Looking for the most buttery bakeries in Florence?
Buttery may not be the accurate term since many Tuscan baked goods are made with either no butter (i.e. pane toscano, cantuccini biscotti, etc) with olive oil, shortening or plain old fashioned lard (strutto) or a combo of one of these with butter, or modest amounts of butter compared to the French.
But for all intents and purposes, these are the bakeries where you can get the holy trinity of fat carbs and sugar. Italians and Tuscans especially take great pride in baked goods, especially breads which have hundreds of years attached in every crumble and every morsel of that “buttery” simple carbohydrate bite. The French get a lot of credit for patisserie (and rightly so) but what some famously ignore is that they have the eclair thanks to the Renaissance’s original carb loader Caterina de’ Medici and her team of bakers, who introduced the pâte à choux (or bigne’) to these forkless savages (which she also forking corrected). Florence is kind of a big deal.
As a result, it is possible to find yourself in a conundrum of where to find the best baked goods in Florence. Albeit the tiny size. this city is brimming with pastry shops (la pasticceria) bakery shops (il forno) at every corner luring you in with wafts of buttery sweet and savory temptations. Save yourself the hassle with this little guide. Or you can also take a food tour in Florence to taste an array in real life with a professional carb loader. I took it as my duty to taste and carb load for this reason precisely: to consult travelers to Florence on where to get endorphin-spiking, truest to tradition baked goods in the center.
Here’s a quick run-down of Tuscan Baked Goods of note. Remember, Florence is the capital of Tuscany, so you are already in Tuscany and whatever you eat here (or is from here) is referred to as Tuscan or more locally- Florentine.
La Schiacciata – literally meaning “squashed”, this flat bread, what you could consider the Tuscan focaccia, is what carb dreams are made of. It is the only bread with flavor you will find in Tuscany. Why? Most bread otherwise is made without salt or oil for historical reasons. La Schiacciata instead is a oily, salty, warm piece of heaven.
Schiacciata all’uva- “Squashed” bread made sweet with wine grapes. Made mostly during the wine harvest period.
Coccoli- Sounding like the word for “cuddles” in Italian (coccole), these little fritters are fried doughballs that heaven sent down for us gluttonous folk. Not only is this bread enjoyed as a fried food thus decadent on its own, traditionally it is stuffed with stracchino (a fresh, cream cheese) and Tuscan ham as a sort of local appetizer or snack. Perfect with young, fruity light Chianti wine. Who am I kidding: good with wine. Period.
Cantuccini- Meaning “little corners”, these are tiny biscotti made simply with flour, eggs, sugar and almonds. Very simple to make and deliciously paired (or rather dunked) with local dessert wine “Vin Santo.” Try it!
Fedora- A sponge cake with a thick layer of whipped cream and a thin layer of dark chocolate. There is usually orange essence in the extremely moist sponge cake.
Castagnaccio- a chestnut flatcake with raisins, pine nuts, olive oil, orange zest and rosemary. It’s a seasonal treat typically found in October. Find a sagra food festival dedicated to chestnuts (castagne) during this time and you’ll eat all sorts of lovely traditional chestnut-based specialties.
Torta di Semolino- This is a cake made with a a shortbread crust, a layer of semolino which is a sort of flour paste mixed with milk, sugar, eggs and sometimes dessert wine then topped with thick dark chocolate.
Budino di Riso- A rice pudding then filled into a short bread crust and baked, then sometimes topped with sugar
Sfoglia – A puff pastry “pocket” sometimes filled with cream custard, ricotta and pear OR ricotta, chocolate AND pear and if made right, the sugar and fat have a slight caramelized crisp at the ends of the pastry.
Torta della Nonna- A symbol of cucina povera but now a decadent dessert, this is a humble custard pasta frolla pie that is very egg heavy (as that’s what people always had access to even in poor times) with a dash of almonds or pine nuts atop covered in powdered sugar.
Plus more if you visit these top 5 plus a handful of others at the end of this detailed listicle!
In no particular ranking, just listed randomly (don’t take these as #1, etc….)
1. Dolci e Dolcezze- This might be my number one spot but I am against naming favorites. Stop asking people what their favorite place is. It’s a lot of mental labor and plain cruel to the person you are asking. Better questions is: where would you go for xyz- each bakery or pastry shop has their strong points. Dolci e Dolcezze does individual tartlets, brioche, cornetti and budini di riso with absolute grace and to a perfect buttery crisp or flake. Their calling card is their flourless chocolate cake but honestly everything here is worth eating. Bring a few friends to crush the whole case. Piazza Beccaria 8/R Florence, Italy
2. Pugi Forno- Have you ever heard that the best places to eat are where taxi drivers go? So, I asked a taxi driver where to get the best schiacciata and he said Pugi. I have to agree, their schiacciata is pretty consistent and has stood the test of time. The great part about Pugi is that if I am ever in a bind for a snack in the historical center, I can pop over to Piazza San Marco where there is a Pugi shop for a cheap, satisfying “squashed” slice of bread. Pugi has been a Florentine baking institution since 1925 Focacceria Pugi (Various Locations in Florence) Address: Piazza San Marco, 9 B, 50121 Firenze, Italy. Phone:+39 055 280981 http://www.focacceria-pugi.it (p.s. There’s also a Pugi in Piazza Beccaria but they are not the same owners. But it is still very good.)
3. Panificio Chicco di Grano- Located in the front right corner (from main entrance) of the wonderful Sant’Ambrogio Market is a sort of bakery/tavola calda that specializes in pastas (both fresh to take home and already made to eat as a sort of quick lunch), baked breads/goods, fried snacks like polenta and desserts like cakes and pastries. It often gets overlooked because of its position in the market, but it is worth a visit. Mercato Sant’Ambrogio Florence, Italy
5. Pasticceria Nencioni- Love this family-owned bakery and coffee bar! In my opinion, they have some of the best budino di riso and sfogliatine in town. Their coffee is done rather well which is hard to find in Florence- i.e. good coffee and baked goods made on-site. They have small pastry bites and mignons in case you want to just have a light bite rather than a massive pastry. There is a little seating area in the back too in case you prefer not to take your coffee and pastry fast and furiously at the bar. Address: Via Pietra Piana, 24 Florence
In addition to these 5 but I don’t have all the time in the world to write descriptions for (and I trust you’ll trust me): All the baked breads and sweets at the bakery case of C.Bio in Sant’Ambrogio even if service is iffy, Forno Pintucci in Santo Spirito, Le Botteghe de il Fornaio on Sant’Agostino, ‘Sforno by Il Santo Bevitore guys, very modern hipster-like bakery but the flatbread pizzas and everything in general is worth their salt, Forno Bruschi on Via dell’Ariento in San Lorenzo should really be in that top 5 listicle if only for their coccoli. The historic cafes like Rivoire and Gilli are a safe bet, Pasticceria Gualtieri off Porta Romana also does stellar gluten-free baked sweets, and Pasticceria Giorgio for a pastry field trip outside the center.
Panificio Maddaloni di Maddaloni Gennaro on Via Gioberti while not Florentine, does specialties from Naples which in my opinion has better tasting bread since they use salt but also here you can find Neapolitan sweets and pizza squares/seasonal specialties like easter cakes/savory stuffed breads. While you made the trek over, hop over to Pasticceria Jolly Cafe on Piazza Leon Battista Alberti, 14 which I assure you might be Florence’s best old-school pastry case “off the beaten path” with dangerously decadent fatty pastry dough calzone-like pockets stuffed with mozz or prosciutto and fat/sugar laden puff pastry specialties.
If you are like me and have a soft spot for old school bars run by sweet nonni, also hit up Bar Dario on Capo del Mondo for the best schiacciate ripiene (stuffed flatbread sandos) and grandpa-style homemade gelato with all sorts of artificial colors/flavors but nonno made it so you’ll eat it.
I’m reluctant to add these guys on here because of volatile service in the past, but the carbs are great at Vecchio Forno on Via Guelfa in San Lorenzo, especially all their whole grain cornetti and savory flatbreads.
In Florence? I’d love to help you carb-load at even more places on my food tours in Florence. Contact me for more details or scroll through my grid on Instagram for up-to-date finds.
For more tips on Bakeries in Florence and other Carb Heavens, visit this post I did on where to get the Best Panini in Florence or this post on alternatives to All’Antico Vinaio.
In your love for carbs,