It is not impossible to eat well in the historical center of Florence, even near the most crowded attractions such as the Uffizi gallery. And I promise, after the traumatic ordeal with the lines, selfie sticks, insulting poster replicas lining the stone walkways, and smacked with an overdose of indescribable art- you’re going to need a treat. And possibly a drink.
Some general tips for visiting the Uffizi: Please invest in a (good) tour guide. Not a cheap group tour, and no not even the ones that boast small groups of ‘only’ 12. Unless of course you are a traveling group of 12- I guess you can’t help that! But guys! This is one of the finest (and greatest) collections of art in the world.
Do you really want to skimp on this experience? Why come all the way to Florence, just to save money on a tour/guide who will really unlock the sheer insanity this gallery beholds? You can waft through the seemingly endless rooms, cross-checking a guide book or the dry info from an audio guide…but my tip is to hire a tour guide. While I do not give museum/art tours, and since I work in the industry (food tours in Florence!)-I appreciate all the hard work guides have to put in.
In case you are new to my blog, I majored in Italian Studies at University. This life-altering choice to dedicate my academic career to Italy was inspired after a visit to the Uffizi in 2005. Imagine what a visit could inspire you to do!
It’s strange to me but I realize that Florence is not on as many peoples wish-list as say Rome or Venice, and when it is- they are here on average 2-3 days in order to mark things off like the Uffizi and Accademia. Again bias talking, but I think Florence has so much to offer than just these 2 museums. And while Rome and Venice are magnificent, Florence is spoiled with its picturesque proximity to the countryside.
So just to re-cap my travel tips: visit the Uffizi with a (good) tour guide, stay in Florence for more than 2-3 days (ideally get out into the countryside) and of course- eat well.
Where to eat well near the Uffizi Gallery
Just so we are clear, the Uffizi is located just off of Piazza della Signoria, next to Palazzo Vecchio (where the fake David statue stands outside of) and behind sculpture “garden” Loggia dei Lanzi (views are free!) so a key to eating well nearby will be just a few minutes walk from the piazza and/or the museum itself.
A NOTE ON BREAKFAST
I highly encourage foreign travelers to let whatever they normally expect for breakfast go. In Italy, at least in modern times, breakfast is short and sweet. An espresso, a cappuccino and hopefully a good quality baked good. While it is common to have a pastry, usually in the form of a brioche or cornetto, be aware that what you are eating isn’t some factory produced chemical thing that has been frozen and
“baked” reheated in an electric toaster over. Italy has issues with processed food too, folks! Katie Parla explains this breakfast pastry habit best on Eater.com. Hence, these recommendations for breakfast serve only high quality baked goods made from scratch, not a factory.
You might be wondering…how can one sustain thyself with just a pastry and cappuccino? Easy. Have a hearty lunch and a late dinner, and you won’t be starving in the morning and will usually just need some simple sugars to perk you back up from the sleeping dead. If you know yourself and that answer is not good enough, look for “integrale” things (whole grain) or I guess you could do a savory meat filled panino or cornetto for breakfast- as long as you don’t mind coffee and salty in the same room. I’ve seen Italians have a soda called “Spuma” with a salty breakfast food instead of coffee.
Not into the bitter strong espresso but want a log coffee? Try asking for a caffe americano with latte on the side. But please forget about drip coffee! Try not to seclude yourself to the hotel breakfast- immerse yourself in with local habits and try something new!
Looking for something local? There is something very typical to Tuscany called a budino di riso– which is a rice pudding filled pastry-crust “mini-pie” and I think that would fill just about anyone with a normal appetite up. Or a sfoglia (intensely buttered flaky puff pasty fold-over and sometimes cream-custard filled!!) and even Pan di Pescatore (a sweet roll-like bread with almonds and raisins).
I know it’s sad, but Rivoire (smack dab in the middle of Piazza della Signora facing Palazzo Vecchio) is pretty much the only place I recommend for coffee and pastries near the Uffizi. The rest is nothing special. I like the coffee at Gucci Museum’s caffe but I’m not sure about their pastries. On Via de’ Neri just behind/parallel to the Uffizi there is of course Ditta Artigianale which does stellar coffee and O.K. pastries but I am hesitant to recommend them since they are not for a traditional Italian breakfast and do offer a more international style breakfast I’d regret you be tempted by. If you don’t mind walking just a few minutes from the Signoria square, there is the cafe/bakery portion of Cantinetta dei Verrazzano (Via dei Tavolini, 18/20-r) that do lovely pastries, breads and cakes- and they serve caffe Piansa which is a great local roaster.
LUNCH AND DINNER NEAR THE UFFIZI
Vini e Vecchi Sapori- Great for lunch and dinner, this family-run osteria has a hand written menu, they don’t do steak and they are consistently full and have not completely compromised on quality. I did notice the use of microwaves in the kitchen, which in my book is a big no-no, but I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to run a kitchen. I still, however, think this is a safe bet for eating simple, local fare at a fair price. Plus the atmosphere inside really gets me every time. Via dei Magazzini, 3
Il Cernacchino- This is a great spot for a greasy spoon style lunch. It’s an experience in itself! It’s run by 2 adorable jolly Tuscan sisters and it’s a sort of hole in the wall with limited seating but is never overwhelmingly crowded. Your food plate will never look appealing, but what it makes up for is in authenticity. Rustic soups, grain salads, tripe and lampredotto, beef brisket panino and basically hearty comfort food designed to make anyone break into a sweat. And at dirt cheap prices! Via della Condotta, 38r
Il Buco del Orafo- Open for dinner, this place is a madhouse. I’ve written about these guys before and while their service is fit for a show, they do have some of the best Florentine and Tuscan food in town. It’s an underground restaurant in a former goldsmith shop which feels like you’ve walked into a time capsule, whose aromas incite the salivary glands. Please order any grilled meat they do or their Polpette meatballs. Pastas are divine as well. Oh hell, it’s all good. Via dei Girolami, 28
L’Ora di Aria- Run by critically acclaimed chef Marco Stabile with an obsession for materie prime (quality raw goods- emphasis on ingredients and tradition), this is a one-Michelin star restaurant very close to the Uffizi. I recommend this as a fancy occassion for dinner or a fancy lunch as they do a 35euro tasting menu- not bad for a Michelin-star restaurant. Via dei Georgofili, 11 (you must make a reservation in advance!)
Mangia Pizza- Okay, so you say you want pizza well then check out this concept pizzeria which does Tuscan ciabatta (narrow slipper flatbreads) where you can either choose your toppings or select from the already designed gourmet selections. I wrote about Mangia Pizza here when they first opened. Via Lambertesca 24/26r
Alimentari Uffizi- Run by the charming, sweet Alessandro who has carried the torch of family-run alimentari (deli), as his dad and granfather both owned alimentari in different locations of Florence. This deli is great for sandwiches and meat/cheese platters with simple local house wine. Little benches inside ensure a comfy, humble lunch and he too has a fixation with product quality. He procures salumi from wild cinta senese heritage piggies, products from his son’s farm in Umbria such as olive oil and cured meats and high quality aged and fresh cheeses, plus marinated vegetables sometimes from his wife’s garden. Via Lambertesca, 10
WHERE TO GET GELATO NEAR THE UFFIZI
Perche’ No- I don’t understand why people don’t go here more when it is smack dab in the center and is probably the only quality gelateria in between Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza della Signoria which does not taste like a bowl of reconsituted powdered milk mixed with obsene amounts of sugar and artificial flavors. I quite like their milk-free options and occasional gourmet specialties such as Tuscan lavender and matcha green tea. Via dei Tavolini, 19R
Carapina- Even closer to the Uffizi, Carapina does artisan, seasonal Florentine gelato well. They have a chart inside which tells you what fruits are in season and thus what they are churning at the moment. Although I must say the service is sometimes hit-and-miss. I guess you can’t have it all! I do love their mint and summer watermelon. Via Lambertesca, 18/R
Stay tuned to my food blog for future posts, I plan to develop more posts like where to eat near the accademia, santa croce and more! Also- if you need any additional food recommendations please let me know!
Because you can have your cultural cake and eat it too,
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