GUIDE TO FIRENZE: Eat, Sleep, Play, Love

by Ash Wilhardt

I fell for Florence many years ago, and something always brings me back. Okay fine, I may have fallen in love with a boy… but time and time again, I am also left with the feeling of being home while here. Whether I was spending the night for a quick layover, or enjoying a whole month in the city, it has never felt like enough time. Days consist of roaming the cobblestone streets, sipping Aperol Spritzes, indulging in one more night of pasta, meeting new friends, seeing more art. A place where it is virtually impossible to be bored. Michelangelo’s David. Brunelleschi’s Duomo. Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. Botticelli’s Primavera. The Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti. The capital of Italy’s Tuscany region is home to many of these masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. Upon first arriving in the city you could spend a week in a manic whirl, working through a long to-do list of must-sees. But instead, avoid the predicament most find themselves in, by seeing everything and enjoying none of it. 

Hello / Ciao

Goodbye / Ciao

Goodbye (formal) / Arrivederci

Good morning / Buongiorno

Good afternoon / Buonasera

Good night / Buonanotte

Yes / Sì

No / No

That’s all right / Va bene

Please / Per favore

Thank you / Grazie

You’re welcome / Prego

Sorry / Mi dispiace

How are you? / Come stai?

How’s it going? / Come va?

How are you? (formal) / Come sta?

Fine / Bene

See you soon / A presto

See you tomorrow / A domani

C O F F E E

I’d like… / Vorrei…

Breakfast / la colazione

A coffee / Un caffè

Double (shot) / lungo

Single (shot) / ristretto

With a dash of milk / macchiato

With a shot of alcohol / corretto

Coffee with milk / caffelatte

Cappuccino / cappuccino

Decaffeinated / decaffeinato

Hot milk / latte caldo

Brunellesco Caffé e Bistrot: Via degli Alfani, 69, 50121 Firenze FI, Italy

I would walk hundreds of miles out of the way just to grab a €1 cappuccino here. The best espresso I ever had. (And maybe the cheapest). Now, above is the address they give you online, although I’ve found it’s about a block off. It’s actually located here: Via degli Alfani 45, 50121 Florence, Firenze Italy. As you walk down Via degli Alfani you’ll see tables outside and big white umbrellas. Next door is a round circular shaped building. Stand at the bar and enjoy an espresso, or sit and relax in the courtyard at a table outside. Everything here is made fresh from the juices to the sandwiches, the pastries, and more. In 2014 Brunellesco’s even added the Bistrot. I’ve never had a proper meal here but everything I’ve seen looks heavenly. The menu is composed of around 10 dishes and changes every day to have the freshest and local products which are delivered by the local farmers. 

*** Brunellesco’s is also where I learned most of my Italian, as the owner is very kind and endlessly patient.

Ditta Artigianale: Via dello Sprone, 5/R, 50121 Firenze FI, Italy

Come for the coffee, stay for the cocktails. I have had my fair share of espressos here and come back at night to blackout on a gin or two. Never drank gin again. But it made for quite a funny story and a fun night! Ditta Artigianale has two locations in town, both designed to perfection. The food and drinks are great and it’s the perfect place to sit and read a book or get some work done on the computer.

E A T :

Pizzeria Riva d’Arno Firenze:  Lungarno Soderini, 7, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy

There are many reasons to love Florence, and you are all of them.

One of the many Gusta Pizza chains around the city, however Riva d’Arno sits along the river and offers a more elegant feeling. Could be the waiters and bartenders that turned into dear friends, or the pizza that often comes out in the shape of a heart, but I would spend every night here if I could.

Osteria Santo Spirito:  Piazza Santo Spirito, 16/R, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

Some of my favorite lunch & dinners are spent here. Whether I was traveling alone or with a big group, this place was perfect. A young fun crowd of waiters, cozy atmosphere, good music, better food. There’s a wonderful outdoor seating area with heaters and blankets for the colder months, then a full indoor and upstairs dining area. The dish to get is the Rigatoni Napoletani Con Salsa Di Pomodoro E Ricotta Salata, which is a perfectly al dente rigatoni Santo Spirito, with tomato sauce and dry ricotta cheese. It is actual heaven. Another dish that is pretty famous here is the Gnocchi Gratinati Ai Formaggi Morbidi Al Profumo Di Tartufo, the truffle gnocchi. It’s impossible not to get this dish after you smell it as it passes you to a table nearby. Compliment either with a large Insalata Mista and you have yourself the perfect dining experience. 

Ciblèo – Tortelli e Ravioli: Via Andrea del Verrocchio, 2r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

“I had a dream after visiting Japan. That was forty years ago, so it was one of those perhaps-mad dreams that refused to die. I am a Florentine, this is a place built on realizing wild fantasies, on innovation and inspiration. What you see in the museums is connected to what you see in the streets today. You miss the point if you think the Renaissance exists only in the past.”

– Fabio Picchi

A trip to the city of Florence is never complete unless you’ve taken a walk over to Sant’Ambrogio to try the dumplings. This is quite a special night dining at the Tuscan Oriental restaurant, Ciblèo. There are only 16 seats, 8 of them at the counter (which is where you want to be). No menu instead dishes come out one by one, taking you on a journey through the beautifully curated prix fixe menu. Truly a meal you will spend the following months dreaming about.

Mercato Centrale: Piazza del Mercato Centrale, Via dell’Ariento, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy

Here is a two-level market, designed by Giuseppe Mengoni, an architect who also conceived the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. The ground floor consists of butchers, fishmongers, fruit and vegetable vendors and small speciality shops selling local olive oils, truffles, dried pasta, meats, cheeses and more. The ground floor is a perfect place to do a little grocery shopping if you want to cook for yourself, with the best of the best ingredients. Be aware, downstairs does have limited hours and is closed Sunday. Outside the Central Market is the Mercato di San Lorenzo, which mostly sells leather goods.

floret at La Terrazza LUISAVIAROMA: Via Roma, 19/21/1° piano, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

This is the restaurant above the high-end fashion store, LUISAVIAROMA. The beautiful rooftop setting is surrounded by tropical trees and comfy couches, providing the perfect oasis in the middle of a bustling city. Come for the fresh and healthy smoothies or juices, stay for the poke bowls! A wonderful healthy option to the many pizzerias you are sure to hit.

La Ménagère: Via de’ Ginori, 8/R, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy

This spot is just the definition of chic. A café, a cocktail bar, flower shop, an aperitivo stop, and late-night restaurant all under the roof. You name it. I haven’t had a meal I didn’t like. They also have the most beautiful specialty Aperol Spritz which you have to get. It’s a work of art.

Santarosa Bistrot: Lungarno di Santa Rosa, 50142 Firenze FI, Italy

Mornings consisting of cappuccinos and croissants, easily blur into evenings filled with Chianti and prosciutto.

Vecchio Forno: Via Guelfa, 32, 50129 Firenze FI, Italy

I kid you not, the worlds BEST bakery on Earth. The best bread, sweets, sandwiches, and snacks in all of Italy. When living here I went every single day.

D R I N K

Pitta M’Ingolli: Piazza Santo Spirito, 17, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

Café Volume: Piazza Santo Spirito, 5/red, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

G E L A T O

Gelateria Santa Trinita: Piazza de’ Frescobaldi, 8/red, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

Gelateria La Carraia: Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25/r, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy

STAY:

Four Seasons Hotel Firenze: Borgo Pinti, 99, 50121 Firenze FI, Italy

This gorgeous hotel opened in 2008 in a former 15th-century palace. The Four Seasons is the definition of luxury. Walls dressed in original frescoes, an outdoor pool, and large private garden (the Giardino Della Gherardesca), you name it! This private oasis is the perfect place to come home to after a day spent exploring the city. And only a 10 minute walk outside of city center. You first arrive (probably by taxi) and 3 or more people are opening your car door and taking good care of your luggage for you. No question too big, no request too grand. You physically couldn’t rave enough about the service. Check-in is a breeze and everyone wears a huge smile like they’ve been waiting just for you. There are 3 elegant restaurants with upscale bars, as well as an outdoor hot tub and a seasonal pool. A luxe spa also offers the most lavish massages and beauty treatments.

SoprArno Suites: Via Maggio, 35, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

The most wonderful boutique bed and breakfast with 13 individually-designed rooms. SoprArno Suites is tucked away in the centre of the Oltrarno area, just minutes from the Ponte Vecchio and Pitti Palace.

D O

Giardino delle rose: Viale Giuseppe Poggi, 2, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

The most romantic spot is a garden park in the Oltrarno district, and overlooks the whole city. I have taken many naps here and had many wine-filled picnics here. Spring to Fall is the perfect time to come for a lovely afternoon, as the rose garden’s in bloom and the grass lawn is full.