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Florence Sunset Duomo
Europe Florence Italy Travel Guide

Florence Travel Guide

The home of Renaissance art, centuries of rich history, incredible architecture, an abundance of gelaterias and some of the best food you’ll ever eat…you must be in Florence.  With endless museums, cracking sunset views over the city and winding streets with plenty of places for an Aperol pit stop every time the heat or the walking gets to be a little too much, the capital of Tuscany makes the perfect city break.

Europe Florence Food From Travels Italy

Gelateria Santa Trinita

When I’m sitting mid-way through a tedious work week, my patience being tried and tested more than should be normal on a day to day basis, my mind inevitably wanders to my travels. To where I’d rather be. We all do it, be it dreaming of lying in the sun on a beach somewhere tropical or breathing in mountain air in the French Alps. There are many places I’d like to be, but today it happens to be sitting under the shade of the Duomo in Florence, reading a book whilst sipping on an aperol spritz before deciding to wander down to the river in the late afternoon sun. I’d walk past Ponte Vecchio and along the Arno, crossing at Ponte Santa Trinita for this: gelato from the aptly named Gelateria Santa Trinita.

Flashback to September: word of mouth has spread, my bed and breakfast host Biagio sending me to join the locals and tourists alike to try some of the best Florentine gelato. Biagio never was wrong with his recommendations. Italy isn’t short of good gelato, but this place deserves to be written about and ventured to.

Gelateria Santa Trinita make fresh flavours every day, with up to 38 different flavours of gelato, sorbet and even ice cream cake in the busy summer months, and they are constantly dreaming up new innovative flavours to go alongside the universally loved classics. As ever when it comes to ice cream, narrowing down the flavours becomes a challenge – at least it does for me, as I’ll want at least six. One I almost never steer from is Stracciatella, probably because you never seem to get it in England much, and if you do it’s never as good as its European counterparts. Creamy vanilla flavoured with chocolate chunks in it, it’s the perfect accompaniment to something a little punchier. Today that flavour is their signature, the Santa Trinita; mascarpone gelato swirled with hazelnut chocolate – essentially, swirled with nutella. Yes. A thousand times yes.

I think it must be some sort of unwritten rule to eat your gelato whilst sitting on the bridge overlooking the famous Ponte Vecchio in the distance. On the day I ate the best gelato in Florence, the sun was setting on the other side of the bridge I sat on, the city swiftly becoming one of my favourite places in the world. And when you can buy gelato that good for a few euros, who could blame me?

Piazza Frescobaldi, 11/12 R, Firenze, Italy
+39 055 238 1130

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This should really be titled ‘The Day I Ate Like A King’. After eating one of the best lunches of my life in Florence, I ended up eating a beautiful meal at Konnubio on my way back to my bed and breakfast seven hours later, and that day will forever be known to me as the day I ate like a king.

Konnubio was a recommendation from a friend of mine who has also stated it was the best meal of her trip to Florence. It was almost an after thought, spoilt as you are for choice in such a city, and I decided that only if it was on my way home would I stop there for dinner. Luckily for me and my laziness, it was. As the manager organised a table for one in the busy restaurant, I was handed a complimentary glass of prosecco, and as anyone who knows me will know, this is a sure fire way to my heart. Even before looking at the menu properly, I was sold.

I settled on beef, having tired myself of so many pasta dishes over my time in Italy (it’s a tough life). Specifically, I ordered peppered beef muscle (€16) with an accompaniment of the Tuscan beans, cooked in sage, garlic, olive oil and tomato, (€5) after the waiter convinced me that these two dishes complimented each other very well and not to be boring and order fries. He brought me a beautiful glass of red wine (€6) whilst I waited for my meal and then a little after that, that Wednesday in September became The Day I Ate Like A King.

The beef muscle tender and melting in a Chianti sauce, the simple Italian flavours from the Tuscan beans and sage adding a whole other level of taste sensation, the red wine washing it all down – this was superb food from Konnubio. As is so often the story with me, my only regret is that I didn’t have enough room to explore the dessert menu, and instead had to practically roll myself home. In Florence you are truly spoilt for choice on good food and I have scribbles of untouched recommendations prime for my next visit, but I would find it difficult to not revisit Konnubio in favour of somewhere new. Arrivederci, as they say.

Via dei Conti, 8r, Firenze, Italy
+39 055 238 1189

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All’Antico Vinaio

Turns out Tuscans are quite into their sandwiches. English paninis are quite different though – an Italian panino (singular) won’t go anywhere near a toaster. Italians also don’t do paninis by halves. They are absolutely huge and you will have no chance of being hungry two hours after one of these for lunch. They also happen to cost around €5 a pop.

All’Antico Vinaio held TripAdvisor’s top spot for best restaurant in Florence during my time there, so I figured I had to give it a go. With the following five places also being taken by other panino shops, there is clearly strong competition and a lot of hype around the simple sandwich in Florence.

But these sandwiches are anything but simple. With a queue on each side of the street snaking away from All’Antico Vinaio’s two outposts in Via dei Neri, the Palazzo Vecchio tower overlooking the crowds, it’s instantly clear that a lot of people have been checking TripAdvisor for tips.

And this time, TripAdvisor gets it right. These sandwiches are definitely worth hunting down and queuing up for. The staff are full of that classic Italian energy; joking and flirting with customers as one of them chops up the last of what is their clearly very popular roast beef and throws it onto a tray with a hunk of bread for people to sample. Hands fight their way in and it’s gone within seconds (my hand was one of them and it really was very good). They bark at you for your order and it’s impossible not to feel the pressure, after all the queue is huge and full of customers with hungry eyes, and you want everything in the glass cabinet shoved into one sandwich. Thankfully All’Antico Vinaio have made things a little easier by listing their most popular paninis for struggling customers to choose from.

I went off book and chose a random selection of whatever looked good (it all looked good). I chose salami piccante, roasted peppers, aubergine, tomatoes, basil and what turned out to be the stand out for me – stracchino, a very soft and creamy cheese, smeared over the bread as a base to all the other ingredients, finally stuffed with rocket and drizzled with balsamic glaze. One of All’Antico Vinaio’s outposts is purely take away, the one opposite offers the opportunity to sit inside and eat. Although most opt to sit on the pavements of Via dei Neri, eating in concentration in a spot of Tuscan sun, there are advantages to opting for indoors. Namely that you can buy a glass of wine as an accompaniment for a mere €2, and pour it yourself from a selection of about four bottles on the counter.

Sadly I had a train to catch, so I ate my panino walking back through the centre of Florence in time to collect my luggage from my B&B for my journey to Milan, happily unaware of the dried balsamic on my chin for at least forty five minutes. It’s messy one but all the best sandwiches are.

Via dei Neri, 74/R, Firenze, Italy
+39 055 238 2723

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Antica Trattoria da Tito

“Do you know the difference between restaurant and trattoria?”
My wonderful B&B host Biagio instantly launched into an explanation, “a trattoria is owned by family. Local! Traditional Tuscan – is very delicious. Trattoria da Tito is one of the very best in Florence. Restaurant is just…restaurant.”

Antica Trattoria da Tito turned out to be about five doors down from my B&B on via San Gallo. It’s a quiet street, less than five minutes walk around the corner from the home of Michelangelo’s David and just over ten minutes from the city’s spectacular Duomo. It being so close, I figured perhaps Biagio was purely recommending the trattoria to help out his neighbours, and yet when I walk down around 8.45pm on a Tuesday evening there is a queue out of the door and a waiting list. Luckily it’s only a half an hour wait, so I grab a glass of red wine and wait my turn for a meal in what is quite clearly not a struggling business down a quiet Florentine street after all.

My wait over, I’m led to a table towards the back of this bustling restaurant, Hotel California acting as the soundtrack to the electric atmosphere. This is the kind of restaurant – or, forgive me – trattoria,  where they explicitly say on their menus not to ask for your meat to be cooked more: “WE DON’T DO IT!!!” And don’t even think about asking for a cappuccino. This is true Italian authenticity, both in the food, the atmosphere and the service. Don’t mess with it. And why would you want to? The staff all look like they’re having ridiculous amounts of fun as they rush around serving with bright smiles, squeezing between each other at high speed, sharing quick jokes on the move and cheering raucously when one of their colleagues smashes a tray of glasses. They remember your name and they pull you the other side of the bar to do large shots of limoncello at the end of the night, before making you promise to return.

Smug with my choice to act on Biagio’s recommendation, I settled in to enjoy the buzz of laughing patrons at the tables around me, ordering half a litre of Chianti for a mere €6. An order of the tomato and basil bruschetta (€6.00) arrived shortly afterward, and I can confirm with confidence that it’s one of the most delicious bruschettas I’ve ever had. It was just so fresh. The perfect starter.

Next up was the wild boar pappardelle (€12.00), freshly made that day, as it is every day at Tito’s. It was as good as you would expect pasta to be in Italy, the simplicity of the dish delivered at high quality. The steaks and other mains such as traditional ossobuco being delivered to their tables looked amazing too, though I just can’t handle the amount of food Italians eat in one sitting, to my true despair. Which I guess just means I have to go back someday, as I promised. What a chore.

Via S. Gallo, 112, 50129 Firenze, Italy

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Il Santino

Writing this at my desk with a shitty salad on the cards for lunch is essentially torture, for a mere week ago I ate one of the best lunches I have ever eaten. Also, I was in Florence, which is infinitely preferable to sitting at a cubicle in a skyscraper in East London.

A wine bar that essentially specialises in Tuscan tapas, Il Santino sits just past sister restaurant Il Santo Bevitore, which is much bigger but have heard just as good tales about. I was the first one in Il Santino (technically I was five minutes early, keen as I was) yet within ten minutes all four of the small tables inside the wine bar were taken. This is clearly a hot destination for locals as well as for tourists in the know, for the two couples sat next to me were Australian.

The menu is in Italian, though the friendly owner happily offered to explain it to me in English. After a brief run down of the range of crostones (or crostini) and tartars they had on offer, as well as an enticing gesture toward the cheese and meat display, I ordered the pecorino, pancetta and honey crostini and asked him to pull together a selection of meats and cheeses on a platter as well. Holy mother of God. That crostini  is one of the most delicious things I’ve tasted in Europe, let alone Italy. And it cost…six euros. Six. Less than five pounds for one of the best things I’ve tasted on the continent…or perhaps the world, actually, the more I think about it. Fresh, thickly sliced, lightly toasted bread with melted pecorino cheese and fine slices of pancetta, drizzled in light honey. I honestly cannot believe I’ve gone my whole life without adding honey to meat and cheese, because it was a revelation. It was one of those meals that I can still taste now, and suspect I will always be able to, like the ricotta and spinach ravioli in sage butter at my friend’s Tuscan wedding, or Dishoom’s lamb raan bun.

The meat and cheese selection (€11) was expertly picked and assembled for me, the meat slice fresh from large hunks of pig leg mere metres away and paired with a beautiful chutney I forgot to ask the name of (still kicking myself about it now). The wine (€6 a glass) was of course, fantastic, because Italy, and the service wonderful.

Il Santino is the perfect hideaway from the harsh Tuscan high summer sun, be it for lunch by yourself with only a book and several glasses of crisp Pinot Grigio for company, or with a friend or partner crowded closely around a small table, whiling away the hours. It is some kind of heaven, and I implore you to go and have one of the best lunches of your life there, too.

 Via di Santo Spirito, 60, Firenze FI, Italy
+39 055 230 2820

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