When you think of Italy, you think of history, natural beauty, artistic masterpieces, and most importantly food. Honestly, I think for a lot of people food is the first thing that they think of when Italy is mentioned. Visions of pizza, pasta, cannoli and gelato tempt tourists to visit and to indulge their taste buds. Food is definitely a huge part of the culture in italy, and especially in Florence, but sometimes it pays to try restaurants off the beaten path. Eating pizza for every meal sounds like a good idea, but in practice, it might not work out so well. Here are a few of my favorite places to go and things to eat, both typically Tuscan and unique.
1. Mostodolce- This pub and restaurant combination is the first place I recommend to people visiting Florence. They serve their own craft beers, produced just outside of Florence, alongside some truly delicious food. Their pizza and burgers are great, but if you go make sure you order the "coccoline"which are little fried balls of pizza-like dough, served with soft cheese and spicy sauce to dip in. The atmosphere is great for a fun and relaxing night out, and the walls are covered with customers' drawings, giving the place a very welcoming and personal atmosphere. Located at Via Nazionale, 114/2.
2. Mercato Centrale- The market, located behind San Lorenzo, in the heart of the leather market, is not exactly a hidden secret of Florence's cuisine. It is well known and often very crowded, but for good reason. The variety of food and the quality of their ingredients is fantastic. There are different stalls lining the walls inside, serving pizza, pasta dishes, vegan options, lampredotto (cow stomach, a Florence specialty), chocolate, and more. There is even a happy old man who walks around with a cart filled with the most savory, fresh mozzarella. The market is made up of two floors. The top floor is where the restaurants are located, and below is the market itself, full of fresh vegetables, fruits, meats and bread. The best part about the food sold in the restaurants is that the dishes are prepared only from the ingredients sold in the market below.
3. Spumantino Verrazzano- If you want to step up the level of class for an evening, this is the place to do it. The tiny restaurant and wine bar is located a few steps away from Ponte Vecchio, and offers an enchanting view and atmosphere. While the focus is on the wine produced at Castello di Verrazzano, my favorite part of the dining experience is the sushi. Living here, surrounded by bread and pasta, you start to crave foods that aren't native to the region, and for me those cravings are for sushi. Though a higher price tag accompanies this restaurant, it is worth it for the unique tastes and exceptional service. The waiters are very friendly and accommodating, adding the the relaxing and romantic atmosphere. Lungarno Acciaiuoli 4/R.
4. Le Vespe Cafe- This place offers a perfect blend of cultures and flavors in their quirky food and drinks menus. With vegan and vegetarian options, as well as special weekend brunch menus, Le Vespe Cafe is the perfect healthy spot to sit and talk with friends or to work quietly with their free wifi. The owners are from the UK, but their menus offer English, Italian, and Middle Eastern dishes. There is something to please everyone. The quality of the food is exceptional, and the coffee drinks are also fantastic. The inside decor is mismatched and colorful, and board games and magazines fill the shelves, creating a comfortable atmosphere. If you're looking to spend Sunday morning somewhere unique and out of the tourist foot traffic of the central area of Florence, head over to this quaint restaurant a few streets away from Santa Croce, at 76R Via Ghibellina.
5. L'Azdora Piadineria Romagnola- For a quick and authentic lunch experience, this is the place to go. Right across form the entrance to Mercato Centrale, this little one room kitchen makes the best piadina in Florence. A piadina is a flatbread sandwich, originally from Romagna, which is where the owners come from. They use only authentic ingredients and recipes for the bread, which gives it an extraordinary flavor. Their menu has tons of tasty varieties, or you can choose to make your own with your favorite ingredients. The prices are extremely reasonable, especially for the quality of the product you are getting. A piadina is a great alternative to a panino (if you want to change up your diet) and this is definitely the place to get them. Piazza Del Mercato Centrale 14/r
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