Eating, drinking and embracing la dolce vita in Florence has honestly never been so tantalizing or diverse.
Sheng Jian Bao (steam-fried bao buns) bursting with Tuscan truffles. Cocktail pairings mixing urban spirits distilled with olive leaves and artichokes. Plant-based tasting menus… Sure, decades-old trattorie continue to faithfully cook up cockle-warming trippa all Fiorentina (tripe stew), pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup) and other time-honored classics that established the Tuscan capital’s gourmet reputation. And si, dining is still as stylish and gluttonous as this Renaissance city’s masterpiece-on-steroids surrounds.
But amid the breathtaking kaleidoscope of street tripe carts, wine bars, historical cafes and old-school eateries strung with cured ham legs, spectacular openings – market stall to Michelin-starred – with a new generation of bold women chefs at the helm are reinterpreting culinary traditions. Watch this space.
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1. Il Santo Bevitore
One of those rare, uber-fashionable addresses that hasn’t lost an ounce of its epicurean sass since opening in 2002, Oltrarno’s The Holy Drinker consistently delivers brilliantly creative Tuscan cuisine in a vaulted candlelit space. Pasta is handmade, specialty breads and sublime focaccia come fresh from its own artisanal bakery and the wine list celebrates boutique Tuscan vintages. Reservations essential.
2. Osteria I Buongustai
Tuscan home cooking rules the roost at Laura and Lucia’s cheap-as-chips osteria in the historical center. Grab a pew – table-sharing mode on – and watch cooks in hair caps whip up Real McCoy spaghetti alla carbonara (with egg, no cream!), coccoli (hot fried bread to die for with different toppings) and other traditional dishes at lightning speed. Mood and hearing depending, the minuscule jam-packed dining room can be thrillingly atmospheric or a dreadful din.
A juicy bistecca alla fiorentina at Trattoria Mario © Nguyen Anh Tu / Moment Open / Getty Images
3. Trattoria Mario
Spurn touristy restaurants touting bistecca alla Fiorentina in the crowded streets around the Duomo for the real deal at this family-run trattoria, an icon among San Lorenzo market workers since 1953. Florence’s feisty T-bone steak for two is chargrilled just one way: seared outside and pink inside, with a sacrosanct strip of bloody blue. In the finest of trattoria tradition, Monday cooks up Florentine tripe, Thursday rabbit and Friday, salted cod.
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Florence’s Gen Z crowd raves about this Scandi-style bakery and brunch-lunch bistro which pairs avocado toasts and gooey cinnamon buns, still warm from the pan, with specialist coffees by local artisan roaster D612. Veggies, vegans and the gluten-free won’t be disappointed. Look for the queue outside, across from the Arno in Santa Croce.
5. La Ménagère
Hobnob with fashionistas over all-day drinks, gourmet food and late-night jazz at this stalwart of a weekend hangout in a 16th-century San Lorenzo palazzo – the crowd tumbling out onto Via di Ginori marks the spot. Flowers, beautiful books and homewares to buy inject a serious dose of urban chic and the whimsical, rose-filled porch is prime “see and be seen” terrain.
Ringside views of Florentine life unfolding in psychedelic color around the historic cafes and vintage carousel of Piazza della Repubblica ensure a mesmerizing sideshow on upmarket Irene’s swish street terrace. Inside, it’s all 1950s design glam and playful modern Tuscan cuisine by celebrity chef Fulvio Pierangelini. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner or a luxuriant aperitivo – any time of day is insanely good.
Ditch the TikTok shenanigans of the tourist-packed centro storico for laid-back neighborhood vibe and epicurean booty at C-ucina in the Oltrarno. Seasonal, short-circuit produce is royalty here and Tuscany’s original peasant recipes inspire the thoughtful dishes crafted with care by architects-turned-culinary creatives Giuseppe and Simonetta in their eco-boutique kitchen.
Every superlative dish reveals an endearing family story or fantastical tale at this contemporary loft-styled restaurant, calling card of daredevil chef Simone Cipriani. What organic farms, oil mills and independent producers have in stock dictates the experimental menu on the chalkboard – complemented by bestial wall murals by edgy Florentine tattoo artist Matteo Masini (aka Mattattoo). Reserve a stool at the kitchen bar to watch the chefs at work.
Head to Lupen e Margo to try a lampredotto © Susan Wright / Lonely Planet
9. Lupen e Margo
The hotly contested debate over which mobile trippai (tripe butcher) makes the finest lampredotto (cow’s fourth stomach chopped, boiled and seasoned) never gets old. Dig in with a meaty lampredotto sandwich garnished with pea-green parsley, garlic and onion sauce from Florence’s only female tripaia. Find Beatrice’s tripe stand (Via dell’Ariento 75) hidden among stalls hawking knock-off leather and clothing at San Lorenzo’s outdoor market.
10. Gucci Osteria
Do you want to titillate taste buds with the culinary nous and daring of one of Florence’s most raved-about female chefs? Reserve a table at Michelin-starred Gucci Osteria in a 14th-century palazzo on landmark Piazza della Signoria. Famed Italian chef Massimo Bottura might sign off the glamorous, hedonistically fashionable restaurant, but it’s the irreverent and worldly spin on contemporary Italian cuisine by Mexican chef Karime Lopez and husband-chef Takahiko Kondo that creates the real buzz. Dolci (dessert) allowed if you guess what Chianti Hills, Rossini’s Chianina and The Cannnolli That Wants to Become a Cannelloni are.
Kickstart your evening next door with signature cocktails by female mixologist extraordinaire Martina Bonci at Gucci’s most recent opening in Florence: fashion cafe and cocktail bar Gucci Giardino 25.
11. La Leggenda dei Frati
Suckers for a drop-dead-gorgeous sunset risk serious heart palpitations at The Legend of Friars. Tucked away in the hillside grounds of historic Villa Bardini, this fine-dining restaurant cooks up gastronomic Italian cuisine, occasional live jazz and an insanely romantic panorama of Florence’s emblematic burnt-red rooftops, Brunelleschi’s cathedral dome and the River Arno. Come sundown, the whole lot blazes pink, amber, ridiculous fire red. Consider a 7- or 9-course tasting menu, or simply go à la carte with inventive seasonal dishes such as seaweed-laced fish soup with almonds and hare ravioli with cocoa, parmesan cheese and aromatic truffle. Reservations essential.
12. Chic Nonna
Italian chef Vito Mollica’s lavish avant-garde restaurant has been the talk of town since opening in a frescoed 16th-century palazzo in Santa Maria Novella in 2021. Already Michelin-starred and a “must do” in every A-lister’s little black book, Chic Grandma is as contemporary and timelessly stylish as its name suggests. Splurge on a lavish tasting menu – one vegetarian – or lounge over the chef’s signature cavatelli cacio e pepe (elongated pasta shells, cheese and pepper) with marinated red shrimps and baby squid in the more affordable bistro.
13. Il Gusto di Xinge
Chinese-born Xin Ge Liu swapped a career in fashion for a pocket-sized dim sum kitchen and market stall in Florence. And her latest restaurant venture behind Santa Maria Novella train station is gaining a huge cult following among bon vivants seeking alternative dining with a club-chic party spirit. Be it the sassy petrol blue and orange decor, pork and Tuscan truffle-stuffed Sheng Jian Bao presented like artworks or wild craft cocktail (ever tasted Chinese roast duck, whisky, honey and truffle in a glass?), everything at Il Gusto di Xinge screams Chinese-Tuscan high drama. Don’t. Miss. Out.
14. Il Teatro del Sale
No epicurean razz around Florence is complete without dinner and a show in honor of Florence’s original rebel chef in longstanding foodie ‘hood Sant’Ambrogio. The eccentric lovechild of late, larger-than-life Florentine chef and disruptor Fabbio Picchi, Il Teatro del Sale raises the curtain on a noisy, hectic, mesmerizing symphony of outstanding Tuscan dishes. Dinner climaxes at 9:30pm with a live performance of jazz, drama or stand-up comedy.
15. Dalla Lola
Budget dining it might be, but there’s nothing scant or stuffy about this upcycled neighborhood eatery – old-school vintage in look, mischievously new-gen in vibe. Spirited young owner Mathilde Pettini practically grew up in the kitchen at her family’s veteran Trattoria Cammillo and the cheeky spin she casts on trippa finta (“fake tripe”, actually eggs), gluten-free desserts and forgotten Tuscan dishes like frogs legs and chicken hearts in her own trattoria is simply brilliant.