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Eating & Drinking

  • Florentine food is meaty and macho, with wild boar, cow’s tripe and suckling pig washed down with full-bodied Chianti Classico. Florence is also the birthplace of the bistecca alla fiorentina, a chargrilled T-bone steak served seared on the outside and very rare (and warm but not hot) on the inside. Faint-hearted types can always opt for vegetable-based pasta sauces or retreat to the chic fashion bars for vegetarian crostini. There is an earthiness about most dishes which has made them almost universally popular. If in Tuscany in the autumn, tuck into the prized white truffles that appear on many menus. Consider heading to San Miniato, 30 minutes’ west of Florence, for its November White Truffle Fair, Tuscany’s finest.

  • La Bottega del Buon Caffe

    This Michelin-starred riverside restaurant offers a relaxed version of fine dining and an innovative take on traditional Tuscan cuisine. The chefs believe in `farm to plate’ food, served from their 200-acre farm and wine estate in Borgo San Pietro, in Siena province. The feast is best sampled as a six (or eight) course tasting menu with or without wine-pairing. You can see the small but beautifully presented dishes being prepared in the show kitchen. Dishes include tomato and ricotta terrine, parmesan and courgette risotto, and red mullet with seasonal vegetables.

    Address: Lungarno Benvenuto Cellini, 69/r, Florence
    Web: www.borgointhecity.com

  • Essenziale

    This highly inventive, creative food is diametrically opposed to classic Tuscan cuisine. Set in the Santo Spirito area of the Oltrano, this daring restaurant delivers `essential’ good food, centred on tasting menus, called `experiences’. The look is techno-chic, with metallic skylights, and challenging menus to match. The ambitious menus are playful but not pricey, ranging from root vegetable risotto and a riff on Tuscan bread soup to wild flights of fancy, such as guinea fowl and passion fruit.

    Address: Piazza di Cestello 3/r, Florence
    Web: www.essenziale.me

  • Buca Lapi

    This atmospheric former coachmen’s inn is the oldest restaurant in town. It began as a rough-and-ready spot for tripe sandwiches but is now better-known for its hunky T-bone steaks (bistecca alla fiorentina) made from Chianina beef. The chickpea and cabbage soup is also tasty, as are their pastas and chocolate tart. Buca Lapi is a busy, boisterous place but, unlike many Florentine rivals, is not a tourist trap and treats customers well. Book this mid-priced inn well in advance.

    Address: Palazzo Antinori, Via del Trebbio, 1/r, Florence
    Web: www.bucalapi.com

  • Il Santo Bevitore

    On the Oltrarno, this stylishly retro restaurant is buzzing but mid-priced, with great appeal and atmosphere. Come for reliable seasonal produce and faintly creative Italian cuisine. Dishes range from chicken liver pate to truffle risotto or cinnamon crème brulée. It’s worth booking or waiting for a table as it’s deservedly popular, as is Il Santino, its offshoot, a Tuscan tapas-style wine bar next-door.
    Address: Via Santo Spirito 64/r, Florence
    Web: www.ilsantobevitore.com

  • Trattoria Sostanza

    This small, reasonably-priced inn is deeply traditional but unpretentious, very much old-fashioned Florence. The restaurant name says it all: Substance – a reliable restaurant around since 1869 but still popular with Florentines and even fashionistas, such as Miuccia Prada. Highlights include the artichoke tart, the sautéed chicken breast, the massive T-bone steak (bistecca alla fiorentina) and the meringue cake with red berries. If you’re sitting near the back, you can watch the chefs at work.

    Address: Via del Porcellana, 25/r, Florence

  • Trattoria Ruggero

    Set near the Porta Romana, this archetypal Tuscan trattoria delivers classic dishes without the frills. Friendly and family-run, this is the place for an old-school Tuscan feast, beginning with crostini or artichokes sott’olio and moving onto tortelli stuffed pasta or, in spring, asparagus risotto. Main courses are meaty, from T-bone steak to pigeon, followed by Vin Santo and cantuccini biscuits.

    Address: Via Senese 89/r, Florence

  • Trattoria I’Raddi

    Set in the bohemian Oltrarno, in the artisan San Frediano district, this traditional trattoria serves simple, inexpensive, unfussy food in a rustic setting. Choose from Tuscan cold cuts and cheeses to tortelli stuffed with Jerusalem artichokes. In autumn, opt for the peposo alla fornacina, a peppery beef stew or ribollita (a hearty bread-and-bean soup). The staff are young and keen.

    Address: Via Ardiglione 47/r, Florence
    Web: www.trattoriairaddi.it

  • Gastronomia Galanti

    Set under the arches of Piazza della |Liberta, this is an inexpensive spot for `lunch on the run’ or for aperitive (cocktails) and a bite to eat. Come for a glass of wine and a snack, or for something more substantial, such as ribollita, vegetable risotto, ricotta and spinach ravioli, or stuffed squid. The menu changes daily.

    Address: Piazza dell Liberta 31/r, Florence
    Web: www.gastronomiagalanti.com

  • Cafes, Wine Bars and Gelaterie (ice cream parlours)

    Try a Negroni cocktail in its birthplace or opt for a Campari Spritz or a great Super Tuscan. Florentine bars now range from retro to hip but most will take you comfortably from coffee to cocktails. Don’t neglect the classic cafes on Piazza della Repubblica or on Piazza della Signoria.

  • Caffe Rivoire

    Rivoire is a classic people-watching spot on Piazza della Signoria. This old-world café was founded by a chocolate-maker to the Italian royal family in 1872. Come for a Negroni on the piazza or sip the silkiest, most heavenly hot chocolate in a panelled, chocolate-box interior.

    Address: Piazza della Signoria 5/r
    Web: www.rivoire.it

  • Strozzi Caffe

    This cool, contemporary café is set in the courtyard of the arty Palazzo Strozzi cultural centre. The café can steer you from Florentine to fusion by way of a Tuscan club sandwich or salmon teriyaki. The creative salads and pasta are also recommended. Or just come for a chat over a Campari Spritz.

    Address: Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza degli Strozzi, Florence
    Web: www.strozzicaffe.com

  • Le Volpi e L’Uva

    This relaxed, welcoming and well-run wine bar (enoteca) is a wonderful spot for a light lunch or supper. It’s relaxed setting for a bite to eat, matching Tuscan wines to superb regional cheeses, cold cuts and bruschetta.

    Address: Piazza dei Rossi, 1/r, Florence
    Web: www.levolpieluva.com

  • Caffè degli Artigiani

    A quaint neighbourhood café awaits in the Oltrano, in the Santo Spirito district. Homely not hip, this is a simple place for coffee and cake or crostini with anchovies or truffles. The café is a reminder of how well Oltrarno has settled into its revamp, with peaceful squares and pedestrian-friendly zones.

    Address: Via dello Sprone 16/r, Florence
    Web: www.firenze-oltrarno.net/caffeartigiani/

  • Gelateria della Passera

    Set in the Oltrarno area, this is a place for proper gelato, not the over-sweet tsunami of ice cream that so often passes for home-made. Additive-free Tuscan flavours include chestnuts, honey, pine-nuts and ricotta from neighbouring Pienza.

    Address: Via della Toscanella 15/r, Florence
    Web: https://gelaterialapassera.wordpress.com/

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