Traveling solo, huh? Well, first I’d like to give you a proverbial high five in light of my high five anxiety because #1 it takes guts to travel especially these days. Not because travel should be or is scary (travel is safe in Europe, guys!), but travel seems scary mega thanks to idiot media outlets.
And high five for #2: traveling on your own- this is one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences on planet earth. Since I write about food, I hope this post proves helpful for solo travelers- both as a guide to where to eat in Florence but also tips & insight for meeting others during your travels around Italy.Traveling solo has its benefits, but it has its challenges. Especially in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, before I dive into the addresses where I think one can eat extremely well while not feeling like a freakshow for being there alone, i.e. surrounded by obnoxious candle-lit decor and smooching leg humping couples. In addition, I’d like to add my personal 2 cents if you are coming to Florence as a solo-traveler and are looking for restaurant advice:
SCREW BEING ON TIME: Unless it is for one of my food tours in Florence, then please be on time! Sarcasm aside, I encourage you too be okay with not following a schedule or breaking the rules with time. Enjoy a long lunch or dinner. Linger over some wine & bar snacks. Relax and don’t worry about time. Life is for living, not scheduling. Italy has taught me many things, and a few being to enjoy time at the table and treat meal times as a sort of meditation instead of stuffing your face for the sake of filling your piehole. This is what I hope Italy will teach you too.
MEETING PEOPLE? What do you have to lose by talking to someone next to you? Are they going to throw their salami at you? Are they going to laugh/ignore or run away from you? No! And if they do, it would make for a funny story. Come on, we’re all adults now! Also, look away from your phone once in a while! How can you make friends/acquaintances if you’re staring at a screen?
I really wish more of us had the balls to speak to strangers.
I constantly question how our social skills are shifting because of social media and our modern world. I think we need to have a balance with technology and just have the balls to spark conversations with strangers. But I will say Florence is a weird city for that. One of my friends recently told me she was having dinner on her own and a chap asked if he could sit with her, and of course she welcomed the inquiry only for him to subsequently say “my phone gets better reception in this spot.” Dude, seriously?!
I have no qualms talking and engaging with fellow folks, but I’ve found Florence to not be down with that so much. Anytime where I’ve made random friends is 90% of the time with non-Florentines, 5% are Florentines but with parents from different parts of Tuscany and/or Italy, 1% of the time they were from somewhere else in Tuscany, 4% usually from a different part of Italy but the rest being Southern Italians because they are so damn outgoing and friendly.
Perhaps I’ve become a bit more ballsy in terms of sociability after living in Seattle where people are so goddamn socially awkward, so much that there is the phenomenon called “The Seattle Freeze.” Even so, Florence and Seattle are similar in being socially standoffish, but Florence is filled with people from all over the world so you’re bound to find someone normal. Just throw your phone deep in purse/pockets and say hello to a human!
NON PARLO LA LANGUAGE: I realize how lucky I am to know Italian in Italy, I can pretty much show up anywhere without a plan and can maneuver finding good food somehow by speaking with people. But If you don’t speak the language, of course doing some research in advance on where to eat will be necessary. Unless you have years to learn about the good, bad and the garbage restaurants through trial and error, you should come prepared with a laundry list of addresses. So how do you navigate restaurants if you don’t know the language?
Luckily in Florence, most people in the historical center have an impressive level of English. So if in doubt of food in Florence- just ask! More and more places have translated English menus too. But if you’re like me, you want to get out of the center and dine without translated menus or “tourist” prices resulting from high overhead. If you still don’t find an impressive amount of English from any one restaurant, there is great technology for translating images and text. Download the google translate app and you can take a picture of the menu and it will be translated. Looking for local specialties? Ask the server for “piatti tipici fiorentini o toscani” and the staff can point them out.
Now that you’ve heard my opinionated ramblings, here are some suggestions on where to eat in Florence if you are traveling solo:
In general, any place I recommend in my blog is suitable for solo lunch outings. Because most restaurants/eateries in Florence are usually pretty easy/not awkward to eat anywhere for lunch solo, I will focus on dinner/nighttime establishments.
My Restaurant Picks for Solo Travelers in Florence
Trattoria Angiolino– Located on Via Santo Spirito, I dig this place because there is a bar space, the service is cordially kitsch Italian, the food is traditional and decent. Try to score a chair at the bar and order the tagliata (tender red in the middle grilled sliced steak) with wine, they have a pleasant selection of red wine to match. Address: Via di Santo Spirito, 36/R Phone: 055 239 8976
Il Santino- Also in the Oltrarno on Via Santo Spirito, I enjoy coming on my own. Perhaps because the locale is probably too small to enjoy with friends. Although owned by Il Santo Bevitore, a restaurant gone seriously downhill for my personal obeservation, the charcuterie boards and small plates (i.e. bowls of pappa al pomodoro bread/tomato soup and raw tartare) plus wine are unbeatable. Address: Via di Santo Spirito, 60/R
Irene Firenze- In Piazza della Repubblica, Irene is a sweet spot to watch Florence’s disneyland pass you by if you can score a seat on the “patio.” The menu is reminiscent of traditional Tuscan (i.e. pappa al pomodoro filled ravioli and mozzarella panzanella) but portions smaller, creatively combined (i.e. monkfish, morels & black truffle) and lighter. The cocktail bar is sweet too, in case cocktails and small bites are your idea of dinner (too) Address: Piazza della Repubblica, 7 Phone: 055 273 5891 (CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS MARCH 2018- CHECK BEFORE GOING)
La Ménagère- While I’m not a huge fan of La Ménagère apart from coffee, dolci, cocktails, smoothies and juices, I can appreciate the simple menu, acceptable cocktails & hip atmosphere for those wanting to dine solo and not on heavy traditional Tuscan fare. Address: Via de’ Ginori, 8 (near San Lorenzo & Mercato Centrale)
La Divina Pizza- This pizzeria does pizza al taglio best, the square pizza cut and sold by weight with a myriad of intriguing toppings on dough made meticulously well with stone ground Italian-grown grain and allowing dough to ferment the old-fashioned way: slow and natural. I will suggest you stick to the pizza al taglio, I wasn’t enthused the one time I got a pizza “tonda” (round). Very chill spot to fix a pizza hankering if traveling solo and anyone who goes here has a soul with good pizza taste. Address: Borgo Allegri, 50/red (near Piazza dei Ciompi, Sant’Ambrogio)
Club Culinario da Osvaldo- This restaurant is a must-visit for anyone who reads my blog- period. The ambiance may seem romantic, but the staff are extremely cool and will make anyone will welcome, and the food will reward you. Hard to recommend just one thing, but I love their pastas, appetizers (especially the fried beef croquettes), cured meats/cheeses, rabbit with olives and their massive bunless thick burger with a fried egg & cheese atop. Address: Piazza dei Peruzzi, 3R (off Via de’ Benci, near Santa Croce)
Top floor of Mercato Centrale– Although this may have a feel of a cafeteria or a fancy food court, Mercato Centrale’s dining space is a brillant solution for many needs: solo diners, eating on the go before heading to the train station, grabbing respectable food without needing to make a reservation anywhere. My top-of-my-head picks here is Sud the pizza stand, the bakery (the small schiacciatine foccacia breads are f-word worthy delicious), trapizzino (a street food concept from Rome) and their savory stew-like filings for just right crispy/oily thick pizza/focaccia breads, and the organic stand for veggie burgers/wraps and juices (if you need a break from all the fantastic food and want to torture your taste buds with bland but be nice to your other body parts) Address: Via dell’Ariento (near Piazza San Lorenzo)
Banki Ramen- If you’re getting tired of Italian food (it will happen) grab a bowl of ramen and a Japanese beer from the only international restaurant whose food is consistently on the mark. Banki is by the train station and I quite like the hole-in-the-wall vibe, it reminds me of the asian greasy spoons that fed me through college in the University & International Districts in Seattle Address: Via dei Banchi, 14R (near Santa Maria Novella) Phone: 055 213776
Trattoria Cibreo or Caffe Cibreo (Or Teatro del Sale for that matter)- In case you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed my obsession with Fabio Picchi and the Cibreo empire. Not only is the food of utmost nourishing quality, but the caffe and trattoria offer single diners a comfortable refuge, especially for lunch. I suggest at the caffe, pecking at the antipasti platter where several little bites are brought out. Address: Via dei Macci, 122R Website: http://www.cibreo.com
Osteria Tre Panche- I think even if you are coupled up, you should come to this restaurant all by your lonesome. Osteria Tre Panche (literally meaning “Three Benches”) has just enough seating for 3 benches worth of diners and they have a whole menu premised on my favorite culinary gold: truffles. Now you see why I advise coming here alone? So you don’t have to share your truffle goodness nor subject your partner to witness your truffle scarfing chowdown. Please note a bus or taxi is advised unless you like long walks to earn your carbs in advance, reservations are a must. Address: Via Antonio Pacinotti, 32/R Phone: 055 583724
Le Volpi e L’Uva- Not a restaurant but rather a wine bar, however I consider wine, meats & cheeses and crostini as part of a balanced dinner. This humble wine bar has a few tables, with loyal locals frequenting, a bar space or outdoor patio tables. The staff are very friendly (if they aren’t slammed) to explain wines and help you pick the best sips. I’m completely in love with their artisan meat & unique cheese selection (think gooey soft-ripened french cheese and wild boar fennel salami) and they have the best warm toasts in town (my favorite being the truffle sausage and the melted fontina). They also have salads if you’re into that kind of thing. But some of my most memorable experiences in Florence have been at this bar. Address: Piazza Dei Rossi, 1R, 50125 Firenze Hours: 11AM–9PM Phone: 055 239 8132 website: https://www.levolpieluva.com/ (p.s. tip of the hat to my friend Emiko who did their lovely website photos!)
Fiaschetteria Nuvoli- Again, more of a wine bar BUT they do have an underground space with benches for diners who order dishes off the menu. The kitchen is simple and is more of a greasy spoon place, but If I’m hankering for a crostini & wine dinner or aperitivo this is my spot. The staff are super cool and laid back and serves as a meeting place for locals who are generally lovely. The location is hard to beat too and their wine selection above average. Address: Piazza dell’Olio, 15/R (near the Duomo/San Lorenzo) Phone: 055 239 6616
Io Osteria Personale- The name alone is befitting for solo travelers, as it translates something to the tune of “my personal osteria.” In any case, this is decent spot to eat especially for diners who would like to dive into more creative fare. I’d say the atmosphere isn’t the most social or charismatic, but it’s definitely not a candle-lit dim banquet room where you’d feel super awkward dining at. They do tasting menus and have interesting refined interpretations of Italian classics such as caviar stuffed zucchini flowers, steak tartare with amaranth popcorn and wild fennel spring pea gnocchi with smoked cheeses. Address: Borgo S. Frediano (Oltrarno) 167R Phone: 055 933 1341
Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori- I can’t stress how much I love this Osteria, mainly because the staff here are so friendly but also the food is consistently enjoyed every single time I’ve been (for just down home Tuscan cooking kind of food). This spot is small and cozy so you won’t feel weird for sitting alone, some trattoria have more larger tables designed for big groups and not the communal bench/table styles which makes it feel weird to sit at. Don’t miss their pastas (spaghetti with anchovies), soups (ribollita if around) or anything they do with artichokes when in season. Everything on the menu is dependable.
Coquinarius- For wine and gourmet pasta lovers, you must make a stop here for their fine selection of labels, artisan cheeses and gourmet takes on pasta which I always dream about (specifically, pistachio burrata ravioli, etc) The interior is pretty Italian retro with high ceilings, and the staff (especially the sommelier) are respectable. If you love cheese/meat boards and interesting pastas, and too many wines to choose from, Coquinarius is your place. Address: Via delle Oche, 11R (near Duomo) Firenze Hours:12:30–3PM, 6:30–10:30PM Phone: 055 230 2153 website: http://www.coquinarius.com/
My friend Georgette at Girl in Florence has an awesome, comprehensive article too about solo travel tips which includes drinking tips I suggest you also consult: http://girlinflorence.com/2015/06/18/eating-solo-in-florence-italy-my-tips/
Wondering why I don’t list all the hours and websites? Well, mainly because Italian restauranteurs do not understand the value of having a proper website and a menu uploaded, or perhaps don’t have the time or $ (will) to invest in this. Opening times are so varied that it’s best to call and make a reservation instead of just showing up.
Any dining spots you enjoy solo?
In your independent dining trust,
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