The best way to explore Italy is to eat through it. Finding amazing hole-in-the-wall and reasonably priced restaurants is the way to avoid Italy’s numerous tourist traps. The most important thing to know is to stray off the beaten path. A few ways to find these legitimate places to eat are to notice who is there, if majority of the people are local Italians, you should be good to go; if the menu is limited or there is no menu, and it’s not in English, stop by. This usually means that this restaurant frequently changes their menu, and that they always keep it fresh. Last but not least, ask the locals.
Here is a list of the 5 best places to eat throughout Florence:
- Mercato Centrale or Mercato di San Lorenzo: After spending the morning shopping at Florence’s leather market (so many purses, jackets, and other goodies/souveniers), head over to Mercato Centrale for a bite to eat, or numerous bites to eat. The crowds are full of both tourists and locals, which only means that this place is great. Located in a giant warehouse-like building, Mercato Centrale is full of delicious food vendors and fresh produce, olive oils, breads, meats, cheeses, wine, all available for tasting and purchasing. Yum!
- Buongustai: Stumble into this family style restaurant by getting lost in the little nooks and crannies throughout Florence. Like many family style Italian restaurants, this place is tiny compared to American standard, but this just means that it will most likely be delicious. Here, try boar pici, a Tuscan specialty, and Boy, is it to die for, hands down one of the best dishes. Pici is a thick spaghetti noodle, and wild boar is Tuscany’s closest thing to a national dish. It is known for its rich and gamey flavors, which add to the boar pici’s sauce.
- Gelateria Santa Trinita: After any meal, get gelato. Heck, get gelato whenever possible. One can’t really go wrong with gelato, but this place stands out for a few reasons: It isreal gelato (read on to learn how to differentiate between real and fake gelato); and this shop also has wine available for purchase (wine and gelato in the same place = winning at life).
- Ristorante del Fagioli: Located about a 10 minute walk from Ponte Vecchio, and known for their bistecca fiorentina. One of the world’s best steaks, but if you’re used to well-done steaks, Italy keeps it between rare and medium-rare, so be ready for some red meat! This place also only accepts cash and takes about 45 mins to prepare the steak.
- Mario’s: If searching for a true, authentic, and delicious Italian meal, head to Trattoria Mario. It is a hole-in-the-wall, and always has a pretty long wait, but it is completely worth it. The restaurant itself is tiny, so don’t be surprised if you’re seated elbow to elbow with a random stranger. Mario’s is also cheap! One is able to split a savory and heaven-sent beef pasta, a glass of red wine each, bread, and the biggest and best filet, all for under 30€!
*Sidenote: most of us are lulled into the gelaterias because of its huge, colorful mounds of gelato on display. This is a no-no. Gelato should never be florescent colors nor in mounds. It should be displayed flat, and in sync with the color of the flavor. For example, mint flavored gelato shouldn’t be bright green, it should be white because that is the color of the mint extract used to make gelato.