When on your holidays to Florence, or anywhere else in Italy, for that matter, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut of pizza and pasta. It isn’t necessarily out of any aversion to foreign, unfamiliar food – genuine Italian pasta and pizza is simply so good that it’s difficult to forego. Though much the same may be said for all of Italy, Florentine cuisine offers an incredible breadth, particularly for mature travellers who may have a more sophisticated palate. Here are some of traditional Florentine food suggestions, as well as a tip or two about where to eat during your stay.
Pappa al Pomodoro
This Tuscan twist on tomato soup is a must try for those who are looking for something truly unique from the region. Typically made from an array of fresh ingredients, including tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and basil, it is thickened with leftover, sometimes stale, bread. The addition of bread gives it a strange appearance, but don’t let that put you off! The consistency is part and parcel of the culinary experience.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina
It doesn’t take a great leap of faith to try this one; it’s Florentine steak! Though it may seem bizarre to travel all the way to Italy and eat something you can get at restaurants and pubs at home, there’s something special about eating a T-bone steak fresh off the grill in Florence. Cooked with salt, pepper, a wedge of lemon, and a generous drizzle of olive oil, these steaks are generally served well-done on the outside, with the middle remaining red and bloody – this is noticeably different to how steak is typically served in the UK.
Crostini di fegato
If you’re looking for a popular Florentine antipasto, crostini di fegato is an excellent choice, particularly if you’re feeling brave. The crostini is topped with a mixture of liver pate, anchovies, onions, and capers, and while it may not appeal to traditional British tastes, this antipasto is certainly interesting. If crostini di fegato doesn’t sound quite your cup of tea, be sure to try some other antipasti to start a meal if you want to enjoy the full Florentine dining experience.
The people of Florence have a bit of an ongoing romance with tripe. One of the city’s most iconic dishes is trippa alla fiorentina, which is essentially tripe sautéed in olive oil, served with onions and tomatoes, and topped generously with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Tripe can also be found as a street food in Florence, in the form of Lampredotti, which is essentially thinly sliced tripe in a sandwich, typically served with either spiced or herbed sauce. If you can stomach the idea of tripe, these are both delicious, traditional meals.
Trattoria da Mario
While the food at Trattoria da Mario is absolutely excellent, a trip to this restaurant is all about the experience. Opening hours are very limited, as they only serve lunch and the restaurant is incredibly popular. Get there early, or you’ll have to queue. If you’re in a small group, you’re likely to have to share a table in the name of communal dining. The chef chooses how your food is cooked, and don’t even think about asking for condiments. You’re also likely to have to do a lot of pointing, and maybe try a few words of Italian, as members of staff don’t speak much English. It’s likely that you’ll be staying nearby, as many of Florence’s hotels are within a five minute walking distance of this trattoria.
If you’re looking for a quiet, private dining experience, Trattoria da Mario is probably off the cards; on the other hand, if you’re looking for a bustling place that’s popular with the locals, Trattoria da Mario is entirely unrivalled.
Coffee plays a central role in Italian life, so you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes in Florence if you’re a caffeine addict. However, there are a few things you should know about drinking coffee in Italy, particularly if you can’t function without a brew. First and foremost, note that if you simply ask for coffee, you’ll probably be served an espresso, which may not be what you expected. Ask for a latte, and you’ll just get a glass of milk. Cappuccino is a breakfast coffee in Italy, and you won’t see a local order one after 11am.; however, as a tourist, you’re unlikely to be chased from a cafe for ordering one in the afternoon.