Lunch in Italy is nothing less than a sacred affair. Learn how to do it like a local in the cradle of the Renaissance with our guide to the best lunch spots in Florence!
When you visit Florence, there’s a lot that draws your attention: the architecture, the Arno River, the vivacious locals, and the joyful atmosphere you’re suddenly immersed in.
But in this whirl of colors, people, sights, and sounds, as you walk magic-struck through the narrow alleys of the city center, you suddenly feel something. At first, it’s nothing more than a caress, but as you walk this distant sensation gradually becomes closer and stronger.
Have you guessed what it is? Its name is “hunger” and its response is “Italian food!”
Don’t be caught off guard in this delicate moment. Head to one of the best lunch spots in Florence, where you can combine food for your stomach with food for thought. Because here in Florence, as you’ll soon understand, food and culture go hand in hand.
Lunch in Florence: What to Know Before You Go
Now that you’ve started your treasure—or lunch—hunt, don’t forget to check your watch. Italians are very precise when it comes to food, so stick to the typical lunchtime of around 1 to 2 p.m.
Once you’ve got your timing right, it’s time to get to the good stuff. Read on for the best lunch spots in Florence, and learn what to eat no matter which one you choose!
The only hard-and-fast rule: be sure to save room for gelato.
Top 5 Spots for the Best Lunch in Florence (And What to Order at Each)
1. Palle d’Oro
If you want to taste genuine Florentine cuisine, your best bet is Palle d’Oro. Located near the Mercato di San Lorenzo (as well as the Basilica di San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapels), this warm, wood-accented restaurant offers a wide range of delicious traditional Florentine plates. Think everything from delicate pappa al pomodoro (typical Tuscan tomato soup) to the adventurous panino con lampredotto (a sandwich with vegetables, sauces and tripe)!
The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable, and you’ll soon feel right at home. Palle d’Oro is an inviting option both day and night, but heads up: it’s closed on Sunday.
2. Mercato Centrale
Just near Palle d’Oro, in the middle of the outdoor Mercato di San Lorenzo, you’ll easily spot Mercato Centrale. This is a proper food market where the best Italian (and Tuscan) cuisine emerges in the form of small, cozy restaurants (called botteghe, or “stores”).
Strolling through the Mercato Centrale, you’ll spot some typical mouthwatering dishes, such as a nice Florentine steak, pasta with truffles, innumerable versions of the famous panino col lampredotto, and the equally delicious schiacciata, a softer version of pizza native to Tuscany.
But if you’re still indecisive, Mercato Centrale can nevertheless offer the ideal quick (or slow) lunch you desire. From a traditional Italian pizza to fried food, from sushi to vegan and vegetarian dishes, Mercato Centrale is always a good idea!
3 & 4. I’ Girone de’ Ghiotti & Gustarium
If you happen to be close to the Musei del Bargello (or if you want to visit it after lunch), there are two worthwhile restaurants nearby—and both are on the same street! On Via dei Cimatori, you’ll find both I’ Girone de’ Ghiotti (Via dei Cimatori, 23) and Gustarium (Via dei Cimatori, 24r).
Both offer great pizza—we mean schiacchiata—and are ideal even for vegans and vegetarians. The menus are set, but that’s just to avoid you being spoiled for choice! In fact, you’ll still find a rich and colorful list of sandwiches and schiacciate, with practically every filling you can dream of—from traditional sliced cold cuts to inviting porchetta.
I’ Girone de’ Ghiotti and Gustarium are street food restaurants that will introduce you to the beauty of Italian fast-but-slow food. Combine their offerings with a good glass of wine (both spots have plenty of options), and your lunch break will taste like paradise.
5. I Fratellini
Another option on Via dei Cimatori that you really can’t miss is I Fratellini, a traditional Florentine tavern which has been serving amazing sandwiches to locals since 1875. Here you will find typical Tuscan deli-style bites, such as finocchiona (typical Tuscan salami flavored with fennel), lardo di Colonnata (a fatty cut of pork flavored with pepper, cumin, cilantro and rosemary), pecorino (typical sheep’s milk cheese) and boar salami, which will enrich your sandwich with a unique taste.
What to Drink at Lunch in Florence
If you find all these restaurants and dishes as mouthwatering as we do, you’re not alone. The only thing left to do is choose a drink to wash it all down with.
In all the above-mentioned restaurants, you’ll find a wide variety of wines and beers—the first being ideal for hearty traditional dishes, and the latter being the perfect match for lighter bites like schiacciata and sandwiches. However, don’t underestimate the poetic power of a cold beer paired with a platter of Tuscan charcuterie or a Florentine steak. Try it and you’ll be awestruck!
Silvia Valentini is a passionate writer, currently living in Rome but forever in love with her city of Florence and Italy in general. She loves reading, languages (she also works as a language teacher and as interpreter), music, books, going sightseeing (even in her own city), and food!