Oh Florence. It took me so long to appreciate your food, and now I’m constantly counting the days until I can go back. I’ve scoured lists of all the best restaurants in Florence, analyzed menus, been disappointed when we couldn’t get reservations, and learned everything I can. The result is a ridiculously long list of restaurants I want to try… and restaurants I can’t possible imagine not going back to. There’s an art to balancing the new and the old, and I’m constantly teetering between both.
One of the things I love about Florence is most good meals are very moderately and fairly priced. I actually found it very difficult to find a “splurge” restaurant when we were looking to celebrate my milestone birthday. You can splurge on wine anywhere, but that’s something different altogether. I find most Florence restaurants to be very approachable, and if you’re willing to try new-to-you dishes, you will be rewarded.
The other thing I love about restaurants in Florence is that you can build relationships with the proprietors by returning to the same restaurants. In fact, sometimes we find it difficult to try new restaurants because we have such an appreciation for the restaurant staff who have made our previous visits so memorable. For me, I find a lot of joy in human connection, and I find small restaurants in Florence are a great way to cultivate that… especially since I’ve been coming to this city for almost 20 years. (Unreal.)
Just a reminder: The “best” restaurants in Florence (or any city) are subject to personal taste, experience, and opinion. What’s on my list may not be on your list. That being said, these are places we’ve been multiple times and thoroughly enjoyed on our trips to Florence. You can disagree and still be kind.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for tours and products I love at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
Best Restaurants in Florence for Tuscan Specialties
Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco
One of my absolute favorite restaurants in Florence for Tuscan specialties is Osteria del Cinghaile Bianco. I’m ashamed of how long this restaurant was on my Florence restaurant list until we tried it. Not to worry though, we’ve been making up for lost time ever since that first meal. We’ve celebrated birthdays and holidays at Cinghaile Bianco, and it’s where we spent New Year’s Eve 2022. We made a reservation that night to come back in 2023. While I wouldn’t say that we’re locals (because of course we aren’t), we feel a great affinity for Marco and his team, their food, and the dining experience. When we took my father-in-law for his 75th birthday, they made it especially memorable.
A few things to know about Cinghiale Bianco: It is a small restaurant and tables are close together. This is characteristic and cozy. Embrace it. If you dine early in the evening, you will hear more English than you will at the later seatings. Marco has a great wine list, and I prefer ordering a bottle over the house wine. (We had a 2013 Brunello di Montalcino riserva on New Year’s Eve that was incredible.)
You will have to call for a reservation. They do not take reservations online.
What to Order at Cinghiale Bianco
We’ve never had a bad meal at the Cinghaile, and it’s tough to advise what to order because EVERYTHING is good. It’s best to order a few things and try everything. We usually end up going a couple times on a single trip because it is truly impossible to choose what to order.
Antipasti: Misto Toscano (Tom even eats the liver crostini!), burrata with truffle, onion flan
Primi Piatti: Pappas al pomodoro (my favorite) or Pappardelle Cinghaile (wild boar) or Taglierini with truffle
Secondi Piatti: Peposo (my favorite), Chicken breast with pecorino cheese and truffle (my favorite), polpette (my favorite)
Vini e Vecchi Sapori
It’s hard to imagine a restaurant with more heart than Vini e Vecchi Sapori. Tucked away behind the Piazza della Signoria, it constantly surprises me with how wonderful it is. The menu changes daily and is posted outside with a few warnings: No pizza, no ice, no spritz, no cappuccino, no ketchup. If you can’t abide by those rules, this is not the place for you. If you can, pure magic awaits.
The first thing I noticed was Tomasso bopping around the restaurant. The man doesn’t stop moving. He’s dancing, refilling the wine, taking orders, and generally having a good time with his customers. It’s impossible to be in a bad mood at Vini Vecchi.
You will have to call for a reservation. They do not take reservations only. We’ve been turned away many times. Make reservations.
What to Order at Vini e Vecchi Sapori
Like Cinghaile Bianco, we’ve never had a bad meal at Vini e Vecchi Sapori. Everything is made fresh, and the menu does change daily. If you aren’t sure, ask for recommendations. If they run out of something (and it does happen!), put it on your list for next time.
Antipasti: Misto Affettati Toscani or Crostini Toscani (very local)
Primi Piatti: Fettuccini Datterini and Pancetta (cherry tomatoes and pancetta), Tortelli Rose (spinich tortelli with a tomato cream sauce), Pappardelle al sugo d’antare (duck ragu) The duck is an absolute showstopper. You will not change my mind.
Secondi Piatti: Peposo (unreal), Filetto al pepe verde (steak with green pepper sauce), pollo e carcofi fritti (fried chicken and artichokes – Tom’s favorite), polpette
Contorni: Fagioli bianchi (white beans – delicious with the peposo) and patate arrosto (roasted potatoes)
Dolci: Millefoglie gelato, cheesecake, or tiramisu ai lamponi (raspberry tiramisu)
Best Restaurants for a Florentine Steak
Salt. Olive oil. 7 minutes on each side. That is the best way to enjoy a bistecca Fiorentina. Italians eat their steak rare, and it is a delicious. (Please don’t ruin it for the rest of us by asking them to overcook your steak.) Try it. Just try it. When cooked correctly, the Florentine steak is one of the most flavorful and tender pieces of meat you’ve ever tasted. We’ve tried a lot of places that are known for their steak, but only a few stand out as truly remarkable in Florence… but they are consistently good. Skip the places that display steak in the window – how could that possibly stay fresh?!
Sostanza is a cult classic and its famous for a reason. This tiny restaurant with its equally tiny kitchen has perfected a few dishes and the relatively simple menu rarely changes. This is a simple restaurant with a convivial ambiance, a kind waitstaff, and fresh food. You come here for the bisteccca Fiorentina and the chicken.
Some of the local specialities served here that you won’t find on other menus are the tortino di carciofi (artichoke pie), tortellini in brodo (tortellini in chicken broth), and the meringue cake served with wild strawberries.
You will need to call for a reservation. They do not take reservations online.
La Reggia degli Etruschi
If you are willing to take a short trip out of Florence, head to La Reggia degli Etruschi in Fiesole. It is a 20-minute drive from Florence, and I think it’s worth the trip for the views alone. In addition to having an outstanding bistecca Fiorentina, the staff at La Reggia degli Etruschi can ensure that you have an absolutely unforgettable meal.
Our waiter was happy to provide recommendations on wine, and even felt comfortable enough to tell Tom when he thought he was making a mistake with the wine pairing. He taught us about the culinary delight of searing the steak a second time, a tip that Tom has used and reused at restaurants throughout Italy and France. And perhaps most importantly, reminding us that in Italy, the table is ours for the night, so we should enjoy our meals at a more leisurely pace. This is something that we knew in theory, but was difficult to put into place. It’s one of those cultural differences that can be hard to adapt to, but once you do, it’s hard to imagine eating any other way!
You can request reservations online.
Another tiny restaurant I love in Florence is Buca dell’Orafo. Located on a tiny side street parallel to the Ponte Vecchio, it offers a few underground tables with a traditional Tuscan menu and a delicious bistecca Fiorentina. The creative yet traditionally-Tuscan menu is posted outside of the restaurant; they do not have a web presence.
In the summer you can order panzanella, and in the winter, ribollita can warm you up. If you have the opportunity to try the penne carrettiera, that pasta is one of my favorites in the world. The delicate flavor of the tomato sauce is absolutely unreal. They also make a cacio e pepe tortelli that is a (safe) crowd pleaser.
For me, however, the bistecca is why I come here.
You will need to call for reservations.
A Few of My Favorite Wine Bars in Florence
If I had to choose the best place to have a light lunch or dinner in Florence, I would choose one of Florence’s enotecas. My favorite wine bars in Florence offer meats, cheeses, and wines from a myriad of small producers, and the best wine bars in Florence can make recommendations based on what you are eating, what you like, and what you are trying to pair with your wine. While you don’t need a reservation at all of these wine bars, you might need a reservation for a formal wine tasting. It’s always best to check to avoid disappointment.
La Volpe e L’uva
La Volpe e L’uva is located in the shadow of the Ponte Vecchio in the Oltrarno. Despite its very touristy location, this is not a tourist trap nor does it aspire to be a wine bar that caters to tourists. It’s a place where you will benefit from practicing your Italian and being kind and patient. You’ll need a reservation, as there are a limited number of tables and they are often reserved by locals starting in the late afternoon. If you want to do a formal wine tasting, you will need to reserve in advance.
This wine bar offers a number of regional wines by the glass, but you can also order a bottle. It is a great place to try some different varietals. What I really love about the menu at La Volpe e L’uva is that they offer both warm and cold small plates. My favorite warm plate is the crostone with Asiago cheese, sausage, and truffles. They also offer assorted meat platters, as well as French or Italian cheese platters. I loved the Italian cheese platter because it included a lot unique cheeses from small producers. One of my favorite cheeses was a soft cheese with chestnut. I’ve never seen it anywhere else, but it was unreal.
You will need to call to reserve.
This Oltrarno wine bar is one of my favorite discoveries in Florence. It is a French-Italian wine and cheese bar, and everything here is delicious. They focus on high quality producers with smaller productions, and the result is an incredibly curated cheese experience appropriate for the season. (They can also vacuum cheeses to bring home. We brought a wheel of Reblochon cheese back to the US without any issues. (You can’t vacuum seal Reblochon, but if you buy it intact with its original labels, it is not an issue.
Formaggioteca Terroir offers wines buy the glass, but you can also purchase a bottle to enjoy at the bar with a small corkage fee. They will curate the cheese and meat platters to fit the wine. The staff is very kind and happy to answer questions. Another benefit of Formaggioteca is that they sell ready-made picnic supplies, and it’s only a short (uphill) walk to the Piazza Michelangelo from their location.
La Divina Enoteca
Skip the Mercado Centrale and head to La Davina Enoteca for a light lunch, apertivo, or to buy wine to bring home from Florence. This wine bar behind the Mercato Centrale offers indoor and outdoor tables, and it’s a lovely respite from the bustling market. Livio is a master sommelier, and I’ve never been at Davina when he isn’t there. He cultivates a menu of fresh made-to-order paninis, mixed plates, and bruschetta. Everything is fresh. Everything is delicious. When you order, make sure to ask Livio what he recommends as he knows everything about the wines on offer. His recommendation introduced us to Bolgheri wines, a varietal that we hadn’t tried previously because it wasn’t something that we had much exposure to yet. We try to do at least one wine tasting in different regions of Italy, but it’s impossible to get everywhere! That’s where Livio and a great enoteca can help make a trip even more delicious.
Honestly, I find that exposure one of the best reasons to go to an enoteca with an open mind. If you only stick to the varietals you know, you’ll end up with wines that have a large marketing presence, and you’ll miss out on a lot of great wines. It’s also part of the reason that I mostly refuse to buy wines from “big” wineries or grocery stores. A lot of those wines are mass produced and they aren’t as interesting as the smaller producers. I also find that La Divina’s prices are far, far, far better than the Mercato Centrale wine shops.
Best Florence Restaurant Worth Waiting in Line
No. It is not that viral panini place that is now in multiple cities and continents. (Seriously, save your money. There are such better panino in Florence. I should write a post about that.) I’ve briefly covered them on my post about where to eat in Florence, but I need a separate post on it because the lines are just unelievable.
Let me introduce you to Trattoria Sabatino. Located on the edge of the heart of Florence and in the Oltarano, Sabatino is one of the few places where I will line up and wait for a table. They do not take reservations. It is not fancy. It’s just good homestyle food with a menu that changes daily. It’s posted outside and online, printed on a dot-matrix printer. (I find that endearing and hilarious.)
Because the menu changes daily, it’s impossible to tell you what to order. I enjoy their secondi courses more than the pastas, so I will go light on primi and order liberally on the secondi. If you are lucky enough to be there when the peposo is on the menu, it’s one of my favorite dishes on their menu. I also love the salsicce e fagioli all’uccelletto (sausage with beans and tomatoes). The other thing I love about Sabatino are the desserts. They are made fresh, and it’s always worth asking for a recommendation if you aren’t sure.
Like any good restaurant, you might find yourself sitting at community tables. This is a popular place for locals, so you’ll hear a lot of Italian. (Try it. Practice.) Don’t let the line dissuade you – the restaurant is larger than it looks and they move through it with great efficiency. They are open for both lunch and dinner, so if you don’t make it for lunch, you’ll have a second opportunity to try it.
Best Restaurant for a First Trip to Florence
Not everyone arrives in Europe ready to try new foods and the unfamiliarity of true Italian cuisine can be daunting for a first-time traveler. I know this because I studied abroad, and I shared in my husband’s first trip to Italy on our honeymoon. It was hard for him because he had expectations based on American Italian food. Learning how to enjoy the different courses, ordering unfamiliar dishes, and learning more about the culinary traditions through cooking classes, food tours and wine tastings in Florence helped open his palate, but so did adding a new restaurants that were “easy” to our itinerary. You need to meet people where they are at – and you need to be kind to yourself. Not everyone is a gourmet traveler and that’s okay.
Because of this, Trattoria Nella holds a special place in my heart. FIrst of all, it started as one of those easy places where you could find comfort food AND you could try new dishes on the same menu. I’ll never forget the first time I tried their walnut ravioli. It’s still my favorite walnut ravioli I’ve ever had.
However, it’s one of the first restaurants we went back to in December 2021. Most of the waitstaff was out sick, and the older couple who own the restaurant were frantically trying to run the restaurant and accommodate their guests. They were excited to welcome us back, they were nervous, and they were severely understaffed. The entire experience felt like dinner theater and we enjoyed every moment of it. I had truly feared they wouldn’t make it in the post-2020 world. We had been in Florence in June 2021, and they had not reopened. I remember feeling so happy to see them open in December that we immediately made reservations.
The most exciting thing about Trattoria Nella is that the menu has gotten better over the last few years. It is more reflective of the local Tuscan dishes, and the flavors are incredible. We had dinner at Trattoria Nella on New Year’s Day 2023, and I could not have possibly eaten another bite – but I still wanted to try everything on the menu.
Trattoria Nella is a great compromise because you can order low-risk dishes and high-risk dishes, and everyone will still have something delicious to eat. Also, I have seen the staff at Trattoria Nella be very, very accommodating to families with young children. They treat them very well.
You can make reservations through Google or via phone.
Trattoria I’Raddi or I’Raddi di Santo Spirito
Another set of restaurants that I think is great for the first-time traveler to Italy is Trattoria I’Raddi and I’Raddi di Santo Spirito. These two restaurants are related and both are good.
I’Raddi di Santo Spirito offers quick service and a few local specialties including lampredotto, coccoli with prosciutto and stracchino, and other fresh items. The menu changes frequently, and what is posted outside is different than what is offered if you sit inside. They have additional seating upstairs, which is really cozy in the winter.
Trattoria I’Raddi is located deeper in the Oltrarno on a tiny side street, and it’s going to require you to translate the menu. We took some of my family here on their first trip to Florence, ordered liberally, and we were not disappointed. The waitress was very happy to make recommendations for us.
You will need to call to make reservations at Trattoria I’Raddi.
I’Raddi di Santo Spirito does not take reservations.
Best Restaurants in Florence for a Splurge
Il Palagio at the Four Seasons Florence
When we were deciding where to spend my milestone birthday, we wanted to find somewhere that we could dress up and make it extra special. We were between Paris and Florence, and ultimately, we chose Florence because of my history with the city. One of the best things about Florence is how approachable it is. You don’t have to dress up to have a great meal. However, because we wanted to dress up, we decided to have my birthday dinner at the Michelin-starred Il Palagio in Florence. Housed in the Four Seasons Florence, we knew that Il Palagio would be an experience that we could dress up for – and that would meet the special occasion meal criteria. It did not disappoint. In fact, it was so good that we returned later in December when we were in Florence before New Year’s Eve.
We started our evening with cocktails at the Atrium Bar. My birthday is in December, so the entire hotel was aglow with Christmas lights, giving everything a downright magical feel. The bar at the Four Seasons Florence offers a variety of seasonal speciality cocktails, as well as a classic cocktail list. We decided to treat it as an apertivo. I ordered a Hugo and Tom ordered a beer. There was live music, and it was the perfect way to start the evening. Once we finished our drinks, we were escorted to Il Palagio.
Upon being seated, we were introduced to Andrea who would guide us through our dining experience. We were doted on by numerous staff members who all went above and beyond to make our meal memorable. When we were trying to choose between two wines, the sommelier was able to help us choose the best bottle for what we ordered. When I wanted to know more about the amuse bouche, they were happy to explain more about each dish. And, when we refused dessert because I was so full, Andrea insisted that we try a little bit (and surprised me with a birthday dessert). Dinner at Il Palagio is a production, and it’s an incredible dining experience.
What We Ordered at Il Palagio
I’m going to do this a little bit differently as the menu at Il Palagio changed more frequently than some of the other restaurants that I have listed. Part of the reason that I booked Il Palagio is because they were offering the San Miniato white truffle menu. White truffle is a winter speciality and are only found in certain parts of Italy. (The town of San Miniato has a truffle festival in November!) I made a note about that being our preferred menu in my reservation. They did reach out to me ahead of time and confirmed on arrival that they were offering it that evening.
For my birthday dinner, we ordered both the truffle risotto and the truffle tagliolini as our primi courses. Each dish included 7 grams of truffles, and you could order additional truffles if you wanted. I found the 7 grams to be more than generous. On our second visit to Il Palagio after Christmas, we replaced the truffle taglioni with the linguine morelli, which Tom really enjoyed.
For our secondi, we ordered the beef filet for two. This dish is similar to a beef Wellington with a beautiful golden crust and cooked to rare perfection. It is served with a black truffle vin santo sauce, and it is incredible. A side of potatoes accompanies the filet. Everything was cooked to perfection, but one of the most impressive parts of dining at Il Palagio is the presentation. Presentation is part of the experience. The serving of the filet is a moment in and of itself. This dish is what made Tom want to come back a second time in December.
After cocktails and dinner, I did not have room for dessert. However, they did insist on surprising me with a small personalized dessert for my birthday. They also brought out a checkerboard of small sweets to choose from on both occasions. (You can’t go wrong with any of your choices. Everything is delicious.)
In addition to the courses we ordered, we were offered a variety of delicate amuse bouche between each course, and we were served fresh bread with new olive oil and herb butter. The olive oil was incredible; you could taste the freshness. The sommelier helped us choose the right wine for what we ordered – we opted for Piedmontese wines on both occasions.
The ambiance of the holiday decor made the restaurant feel extra romantic and cozy. Andrea and his team make the entire meal an elegant, memorable, and tasty experience. (We also loved his recommendations for sightseeing off-the-beaten track in Florence!) Il Palagio is a splurge, but I think it is one of the best restaurants in Florence for an extra special night out.
Winter Garden at the St. Regis Florence
In addition to hosting the evening ritual if you’re staying at the St. Regis Florence, the Winter Garden restaurant is a delicious splurge restaurant worth trying in Florence. For the past 4 years, we have spent time around New Year’s Eve in Florence. In 2021, we decided to splurge on the Savini Truffle Experience menu, developed for the Winter Garden restaurant. The entire menu was built around white truffles, and it was incredible. Our dishes included the white truffle pasta, a 40-yolk herb pasta with truffle and white ragout, a perfectly cooked filet topped with truffle, and a tarte tatin with gingerbread ice cream. While the entire meal was memorable, that tarte tatin and gingerbread ice cream was an absolute treat.
We typically end our evenings with a nightcap at the St. Regis Florence, and I am enjoying working my way through their extensive cocktail menu. Sometimes I order dessert to accompany it, and sometimes they will deliver a sweet treat with my drink. Service is always impeccable. The ambiance and piano music is just lovely. It rivals the Ritz Paris for me, both in approachability, presentation, and experience. Don’t miss this experience.
You can make reservations online.
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