place for an aperitivo. Do yourself a favor and eat at as many of them as you can! They’re quick, economic, and delicious. Win-win! Or dare I say… chin-chin?
There you have it, now get out there and make momma proud; expand those waistlines! 😉
Do you have a favorite treat in Florence? Share the wealth with us in the comments below! Can’t get enough of Florence? See what it’s like to study abroad there!