Living in Florence, in order to take full advantage of all the city has to offer, I have taken it upon myself to wander in the city. The best way to immerse oneself in Florence is to simply get lost. I always happen upon the best spots as I wander around. Not to mention, it helps you learn your way around the city better in case your phone dies (I speak from personal experience considering that my iPhone suffers from chronic battery draining). Below are ten of my favorite findings from my frequent wanderings.
A pastry and cappuccino are staples in the typical Italian’s morning. Ghibellina bakery caters to this exact need, with stacks of pastries to choose from- you can’t go wrong. My favorite pastry from them is a sweet crème filled pastry glazed with honey! Every time I go, the staff are always smiling and happy to help. Not to mention locals are always cycling in and out– a definite sign of a good pastry shop. The best part of all? All their morning pastries are only 1 euro, with a few exceptions. They are constantly making pastries based on the different holidays. During Mardi Gras, they make Cenci and Schiacciata alla Fiorentina. For Easter they make Colomba, a thick dove-shaped cake filled with candied orange peel, encrusted in sugar, and dotted with almonds. Tuscan Pan di Ramerino, traditionally made at Easter time, is another favorite of mine. It’s a bread knot filled with rosemary and golden raisins, covered in a thin sugar glaze—the perfect sweet and savory combo!
Cartebianca café is the next bakery I would highly recommend to anyone adventurous enough to get out of the city center. This café is located in Novoli, a neighborhood located northwest of the city center. It is easily reachable by the tram or bus 23. This place has wonderful pastries, their croissants specifically are my favorite. They never skimp on the filling. So much so, that every time I bite into a nutella or pistachio croissant I need about three napkins to keep myself from looking like a toddler stuffing their face. Not only are their pastries wonderful, but the entire café is white, hence the name Cartebianca. This makes for a nice work environment if you want to get some work done. I would spend several hours writing in my journal or reading here during the week.
Best People Watching:
After grabbing a pastry from Ghibellina bakery, take a short walk to Santa Croce Piazza for some quality people-watching. This has been one of my favorite piazzas to sit at simply because there is so much happening. In February, the week before Valentine’s, they have a pop-up chocolate market with chocolate covered waffles. About a week after this they hold an event called the Partita Dell’Assedio where they play a game from the 1500’s called Calcio Storico. This is a must-see while living in Florence. Not only is it a fantastic source of free entertainment, but it’s also a perfect way to immerse yourself in the local culture by cheering on the teams!
When Santa Croce isn’t busy hosting events, it is filled with tourists and merchants. Watching pushy merchants throw scarves around the necks of unsuspecting tourists provides a lot of entertainment in itself. If people watching isn’t your thing, but dogs are, this is still a perfect place for you- as there are always people bringing dogs for play-dates here. This is a street photographer’s playground. I find that by spending 2 hours here, I can come up with about 20 solid photos every time.
Best Nature Getaways:
Living in Florence is amazing in so many ways. However, many times I wish to get away from the bustle and escape to a quiet place that isn’t my room.
Pescaia di San Niccolo has been one of these places for me. It is a beautiful park by the Arno that not many tourists seem to stop by. This park has several trees, a quaint pathway, and lush grass. It is a great place to retreat and read a book, journal, or listen to a podcast. It is beautiful throughout the day, but it can also be the perfect place to view the sunset over the Arno. It doesn’t have a bird’s eye view like Piazzale Michelangelo, but the light bursts through the trees, coloring the entire park gold just before sunset. Directly across this park, on the other side of the Arno, there is a small beach area as well. So, depending on how you’re feeling that day, you can grab a towel and lay out by the river as well!
Santarosa Bistrot is another perfect getaway from the car horns and tourist scene of Florence. This café is across the Arno river, several bridges down from the Arno river. It is half café and half a restaurant. The thing that makes this place so special is that it has a garden connected to it. The garden, filled with trees, lawn chairs, and flowers makes you feel like you’ve stepped out of Florence and into a fairy wonderland. On a warm day, it would be easy to spend hours there soaking up the sun and listening to the birds sing from the trees- a nice change of pace from the cooing grey pigeons that infest the streets.
Floret café in LUISVIAROMA, while not necessarily nature related, is the perfect peaceful getaway for a coffee or brunch. This exclusive café is not well known to anyone who doesn’t already live in Florence. It is on the terrace of LUISVIAROMA and has couches, coffee tables, and greenery everywhere. If you are looking for a place to do a little self-care, this would be my first recommendation. Despite being located right next to the duomo, it is one of the most peaceful places I have been. The natural lighting, floral decorations, and greenery made all of my pinterest dreams come true.
Before coming to study abroad, I got constant comments about how I lucky I would be to get to eat so much gelato. They weren’t wrong. I have almost come to forget what life was like before the days when my gelato consumption was next to none. Luckily, I have had four months to test out the best gelato places around Florence. After many cones and cups, I have curated a top three list with details based upon three things: flavor, texture, and atmosphere.
La Carraia, if you have done any gelato research, is probably one of the top ones that pop up, and rightly so. They have two locations, one across the Arno river, and one near Santa Croce. My preferred shop is the one by Santa Croce simply because it is a much more intimate setting. The one on the other side of the Arno has a wider variety of flavors, but there is almost always a line. My favorite flavor is a lemon cream and cookies flavor which they only make on occasion, this is probably for my benefit since I would most definitely be there way too often if they had it consistently. This gelato is also ridiculously creamy. The way the mini gelato shovel slides across La Carraia’s gelato is incredibly satisfying.
La Strega Niccola, which directly translates to The Hazelnut Witch is just as amazing, only in a different way. This place has a variety of interesting flavors. My favorite combination is lavender and orange cream! I have a minor obsession with any and all things lavender, so the simple fact that this gelateria offers lavender ice cream had me sold. I have also become convinced that they have the best pistachio gelato in all of Florence. If these flavors aren’t your style, the lady behind the counter will normally let you sample as many flavors as you want before choosing; a rarity in the world of gelaterias where they normally only let you sample one flavor. This shop has an open layout with no seating, but walking while eating gelato helps to cancel out all the calories anyway.
Gelateria de Neri, not to be outdone by the others, is also a fantastic option. This gelateria resides just down the street from All’ Antico Vinaio, an incredibly popular panino shop with sandwiches as big as your face. This was the first gelato place I tried in Florence, and I’m glad it was. They have classic gelato flavors from straticellia, hazelnut, pistachio, and amaretto. My favorite one in definitely their tiramisu, though. They place a layer of real ladyfingers on top of the gelato so that you get an actual taste of tiramisu with it. Their portions are also quite generous, so you won’t ever be disappointed if you’re looking for some classic gelato. They have several small tables to sit at which make a it a nice place for gelato and hanging out.
You can’t visit Italy without indulging in some quality pizza. Since Italians look upon pineapple pizza with shame and disgust, I had to try and find a new favorite pizza. Despite the challenge of trying to find a place that would one-up my favorite type of pizza, I believe that I have successfully done so.
Pizzeria O’Vesuvio located close to pPiazza della Republicca is an unassuming shop with the pizza kitchen right in the middle. The owners of the restaurant hail from Naples, the origin of pizza, so they know what they are doing when it comes to pizza! If you have gotten tired of the classic margherita pizza and are looking to shake things up, they have a variety of pizzas you won’t want to miss! My top two go-to pizzas are La Zucca and Emiliana. La Zucca has a pumpkin stuffed crust, mozzarella, gorgonzola, and bacon and even if it isn’t fall time, you won’t regret getting this pizza. The Emiliana is my personal favorite with gorgonzola, honey and walnut. It sounds like a strange combination, but I think I fell in love even more with Florence after eating this pizza.
While these have been favorite places of mine during my time here in Florence, if have enough time, I highly recommend that you seek out some other places yourself. The most important thing I have learned while living here is leaving the itinerary behind. Stop planning to go to the sandwich shop across the street everyday. Instead, put on your walking shoes and start down a street until you reach the end of it. Take in the classic sights of the shirts on the clotheline swaying in the breeze, or notice how the morning light only illuminates certain streets, while it leaves others in darkness. Follow the smell of warm pastries. Stay alert to new possibilities and friendships; Italians are some of the friendliest people and if you let them, they can be the best tour guides you’ll ever have. Some of my best friends are two waiters I met at the beginning of the year simply because I said hello every time I walked by.
Ghibellina Forno Pasticceria Bakery: Via Ghibellina, 41, 50122 Firenze FI
Cartebianca Cafe: Via Panciatichi, 49, 50127 Firenze FI
Santa Croche Piazza: Piazza di Santa Croce, 16, 50122 Firenze FI
Pescaia di San Niccolo: Lungarno della Zecca Vecchia, 15, 50122 Firenze FI
Santa Rosa Bistrot: Lungarno di Santa Rosa, 50142 Firenze FI
Floret Café: Via Roma, 19/21, 50123 Firenze FI
La Carriaia: Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25 / r, 50124 Florence FI
La Strega Niccola: Via de’ Bardi, 51/red, 50125 Firenze FI
Gelateria De’ Neri: Via dei Neri, 9, 50122 Firenze FI
Pizzeria O’Vesuvio: Via dei Cimatori, 21r, 50122 Florence FI
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