I think it’s no secret that I love the food in Florence. I think it’s no secret that we have fallen in love with the wines of Tuscany. That said, it’s been a long road of learning since I studied abroad. I often think back to that time and wonder what would have happened if I had indulged in a few cooking classes, experimented with the things I bought in the grocery store, or even just visited a few more restaurants during that time. However, then I remember that culinary tours are relatively new phenomenon, so it’s only natural that I’m still discovering the culinary delights of Florence. If you’re planning your first trip to this beautiful Renaissance city, here are some of my favorite Florence food and wine tours we’ve taken in recent years!
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Sunset Walking Tour & Wine Tasting
This sunset walking tour of Florence is the perfect early evening activity! It covers the most popular parts of the Oltrarno and ends at the Duomo, so you see and learn about many of the popular tourist sites while stopping at wine bars and restaurants throughout Florence for typical Tuscan dishes and wines. If you don’t love Chianti (or aren’t sure if you do), this tour is for you! The first stop in the Oltrarno included a tasting with red and white wines (as well as bruschetta!), so you’ll be able to learn more about different wines and figure out what you like!
After making our way back across the Arno, we stopped at another restaurant for more wines and snacks. .
I did not get as much out of the historical information presented on this Florence walking tour. But, that being said, it’s a great introduction to the city. Also, I absolutely recommend it for trying local wines and learning more about Chianti and the wine-making process. I would also encourage you to ask for restaurant recommendations. We tried several places our guide recommended and all of them were tasty (and cheap!).
Introduction to Pasta-Making Class
One of my favorite Florence food and wine experiences is when we take fresh pasta cooking classes. This particular pasta class is a wonderful introduction to pasta-making and provides recipes that are easy to replicate at home. It is taught at an Oltrarno culinary school a few blocks from the Ponte Vecchio. All classes are limited to 12 participants and taught by a master chef. This is nice because everyone gets hands-on experience and its easy to ask questions.
Most pasta classes in Florence include making two or three pastas and three sauces. I like this class because it teaches you how to make egg-based pasta, as well as water-based pasta. We also made a potato tortelli from the Mugello region, just outside of Florence. For dessert, we made the Italian specialty of panna cotta.
All of the sauces we made were very light and fresh. (This isn’t American spaghetti and meatballs.) The sauces have an olive oil base and were enhanced by fresh herbs and vegetables. Once the sauces were simmering, we learned how to roll pasta using the hand-cranked pasta machines. We learned to make the tortelli by hand, too. (These handmade lessons have come in handy while making pasta at home, but I’m a big fan of my Kitchenaid pasta attachment and my ravioli maker.)
Once you finish cutting your pasta, the staff sends you down to the cellar for a family style dinner and plenty of wine. It is such a great experience to share a meal with people from all over the world and learning more about what led them to Florence. We’ve met world-class physicists, students studying abroad, food truck owners, and couples celebrating milestone anniversaries.
Pizza and Gelato Class in Florence
My mom and I took this pizza and gelato class in Florence when I was in Florence for a conference. Similar to the pasta making classes that we’ve taken in Florence, this course is taught by a master chef. What I liked most about this class is that we made the dough from scratch, rather than using ready-made dough. This gives you such a better idea of how the dough comes together and how it should feel. They do give you all recipes, but they did caution that it can be difficult to replicate gelato at home because it’s hard to get it cold enough without a commercial freezer.
While the dough rested, we learned to make the gelato using seasonal ingredients. We made a peach sorbetto and a cream gelato. With the gelato in the freezer, we returned to our pizzas and used fresh seasonal ingredients for them as well. The pizzas are finished in a wood-fired oven, which is allegedly the mark of a truly delicious Italian pizza – and why you can’t find good pizza in Venice.
We enjoyed the fruits of our labor with wine, pizza, and gelato at a community table.
Seasonal Fresh Pasta Class
If you are very interested in using seasonal ingredients and going deeper into pasta making, this gourmet pasta-making class is for you. It is for people with more adventurous palates and not just looking for standard recipes. We really enjoyed this cooking class because it introduced us to a lot of ingredients that we had never cooked with on our own.
We made gnocchi, pumpkin ravioli, and an egg-based fettuccine – all by hand – complete with throwing gnocchi dough. (My mom was very into that, lol.) We made a meat sauce for the gnocchi, an eggplant sauce for the fettuccine, and the traditional butter-sage sauce for the ravioli. Tom and my mom loved the gnocchi. I (surprisingly) loved the pumpkin ravioli. Dessert was tiramisu.
One of the great things about this class is how adaptable the chef was for dietary restrictions on the fly. For example, a couple that couldn’t have coffee received a berry substitute for their tiramisu. When someone said they didn’t like garlic (THE HORROR), the chef adapted the sauce recipe to bring out other flavors. I was impressed by how accommodating they were and how good everything turned out, despite the changes. (That’s why they are master chefs and I am not!)
We took this class as part of a multi-generational trip to Florence over the Thanksgiving holidays. It was the perfect activity for that trip, but it would be great for singles or couples, too. We had people of all ages and group sizes in our class. Everyone works together and it’s really fun.
Florence Market Tour & Cooking Class
Another thing we did and really enjoyed on our multi-generational trip to Florence was a tour of the Mercato Centrale and pasta cooking class. Though I studied in Florence and have been shopping the Mercato Centrale for a long time, I found some new foods to try. Some of those vendors are now part of our regular rotation in Florence. Further, the recipes we learned through these cooking classes are some of the ones I use most frequently at home.
After buying a few fresh ingredients at the market, we headed to the cooking school to get the sauces started. In November, we made a traditional bolognese sauce and a tomato sauce to complement our pastas. While this cooking class was less hands on than some of the others we’ve taken (especially with preparing the sauces), we were able to take video and photos of the chef.
Once the sauce was simmering, we learned to make tiramisu. The feisty chef roamed around the class to critique and praise our form. Once the tiramisu was in the refrigerator, we were served an appetizer of bread and pecorino cheese with different pestos, balsamic vinegars, and olive oils. While we enjoyed our appetizer, the chef demonstrated how to make the pasta dough before letting us do it ourselves. He continued to check our work and show us what we were doing wrong. (Critiques were in good fun, but he did want us to learn to make pasta correctly, which I appreciated.)
We rolled out and cut our dough entirely by hand in this pasta class. (Maybe I can get arm muscles if I make pasta by hand more often!) We made fettuccine for the bolognese sauce, and a ricotta and spinach ravioli for the tomato sauce. The ravioli was my favorite, and Tom and my mom loved the bolognese. I’ve made the bolognese several times since taking this class. It’s absolutely delicious.
This class is larger than most of the others (max. 25, I believe), so it is great for larger groups and families. Further, they allow children. We had a couple of kids in our class, including one in our small group, and they seemed to really enjoy the class.
Oltrarno Florence Food Tour
If cooking classes aren’t your thing, don’t miss taking a food tour in Florence. Francesco provided us an incredible food tour of the Oltrarno and San Frediano neighborhoods of Florence. We visited numerous shops, bars, and restaurants over the course of the evening. What I really enjoyed most about this tour was meeting the shop owners and gaining far more insight about the foods and wines we tried. It wasn’t just ordering off a menu – Francesco shared the history of certain dishes, information about the origins, and the history of the businesses that we visited. The latter information felt very poignant when you think of how many businesses struggled throughout 2020 and 2021.
This tour, like the cooking classes, focused on seasonal ingredients and regional specialties. What I love about food tours is the opportunity to try things that we might not order on our own. (You only get so many meals when you travel!) In addition to the food we tried, most of the stops included a local cocktail or wine (both red and white). I enjoyed that there was plenty of time at each stop for questions and conversations. The small group size cultivated continuous conversations, too.
I definitely recommend this food tour on your first trip to Florence so you can avoid the touristic restaurants and learn more about seasonal cuisine in Florence and Tuscany.
Other Florence Food and Wine Tours
Cooking classes and food tours have made me a more experimental eater. They have challenged me to be more creative in the kitchen. They’ve helped me find delicious souvenirs to bring home and share with others. It’s a great way to go beyond the traditional Florence walking tour experiences and go beyond the surface of the city. I also love how it allows you to connect with others when you travel.
Every time we return, I look for other food and wine tours to try and more cooking classes in Florence to take. I’d love to learn to make a delicious bistecca Fiorentina, take a apertivo tour in Florence, visit the Sant’Ambrogio market for tastings, and learn to make other Tuscan specialties like pappas al pomodoro and peposo. The best advice I can give you is to keep booking classes and food tours when you travel. Seasons and ingredients change so often that you’ll likely learn something new every time.