Salt & Wind Travel

Florence Historic City Center Guide

Table of Contents

Florence is the city of Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, and so much history it’s hard not to learn a thing or two just wandering around.

But we love it just as much for being the home of Gucci, Pucci, and Ferragamo and its traditional (some say snobby) factor that’s about as close to New England as Italy.

Why Florence Is Worth Visiting

The city’s history of antiquaries, fashion, design, and fresco work means it oozes with a chic air that almost feels more akin to Paris than other Italian cities. Despite being the smallest of the major Italian cities (city center population is about 375,000), it remains relevant.

If you haven’t been there, you should know that Florence is one of the most traditional cities in Italy. Some say it’s in a curse-blessing situation where the insane amount of tourism is good for the city, but that same tourism means restaurateurs don’t always keep up with the times the way they do in Milan or Rome. But things are changing, and there’s a mix of old and new that’s really interesting.

We’ll always recommend Florence because it’s the sort of place you can get to know in just a few days, yet still unique enough that you’ll want to return to discover more.

This mini-guide is a quick bite to help you get in the mindset for your trip to Florence — for our complete recommendations, check out our full Florence City Guide, or, if you’re looking for help planning your trip, let us know!

Before You Go

What To Cook

These are the classic dishes to cook to get your palette ready for your trip to Florence:

  • Tagliata di Manzo -This classic grilled steak—so simple but so good—is a perfect intro to the straightforward but delicious food of Tuscany.
  • Sostanza Brown Butter Chicken – When our Editor In Chief, Aida, lived in Florence, she was obsessed with this dish, and this is her attempt to recreate it.
  • Insalata Del Garga – This salad, the vivacious chef/owner, and some seriously good cheesecake put this small restaurant on the map. Garga isn’t quite as good as it once was, but this salad is a classic.
  • Schiacciata All’Uva – During the wine harvest, the traditional salty flatbread is known as schiacciata gets topped with grapes, and we cannot get enough. This is our cocktail party-friendly version with the non-traditional addition of caramelized onions and blue cheese.
  • Ribollita Soup – Picture the best minestrone soup you’ve ever had that’s then slow-cooked with bread, and you have the thick, carb-tastic dish that is ribollita!

What To Watch

And here are some classic movies all set in the area:

  • Under The Tuscan Sun – Okay, this is technically in Tuscany, and it’s kind of dated but if you’re looking for gorgeous panoramas of Italy, this is it.
  • Stealing Beauty – There’s so much to love about this sordid 90s movie—Liv Tyler as a teen, directed by Bertolucci, a stunning landscape, amazing soundtrack—but it also perfectly channels Italian culture.
  • Hannibal – Not so much for the cannibal plotline and way more for the fact it is partially set in Florence; this movie shows the city from a darker point of view.

Once You’re There

If you’re like us, then priority #1 is food when you’re on the road. This is our list of well-known and reliable spots to grab a bite or a sip. For our complete list of Florence recommendations, check out our full Florence City Guide!

Where To Caffeinate: Ditta Artiginale

Sure, you can go to a sidewalk cafe and get a more-than-decent espresso almost anywhere in Florence.

But, if you want something a bit more of the moment — a pour-over, a flat white, a cortado — you’ll want to head to Ditta. There are two locations, and we prefer the chicer Oltrarno one to the rustic one in the city center where many a study abroad student hangs while eating avo toast.

Where To Brunch: La Menagere

Not so much a restaurant as a cafe with a homeware store and floral space, La Menagere is an all-around gorgeous place to hang out. This concept restaurant is located in the San Lorenzo area that has helped Florence break from tradition, if sometimes a little too far. Even if you don’t go for a meal, it’s an Instagram-worthy place to grab a snack or a coffee. Oh, and their cocktails are top-notch!

Where To Light Lunch: Cantinetta Dei Verrazzano

For a more old-school light lunch, head to the wine bar, Cantinetta Dei Verrazzano, run by the Verrazzano winery. Here you can try an assortment of the winery’s wines but we really love it for the bites, from salumi to cheeses to loaves of bread that are among the best in the city. Just be ready to wait because there’s pretty much always a line (or just grab a piece of focaccia to go and snack on that as you walk around the city).

Where To Eat Classic: Trattoria Cibreo

When it comes to restaurants that have a reputation, Cibreo holds its own. This restaurant is a bit of a walk from the historic center but totally worth the trip. A more high-end, white-tablecloth meal, Cibreo is our pick for classic Tuscan food. Oh, and if you never thought you’d like chicken livers, well, hold your judgment until you’ve tried the crostini al fegato (see above) at Cibreo.

Where To Cocktail With A View: Golden View Open Bar

Some of our favorite cocktail spots in Florence are in our full digital city guide, but this is the spot to go if you want a front-and-center view of the Ponte Vecchio. Call ahead to reserve a terrace table and be sure to be on time. Tbh, we love the location but it’s the food and cocktails are nothing too special. Stick to the classics like a Spritz and enjoy the view!

More Florence On Salt & Wind

As one of the places where we lead our Italy group tours, we visit and write about Florence a lot. Here’s more about Florence:

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