We have a piece of advice for you on the day your ship arrives in Livorno, the port that gets you closest to Florence: Don’t eat breakfast on the ship.
This Tuscan city has birthed a number of delectable foods and beverages and you’ll want an empty stomach so you can sample as much during your stay. For sweet freaks, savor some gelato or cantuccini. Prefer an adult beverage? The Negroni is the city’s own cocktail and Chianti is the wine that made this area famous (among other things). At lunch you can find everything from traditional soups and homemade pastas to sizzling beef dishes.
Here are 10 delicious diversions you must sample the next time you’re in Florence, at the heart of Tuscany.
When in Florence, there is no lack of bars and lounges that serve the city’s signature aperitivo: the Negroni. One part gin, one part sweet red vermouth, and one part Campari is served in an Old Fashioned glass over chipped ice and garnished with orange peel. The refreshing drink is said to have been developed by Count Camillo Negroni in 1919 when he wanted a more potent version of the Americano, a popular cocktail of the day.
Where to Find a Negroni Cocktail: Sample this aperitivo where it was first created at Caffè Giacosa (Via della Spada 10/r).
Nearby Landmarks: A few blocks from the Piazza della Repubblica
Florence is known for its Tuscan wines, especially Chianti Classico. Visit a wine bar to order a glass of this medium red wine made primarily from purple Sangiovese grapes, or enjoy a complete tasting of the wines of the region that also include Brunello di Montalcino, Pomino Vin Santo, or Ornellaia.
Where to Find Chianti Classico: Sample several Chiantis at Dondino Wine Bar (Piazza di Santa Croce, 6/red).
Nearby Landmarks: Located in the same square as the Basilica di Santa Croce
There is nothing as comforting as a hearty hot bowl of pici, a thick hand-rolled spaghetti that’s made with flour rather than semolina. While it’s a specialty of the Tuscan countryside, it can be found readily on menus throughout Florence. The choice of sauce differs depending on the chef and restaurant but you can expect anything from a straight-ahead red sauce to a ragu made of duck, beef or even wild boar.
Where to Find Pici: You can sample this dish at Coquinarius (Via delle Oche, 11/r).
Nearby Landmarks: Located just one block from the iconic Duomo – Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
You may assume that while you’re in Italy, you’ll eat nothing but pasta. Oh contrare! Try bistecca Florentina (steak Florentine), which is a porterhouse steak cut thick (1 to 3 inches) and grilled over a wood fire. The meat should have a golden crust but rare in the middle. A true bistecca Florentina is prepared using high-quality Chianina beef raised in the nearby Chiana Valley. Be forewarned that this is a big meal and is generally meant to be shared by two people so don’t dive in thinking you’ll eat every last bit by yourself.
Where to Find Bistecca Florentina: Order this at Trattoria Mamma Gina (Borgo San Jacopo, 37/red) or (Piazza San Lorenzo, 8/r).
Nearby Landmarks: Near the famous Ponte Vecchio or the Basilica de San Lorenzo
Soup fans everywhere rejoice in the hearty Tuscan dish called ribollita meaning reboiled or twice-cooked. There are many ways to make this soup but it always contains vegetables like cabbage, chard, kale, onion, and carrot; cannellini beans; and day-old bread.
Where to Find Ribollita: Have a bowl at Trattoria Antichi Cancelli (Faenza 73/r)
Nearby Landmark: Right near the Duomo.
If you liked the idea of a bowl of ribollita but were hoping for something tomato-based, try pappa al pomodoro. Like ribollita, this thick Tuscan soup is made with bread but also contains tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil, and olive oil.
Where to Find Pappa al Pomodoro: Trattoria 4 Leoni (Via de’Vellutini, 1/r at Piazza della Passera) services this dish.
Nearby Landmark: Just a few blocks from the Ponte Vecchio
Don’t bother looking at the menu and instead order the signature dish, petti di pollo al burro, which is also known simply as butter chicken. The chef starts this dish by grilling chicken breasts. Once browned, the poultry is taken off the heat, dipped in flour and then egg and placed in a small pan with a stick of melted butter. The dish is finished over a bed of smoldering coals. (We said this dish would be delicious, not healthy.) The chicken arrives piping hot and sizzling to your table.
Where to Find Petti di Pollo al Burro: Head to Sostanza (Via del Porcellana, 25/r), a trattoria that’s been in business since 1869.
Nearby Landmarks: Located just a few blocks from the Piazza Santa Maria Novella – a great place to walk around after this delicious meal.
Locals may line up for this simple Florentine peasant dish but this dish is especially good for the adventurous types. Lampredotto is a sandwich made with tripe, otherwise known as cow stomach. The meat is cooked in water with tomato, parsley, celery, and onion and then served on a crusty roll that’s been dipped in the cooking broth. Diners then dress their sandwich with their choice of salt and pepper, a parsley sauce, or a hot chili sauce.
Where to Find Lampredotto: If you’d like to give this a go, visit Sergio Pollini Lampredotto, an outdoor food cart, at Via de’Macci, angolo con Borgo la Croce.
Nearby Landmark: Located one block northwest of Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, which is the site of one of Florence’s most famous indoor/outdoor markets: Sant’Ambrogio.
A popular dessert in the city consists of twice-baked crisp almond biscotti that are meant to be dipped into a glass of sweet Tuscan dessert wine before being consumed. This dessert is the perfect digestif after a large and satisfying Italian dinner (or lunch).
Where to Find Cantuccini and Vin Santo: Buy some of these habit-forming cookies to take home with you at Il Cantuccio di San Lorenzo (Via Sant’Antonino, 23/r).
Nearby Landmark: This place is located within walking distance of the Duomo and the Galleria dell’Accademia (museum where the statue of David is housed)
When you feel like a frozen treat on a hot day in Italy, look for signs touting “gelato.” That’s simply the name for ice cream made in the Italian style using milk, some cream, sugar and then mixed with fruit or nut purees. Gelato feels smoother and lighter on the tongue than the American version but you’ll have to sample some yourself to determine if you prefer gelato or ice cream.
Nearby Landmarks: La Carraia is in the Oltrarno quarter near the beautiful Santo Spirto church; Vivoli is a short walk from Piazza di Santa Croce.