Over a long and rich history, Italy and Italians have been very good at a lot of different things. Some of these talents have been wasted, while others have been fruitful and have helped create Italian culture and tradition. Cars, art, fashion, sailing... it's a long list. However, if I had to pick one thing, and one thing only, I'd always say "food", because Italians are extremely good at that.
There are 20 regions in Italy, and even though they all have their own tradition and recipes and the bar is set very high, Tuscany is definitely in the top three. So what I thought I'd do is list five restaurants you can't miss in Florence, the capital city of Tuscany, and I've decided to mix & match. You'll find a street food joint, a brewery, two Michelin-starred restaurants that are very different from one another. And of course, a classic 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘢.
This is one my favourite restaurants in Florence. Located in Piazza Santo Spirito, south side of river Arno, it is a traditional 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘢 with a modern touch. The ambiance is great, with the right lighting and warmth, with wood and copper here and there.
You'll find anything from pasta to pizza, seafood and meat, but they specialize in beefsteak, Florentine style, and they've got an amazing wine selection. There are several things I like about this restaurant. First of all, this isn't your usual traditional restaurant with a "that's how we've always done it" sort of attitude. It combines tradition with modernity and that translates into the food as well. You'll experience taste as you'd expect from any restaurant in Florence, especially if it includes 𝘈𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘰 in the name, but you'll also find vibes in tune with the times. It is also a lot cheaper than you think.
Technically, this is not a restaurant. It's basically a street food shop where you can buy 𝘴𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘢 (flat oven-baked Italian bread) with just about anything in it. It is immensely popular right now so be prepared to stand in line for quite a bit.
Ham + cheese is obviously one of the most popular options, but it's not that simple. Italy has a long and varied tradition of different types of cheese and what most people in English-speaking countries would refer to as "charcuterie". In Italy, when you say "ham", you've got hundreds of options in every region and that means you're going to have to be very specific with your order. Time to take street food to the next level.
I'll just get this out the way so there's no contradiction: this is by far and away my favourite spot in Florence, bar none. It opened in 2003 as a craft brewery, and later evolved into an eatery with amazing street-style food.
They brew their own beers, including award-winning 𝘝𝘰𝘭𝘱𝘦 (Italian for "Fox", a bock-style beer with 5 hop varieties and 6.3 % ABV) and their flagship beer 𝘔𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘢 (Italian for "small hammer", a Belgian ale with chestnut honey and 7.3 % ABV). They do pizza, fried food, hot dogs, 𝘴𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘪𝘯e (Italian oven-baked bread) but you really have to try 𝘉𝘪𝘳𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘶', tiramisù made with beer instead of coffee.
Osteria da Massimo Bottura @Gucci Garden
International luxury fashion brand Gucci was established in 1921 in Florence. A couple of years ago, both Gucci and the city of Florence decided they should do something about it. The Gucci Museum in Piazza della Signoria was completely refurbished and re-opened comprising a fresh look, an all-new museum/shop providing a wealth of knowledge about the brand history... and a Michelin-starred restaurant on the ground floor.
You may have heard of Italian restaurateur Massimo Bottura, owner of three-Michelin-star Osteria Francescana in Modena, named best restaurant in the world in 2016 and 2018. Well, Osteria da Massimo Bottura @Gucci Garden is also getting a Michelin star (in 2020) and unlike Osteria Francescana which is excellent but super expensive, won't actually break the bank.
Enoteca Pinchiorri is a bit of an institution in Florence. It has been awarded three Michelin stars every year since 1993, and the Wine Spectator Grand Award since 1984. Furthermore, it became a top notch restaurant way before culinary TV shows and Instagram made high-end eating popular.
Enoteca Pinchiorri is in a different ballpark because everything about it is out of this world. It is almost certainly the most expensive restaurant in Florence, by a great margin too, and it has a strict dress code. Mind you, they have an astounding wine-cellars, one of the largest in the world, with over 150,000 bottles of wines dating from 1906. I don't believe in dress code, chiefly because I'm Italian, but I honestly couldn't talk about restaurants in Florence without mentioning it.