Where to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry in Florence

During my month in Florence, I found myself eating out at least once a day, everyday. I know, I know, it’s totally unhealthy and it sucked my money up. But what can I say—I just really, really love Italian food.

So here’s a list of my favourite spots for a nosh in Florence; strap in for a long post!

Simbiosi

Ah, Simbiosi. The promised land. This was easily the best pasta I had in Florence (read: the best pasta I’ve had anywhere). We stumbled upon it accidentally on via de Ginori; it consists of a pizza restaurant and a separate pasta restaurant. It’s all-organic, features tons of vegan and vegetarian options, and is relatively cheap (around €8 per plate).

I recommend: spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino con crema di broccoli, and berry cheesecake for dessert.

I Buongustai

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If you’re missing home-cooked meals while you’re abroad, this is the place to go. The pasta tastes just like someone’s Nonna made it, and do not even get me started on the desserts. Having had tiramisu at almost every restaurant I visited, I can confidently say that I Buongustai has the best tiramisu in Firenze—you get a giant slab for only €5 and you will never again be able to eat tiramisu anywhere else. I almost wish I’d never tried it, because it has officially ruined my taste for any other dessert; the ricotta cheesecake is just as amazing. My mouth is watering just thinking about this place.

I recommend: penne con broccoli and tiramisu for dessert.

Trattoria Za Za

Something we learned while in Florence is that trattorias usually have cheaper—and, honestly, often even better—food than ristorantes. I don’t know if it was because it was the first time during the month that I had had truffle pasta, or if it really was just that good, but this place blew my mind. They bring cheesy bread to the table before the meal, and from that moment on I was sold; the staff were also super nice about accommodating nine annoying tourists who didn’t have a booking on a Saturday night (lol). The only criticism I have: the wall lined with creepy dolls. Why? What’s the purpose of that? Are they there to stare at me while I consume twice my body weight in carbs? Is it a weight loss tactic? Otherwise, this place is well worth a visit.

I recommend: truffle tagliatelle.

Il Vivandiere

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Okay, so Europeans eat dinner late. Really late. I don’t know, maybe I’m just a grandma at heart, but I tend to eat dinner around 6pm. Is that normal? Anyway, most restaurants in Italy don’t start serving dinner until 7 or 7:30pm; most people don’t eat until around 8pm. The first night we were there, it was 6pm and we were already starving. So a few quick clicks on TripAdvisor and we were out the door and headed to (what seemed like) the only restaurant in Italy that starts serving dinner at 6pm. We weren’t disappointed. All the dishes are fairly small, so we ended up splitting them family-style. The only thing that sucked was the slow service; other than that, everything we ate was incredible. Plus—if you’re a fan of lemon-flavoured desserts, the lemon tiramisu was a home run with everyone who tried it.

I recommend: spinach and ricotta dumplings, roast potatoes, and baked cauliflower cheese.

Gusta Pizza

I’m pretty sure this one is on every single existing list of the best Florence restaurants, and for good reason! Everyone who’d been to Florence before me told me that I would be cheating myself if I didn’t go here. Once I finally made my way to Gusta, I was kicking myself for not going weeks earlier. This is the greatest pizza I’ve ever eaten. Ever. I would go back to Florence in a heartbeat just for Gusta. There are only seven things on the menu—all pizza, apart from drinks—and they’re all €8 or less.

I recommend: margherita pizza.

Shake Café

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I’m a huge fan of carbs. HUGE. Literally their number one fan. But when you’re eating straight carbs for every meal (croissants for breakfast because duh), your body tends to start hating you for it. So in search of some fruits and veggies, we wound up at Shake Café. They have a giant menu chock full of salads and wraps and sandwiches and shakes. After consuming my weight in pizza and/or pasta every night, this cute little café was like a slice of health food heaven. Plus, it was very reminiscent of a Melbourne café; it was like a touch of home.

I recommend: the black bean salad and a raw cacao shake with almond milk.

Universo Vegano

2 words: vegan heaven. There’s nothing I hate more than when restaurants overthink vegetarian/vegan food. Stick to the basics! Universo Vegano is full of plain and simple, classic [vegan] meals, as well as some not-so-traditional stuff (zoodles, anyone?). Their portions are huge and the food not once disappointed us.

I recommend: chocolate croissant and a rice milk cappuccino with cinnamon and a dash of agave syrup.

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I Left My Heart in Firenze

If you know me (or just follow me on social media), you’ll know that I spent the last month studying at the European Institute of Design in Florence, Italy. I’ve met so many amazing people, visited new and exciting places, learned all about the fashion history of Italy and how it connects to today’s media culture, and eaten SO much pizza and pasta.

So now, with my final piece of actual Italian pizza sitting next to me, let me share with you some of my newly-found wisdom.

I missed home. A lot.

Obviously I had anticipated being homesick, but you just don’t really get it until you experience it. Maybe it was the lack of my mum’s home-cooked dinners, or not having a fridge, or it could’ve been the fact that my single bed was too short and my feet stuck out off the end. Things that wouldn’t seem like a big deal at home felt like the end of the world when I was halfway across the globe. I wasn’t homesick everyday, of course, but when I was, I was.

But I found that cooping myself up in my room and watching Netflix all day (and I mean all day) was less of an antidote and more of a perpetuator. Getting outside, taking a walk, seeing some new sights (or revisiting some old ones), hanging out with friends, and going out to eat was truly the best cure for homesickness, as hard as it was to motivate myself to do those things.

The best places aren’t found on TripAdvisor.

Sometimes it’s good to have a plan. Taking a step outside your hotel and wandering around for 3 hours isn’t always the best way to find a place for dinner or a grocery store or a museum. But every now and then, it is. It’s definitely daunting being in a new city with unfamiliar streets and restaurants and ways of doing things. But some of the best places we found were completely accidental. Here’s a recommendation: if you’re ever in Florence, Simbiosi is an absolute MUST for pasta.

Simbiosi

We set out one night to eat at a restaurant on the same street as Simbiosi (via de Ginori, in case you’re wondering), but found that the restaurant that we had intended to go was closed. We kept walking along the street, willing to go into the next place that was serving food—it happened to be Simbiosi. As soon as we walked in, the smell of garlic hit me square in the face (in the best way possible, of course). The decor and music were to die for. But the pasta was the real icing on the cake. Let me tell you one thing—any place with more than just one or two vegetarian/vegan options is a win in my book. This place had about five! And all of them were just as incredible as each other; the dessert that comes after (or before, if that’s your thing) is just as amazing.

Restaurants, cafes, boutiques, lookouts over the city, and even quaint little flower shops often can’t be found on Yelp or TripAdvisor. Venture out of your room, pick a direction, and just start walking.

The sweetest lady and her flower shop that I passed everyday on the way to uni. It was open everyday without fail, during sunshine or rain!

Florence eats shoes.

I knew I’d be walking a lot in Florence, but at the same time I really had no idea. My footwear options were limited since I went for style over comfort while packing. I took 2 pairs of heeled ankle boots, a pair of tall heeled boots, and my Adidas Superstars. By the end of the first week, my brown ankle boots looked about 5 years older than they had looked at the beginning of my trip. My black leather ankle boots had the sole detaching from the rest of the shoe by the time it came to pack for home. The Superstars were comfortable, but really—did I want to be wearing runners with every outfit? And do not even get me started on the tall heeled boots. Florence was not made for high heels—explain yourself, Salvatore Ferragamo. My advice for packing shoes for winter in Florence? Pack COMFORTABLE, flat, shoes that you can still rock with almost any outfit. Flat boots or loafers are ideal.

Travel, travel, travel!

When I first arrived in Florence, I didn’t really have any further travel plans. Since we had class everyday, we only had a couple of weekends available to see new places. But what’s the point of being in Europe for a whole month and staying in just one spot? So we decided we wanted to dedicate our weekends to seeing Italy. Our first trip was to Pisa. It was a quick 45 minutes on the train and tickets were cheap, so why not? As it turns out, Pisa’s only real attraction is the leaning tower. Other than that, there are souvenir markets and Italian restaurants—just like in the rest of Italy; plus, the day we picked was absolutely freezing. But despite those things, the entire trip only took us about 6 hours and it was well worth it.

The second trip we took was to Venice. Visiting Venice (and riding on a gondola!) has always been on my bucket list; despite having been to Italy a couple of times before, I never made my way there. We did this on our final Sunday in Italy so that we could catch a glimpse of Carnevale, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect way to wrap up our trip. After the 2-hour train ride, we wandered the winding streets, trying on masks and wigs and admiring the intricate hand-blown glass baubles and knick knacks. We were surrounded by people dressed up in amazing costumes and elaborate masks. Finally we found ourselves in Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s Square. It was filled with confetti and tourists and people celebrating Carnevale. From la Piazza, we made our way to a quaint little pasta restaurant tucked into one of the streets and ate the most amazing pasta. After lunch, I finally got to check “gondola ride in Venice” off my bucket list! It was foggy and cold and amazing. Even though we didn’t get time to make it to everything we wanted to, the whole day was everything I imagined and more.

 

 

Tweed and Plaid and Florals, Oh My!

Last week, Florence came alive in the wake of Pitti Uomo, the world’s largest and most influential menswear fashion fair. The fair is an immersive, hands-on look at the upcoming trends in the menswear industry. Brands from all over the world converge in Florence each year to showcase their ideas for upcoming seasons.

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We were lucky enough to visit Pitti Uomo this year. The thing that first struck me were the outfits worn by everyone visiting Pitti. Forget the displays; the most mesmerizing pieces were on the people walking around. Fur coats, floral suits, tweed jackets, military boots, and plaid pants all seemed to be the go throughout the week. Earth tones appeared everywhere I looked. My personal favourite look was menswear-turned-womenswear.

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I love to see fashion pushing social boundaries, especially when it comes to traditional gender norms. A lady rocking a tailored suit? Yes please. A dude walking around in a skirt? Even better. We’ve seen certain celebrities challenging our ideas of gender confinements in fashion (David Bowie, Prince, Harry Styles—hell, even Kanye West has been known to throw on a skirt from time to time), but it’s fantastic seeing regular, everyday people implementing these new ideals in their everyday lives—even if it is just for one week out of the year.

See below for some of my favourite looks from the day