Located right behind the Uffizi Gallery but hidden enough not to draw crowds, ‘Ino is one of Florence’s most charming spots for a light lunch or afternoon aperitif; it’s open only from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. The wine list is local and lovely, and you can order cheese and meat plates, sandwiches made with homemade focaccia, and extensive offerings of wines by the glass. “’Ino serves the best panini in Italy,” says Florence local Alessandro Grassi.
This tiny, mostly vegetarian café in Piazza della Passera, one of the Oltrarno neighborhood’s loveliest and liveliest, has an eclectic menu with an international twist, with dishes like chickpea croquettes served with a light, delicious yogurt sauce and seasonal vegetables dressed with sesame oil. Another very Italian chickpea declination is the dish after which the restaurant is named: in the port town of Livorno in the 1930s, when the cost of both bread and a traditional chickpea flour fritter was 5 cents, a customer who wanted both would ask for “5 of fritter and 5 of bread.” Be sure to order the cecina, this delicious chickpea incarnation.
Florence is a city better known for its cultural venues than for great restaurants (many places cater to the tourist and study-abroad crowds). A wonderful exception is Alle Murate, which combines art and refined cuisine in one of Italy’s most unique restaurant settings. The Palazzo dell’Arte dei Giudici e Notai, a former fourteenth-century guildhall, has walls that are covered in well-preserved frescoes. Chef (she prefers the title of cook) Giovanna Iorio is all about simple, seasonal foods, and dishes might include a grilled mackerel fillet with mixed vegetables, pigeon stuffed with pine nuts and raisins and for dessert, a warm cheesecake with yogurt and lemon cream. Before or after the meal, you should take the guided tour (available in English), which leads you through the candlelit space, explaining everything from the ceiling frescoes all the way down to the ancient foundations.
Tucked behind Lungarno in a quiet piazza, Amblé represents a new generation of Florentine businesses that are devoted to attracting a stylish, local crowd. Here, the bar/café offers fresh juices, sandwiches and cocktails throughout the days. It doubles as a vintage store; everything you see from club chairs to 1950s bikes are for sale. Stop by for an aperitivo and try not to be tempted to buy the whole collection.
Atelier de' Nerli
Atelier de' Nerli is one of many neighborhood restaurants in Florence that specializes in traditional Tuscan cuisine.
Borgo San Jacopo
If you are looking for a romantic table a due, you won’t do better than one of Borgo San Jacopo's treasured two-tops on its small terrace overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. The food from star chef, Beatrice Segoni, especially the seafood, is also a major draw.
Bottega di Pasticerria
Florence insiders flock to Bottega for breakfast, when it turns out freshly baked cornetti, and for aperitivos, when it serves an excellent Aperol spritz that pairs beautifully with a meat and cheese plate. With its affordable prices and delicious eats, it’s no wonder this eatery is already a classic.
Burro e Acciughe
Italians love anchovies, so it’s unsurprising that the little fish inspired its own restaurant. Burro e Acciughe is also known for its chic design, vintage furniture and handsome wait staff.
Caffè degli Artigiani
Within walking distance to the Palazzo Pitti, Artigiani resembles a Tuscan country house and serves meals throughout the day. The extremely sensible prices make it a favorite with locals. Expect fresh salads and sandwiches, as well as daily specials like pappa al pomodoro.
Caffetteria delle Oblate
A total insider spot normally overrun by students, this café of the public library, Biblioteca delle Oblate has one of Florence’s best perches from which to view the famous cupola. Situated in a Renaissance palazzo that dates to the late 13th century, the Biblioteca has become a favorite hangout; it’s one of the few places that’s open late (until midnight every day), offers free Wi-Fi and features a serene setting around a green courtyard. But visitors who enjoy blending with a local scene should seek out the Caffetteria delle Oblate on the top floor, housed in a glass-enclosed room with colorful chairs and tables, as well as stunning views of the Duomo. There are nightly aperitifs, special events like music performances and readings, plus a light menu throughout the day. If you are touring the Duomo area and need a local spot for a quick break away from the crowds, the Caffetteria delle Oblate is a fabulous option.
Cantinetta dei Verrazzano
Cantinetta dei Verrazzano has one of the best wine selections in town, served with many, many choices of cheese and delicious focaccia combos, like pear with pecorino and truffle honey.
Within walking distance of the Duomo, this favorite gelateria is owned by a Sicilian couple that imports some of their ingredients from their native island, making almond, pistachio and hazelnut particularly good choices.
This acclaimed restaurant is part of restaurateur Fabio Picchi’s empire in the historic center (he also owns Il Teatro del Sale). Soups, seafood and vegetable dishes shine here (the menu does not include any pasta dishes). Cibrèo is recommended by several Indagare insiders.
The fabulous people watching and extensive wine list (the owners also own vineyards in Chianti) make this restaurant–cum–wine bar, located on the buzzy Piazza della Repubblica, a great place for an aperitivo. Drinks come with a host of delicious small-dish plates, including, on a recent trip, grilled chicken and polenta.
This bistro-chic restaurant on a quiet street just behind the Duomo offers classic, deliciously prepared, interesting Italian food. The mixed antipasto platter and the desserts are divine, and the exquisite pasta dishes change with the seasons. Diners should keep in mind that primi piatti are the specialty here, and there are very few meat dishes on the menu. They also have a fantastic wine list—if you’re unsure, ask the well-versed wait staff for suggestions.
Desinare’s Chef’s Table
The coolest new cooking school in Italy opened in 2014 and is located within the atelier of fabulously Tuscan home of interiors designer Riccardo Barthel, who organizes exclusive private dinners with their incredibly talented chefs. Menus, with paired wines, are personalized for each group, for whom Desinare becomes a shabby chic private dining room. In warm-weather months, guests can choose to dine either inside at the gorgeous Chef’s Table annexed directly off the kitchen, or on the lovely terrace overlooking the warren of artisans’ workshops located around the courtyard below. To top off the charm, jasmine blooms here from spring until fall.
It may sound strange to go to a restaurant known for hamburgers while in Florence, but Drogheria, opened in 2012, belongs to a new generation of contemporary-cool restaurants that remain rarities in the Tuscan capital. The hipster black-and-white décor would not be out of place in Brooklyn and the crowd is young, fun and beautiful. The restaurant is a ten-minute walk from the Four Seasons Florence.
A great spot for a pre- or post-dinner drink, Enoteca Bellini is a tiny wine bar with an excellent by the glass and bottle list. Small bites that pair perfectly with wine are also available. Be prepared for a wait for a table.
The three-Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri is a grand experience with a bevy of servers per table and an avant-garde nine-course tasting menu. The iconic spot has earned a place on several “World’s Best” lists thanks to decadent dishes like an artful fusilli al ferretto with shellfish and a tender, succulent roast pigeon—however, the wine is the real highlight here as the restaurant has the second biggest wine cellar in Europe. The upscale spot is perfect for a big night out.
Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina
In the Oltarno, this is a great little wine bar across the piazza from the Pitti Palace. They do wine tastings (mainly Tuscan wines from the best producers and you can also buy the bottles here), but they also serve small plates of food to pair with the wine, and you can make an evening of it if you don’t want a big restaurant-type meal.
Helmed by rising chef Simone Cipriani and open since late 2016, Essenziale is already exciting Michelin-star buzz. The cuisine consists of Florentine classics with a twist: baccala comes with cacio (pecorino cheese) and pepe (pepper), and the “comfort spaghetti” mixes anchovies, chicken liver and raspberry. The Sunday brunch has become a city favorite, but the sexy space is just as perfect for a romantic tête-à-tête.