Piazza della Signoria, 5/R, Duomo
Breakfast your local café in Italy is a ritual as social as it is caffeinating. The centuries-old habit has led to the proliferation of especially beautiful ones, as well as grand salons all across the country. In Florence, no spot is more elegant than Rivoire. The feeling is very old-world, with a mahogany bar, white tablecloths, and suited-up waiters flying around with silver platters held high above their heads. Take a seat in front and settle in among the elderly Florentines with their newspapers and machiattos, or sip a café standing at the bar as most locals do. In the colder months, wrap up and brave the outdoors with a view of the statue of David (disclaimer: The statue outside is a stand-in for the real deal, which is safely inside the museum) and the Accademia while savoring Rivoire’s ridiculously indulgent hot chocolate.
Via dell’isola delle Stinche, 7/R,
The storefront at Vivoli is so under the radar you could easily miss it but for the little neon sign above the doorway. The gelato here is made fresh daily from the finest eggs, dairy, and whatever ingredients are currently in season—pear and green apple in the fall, apricot and melon in the summer. Stop into some of the neighboring leather stores afterward, as the area of Santa Croce is famous for them.
Via dei Neri, 32/R, Duomo
A morning café (black) or macchiato (marked with milk) is sacrosanct in the entire country. And very often, those are about your only options. But not so here, where Francesco Sanapo is modernizing the coffee (and brunch) game in Florence. There are two locations, though the original on Via dei Neri is our favorite. Staff at Ditta are actually happy to make you an almond milk flat white, or a cold-brew iced coffee, and even the filtered options are great thanks to the in-house own roaster. There are also pastries, polenta cake, and biscotti to dip in your coffee for breakfast (as well as pancakes and baked eggs if you’re homesick). At night, the space turns into a lively bar that favors all things gin.
Piazza del Duomo, Florence
The dome of Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral is the defining landmark and compass of the city. It represents the immense wealth of Florence through the ages, thanks in large part to a thriving banking and textile trade. Built across two centuries by several different architects and with masses of funding from the city’s wealthy patrons and political class, the dome was added by Brunelleschi and is the first octagonal dome in the world built without wooden joists for support. The exterior is a mosaic of vertical and horizontal bands of polychrome marble in red, white, and green, all dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Several of the works inside honor the great citizens of Florence, including Dante and Ghiberto, as well as details of religious narratives.
Via Roma, 1/R, Florence
The oldest café in Florence was founded (ironically) by a Swiss family in 1733, initially as a bozzolari, or doughnut shop. These days, the sweet selection has expanded to include hundreds of traditional Italian pastries, chocolates, cakes, and the chewiest nougat. The interior resembles a grand stateroom, with wood-paneled walls, stucco detailing, and glittering chandeliers. Despite the elegant allure of a seat inside at breakfast time, the afternoon cocktail hour is best enjoyed outside. Sit at a table with a spritz and the accompanying assortment of sandwiches and snacks and watch the world fly by.
Via del Moro 4, Duomo
The fruity cocktails here resemble mini masterpieces, topped with extravagantly cut fresh fruit and served with small bowls of salty popcorn. There’s a rotating selection of art on the walls and a sloping roof that makes you feel like you’re drinking in a warm cocoon. Service can be slow, but the friendly staff are still wonderful. Pro tip: Give up what you think you want and ask the bartender to surprise you. They know what they’re doing.
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