Once upon a time, if you asked the average Florentine waiter for a meat-free meal and then took issue with the bits of pancetta in your greens, you’d hear something like, “That’s not meat, it’s flavor”. Completely devoid of the sarcasm you might assume would accompany such a retort.
Yes, Florence loves its carne. But these days, the number of vegetarian restaurants in Florence (not to mention the vegan restaurants!) means you may never have to have uncomfortable conversations with waiters again.
In fact, since so much of modern Tuscan cuisine has roots in peasant cooking (when meat was too expensive for most people to have regularly), there are some traditional Tuscan dishes — dishes you’ll find at restaurants all over Florence — that are inherently vegetarian.
Two hearty soups, ribollita and pappa al pomodoro, are perfect examples of this. The former combines vegetables and stale bread (as a thickener) with white beans. While the latter is a cozy tomato soup that also uses stale bread to make it thicker.
Vegetarian dining in Florence isn’t just about humble fare, though, as any pasta dish topped with delicate shavings of Tuscan truffles demonstrates.
Of course, at most Florentine restaurants, you may still need to confirm that, for instance, the soups are being made with vegetable stock instead of meat-based stock. This is why some diners may prefer to seek out the truly vegetarian eateries in the Tuscan capital.
And, speaking of vegan restaurants, our list of Florence’s top vegan restaurants features five places that we opted not to include below. So, combining the two lists means your dining options are even more extensive.
Florence’s first vegetarian restaurant, Il Vegetariano has been delighting diners since it opened in 1981. Not only is the menu entirely vegetarian, but dishes are also made with “zero kilometer ingredients.” Il Vegetariano serves lunch and dinner (depending on the day), and its menu changes daily. It’s a favorite among locals, with a casual order-at-the-counter atmosphere that’s extremely budget-friendly.
Veg e Veg
Florence’s Mercato Centrale is a bustling indoor market that foodies love, particularly when it’s time for lunch. The market’s top floor is essentially one of the best food courts you’ve ever been to — and Veg e Veg is the market’s all-vegetarian spot. They’re well-known for their trio of decadent veggie burgers, and they have a space in Rome’s Mercato Centrale, too.
L’OV (Osteria Vegetariana)
The all-vegetarian Osteria Vegetariana (Piazza del Carmine, 4 R), frequently called, simply, “L’OV”, was started by the owners of Florence’s Quinoa restaurant. The latter isn’t totally vegetarian, though both restaurants are also 100% gluten-free. The menu at L’OV, which serves lunch and dinner (depending on the day) in the trendy Oltrarno neighborhood, features vegetarian takes on typical Tuscan dishes.
La Raccolta Bioristorante
La Raccolta (Via Giacomo Leopardi, 2 R) began as an organic market, with its restaurant opening in 2002. The dining experience gets increasingly formal throughout the day. From grabbing a pastry at the bar for breakfast to having a sit-down lunch to enjoying an elegant multi-course dinner. The owner-chef periodically teaches cooking classes at La Raccolta, too. And the market is an excellent resource for organic Italian products to bring home.
The menu at 5eCinque brings the culinary traditions of Liguria to the heart of Tuscany for an utterly unique (and all-vegetarian) Florentine menu. There are Ligurian favorites like focaccia and pesto, both well-known “Italian food” ambassadors around the world, as well as the humble sandwich from which the restaurant takes its name: a chickpea-dough pancake between slices of focaccia. They’re open for lunch and dinner and closed on Mondays.
Note that if you have a food allergy or a combination of dietary restrictions, it may be worth getting an allergy translation card to carry in your wallet.
Jessica fell in love with Italy on her first visit and has been channeling that affection into Italy travel guides for more than 15 years. She especially loves the stories food can tell us about a place. Living in often-rainy Portland, Oregon means Jessica is often in the mood for a steaming bowl of Tuscan ribollita. When not writing, she’s probably knitting.