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.
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.
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.
Since opening in 2008, the main restaurant in the Four Seasons has been a mecca for foodies. Chef Vito Mollica is a pioneer in Italy’s slow-food movement (and has earned one Michelin star). The setting, inside a gloriously restored 15th-century palazzo, can feel a little formal, but Mollica’s focus on Tuscan classics keeps the whole thing grounded. During the summer months, book a table on the terrace.
La Leggenda dei Frati
A welcome addition (in 2015) to the dining scene in Florence, this restaurant offers exquisite cuisine with a view to match. Located in the gorgeous Villa Bardini, whose gardens rival those of Giardino di Boboli, the elegant eatery is situated on one of the loveliest and highest streets in all of Florence and offers spectacular views of the city skyline (which diners can enjoy from the terrace in warm weather months). The food, prepared by aptly named chef Filippo Saporito (“saporito” literally translates to “tasty”), is a modern take on traditional Italian classics and prepared to utter perfection. A must-try is the breaded soft-boiled egg served with asparagus and a pecorino cheese fondue. Also not to be missed are the desserts prepared by Filippo’s wife, Ombretta, a talented pastry chef.
Located fifteen minutes outside the city center, Villa San Michele’s renowned al fresco restaurant offers one of the most spectacular views of Florence. Arrive before sunset for an aperitivo in the garden and live piano music. Move onto the dining room where elegant waiters service a mix of couples and families who dine on elevated Tuscan classics. Open Daily.
Osteria del Pavone
Located within walking distance from Florence's top sights, Osteria del Pavone is perfect for a romantic night out. The dishes are presented with a delicate artistry, and the atmosphere feels tranquil and elegant. We recommend pairing the fresh mushroom salad with an inventive onion flan.
Sesto on Arno
Located on the rooftop of the Westin Excelsior, Sesto on Arno offers a 360-degree view of Florence through the glass windows that surround the entire space. Patrons can also appreciate the view from the wraparound terrace outside. Young and talented chef Entiana Osmenzeza has cooked with René Redzepi at famed Noma. Her exquisite culinary creations are clearly influenced by international experience while still remaining intrinsically Italian and exclusively seasonal. Patrons can also enjoy cocktails at the chic bar situated next to the restaurant.
Winter Garden by Caino
The Winter Garden at the St. Regis was recently awarded its own Michelin star thanks to the guidance of chef Valeria Piccini, of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Da Caino in Montemerano. Valeria Piccini brings exquisite refinement to the great culinary tradition of Tuscany, and her creations can best be described as haute but authentic cuisine. Menu classics include tortelli stuffed with Cinta Senese pork, pappardelle accoppate—two sheets of fresh pasta stuffed with aged pecorino cheese—and a beautiful roasted lamb with artichokes in the spring. Another menu treat is the incredible olive oil that Valeria and her husband produce in their hometown of Montemerano. The wine list is extensive, and the sommelier has vast knowledge that he loves to share with diners, always offering perfect recommendations.