Would you believe that as soon as I dumped my bags at the hotel and yelled at Alitalia, I ran out into the streets of Florence determined to eat. Typing this now, I’m pining for a green juice as I’ve never eaten so much pasta, focaccia, gelato, and parma ham in a span of three days. Imagine the moment when I set eyes on a chicken breast — I nearly cried. Don’t get me wrong, a woman loves her crudo with the best of them, but I am longing for some virtue. Or for my Tracy Anderson DVDs to arrive in Florence. THANKS, ALITALIA!
But onward! When traveling to Florence, elastic is highly recommended. Leggings, yoga pants, anything that will refrain from reminding you that no sane person should be eating gelato at EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL. or BEFORE. AND. AFTER. MEALS. (read: me). I first hit up Venchi, home to artisanal chocolate since 1878. From the cocoa-topped, feather-light cappuccinos to the whipped dark chocolate gelatos to the rows of wrap individual chocolates, you will want to bathe in nougat. Spy on the robust outdoor leather market from the upstairs nook, whilst sipping your coffee.
Since it was a few scant hours since my last gelato fix, I decided to hop into Coronas Cafe. Located near the Duomo, you’ll find unexpected flavors (figs, passionfruit, coconut creme, mandarine, meringue) along with the usual suspects, and the price is pretty favorable for an ice cream that was creamy, light, luscious and flavorful. The space is open + colorful, and if you’re not keen on cones and sweets, swing by the other side for a bevy of mortadella sarnis, crudos, sandwiches, cookies, cornettos and other Florentine delights. You won’t be disappointed, and since it’s been a few hours since my last gelato, I might slip out after writing this post and tuck myself in an alleyway with some passionfruit. Consider me addicted.
Usually I eschew all eateries recommended by hotels, as they’re often in financial cahoots, leaving me with tepid greens, suspicious lighting, and an outrageous bill. However, everyone in the free world has raved about my hotel, which I quite like save for the odd smell in the lobby (for another time, friends), so I decided to break my cardinal rule and ferret out recommendations from the concierge. And I’m glad I did, for Caffe Pitti was an exquisite pick. Steps away from the Ponte Vecchio and located on the Palazzo Pitti, the restaurant offers traditional Florentine dishes with a touch of creativity. Their quite known for their truffles from the natural reserve of San Miniato, a true rarity which highlights Pitti as the one and only place where each dish assumes an extraordinary depth. For fifteen euros, I enjoyed a delicious primi of pesto and perhaps the best chicken I’ve had in years. Soaked in lemon and butter, the breast was tender, falling apart, and begged to be consumed, voraciously. And if you’re not keen on a full-on meal, you can opt to order a DIY sandwich from Botteghina, where you can sample local cheeses and meats from the region — all on fresh focaccia.
Are you surprised that I found a cookie? I stumbled upon Migone, an old-school sweets shop located near the Duomo. Although the prices are steep (I spent $40 for these cookies + a few packages of homemade chocolates), the confections are decadent. You’ll find traditional Florentine sweets including panforte, ricciarelli and cantuccini, as well as delightfully packaged chocolates and candied sweets. Well worth a visit, albeit an expensive one.
Finally, a former coworker informed me of a sandwich spot I would’ve surely missed: All’Antico Vinaio. If you’re aching for a spot that is purely patroned by the locals, this is it. It’s a proverbial shoebox joint, with a great wine list and a terrific selection of fresh meats and local cheeses. The bread, my friends, is FUCKING OUTSTANDING. I stood outside the eatery and devoured my sandwich. Did I mention that the bread was WARM and YIELDING. I will definitely be back for more.
Would you believe this is only my first day? Clearly I’ll need some Crisco to make it through customs at JFK.