Following our stay in Lugano we took a train down to Florence for week in the heart of Northern Italy. We were looking forward to spending some time in a city that is so full of history, culture, and amazing food.
We ate and drank our way through the old streets of Florence for five nights and six days and loved every minute of it. Every meal treated us to something enjoyable and new. We learned about new flavor pairings, raved about unexpected ingredients, experienced local traditions come to life, and savored classic dishes executed to perfection.
Although it was tough to pick and choose, I did my best to select the best things we ate in Florence to give you a glimpse into this incredible trip.
Sandwiches at All’antico Vinaio
IOne of our first lunches of this sort was at famed All’antico Vinaio. We took the short walk from our Airbnb over the Ponte Vecchio bridge and into town. The line was out the door of the tiny sandwich shop so we knew we arrived at the right spot.
The line was a mix of tourists and locals all looking to grab a bite on the go. Kacy ordered the Favalosa with salami, pecorino cream cheese, artichokes cream, and spicy grilled eggplants. I had the Boss (pictured above) that had Tuscan ham, fresh pecorino cheese and a truffle cream. Both were a great representation of fresh and delicious ingredients prepared in a simple manner. They proved to be the perfect hand-held lunch as we explored the cobblestone streets on our first day.
Dinner at Osteria dell’Enoteca
One of our many memorable dinners took place at Osteria dell’Enoteca. As the name suggests, they’re known for their great wine selection and modern twist on Tuscan classics. A fun part of the meal was being escorted back to their wine cave with the sommelier to pick out a bottle. The knowledgable sommelier shared several recommendations with us before we settled on a Chianti Classico he felt would work well with our dishes.
One of the standout appetizers was a poached egg served in a cream of pecorino cheese, topped with seasonal mushrooms. It was decadently creamy and rich with pops of fresh mushrooms.
The highlight entree from the dinner was a braised Chianina beef served with a potato puree. The local beef was fork tender and melted in my mouth. The entire dish paired perfectly with our Chianti wine and left us in an Italian dream.
Lunch with Locals at Trattoria Mario
One of our most unique (and favorite) experiences took place at the renowned Trattoria Mario. This restaurant is known for being packed to the brim on a daily basis with locals and travelers alike. They fill every seat available in the place, mixing and matching odd numbered patrons at tables with other parties.
At first this seemed a little odd. We had to practically step over people to get to our seats and then two strangers joined at our table. We decided to embrace this quirk and quickly befriended our new table mates. Both of were local Italians stopping in for a quick lunch. They were impressed that we knew about this neighborhood spot and assured us we were in for a great meal.
We decided to stick with the local theme and order the most traditional of Tuscan dishes. The ribollita soup and the Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine beef steak).
Ribollita is a soup made with leftover bread, beans, greens and inexpensive vegetables such as carrot, beans, chard, celery, potatoes and onion. The dish originated from peasant farmers looking to stretch out their meals in times of hardship. It was the perfect comfort food to warm up our bones on a cold January day. We also shared the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, which was massive. The local Chianina beef is served as a thick cut seared on both sides, with a very rare center. It was tender, juicy, and salty – as any great steak should be.
Despite being stuffed, we noticed one of our table mates order a shot of alcohol and a couple biscotti cookies. He told us this was called “Cantucci e Vin Santo” (which translates to cookies and saint’s wine). Not ones to miss out, we had to order some for ourselves.
Modern Touch at Il Guscio
Il Guscio caught our eye for having an elevated approach to some the classic dishes typically found in Florence. The restaurant was filled with stylish locals enjoying a nice meal out and as soon as our food started coming we could see why it was so popular.
We started with the house appetizer: a trio of an asparagus soufflé, fried artichoke and a puff pastry. We were thoroughly impressed with the richness and flavor from the soufflé and found all three items to be delicious. Following that we had the risotto with pears in vin santo, gorgonzola and chives. This was the best risotto dish we had during our trip. I couldn’t get over the sweetness that came from the pears and how well it tied the whole plate together.
I know, we’ve made it this far and I haven’t mentioned a single pasta! Don’t worry there was plenty of great pastas and Il Guscio had one of the best. It was a paccheri pasta with spicy Calabrian ’nduja (a spreadable pork salumi) and burrata. The pasta was fresh and covered in the spicy sauce that excited the taste buds just enough before being cooled down by some of the creamiest burrata we had all week.
Antipasto at Agricola Toscana
Speaking of burrata, we couldn’t resist the antipasto plate at Agricola Toscana. We enjoyed our fair share of meat and cheese plates during our trip, but this stood above the rest.
The plate consisted of an assortment of salami, prosciutto, pecorino, and bread to accompany the large burrata. Florence really helped us to appreciate the quality and freshness of the ingredients and how big a difference it makes.
We actually went to Agricola Toscana twice to use the free wifi for work. It’s a great spot for a mid-day meal of simple, fresh pasta or soup.
The Neighborhood Wine Bar of Our Dreams – Le Volpi e L’Uva
Florence has no shortage of wine shops and wine bars sprinkled throughout its streets. We were fortunate enough to have one of the best ones located just a short walk from our Airbnb. Le Volpi e L’Uva is known for their carefully handpicked wine selection and tasty crostini and antipasto plates.
We loved chatting with the staff about our wine preferences and having them pick out the perfect glass for us. The cozy spot’s menu is full of wines from boutique wineries in Italy and other neighboring European countries.
When we needed a little nosh we tried one of their crostinis with asiago cheese and ‘nduja spread.
Perfect Pear at Coquinarius
After a long day of wandering around the city, we needed a place to grab a bite and take a load off. We were also interested in trying out some less common Italian wine varietals. Coquinarius had us covered with a nice bottle of Grignolino.
We had a few small plates and pastas with the main highlight being the cheese and pear ravioli. Similar to the risotto at Il Guscio, the flavor of the pear just wowed us. This was one of our favorite dishes of the whole trip.
Don’t Forget the Gelato
No trip to Florence is complete without sampling some classic gelato, ice cream’s denser and more flavorful cousin. So, despite the frigid winter temperatures, I had to get a few scoops in. If you couldn’t already tell from my facial expression, it was pretty great.
Florence was truly a delight to our tastebuds, fully living up to our lofty expectations. We can’t wait to go back in the future and taste more of what Italy has to offer!