Spending a day in Florence has been known to induce a condition unique to the city: Overwhelmed Visitor Syndrome. The primary cause of OVS is overexposure to all things Florentine, whether it’s too many exquisite Madonna and child paintings, or the countless boutiques tempting you with fine linens, papers and shoes or just an overwhelming need to stare at the stupendously large dome. There’s only one way to restore your senses, and that’s by indulging in some local drinks and traditional cuisine. Where to go, you ask? WE complied a list of places to visit that promise to help you see and savor the best of this bustling city:
Pitti Gola e Cantina
Located across from the Palazzo Palace, this cantina is one of Florence’s most vibrant wine bars. No matter what hour you visit, you’ll meet one of the three owners—brothers Edoardo and Zeno Fioravanti and their business associate, Manuele Giovanelli. The Fioravanti brothers are trained members of the Associazione Italiana Sommelier. Their wine selection tends toward local producers, such as Monteraponi in Chianti Classico and Gianni Brunelli, Poggio di Sotto and Il Colle, who make classic Brunello di Montalcino. The cantina also carries an extensive selection of Barolos, from Gaja to Mascarello, and highly sought-after super Tuscans from Sassicaia, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and Tignanello. If you like one you’ve tried, you can purchase a bottle and they’ll ship it to your home.
The food, like the wine, is traditional, with farm-made cheeses, generous antipasti platters and pasta dishes that change with the seasons.
Considered one of Florence’s best specialty wine and food shops, Enoteca Alessi is located in the heart of the historical center. It offers a selection of more than 2,500 Italian wines in its temperature-controlled cellar. Like an afternoon in the Uffizi gallery, you can spend hours browsing through the sallas—each named after a great Italian artists—eyeing the impressive array of Brunellos, Barbarescos and Barolos that date back several decades. Light aperitivos, bruschettas and antipasti are served while you sip local reds from Rocca di Montegrossi, Badia a Coltibuono or Palagetto. Plus, adjacent to the wine bar is a retail space where you can pick up dried pastas, panforte, candies and other gourmet items from all over the Italian peninsula.
Though the wines available at Verrazzano Cantinetta are not hard to find outside of Italy, the food, service and atmosphere are great. Whether you decide to stand at the counter for a pastry and a coffee, or take a seat in the small dining area where house-made focacce are served with Tuscan ham and truffles alongside cheese and meat platters, the food and wine of the Cantinetta will not disappoint. The dinning room décor alone is worth a stop; everything is solid and traditional, from the marble-topped tables to the oak-paneled cabinets along the walls filled with an assortment of Verrazzanno related artifacts, such as compasses, astrolabes and corkscrews dating back to Verrazzano, the 16th-century Italian explorer.
Fiaschetteria Nuvoli is another wine bar located in the Centro Storico historical center within in the shadow of the Duomo. At first glance you might think the place is too small to care about. The bar only seats a few people, the passages are narrow and the locals tend to dominate the bartender’s attention. But good things really do come in small packages, especially if you’re looking for affordable, lighter fare or a great ribollita, Tuscan vegetable soup. You’ll get local wines from small producers who sell direct to the enoteca, and if the bar area is too snug, escape to the cellar where long dining tables await. Cool in the summer and warm in the winter, you can go underground and sample Fiaschetteria’s famous fegatini (chicken liver pâté) away from the throngs above.
By day, the Caffè Sant’Ambrigio is just far enough away from the shadow of the Duomo and the colonnade of the Uffizi to be a relief from the crowds. The Caffè serves free aperitivoI—Italian small dishes—such as roasted eggplant and cured-meat sandwiches. The best time to visit is midday or late afternoon since the evening brings in large numbers of local students. The by-the-glass list is extensive, and some of Italy’s lesser known varietals are featured, such as Fiano di Avellino from Campania, grillo from Sicily and occasionally the unusual Piedirosso red from the island of Ischia known as Per’e Palummo or the “pigeon’s foot.”