For six weeks during the summer of 2013, the city center of Florence was my home. I lived just one block north of the beautiful Duomo. I did my best to avoid the touristy food places. Stepping a block or two off of main street proved worth it – better food and far cheaper. (This goes for every city, I think.) “Grab and go” is a popular lunch option, as is standing at the bar rather than sitting at a table. If sitting in a restaurant, read the menu; if a coperto/pane e coperto (literally bread and tableware) is listed, the tip is included; think of it as a service charge. If there is no coperto, leaving one or two euros per person is customary. Also, you must find an aperitivo… it’s basically the Italian happy hour, except you buy a beverage and have access to a tasty array/buffet of food.
Anyhow, here are my go-to eats in the city’s center…
Trattoria Baldovino is just down from Santa Croce, but not the least bit touristy. It’s quite small with limited, intimate seating inside, as well as a a few tables set up outside. I never had lunch at Baldovino’s but for dinner I always got their spinach pappardelle yummy! (Click here to view Trattoria Baldovino on TripAdvisor.)
Osteria del Caffè Italiano, a small osteria near Santa Croce, had delicious spinach lasagne and the tastiest bruschetta I’ve had to date. Lunch was affordable and the liter of wine my friend and I shared was great as well. (Click here to view the Osteria’s website, translated from Italian into English.)
After a meal at Osteria del Caffè Italiano, walk about 100 yards to Vivoli’s. The photo above shows one of my favorite gelato combinations, caffè e cioccolata fondente (coffee and dark chocolate). Caffè is my most favorite flavor of gelato, and Vivoli’s is the best I’ve EVER had. (Click here for Vivoli’s website.)
Edoardo, a biological gelateria, is right next to the Duomo, and somewhat touristy, but… they have Chianti flavored gelato!! (It’s really like a sorbet, but whatever… it’s wine flavored, so who cares!!) After my very last Italian class, a few of my classmates and I said “Salute!” with our professor using this gelato! (Click here to view their website in English.)
Mesopotamia Kebab is about a block behind the Duomo, literally just down from the apartment I lived in. I probably ate a kebab from here a zillion times on my walks to class. Kebabs are the epitome of cheap street food. They’re like a gyro, but not. Whether it is the bread or the fillings, each kebab shop is unique. Kebabs are traditionally lamb (of which I am not a fan). Luckily, they have fried falafel balls you can substitute. So DELICIOUS (filling and satisfying) and SUPER cheap (just €4)! Perfect for lunch on-the-go, kebabs are a nice change of pace from a slice of pizza. (Click here to view their facebook page.)