How to eat like a local in Florence: Tips & Secret Spots
Table of Contents
How to eat like a local in Florence
Table of Contents
When you are travelling, undoubtedly one of the worse things is when you stick out like a sore thumb even though you did some light reading on etiquette and manners on the airplane. The trick to fitting in like a local when you travel somewhere new is to learn as much about the area and what is deemed polite and what not.
Learning about a new area doesn’t just mean seeking out the local spots but you also need to keep in mind that certain things are done differently than what you are used to and that there are often very strict social rules that you should follow so that you don’t upset local people and to ensure that you have a good time.
This article will take you through the do’s and don’ts for eating and behaving like a local in Florence as well as give you some restaurant recommendations for where to find the best local cuisine and local wines whether it be street food in the city center or a family-owned restaurant serving classic Tuscan dishes such as pappa al pomodoro.
Florence has some of the most famous restaurants, some even adorning one or multiple Michelin stars, all of which serve great food such as fresh pasta and Florentine steak with some salsa verde, but some of the best local restaurants are kept out of the spotlight.
With this guide you will feel like a true local and have all the tools that you need to thrive in the city. It is also good to note that although the tap water is perfectly safe to drink, that you should opt for ordering bottled water if you are sitting down for a meal as the taste of the tap water can sometimes compromise the flavors of your meal.
What to do and what not to do
When dining out in Florence, the time of day will dictate certain actions and whether they should be taken. From breakfast to lunch time, dinner, and even happy hour, certain things will change and to ensure that you fit in with the locals, you need to change with them.
This does not include your normal eating and table manners (please don’t change those!) but rather what type of food and drinks you order and where you would go to get certain local dishes.
It is also good to note that as soon as you are done enjoying your meal, normally you would leave the left-over sauce in the bowl or on the plate and send it back right? Well, Italians have something different that they do called Scarpetta. This means that at the end of your meal, any sauce that is left over is soaked up with pieces of bread and enjoyed this way so that nothing goes to waste!
Cafés and breakfast
A true Italian breakfast experience always starts with a cappuccino (just don’t drink it after 11:30 in the morning!), or an espresso and gets paired with Cornetti, a warm, sweet croissant that gets served plain or you can ask to have it filled with cream, fruit jam or chocolate.
Mornings in Italy are slow and often started in a local café with a casual atmosphere and a quick chat with your fellow patron or even the barista, which is quite the change when you are used to getting your coffee in a to-go cup as you rush to work!
Some have a late morning snack such as a cappuccino paired with some biscuits, dried fruit, a fruit salad, or even a second breakfast for those who feel like lunch is just too far away, while some just skip it altogether.
A typical lunch consists of a first course as well as a second course which is then followed by fruits and some coffee (of course!). Many places in the city center serve typical dishes at a reasonable price and they will surely have your taste buds begging for more.
Eating your lunch at a restaurant is pretty common as lunch hours are longer than what most people are used to so if you have plans to eat lunch at a restaurant a reservation is a must. You are often given some grace if you arrive late but don’t try to push your luck and be sure to let the restaurant know if you are running late.
Over weekends there is a little something extra added to meals called antipasti. This consists of cold cuts, cheese, and crostini, and is usually followed by something like a pasta dish, risotto, or soup, your main course, and then a salad or some fresh vegetables. The meal is then concluded with an espresso and a well-deserved nap!
This meal takes place in the space between lunch and dinner at select bars and serves as a sort of happy hour during which you can enjoy some cocktails and some dishes such as Pappa al pomodoro, Ribollita, and Panzanella, as well as some cold cuts, meats, and even vegetables. Some places will even have a buffet where you can serve yourself.
Depending on how your day went, you will either have a light dinner or multiple courses which usually consist of an appetizer, a main course, dessert, and other courses and nibbles that can be added in between as a dinner with friends can last for hours and involve a lot of conversation between dishes.
Pizza is a popular dish to start with but eating pizza in Italy is a bit different than what the rest of the world is used to. It usually comes uncut and most people actually eat it with a knife and fork but some will still take the slice and fold it when they are eating.
Something that might be hard to hear for most people is that not all your dishes will require cheese no matter how much you love a good Parmigiano-Reggiano. It is usually only added to some pizzas, a few types of pasta dishes, and dishes such as risotto and lasagna. It is very uncommon to add cheese to seafood dishes and you might get some funny looks if you do!
Gelato was invented in Florence and as such it is a very popular dessert and the most popular flavors are vanilla, chocolate, lemon and strawberry, pistachio and stracciatella which is fior di latte gelato with the addition of chocolate chips.
It is a well known saying that if the gelato is presented in heaps it is no good so if you are on the lookout for a good gelato spot be sure to check how they present and store their products.
Where to find the best local dishes and the best restaurants
This tiny restaurant is the perfect lunch spot for anyone that is looking to eat like a local. You will enjoy perfectly cooked chicken in butter and exceptional pasta and it is highly suggested that you end your meal with their meringue/semifreddo cake that comes with mini chocolate chips and be sure to get the wild strawberries with the cake as well.
The location of the restaurant ensures that it is nice and tucked away from the big crowds so that you can enjoy the atmosphere and many people, locals and tourists, say that they frequently return to experience everything all over again.
If you are looking for fresh pasta with a delicious tomato sauce, soft gnocchi, and amazing steak, this is the place for you. You will step through the door and be welcomed by wonderful smells and the friendly staff of this local institution.
You will get to eat like a local and even have a chance to take a look directly into their open kitchen as your food is being prepared. This is sure to be a unique experience and many people return often daily to experience this restaurant along with its food.
The Sant’ambrogio market is something that should not be missed if you happen to find yourself in Florence. From street food to sit-down restaurants, from cheese to olive oil, and even fresh vegetables and craft beer, this market has everything that you could possibly need all in one.
The market even has butchers, a bar, bakeries, and so much more so you are sure to find everything that you are looking for and you will definitely get the chance to eat some amazing food. This is the perfect place to find local products and enjoy the fresh air as you take a stroll around the market.
On April 7, 1977, a dining room was baptized with the name ZaZa, and ever since then, it has been open to the public and beloved by many. It sits within a building that has survived the nineteenth century and has been turned from an inn to a restaurant.
You will eat Tuscan food that has been prepared with love and enjoy the lively atmosphere of the restaurant and its surroundings as it sits in the middle of Piazza del Mercato Centrale, a historical center with a lot to offer. This restaurant is a trip to the past and will mesmerize you every time that you see it.
The locals of Florence have certain things that they do that might seem out of place to you but if the roles were reversed they would probably feel the same so it is good to keep in mind that you are visiting somewhere that does things a certain way. If you learn the ways, you are sure to have a much better time than if you did not.
So in conclusion:
Don’t order a cappuccino after 11:30 am
Always reserve a table
Order local and regional dishes
Order bottled water in restaurants
Cheese is delicious, but not meant for every meal
Do not use a spoon for your spaghetti!
Don’t forget to visit some local restaurants
Frequent Asked Questions
Locals in Florence will eat at establishments that are not necessarily known by the greater public and tourists and that have been running for generations. They also enjoy a wide variety of street food and will always be able to tell you where the best places are to get some.
Some of the places that locals eat at in Florence include Osteria delle Tre Panche, which has only three benches and sits a bit outside the centro storico, a 10-minute walk from the Gherardesca Gardens, and Trattoria 13 Gobbi which will make anyone feel at home with their delicious Tuscan food and warm atmosphere.
To live like a local in Florence it is important that you learn the correct etiquette when eating and interacting with people. You should also be very selective about the neighborhood that you choose to stay in as you do not want to be paying extravagant prices or live in a place with too many tourists.
You will need to get to know your neighborhood and the area around it so that you know where to do your shopping for the best local products and produce and of course where the best restaurants are!
Florence has many wonderful dishes highlighting the region and its ingredients. These dishes are local favorites and the traditional flavours will always have you coming back for more.
Some of these dishes include Bistecca alla Fiorentina which is a Florentine t-bone steak, Pappa al Pomodoro which is a lovely soup, Fiori di zucca ripieni which is a variety of stuffed zucchini flowers, and of course, Schiacciata which is a traditional Florentine flatbread, and so much more.
Disclaimer: Note that the food images displayed on this website are for illustrative purposes only. They are not indicative of the actual dishes or presentations you should expect during the classes. We strive to provide the best culinary experience, but the appearance of dishes may vary. Always refer to class descriptions and details for accurate information on what to expect.