Florence is full of hidden gems. Special squares, local restaurants, and authentic markets that’ll give you a glimpse of the real Florence. These are places that aren’t on the well-trodden tourist trail, and are all the more memorable because of it. After years spent exploring the city’s many secret wonders, I have a list of go-to favourites that might just become your favourites too.
Florence’s hidden gems – From cool hangouts to traditional markets.
Squares: Piazza della Passera
Piazza della Passera is a humble, unassuming square especially compared to its grander cousins like Piazza Signoria. But that is its beauty. A cool hangout just over the Ponte Vecchio in the Oltrarno, it seems hidden from rest of the city which makes it a good place to head to get away from the crowds. Take a seat on one of the benches and soak up the very genuine local atmosphere. There’s a great trattoria in the square called “4 Leoni”. I’ve been here and it does a Frittura to die for.
Coffee: Terrace on top of La Rinascente
You want a coffee, but you want a bit of a view to go with it? This coffee shop is for you. Head to the top of La Rinascente department store in Piazza della Repubblica. The bar on the top floor has a small terrace with a wonderful view over the rooftops and the Duomo. If you can get a table it’ll be the most rewarding coffee you’ve ever had.
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Florence‘s first town hall and later a prison, the Bargello Museum looks forbidding from the outside but is in fact a little oasis of peace. Sit in its shady courtyard and admire its beautifully proportioned archways and well-preserved Medieval details. Have a stroll around the museum and you’ll be rewarded with statues by Michelangelo and Donatello among others. It’s rarely crowded.
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Traditional eating: Trattoria Coco Lezzone
I went to the “Coco Lezzone” once with a friend who used to work there as a cook. It’s been around for ages and all the cooking is done in the traditional Tuscan style on wood burning stoves. The menu is pure Tuscan pleasure – from traditional soups like Pappa al Pomodoro to staples like Ossobuco and Tuscan sausages. I went for the Ribollita which is a classic Tuscan soup made with cannellini beans, kale and Tuscan bread. The place itself is about as authentic as you want a restaurant to be without actually going to eat in someone’s kitchen. Book early.
Hip hangout: Santarosa Bistrot
Set in the Santarosa gardens in the Oltrarno. This is a genuinely comfortable and relaxed space to go and enjoy some food or a cocktail. Aside from the fact that you can eat outdoors, one of the things I like about this place is the wine list, put together by the same people that run the superb Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina. Open all day.
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Market: Mercato Sant’Ambrogio
Sant’Ambrogio used to be the ancient home of Florence’s Jewish community. Nowadays its market Sant Ambrogio is where locals go to buy their fruit and veg. It’s full of all the sights and smells of the city and is about as close as you’ll get to feeling like a Florentine. The produce here is so fresh it’s often still dusty from the earth it’s just been plucked from.
One of my all-time favourite snacks. Coccoli. These small fried balls of dough are a savoury indulgence you probably shouldn’t have but will be so glad you did. You’ll find this traditional speciality served as a starter with ham and stracchino cheese. But for my money, they are best eaten as a take-away snack – piping hot and showered with salt. Try il Coccolo on via Matteo Palmieri near Arco di San Pierino. This could easily be one of the best experiences to have in Florence.
Now that I’ve shared my Florence’s hidden gems, what are yours?
Author: Ben Carson – Ben Carson is a travel writer and editor at Love from Tuscany.