Florence Like a Local: How to Stay Off the Beaten Track
By Jade Cheli
1. Cheap eats
Whilst you can’t go wrong with a world-famous All’Antico Vinaio panino, if you’re on the hunt for a more authentic Italian dining experience that won’t break the bank, you must try Osteria dei Centopoveri for their lunchtime deal… 10€ for a starter, main, water, ¼ carafe of wine and bread — and they don’t skip on the quality!
2. The best views
Everyone recognises the classic Florentine skyscape from Piazzale Michelangelo and Giardini delle Rose (always worth a visit!) but if you fancy a more local view of the city, splash out on a cocktail from La Loggia in Santo Spirito whilst admiring traditional Tuscan terraces and hills, or push yourself just a little bit further past Piazzale Michelangelo to the even better view from Basilica San Miniato al Monte.
Sit on the steps of the Chiesa di Santo Spirito and watch how this little piazza comes alive in the evening, drinking, dancing, and soaking up that evening light, an unmissable Florentine experience. However, if you crave something a bit more local Borgo Pinti and Borgo La Croce on the other side of town are where you’ll meet true Florentines. Head to a vino sfuso (quite literally wine on tap), such as Bacco Nudo, for a top-quality, local bottle of wine.
Just before Bellosguardo, you will find Alla Vecchia Bettola, the perfect Tuscan dinner experience, far from the tourist crowds. Their iconic pasta alla vecchia bettola (penne alla vodka) is an experience in itself, washed down smoothly with a refillable bottle of Chianti. Tamerò pizzeria serves the best pizzas accompanied by live music in one of Florence’s most bustling piazzas.
Sant’Ambrogio Market serves possibly the best selection of meats, cheeses, and pasta ripieni — go early on a Sunday to also get the best deals on clothes, vintage bags, and designer shoes. Similarly, Sundays in Santo Spirito can be enjoyed browsing an impeccable array of vintage homeware and funky finds.
Florence is a city full of artisan shops and craftsmanship. Its many vintage shops (my fave being Street Doing) may err on the pricey side, however, the Oltrarno area is full of beautiful Murano glass and silver jewellery shops. Or go to Todo Modo, an independent library and bookshop for a quick browse.
Maybe you have already ticked off the Uffizi, Accademia Gallery and others and you’re looking for something else, or maybe you just can’t hack the summer queues. Either way, a visit to Florence is incomplete without a visit to the Bardini Museum and gardens, or the beautiful gardens surrounding the impressive Stibbert Museum.
8. Green Space
Saving the best till last, Florence truly is a city surrounded by the most jaw-dropping scenes of green rolling hills and olive groves. If you want to stay more central, La Pescaia di San Niccolò is a gorgeous little picnic spot right on the banks of the Arno. From Florence you can also famously hike the Via Degli Dei (Path of the Gods) to Bologna, stopping overnight at local and traditional Agriturismi.