You’d be hard pressed to throw a rock and not hit a wine bar or enoteca in Florence. Yet, so many places are- to me- mediocre in terms of wine selection. The struggle is real to drink beyond the Sangiovese obvious in this Chianti-laden city. Not only are Florentines fervently loyal to their local wine landscape rarely exploring beyond their province, but much of wine served (especially in restaurants) leaves something to be desired in terms of quality and uniqueness. This to me is unacceptable in a country which produces such fascinating wines and is home to hundreds upon hundreds of indigenous grapes!
I find to drink interesting Italian wines/discover new varieties, I need to be pretty much anywhere else but Florence with the exception of a handful of places. Consider most glasses poured and wine lists more often than not are predictable and limited. This is of course speaking from my personal tastes. To understand why I bemoan the wine scene in Florence, I invite you to read this post I wrote last year.
I’ll gladly knock back a few plastic cups of Sangiovese with a greasy tray of offal lampredotto or goblets of undeterminable rossi with panini at Semel. But when it comes to wanting to appreciate and explore the endless rabbit hole of Italian wine- Florence can fall short.
Many travelers are in Italy partly for a reason I suspect- and that is to drink wine. Unless you like, can’t, for reasons I completely respect. I suspect those of you who follow this space or have landed on this post, is because you are looking for advice on where to eat and drink in Florence. So you are investing in your experience with the pure act of research!
Hence, if you are curious about lesser-sung Italian wines or bottles showcasing some of Italy’s countless indigenous grapes- and not just Tuscan wines (but they will have them, just not always the most obvious suspects like Brunello or Chianti)- then I will do my very best to steer you in a unique direction.
In theme of this tangentially long intro, I’ll make it a point to mention my preference in wines lie in the natural/minimal intervention camp. A term very murky, controversial and difficult to define, I’ll allow this article to sum it up. I do appreciate well-made conventional wines, too and wouldn’t dare throw them out of bed- but I prefer the element of surprise which comes with minimal intervention wines.
While my preference is for natural/min. intervention wines, not every address on this list adheres to pouring the funky stuff. Mostly because Florence is a dire city for natural wines and I blame the stronghold the local appellation consortium with mega bucks promoting Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico have on the Tuscan wine industry. There isn’t much space for anyone else to shout. Of course there is something to be said about tradition and promoting/protecting legacy in historic wine producing areas, but I am one who believes we can respect the past and make space for innovation and creativity.
I may be missing more wine bars in Florence, but keep in mind this is a personal blog which reflects my personal picks for where I frequently drink at. So enough with the chit chat, on with the hooch!
Vineria Suonora- I could live here. If you are into or at least curious about natural wines, this is the spot. They pour natural wines from the tiniest off-beat producers from around Italy and have an impressive variety of Tuscan labels. The snacks are rustic and ideal for wine pairing: whole grain breads for warm crostini, flavorful, fatty Calabrian cured meats and sheep milk cheeses.
This little former latteria/bakery cafe with mega history behind, counting being a butcher shop in the 1800’s and then a dairy in the 1920’s until it became a milk bar/cafe Caffe Latte in 1984 and was ran by the same woman till she grumpily ran it into the ground in 2016. Just read the reviews on tripadvisor to see what I mean. Luckily, a pair of young (brave) entrepreneurs (aka unicorns in Italy) had been scouting for a space to open a natural wine bar with a vinyl record theme. The latteria was the perfect space, and to me in theme with the space’s historic progression. Address: Via Degli Alfani, 39 r, 50121 Firenze FI, Italy (near the Jewish synagogue in Sant’Ambrogio)
Mangius- This is more of a bistro than a wine bar, but they have an incredible selection of more higher-end natural wines and fabulous menu offerings to pair. They also sell wine to take away, but I only suggest this to the brave who already are into natural wines and would know what to pick- the service here is awkward at best. If it wasn’t for their food (which was literally the stuff yum mmmms are made of) I would not be recommending them- I’ve ran out of tolerance for the grumpy Florentine service culture. Address: Via Pietrapiana, 11R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy (near Sant’Ambrogio/Piazza dei Ciompi)
Enoteca Sant’Ambrogio- This is the bar I frequent most in Florence, for several reasons. One, I am totally in love with piazza life and culture in Italy. All these fancy “al fresco” places have nothing to do with Italian soul or culture. It is the neighborhood haunt which embodies that sense of truly being in Italy. Enoteca Sant’Ambrogio is one of the few places in Florence which isn’t trying to be a concept, procures an exceptional wine list and attracts 98% locals. Albeit lacking in atmosphere in darkness and feeble attempts at artistic decor, its a legit place to dwell over a glass.
If you can look beyond the lack of hipster allure, this is where you can drink a proper martini, a decent glass of champagne for under a tenner or a plethora of caliber Italian wines by the glass. They do an aperitivo, which is mostly mediocre at best, but you come here principally for the glasses, and if you’re peckish- dry snacks at most. The best part is they have seats outside, which I will happily drink at- observing the sounds of my most favorite quarter of Florence: Sant’Ambrogio. Address: Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, 7r, 50121 Firenze FI, Italy (near Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio)
Le Volpi e L’Uva- I mean, I really shouldn’t have to describe this gem. I honestly believe this is one of the greatest gifts to the wine world. A tiny space, showcasing bottles from earnest, passionate producers from primarily Italy but also select international addresses, is kept by a team of tirelessly knowledgeable sommelier and winemakers. The quality from food to wine is poetic in detail. The owners scour Italy (and France) for the fringiest of cheeses, the tastiest of cured meats from heritage breeds and ancient styles of bread for their warm melted cheese crostini. The only caveat is a small space during the winter since outdoor seating not possible. But this is also slow travel season so it works out more or less. Address: Piazza dei Rossi, 1R, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy (near Ponte Vecchio)
Enoteca Bellini- For whatever reason, the main table area feels like one of those fancy airport drinking lounges (not that I know many) and I say this in the most encouraging way. Then there is a little downstairs underground cellar area if you have a small group of friends wanting to drink in seclusion. The bar is run by the original owner’s daughter (Camilla, and one of my favorite women in the wine world) and a critical eye for quality runs in their family’s veins.
The dad is selective for the food products which top their bar bites down to the sourcing of their anchovies for the best butter and anchovy toasts in the city, and Camilla has a whip smart palate, always procuring something fascinating like Tuscan chardonnays from iconic producers like Isole e Olena, grower Champagnes to crisp, fresh whites from obscure Italian grape varieties from North to South. The best part is Bellini is close to the station in case you need an aperitivo before a departure (or upon return). Address: Via della Spada, 52, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy (near Via Tornabuoni/Piazza San Pancrazio)
Il Santino- Another small wine nook in the Oltrarno, I enjoy this cave-like atmosphere, the laid-back energy and the snacks to pair (hand-cut prosciutto on artisanal bread slices from their near-by bakery ‘Sforno, burrata and anchovy plates, etc.) Wines here are always a surprise, consistently rotating from boutique Italian producers and I’ve never been disappointed with the service nor quality experienced at Il Santino. It’s my preferred spot to treat myself to a glass and a read on a weekend afternoon before the 6pm crowd starts to pile in. Address: Via Santo Spirito, 60, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy (near Ponte Santa Trinita/Oltrarno)
Casa del Vino- Tucked behind the stalls of the San Lorenzo souvenir market is a treasure chest of Florentine wine history. One of the few traditional, old school enotecas left where again- a respectable wine list is crafted. Complete with a panini menu or better, a case of gourmet finger panini and crostini on display. Make sure to order a couple slabs of bread slathered in chicken liver fegatino pate. What I adore most about Casa del Vino, apart from its charming wood-paneled soul, is the menu offering some natural wines in addition to traditional mainstays. They are one of the few in town which serves prosecco col fondo, which is prosecco made in an ancestral method allowing yeast lees to play with juice during the fermentation process. The result is a prosecco with the fruit we all love but a touch of toasted brioche complexity. Address: Via dell’Ariento, 16r, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy (near Mercato Centrale/San Lorenzo)
Fiaschetteria Nuvoli- Another historic enoteca or rather, fiaschetteria (wine cellar) in the center of the city, tucked behind the Duomo. The wines are worthy, nothing boutiquey or natural but definitely quality selections from mostly around Tuscany. I love this place for a few reasons. A. they have an underground cantina which is at the same depth of the crypts of Santa Reparata and if you get chummy with the owner, he’ll tell you all the history of this special building. B. I love their chicken liver crostini and think they are #1 or #2 in terms of being best in town. C. The seating area upstairs in cramped which means you’ll more than likely talk to other people. Which, is something I feel is being lost in our culture of fancy restaurant and wine bar going. All the focus is on the food and wine- rightly so- that we forget the social nature these public gathering watering holes initially served as. Address: Piazza dell’Olio, 15, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy (near the Duomo)
Enoteca Vigna Nuova- I really really love this place. It’s new and something Florence desperately needed. Being a casual restaurant with a wine bar vibe, with an excellent selection of small-producer wines with an emphasis on natural wines from cult producers like Arianna Occhipinti and Emidio Pepe, and a stellar Champagne fridge. In addition to fascinating wines I never cease to be delighted by, they have delicious snacks like creative crostini (love their smoked salmon and butter plates), hand cut prosciutto, farm fresh cheese plates and simple yet well made pastas and mains, but I personally prefer to grab a bottle and snack on crostini and meat/cheese boards and make it a wine-focused extravaganza. The only drawback is there is no wine menu however! the staff are super patient and nice in the selection, which is also much needed in Florence. I.e. knowledgable, passionate and friendly service. Address: Via dei Federighi, 3/R, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy (near Piazza Goldoni/Ponte alla Carraia)
Coquinarius- Okay, not a wine bar but a lovely little restaurant with a killer wine list. The food is always spot on and never too fussy or intense. I sometimes feel in Florence you have to prepare your entire being for a feast. Florence can be an involved ordeal to just dine somewhere with casual food like salads which aren’t sad iceberg stories, or artisan charcuterie or simple wine braised beef cheek. That may sound like a feast, but at traditional trattorias in Florence it’s an ordeal of all the courses plus a show-stopper main or a full-on chef tasting menu, basically a 4 hour eating show. I appreciate Coquinarius’s modern simplicity and boutique wine procurement. Address: Via delle Oche, 11R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy (near the Duomo, reservations encouraged)
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