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.
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.
Piazza Santo Spirito, 6-red, Santo Spirito
This relaxed trattoria in the Santo Spirito neighborhood is one of the better places anywhere in the city for satisfying basics, like pizza and pasta al pomodoro. Service can be Italian, so be prepared to wait a bit—this will be a more leisurely meal. If you’re lucky, you’ll be sitting outside overlooking the local piazza. It’s like real-life theater, and tourists are few and far between.
Piazza del Carmine, Santo Spirito
Of all Florence’s cultural gems, the pre-Renaissance frescoes at the tiny Brancacci Chapel might be the ones we return to the most. The architects broke ground on the chapel in the mid-1200s, but artists Masaccio and Masolino’s era-defining frescoes weren’t painted until around 1425 and 1427. They depict the life of St. Peter, the most famous scene being the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. Their bodies mark the first time an artist attempted perspective, depth, and realism in depicting the human body, and these frescoes signal the beginning of the Renaissance.
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