everyone knows someone who spent a semester abroad in florence

CarbsSKlein It’s the Kevin Bacon of Italian cities: Florence.

I’ve never spent a semester living there, mind you, but I’ve been three times, each time even more obsessed with finding a proper hole-in-the-wall “where the locals go” foodie haven. That said, and because I’m going on vacation no time soon, I thought I might escape here, by escaping here on this blog. I figure I’ll do a guide for a few cities (In Italy I’ve visited: Venice, Bologna, Cinque Terra, Florence, Siena, San Gimiano, Rome, Naples, Portofino, Positano, and Capri)  so when I’m ready to plan an escape I can check back with these travel posts and see what suggestions people make in the discussion section.

My friend Leigha, with whom I just stayed in West Hollywood, lived in Florence and recommends some of these. Others are from me, from my last trip to Florence, where I stayed at The Excelsior with Smelly. I’ll need to ask my step-sister Amanda when I have the chance. She too did the whole semester abroad thing–where she learned to cook! But where I think she mostly just shopped at the Prada Outlet (But NEVER on a weekend–oh, the hell). The thing is, you need to know who you’re asking. You don’t want to ask someone where to eat in Italy who’ll actually eat at the Olive Garden, anywhere.

Trattoria Quattro Leoni: Across the Arno, this is a must-stop for the pear ravioli. If you have to wait for a table, wait. There’s a scratch of a bar/corner store across the street. Have a glass, listen to the locals, and admire how well all their shit always seems to match, even when it doesn’t. Via de’Vellutini, 1r – Piazza della Passera

Principe1 La Giostra: Cavernous and candlelit, La Giostra isn’t much of a secret anymore, as there’s always a wait, despite your much needed reservations. Just start with a glass of spumanti, then move through all the courses, and you’ll be over it. This is the one place you’ll hear people recommend repeatedly. I’m not saying to go for the hype. Go for the zucchini carpaccio, the brie ravioli, the sea bass and the wine service… as “They do the best tableside wine presentation I’ve ever seen!”
Borgo Pinti 10r, Off Piazza Salvemini, Near Santa Croce

Acqua Al 2: It sucks that tourists are brought in by the busload here. There’s also now a location in… San Diego! I’d skip it, despite my sister raving about the port chicken.

Sostanza Trattoria Sostanza: This is it my friends. Sizzling thick golden chicken breasts, fried in butter, served in the skillet, as you dine at a long communal table practicing your Italian. Or, as I did, speaking English with an Italian accent. Or, there’s always the international language of love: food.

As I recall, you actually walk through a doorway strapped with hanging wooden beads. It felt like an Italian episode of Three’s Company. Except there were no misunderstandings, no fumbling chefs, and no women that even slightly resembled Chrissy Snow. All the same, it’s none the poorer for it. It makes for a toothsome visit, the kind you’ll never forget.
Closed in August. Via Porcellana 25r: Near Borgo Ognissanti, Santa Maria Novella.

Slowly Cafe: Get your drink on. Creative cocktails. Artistic, let’s get it on, vibe.

Roberto Cavalli’s Caffe Giacosa and Cavalli Club. I’m including this just to give people something to throw shit at.

A YEAR AGO: No One Likes Fat Girls
4 YEARS AGO: Shortcuts
5 YEARS AGO: Relax, Just a Sliver, If I Fall

Why we say Yes, when we mean No. Friendship edition.


  1. La Casalinga was my secret restaurant in florence, and i am proud to say days before my italian teacher recommended it. It was near some piazza or another – i am sorry, but i can't remember the exact adress – but it was on the other side of the river arno. the food was really good, the interior was shabby, the waitress autistic but nice in the end, it was like a city-guide-writer's dream. but still very good, though quite the clichè of the place nobody knows about. we had the perfect spaghetti vongole, the perfect tagliata, the perfect vin santo and the perfect porchetta. i don't know if anybody else will like it so much, but i know that this is the place i dream of when i sit in some random italian restaurant. When we came out, there was a girl playing cello outside. we wanted to give her money, but she refused and said she just wanted to pracitse.

  2. Nothing to do with Florence, but might I add… try going off the beaten path as far as travels are concerned? Absolutely no offense, but Italy is kind of cliched. Beautiful, but cliched. I lived abroad (in Prague, Czech Republic) for three years – and while I would never, ever, ever suggest Prague as a foodie retreat (they've got their own interesting cuisine, for sure, but um… well, I'll just leave it at that.) However, I was right smack in the middle of Europe for 3 years and got to travel a LOT and tended to avoid the obvious, usual places.

    One surprising find that I WOULD recommend to foodies? Turkey. One guidebook said that they actually rival the French, as far as cooking goes. I have to say, I raved and raved about everything I ate during my 10 days there. I stumbled upon a tiny little nothing cafe in Patara, called "The Lazy Frog." Tourist season had just started, and I wandered in their first day open. While eating, I saw the owner come in with an ARMFUL of fat, bright green beans and I said how lovely they looked, that I just didn't get to see vegetables like that in Prague anymore. He said, "You want?" and came out 20 minutes later, with a plateful of fat greenbeans sauteed in olive oil and some kind of pepper – and for a plate of beans, it was incredible and memorable. (I still talk about it 4 years later.) Turkey's restaurants use FRESH food, the flavors are astounding, and the culture is fascinating. Sure, it's not as "glamorous" as you might like, but true travel is not about glamour. It's about experience and adventure and, to me, trying something new. (And btw, Turkey is ABSOLUTELY, positively a safe place to be.) And as far as food goes… well, isn't true foodi-ness about going off the beaten path and trying new things, too?

    Istanbul is obvious, but head South to Patara, Fethiye, etc – there's the Blue Lagoon, too, which is a much see, and Butterfly Valley. I'm dying to get back – we're expecting our first baby soon, and Turkey is high on the list of places s/he'll be going with us first!

  3. This doesn't have much to do with the post but I've been trying to patiently wait for your response when others have asked, so I know I am sounding like a broken record, but what's the word on the pilot?

  4. Love what you did with your photo. I just saved it and used it as my desktop image. I also love this category and look forward to your other posts like this for different cities.

  5. Stephanie, your timing could not have been more perfect with this. I am in the midst of planning a trip to Italy right now. I can’t wait to read all of the posts, and subsequently try out all of the suggestions.


  6. Well, for a start I would ask the locals where they eat, not other tourists. Stop someone on a bicycle and ask where they like to go. (OK, you won't find many bicycles here in Pos, but in most Italian cities you will!)

  7. I would hardly call myself a foodie (as I'm not afraid to eat at the Olive Garden every once in a while) but I do love this post! If I do end up planning a trip to Florence in the near future I will take some of these suggestions.

    Also, I love the image you posted. I didn't pay attention to the text at first but once I noticed it, I laughed!

  8. I still think about my blueberry steak at Acqua Al Due. My husband and I are both foodies and I reviewed every restaurant we ate in on our last trip to Italy: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/540987

    Bottega del 30 was the best restaurant I've ever been in my life. Completely worth the trip to Chianti region. And people say Venice had bad food but I loved the two restaurants we visited (which I found on Chowhound, which has been my most favorite food resource).

    We LOVED the outlets near Florence, but not the stand-alone Prada outlet (thought it was overpriced compared to the Prada outlet at "the mall" there).

    I am dying to go back, maybe this summer…

  9. More on topic :) bc like everyone else, I TOO went abroad to Florence…

    Hemingway (Cafe) is across the Arno river and has the best Italian hot chocolate. It is literally like a melted hershey bar, pure thick drinkable goodness!

    Baldivino near Sana Croce is phenomenal.

    I Ghibellini for pizza (and just about anything else)

    There is a little semi unknown restaurant inside this massive one stop market warehouse which is fantastic. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name! (But I obviously remember the meal)

    Antico Noe for amazing lunch sandwiches

    What I wouldn't give to go back to Firenze…too bad I'm still trying to loose the 20 pounds I put on there 5 years ago :)

  10. AMAZING photo/caption…I have never been to Florence, but know I will most likely eat carbs almost exclusively there when I visit. que sera sera….

  11. I think there are more horny, cheap wine-fueled American college students swaying up and down the streets of Florence then there are Italians (at least that's what it felt like when I visited my friend when he studied there). We took a bottle of his papa's wine from Palermo with food bought at the market and ate on a bench people watching. No Michelin star, but it hit the spot.

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