Travel

Florence

Establishment neighborhood
Santa Maria Novella
Via della Scala 16, Santa Maria Novella
The original Santa Maria Novella apothecary (purported to be the oldest pharmacy in the world, founded by Dominican monks in the thirteenth century), is finished with ornate, frescoed ceilings and eighteenth-century furniture. But insanely beautiful interiors aside, you’re here for the products. The shop's shelves are stocked with delicate bottles of the most heavenly scented fragrance, body oils, and soaps that will dress up even the most banal bathroom. It also carries our favorite rose water facial mist and a selection of tinctures and smelling salts (it is an apothecary after all). A recent addition is the pretty tea room out back for an afternoon shopping break.
Alla Vecchia Bettola
Viale Vasco Pratolini, 3/5/7, Santo Spirito
With its floor-to-ceiling tiles, hanging cured meats, rustic wood tables dotted with carafes of house red, and bottles of oil and vinegar—to be liberally doused on salads—Alla Vecchia Bettola is the essence of Florence. Open since the late ’70s, the restaurant’s staying power is rooted in its solid, no-fuss menu of tender steak Florentine, desserts of fresh fruit and tiramisu, and of course, pasta. Long, communal tables mean guests often sit with people they don’t know, filling the restaurant with the convivial buzz and friendly chatter of strangers.
13 Gobbi
Via del Porcellana, Santa Maria Novella
Despite being a few minutes from Piazza Santa Maria Novella and a stone’s throw from Florence’s most popular hotels, 13 Gobbi feels like a local secret. The chatter that fills the room is mostly Italian, the old wooden chairs and tables, black-and-white photographs on the brick walls, and generally laid-back, rustic air is distinctly Tuscan. The food even more so—grilled steak Florentine served medium rare and room temperature (as it’s meant to be), white beans and spinach, and the most perfect plates of homemade spaghetti al pomodoro. Take a seat in the leafy courtyard and order all of the above plus a caprese salad and a bottle of the vino rosso della casa.
Brac
Via dei Vagellai, 18/R, Uffizi
It’s not easy to come by vegan food in Italy, and it’s basically impossible to come by good vegan food. Libreria Brac is the exception to the rule. A restaurant-meets-bookstore-meets-bar, it’s run by a group of young Italians looking to modernize the city’s cuisine (if just a little). Have a glass of wine as you browse through the selection of design and culinary books or head straight to the restaurant for dishes like a zucchini and cashew cheese galette, hearty soups and salads, and delicious vegan pastas.
Buca Mario
Piazza degli Ottaviani, 16r, Santa Maria Novella
Securing a table at this upmarket restaurant can be a challenge, so take advantage of your hotel concierge or a local friend to make the booking. Buca Mario does the Florentine classics well, but also seafood—which isn’t as common in the city as you might think. Order a grilled fish or pasta dish (there are gluten-free options) and the gnocchi, which has a sharp, rich gorgonzola sauce. The service is excellent, and don’t be discouraged if you find fellow tourists on either side of you. It’s not that Buca Mario is a tourist trap; it’s just that all the hotels know the food is reliably good and recommend it regularly. Just don’t skip dessert—it comes wheeled out on an old-world trolley, displaying various fruit tarts and tiramisu.
Cibrèo
Via del Verrocchio, 8/R, Santa Croce
There’s no pasta at Cibrèo, nor is there a menu. Instead, a server explains what’s available for the evening from chef Fabio Picchi (who has four establishments in the city, including his trattoria of the same name next door). Cibrèo is well loved by tourists and locals alike, so if your waiter speaks perfect English, don’t be discouraged. Despite the formal dining room, it’s a laid-back kind of place—if you can’t decide between two mains, perhaps they’ll give you a taste of both. If three of the desserts sound appealing, smaller portions of all three might appear at the end of the meal. It’s all very personal and warm, which is a big reason why we come here.
Il Santo Bevitore
Via di Santo Spirito, 64/66 r, Santo Spirito
Maybe it’s the dozens of lit candles and their gentle, suffused light. Maybe it’s the army of wine bottles against the wood-paneled walls. Or maybe it’s knowledge that we’re about to eat a really, really good dinner that makes us return here over and over again. Artichoke-stuffed squid, rich duck breasts, and hearty risotto are all reasons to come in for dinner. If there’s a wait, grab a Negroni at nearby Il Santino for the perfect start to the evening.
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