Are you getting hungry thinking about Italian food? Tasty, reasonably priced, and accessible—visiting these cafes and restaurants can be worth your time and more when you're studying abroad in Florence. See what you can get for breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the city, read Avalon's recommendations!
From a cafe and croissant in the morning, to €5 panini, to fancy dinner places, I have a few recommendations that will make you not only filled with amazing Italian cuisine, but also feel engulfed with the culture.
Classes for me start usually at 9:00am, so a coffee in the morning is usually essential. There are many different cafes in Florence to try, and several right by CAPA itself. I live pretty close to the Duomo so I will typically find myself going to the cafes nearby on my way to class. One of my favorites is called John Borno. My favorite order on a chilly morning is a cafe latte with oat milk (yes, dairy-free options are available!) and a pistachio croissant. One of my favorite things about this place are the friendly employees. You can always count on them welcoming you with a friendly “ciao” followed by a smile. It’s always nice to have a friendly face on your way to an early morning class.
Caption: A café latte and a honey croissant for breakfast.
Another one of my favorites is on a corner right next to the Duomo. The place is called La Cattedrale. It’s a very cute coffee shop that also has many delicious pastries and snacks to choose from. I love coming here when I work on class work or just want a quiet place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. There is a top floor that has a gorgeous view of the Duomo that you can enjoy while sipping on your favorite drink.
Key Tip: How To Order Coffee in Italy
A key tip to know when getting coffee is to know exactly how to order it. It personally took a few times learning how to order here as it can be quite different than trying to order at a typical place like Starbucks. I’ve made the mistake of ordering a “latte” which of course only means milk when I meant a “cafe latte”, or ordering a “macchiato” to-go thinking it will be like a “caramel macchiato” I would typically order, when it ends up being just a shot of espresso with a bit of cream and I end up looking silly having to take a small dixie cup to-go.
When it comes to lunch, there are countless options of what to have and where to have them. My go-to meals I have for lunch typically include a panini, caprese, or a pizza if I'm really hungry.
There are many panini places that are absolutely delicious, but some stand out a bit more than others. A CAPA favorite is Panini Toscani, a small sandwich shop right by the Duomo. The panini are as incredible as the service. Right when my friends and I walked in, we were welcomed by the wonderful staff. One of the employees gave us a tasting of three different cheeses and three different meats before we decided exactly what we wanted on our panini. It was such a wonderful surprise to be able to taste test things before, to ensure we would be delighted in the end.
Caption: A vegetarian panini.
For caprese, I have to say one of my favorites is at Osteria de’ Peccatori. Caprese is delicious and refreshing to share as an appetizer or to have as a light salad. I love the delicious tomatoes Italy has to offer because they are the freshest and tastiest tomatoes I have ever had. Along with the local mozzarella cheese and basil topped with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic. The bonus part about this place is that students get a punch card for a free treat after ordering 10 different items, and 20% off every time they visit.
Caption: Fresh caprese salad.
Lastly, the pizza, an Italian classic. Gustapizza: You may have heard others recommend this place several times, but it truly is the best. My sister's friends that studied here years ago recommended trying this place and many of my peers have as well. I finally made my way over here for lunch one day and I was definitely not disappointed. There are many great options to choose from but my favorite is the Pesto, made with mozzarella, burrata cheese, olive oil, and pesto, of course. It’s unlike any other pizza I've had while I've been here! Another bonus is the fact you can get it in the shape of a heart, which is so cute!
I went to a place called Trattoria Dall’Oste while my family was visiting. It's in an alley only two streets away from Piazza della Repubblica. We were recommended this restaurant by a tour guide as he called it “the best restaurant in Florence.” We were of course intrigued and immediately got on the waitlist. We went around lunch time and there was a wait of about 40 minutes, but I recommend that if you plan to go here to make a reservation so there won't be any wait! As I said, we went during lunch hours, however, the next time I go, I will most likely go for dinner since it is more of a filling restaurant. Regardless, the restaurant was filled with many hungry people awaiting their soon-to-come delicious food. For our orders, we had the Formaggio misto Toscano, otherwise known as a mixed cheese plate. The cheeses included on this plate were some of the freshest cheese I have yet to taste here in Florence. They paired it with a lovely honey and apricot jam that complimented the cheese to perfection. Next, came our entrees. I went with the Ribollita Toscana, the vegetable soup with bread, and the rest of my family ordered the famous Florentine T-Bone steak. This restaurant is known for and proud of having the freshest steak you could possibly order in Florence. Since I do not eat meat, I can't give an in-depth review on how it was, but let me just say, my sister was chewing on the bone until it was gone due to how amazing it was. My ribollita was the best vegetable soup I have had so far in Florence! It was perfectly heated, perfectly portioned bread to soup wise, and perfectly tasty! I have tried several ribollita from restaurants, but this one definitely holds the cake for me!
Caption: Mixed fresh cheese plate.
Another restaurant I highly recommend trying is called Ristorante La Grotta Guelfa. It's a lovely restaurant with well-priced items that will allow you to enjoy a fine-dining experience without having to go too much over budget! I went with a group of 10, so we made a reservation to ensure we could get a table without waiting. They set us up in a very nice area upstairs near the back window. It was a small restaurant so tables were a little bit tight, but that didn't take away from our experience, if anything it felt even more Italian! Some decided to share the T-bone, while others went with a classic pasta dish. No matter what we got, each person was extremely satisfied with their meal. After dessert, our server even thanked us for coming by giving us a limoncello shot on the house! The service added to our amazing experience for sure!
One last shoutout I must recommend for an inexpensive and delicious restaurant to go to for dinner would have to be Osteria Santo Spirito. I was recommended to try the truffle gnocchi especially from this place and… wow. Now, I wasn't the biggest fan of truffles or gnocchi when I came to Italy, but they do something different here. Santo Spirito definitely knows what they were doing making this dish and for only a few euros too. This place is a must when it comes to eating delicious food, without breaking the bank.
Caption: The best truffle gnocchi!
Overall, I can honestly say I have rarely been disappointed with food here. I have tried many places so far and almost everything has been an over-the-top experience. The food is always local and as fresh as it can be which completely changed the game for my taste buds that aren't always used to that in the States. I could go on forever listing off places I recommend, but I hope some of my local favorites can help you decide on what to eat next! Buon appetito!
Recap of Restaurants to Visit in Florence
Ristorante La Grotta Guelfa
Osteria Santo Spirito
Avalon Aloia is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2022, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A strategic communications major from University of Colorado Boulder, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.
Avalon's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.