San Niccolò is a sort of micro-neighborhood on the way to the trek to Piazzale Michelangelo, a popular square where you can get a stellar view of the city. Unfortunately, pop tourism has influenced Piazzale Michelangelo to be a sort of Disneyland attraction with bad food carts, painful cover music belting buskers and plastic souvenir vendors. But the view makes up for nearly all of it. But the area offers much more than just this concrete plaza, albeit scenic.

I would implore you to make the extra hike up to San Miniato al Monte and explore the monumental cemetery in the back. Or hang out with a picnic blanket in the rose garden or stroll through the Giardino dell’Iris. Just promise to do more than just Piazzale Michelangelo if you’re in the hood. (And while I have your attention for promises, let’s connect on Instagram for daily updates/tips and subscribe to my newsletter for intel/guides that doesn’t make it on the blog)

jumbo gimmick

May I use this post as an opportunity to express my regret for how some businesses in major Italian cities like Florence have decided to cater to mass tourism, eroding its soulful character as a result. Tourists aren’t the problem, it is a type of mentality which hides behind the guise  to supposedly make establishments more “welcoming” (i.e. tourist menus, crap souvenirs, mushy pasta and frozen pizza for €10, terribly translated menus, watered down spritzes, crap cover bands, outdated American top 40 radio, etc).

Instead of an Aperol Spritz, how about a Select Spritz if you can’t make it to Venice on this Italy trip (where the drink is from) or glass of local wine? Maybe that’s not your vibe, but perhaps go to a bar that makes good spritzes like Bulli e Ballene and know that for Italians, it’s a pre-dinner/aperitivo drink. Not traditionally had with pasta and steak, for example.

Despite the negative Nancy tone, (sorry Nancys) I do love loads of things about Florence. I love how easy it is to get around by bike. I really love San Frediano and Santo Spirito (although sadly high rents are driving it into a touristic/cheap crap/corner shop wasteland) and I love how beautiful the city is, I love how there are little independent wine shops and the Tuscan food culture. I love the Florentine accent and I love (most) Florentines. Really. The point of my blog is to help readers find what genuine soul there is left in Florence worth seeking.

View from Piazzale Michelangelo

So despite Piazzale Michelangelo becoming a crowded trap with a view (which still, you absolutely cannot miss in Florence),  I still have managed to salvage a couple places to eat and drink at the bottom- in a little area called San Niccolò.

 

La Beppa Fioraia-  Past the arches of San Niccolò, take a sharp turn into what seems like a dodgy alley and disappear into one of the few green nooks of Florence to La Beppa Fioraia. My favorites here are the tagliere (Tuscan smorgasbord of cheeses, dips, spreads, fried breads, cold cuts, veggies and cured olives) and wild boar pappardelle. The wine list is somewhat decent (good € range) and the interior decor is alive with color. Address: Via dell’Erta Canina, 6r

Fuori Porta- One of my favorite wine bars, Fuoriporta is loved by wine enthusiasts all over the city. They have high quality wines by the glasses ranging from caliber to obscure, quarter liter carafes and wine friendly small plates. Their patio is a dangerous trap- because you can sit out there for hours slightly removed from the chaos of center Florence with a medieval gate as your backdrop which is lined with random greenery. I personally enjoy their creatively topped crostini toasts with things like caramelized onion, black truffle, thinly sliced lardo or soft, salty prosciutto to go with their excellent selection of mouth watering white wines. Address: Via Monte Alle Croci, 10r

 

 

Zeb-  Mom & son run pasta bar with a vast selection of wines, many of which are natural wines. Zeb stands for Zuppe (soups) e Bollito (boiled/braised meats) which are 2 categories of comforting Tuscan food they excel at in addition to their stuffed pasta options. Besides soup, think tagliolini with shaved truffle, juicy sliced pork arista and baked to perfection potatoes, pici pasta in game ragu’ and plump ricotta filled large ravioli in a heavenly sage butter sauce. The food is pretty delicious but I must warn, the service is pretty Seinfeld style. Don’t ask to take a picture of the wine label and the menu’ is read to each diner, wines are matched based on what the owner thinks you want unless you know what you like to drink. I would eat here more if I had unlimited caloric allowance, pastas are quite rich.

Trattoria Antica Mescita- If you’re craving no-frills classico fare like pappa al pomodoro, wild boar pappardelle and tiramisu’ this mainstay slightly greasy spoon tratto in the square is where its at. It’s got all the kitschy bells and whistles like straw lined fiaschi wine bottles, marble countertops and rickety wood chairs. Not a shabby spot to split a steak with a group of friends if you’re trying to stay friendly to the budget or want that more cozy quaint familiar vibe.
Other honorable mentions: For gelato, Il Gelato di Filo and Sbrino are artisanal spots worth a scoop, Rifrullo (especially in the back with the fireplace during colder temps) isn’t half bad if you’re in a bind for a Negroni, Saporium by Borgo San Pietro is a Michelin-star address with a chic vintage bar lounge worth the splurge and Oltrarno Osteria (by the Enoteca Pitti Gola folks) just opened tucked away in the thick of the quarter. Calistro is a bit off (is it still San Niccolo’) along the Arno and does grilled hot pockets and weekend brunch. For something different, Brazilian sushi at Batukada.

In your quest for soul in Florence,

Curious Appetite

Are you curious about food tours in Florence? Take a progressive dinner crawl (with me!) for a curated, delicious evening while discovering the best food around Florence. Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for daily Italy travel tips and subscribe by e-mail for monthly updates. Happy travels!

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