Birthplace of the Renaissance and the largest city in Tuscany, Florence (Firenze in Italian) offers an embarrassment of famous Renaissance art, by masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rafael...and, yes, Donatello, to round out the last of the Ninja Turtles. With a bustling tourist trade and lots of foreign students, there is also a hopping night scene, even for English speakers. Florence also makes a good "home base" before exploring the smaller hill towns of Tuscany. Avoid the city during the summer, when long lines of tourists will remind you of Disney World (or at least book your tickets ahead of time). While various guidebooks can tell you about the must-see tourist traps (e.g. Michelangelo's David, Duomo, Uffizi Galleries), basic lodging, and restaurants, here are some less-known things to check out in Florence:
Trattoria Cibrèo - via de' Macci 122r, good although crowded by many Americans, a fun "show" with a gregarious chef/owner, off P. S. Ambrogio, rec'd by Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016), Frommer's and Fodor's. (not to be confused with the more expensive Ristorante Cibrèo)
Trattoria La Casalinga - via del Michelozzi 9, Otrarno (near Santo Spirito basilica, just SW of Ponte Vecchio), home cooking, locals, rec'd by 2 CHs, cheap, rec'd by Fodor's, Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016)
Mario - via Rosina 2r, San Lorenzo district, 055-218-550, hole-in-the-wall family-run trattoria, inexpensive, rec'd by chowhounds, Fodor's, and Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016)
(Trattoria) Sabatino - Via Pisana 2r, S of SMN train station in Oltrarno, rec'd in Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016) for "simple and accommodating" family-run place that's a blast from the past, menu changes each day based on what's fresh, simple presentations of traditional dishes
Trattoria da Sergio Gozzi - Piazza San Lorenzo 8r, just E of SMN train station in San Lorenzo district, rec'd in Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016) for traditional Tuscan food at good prices, more info in The Florentine
Il Magazzino - Piazza della Passera 2-3r, Oltrarno just SW of Ponte Vecchio, open every day, rec'd by Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016), famous for organ meats
Ai Tranvai - Piazza Torquato Tasso 14r, in the Oltrarno nearly a mile S of the Arno, features parts of old streetcars, classic traditional dishes, rec'd in Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016)
Not sure about these places (were all at least allegedly good in ~2010):
Trattoria Quattro Leoni - This no-nonsense trattoria is in the Oltrarno ("over the Arno") district, a less busy, more Italian neighborhood not far from the Ponte Vecchio. They offer a number of Florentine specialties (including supposedly the best bistecca fiorentina in town) as well as fiocchetti alle pere, a delicious pasta with pear filling. Rec'd by Fodor's.
Sostanza (Il Troia) - via della Porcellana 25 (S of S.M.N. Train Station), 055-212-691, closed Sat/Sun, a hole in wall but great steak (more than one reader says it's the best bistecca fiorentina in town, also good chicken in butter sauce), get reservations early, praised by SF Chronicle and Frommer's. Also see this blog post.
Haveli Ristoranti Indiano - Indian in Firenze? Of course. If you're looking for a break from the monotonous pizza/pasta/seafood combos that every Neapolitan restaurant serves, head northeast of Firenze SNM train station for a small ethnic feast. Call ahead, though, for reservations. With only a few tables, the most common complaint on tripadvisor is long waits! +39-055-355-695
Buca Mario - Piazza degli Ottaviani 16, 055-214-179, old school trattoria just south of the SMN train station; great bistecca fiorentina
Osteria de' Benci - via dei Benci 13, 055-234-4923, 12:30-3:30, 7:30-11, phone reservations only, near Santa Croce, a slightly fancier take on Italian specialties, highly recommended by chowhounds, Frommer's and Fodor's.
Antico Fattore - good truffle dishes; print out website coupon first!
Osteria delle Belle Donne - via delle Belle Donne 16r, near S.M.N. train station, 055-238-2609, rec'd by Fodor's.
Coco Lezzone - Via Parioncino 26r, S of SMN train station, Paoli family has run since the 70s, classic traditional dishes, rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (not anymore in 2016)
Pallottino - via Isola delle Stinche 1r, 055-289-573, Fodor's rec's this simple trattoria.
Benevenuto - via della Mosca 16r, E of Uffizi, 055-214-833, rec'd by Fodor's.
Osteria Antica Mescita San Niccolò - via San Niccolò 60r, in Oltrarno, rec'd by Fodor's.
Il Santo Bevitore - Borgo Santo Spirito 64/66, also in Oltrarno, rec'd by Fodor's.
Tripe Specialists - one of Florence's traditional dishes is tripe (animal stomach), especially in the "lampredotto" sandwich
Nerbone (at the Mercato Centrale) - like a tavola calda, you can get fresh sandwiches with delicious tripe (!), highly recommended by many including Frommer's, Fodor's, and 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Orazio Nencioni - Loggia del Porcellino, fin the heart of the centro storico, clsoed Sun but otherwise open 10-7, rec'd 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Mario Tato - Piazza Alberti (way East near Firenze Campo Marte train station)
Il Trippaio di San Frediano - Piazza dei Nerli (in Oltrarno, S of Amerigo Vespuci bridge / SMN train station), rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Il Trippaio di Sant'Ambrogio - rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
La Tripperia delle Cure - rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Mario Albergucci - Piazzale di Porta Romana, W of Piazzale Michelangelo, rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Marco Bolognesi - on the east end of the centro storico, rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Lupen e Margò - rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Sergio (e Piero Paolo) Pollini - on the east end of the centro storico, rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Leonardo Torrini - rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
La Tripperia delle Cure - N of the centro storico, rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Le Trippaie - rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia, a bit NW of centro storico
Il Lampredottore - rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia, outside of centro storico
Wine Bars/Enotecas - serve lighter dishes along with drinks
I (Due) Fratellini - Via de'Cimatori 38R, S of the Duomo, rec'd in Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016) for sandwiches, crostini, and a glass of wine
Le Volpi e L'Uva - Piazza de'Rossi 1R, just S of Ponte Vecchio, rec'd in Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016) for wine, cheese, crostini
Zanobini - Via Sant'Antonino 47, E of SMN train station, rec'd in Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016)
Il Santino - Via Santo Spirito 60R, Oltrarno, rec'd in Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016)
All'antico Vinaio - rec'd in Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016)
Casa del Vino - rec'd in Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016)
Amornio...Panino e Vino - rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Outside Centro Storico
Da Burde - via Pistoiese 154, ~15 min W by car (~20-30 min by bus) from historic center, store/restaurant has been serving food since 1927, rec'd in Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016)
(Trattoria) Ruggero - via Senese 89r, ~7 min S by car (~15 min by bus, ~30 min walk, SW of Pizzale Michelangelo) from historic center in Oltrarno, rec'd in Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (still in 2016)
Trattoria Tre Soldi - Via Gabriele D'Annunzio 4, ~20-30 min E, rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia (not anymore in 2016)
Tullio - rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Aurelio - rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
I' Bambi - rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Bistrot del Mondo Da Bobo all' Acciaiolo - rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Dino - rec'd by 2016 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Also recommended by chowhounds:
Osteria Santo Spirito - good antipasti, pasta (truffle gnocchi, rigatoni...), but another reader disappointed
Le Mossacce - more local
Acqua al Due
Croce al Trebbio (via dele Donne near SMN train station)
Il Ritrovo - a couple readers rec'd
Trattoria il Contadino - via Palazzuolo 69, cheap fixed price, great value
Traverna del Bronzino - good bistecca fiorentina, rec'd by a few people
Vecchia Bettola - popular with locals
Teatro del Sale - also has a "show" but is good food, same owner as Cibreo
Vine e Vecchi Sapori - off P. della Signorina, good home cooking
Hosteria del Birccio - in San Niccolo, recommended by a couple folks as authentic fiorentina
Golden View Open Bar - nice, you're mostly paying for view of Ponte Vecchio, good but not great food
Fiesole - nice town just north of Florence, with good views of the city
Florence has a number of good gelaterie:
Antica Gelateria Fiorentina - via Faenza 2a (near the San Lorenzo church, not far from the Duomo or S.M.N. Train Station), 388-058-0399, gelato magician Francesco Sini serves up the best strawberry you'll ever have, plus amazing creations like Ambrosia (yogurt, honey, and cinnamon) and Persian (pistacchio, rosewater, and saffron).
Vivoli - via dell'Isola delle Stinche 7r (between Piazza della Signoria & Santa Croce), 055-292-334, closed Mon, traditionally the "best" gelateria in Florence, but there's lots of competition now, see this detailed blog post, rec'd Scatti di Gusto in 2015 for chocolate (and cream), Dissapore in 2015, on Dissapore's 2016 list of top gelaterie in Italy
Marco Ottaviano ("Il Gelato Gourmet") - Via Palmieri 34/r (E of Duomo), rec'd Scatti di Gusto in 2015 for flavors like peanut, "Duke's cream", and espresso, Dissapore in 2015 also rec's "Duke's cream" and the "white coffee", also on their 2016 list of top gelaterie in Italy
Carapina - Via Lambertesca 18/r (near Uffizi/Ponte Vecchio...also a branch further NE at Piazza Oberdan), rec'd Scatti di Gusto in 2015, also a branch in Rome, also on Dissapore's 2016 list of top gelaterie in Italy (alas their Roman branch closed a while ago)
Gelateria della Passera - via Toscanella 15/r (Oltrarno, just S of Ponte Vecchio), rec'd Scatti di Gusto in 2015, Dissapore in 2015 (also #32 on their 2016 list of top gelaterie in Italy for flavors like "Cream with 7 Tastes", "Monna Lisa" and "Tastes of the Orient", and again in 2017)
La Sorbettiera - Piazza Torquato Tasso 11 (Oltrarno, 15 min walk SW of Ponte Vecchio), rec'd Dissapore in 2015, also on their 2016 list of top gelaterie in Italy, especially rec'd for seasonal fruit flavors but also other stuff
Grom - corner of via del Campanile and via delle Oche (just S of Duomo), 055-216-158, open every day 10:30-11 (midnight in summer)...it's a chain, but it's a good chain, with good, fresh gelato flavors
Arà - via degli Alfani 127/r (near the Accademia), rec'd Scatti di Gusto in 2015, Sicilian style
Il Procopio - via Pietrapiana 60 (a bit N of the Santa Croce Basilica), rec'd Scatti di Gusto in 2015 for Sicilian specialities including cassata
Outside main touristy areas:
were good in ~2010 but not sure now:
Perchè No - via dei Tavolini 19r, 055-239-8969, between the Duomo and Piazza della Signoria, "why not" try their great gelato? Also lots of fans on chowhound.
La Carraia - Dissapore in 2015 says they're over-rated
Thanks to its large population of expat students, Florence has a great party atmosphere. Lonely Planet has a nice guide, Culture Trip has a list of nightclubs, and JetSet Times also has a nice guide from 2017
Like many Italian cities, the cheapest place to hang out is in piazzas, where many young people congregate at night. Piazza Santa Croce and Piazzale Michelangelo are two popular piazzas.
Also consider the Aperitivo or "Aperi-cena", a light ~free meal (if you buy a drink) at many bars...go early for many of these; Visit Florence has a nice page describing some places...Puntarella Rossa also has a list (in Italian) from 2015
Girl in Florence has a nice guide to bars in Florence from 2012
Hotel Orchidea - via Borgo degli Albizi 11, 055-248-0346, Cheap but beautiful rooms (singles €55!) and great location just E of the Duomo...the only disadvantage is that you share a bathroom down the hall.
First of Florence Aparthotel - Group-size apartments with the service (and breakfast) of a hotel. Less than a 5 min walk to the Duomo & right around the corner from the Academia (where the David lives). 10-15 minute walk to Firenze SMN station.
Hotel Medici Florence - relatively cheap hotel with nice views of the Duomo, apparently has good aperitivo