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Florence Guide: Where the Locals Go

In a city as enchanting as Firenze, finding the best hotels, trattorias, and cultural sites is an art form; luckily, we’ve connected with a handful of Florentine locals to help compile your ultimate Florence Guide.

While so much of capturing the essence of Florence is about wandering along the Arno and through her winding streets, having some bookmarked spots in your back pocket makes all the difference. In collaboration with some of our top booked Florence properties and their General Managers, we’ve rounded up the best places to eat in Florence, including where you’ll find these discerning locals on their days off. And don’t worry, we’ve put it all into a Google Map for easy on-the-ground access!

Where to Stay in Florence

Before we dive into our favorite topic (dining), we’d be remiss not to differentiate some of the unique benefits of SmartFlyer clients’ top-booked hotels in Florence.

The Florentine Way: Florence Like a Local

For us, getting into the heart of a destination is about understanding its heartbeat. Few know the inner workings of Florence better than the General Managers behind the city’s most discerning properties, so we checked in with these hoteliers to learn where we could find them on a weekend away from the hotel. From farmers’ markets to the under-the-radar restaurants they keep close to the vest, we’re divulging it all.

Florence Hotel General Manager Picks

Markets

Bars, Restaurants, Grocers and Gelaterias

Points of Interest

“Next, I’d do lunch at Sergio Gozzi which I’m nearly hesitant to share with you — it’s that good! But it’s been a trattoria for over 100 years and is a casual, authentic restaurant…” – Claudio Meli

As a forever Florentine, Claudio Meli, the General Manager and effervescent personality behind The Place Firenze is as emblematic of Florence as it gets. When asked what we could find him up to on a Saturday, he shared, “I would venture out for a morning walk to the oldest market in Florence, Mercato di Sant Ambrogio, where the local Florentines go for fresh veggies, fruits, typical products, cheeses, meat, olive oil, and more. Next, I’d do lunch at Sergio Gozzi which I’m nearly hesitant to share with you — it’s that good! But it’s been a trattoria for over 100 years and is a casual, authentic restaurant open only for lunch. The food quality has remained fantastic for all of these years and through many generations. 

After a nice Florentine lunch, I’d walk up, up to the Piazza Michelangelo and up even further to the beautiful church of San Miniato where the monks still have an apothecary of unique products they make. The church itself has an incredible façade and the interior that has been maintained and restored over the centuries are breathtaking. Sometimes the monks are chanting up there and the views back to the city are incredible! In the afternoon, I’d visit the Medici Villa of Poggio Caiano to take in the scenes and beauty of this villa! Eventually, we would do dinner with my wife and daughters at one of my favorites, Da Delfina in Artimino which has incredible food and views to die for outside the city a bit.

Sofia Peluso, Managing Director, Villa San Michele, A Belmond Hotel shares, “I would be strolling around the blooming gardens of Villa Bardini, enjoying beautiful views of Florence or visiting the latest contemporary art exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation. For a Tuscan and relaxed lunch, I would stop at Santo Bevitore, and have dinner at timeless Camillo or Regina Bistecca near the Duomo.

Over at Brunelleschi Hotel, General Manager Stefano Lodi shares, “My preferred Saturday morning is at the Tennis Club at the Cascine Park…struggling the game with my partners (and friends) as the lucky winner offers a tasty ‘pasta al ragù’ to all of us! In the afternoon usually I walk around, as after many years spent abroad, the Florentine architecture and hidden corners of this magic city are magnetic for me.. as well as the beautiful shops. The must-do aperitivo is in the vibrant Piazza Della Repubblica, with live music, and I am never disappointed by a Tuscan dinner with steak at the ancient restaurant Paoli…I will be happy to introduce you to the owner!’

For a truly local experience, we checked in with Elisa Peroli, General Manager at Villa La Massa to learn about her perfect weekend. She shares, “For me, the weekend means recharging my batteries, and I can’t think of a better way to do that other than by spending time with family and friends, perhaps outdoors and making the most of the many things Florence has to offer. Saturdays usually start with a late breakfast, followed by a long walk or bike ride along the river, known locally as the ‘lungarni,’ where I can admire Villa La Massa from the other side of the Arno.

“In the afternoon, I always find some exhibitions to visit or I head over to Palazzo Strozzi, my favourite exhibition space. Art is a great source of inspiration for me. I wrap up with an aperitivo at Locale, one of my preferred cocktail bars.” – Elisa Peroli

I love to stop by the Sant’Ambrogio market for my weekly grocery shopping at the traditional Florentine butchers and the local farmers’ market where I happily accept their foodie recommendations. Another great market is in Piazza Santo Spirito, in Florence’s most authentic neighbourhood, the Oltrarno, where a drink or coffee is a must in the square. For a lovely lunch with views of Florence and the Tuscan hills, I like to stop at Alimentari Innocenti, which is also just a few minutes walk from Villa La Massa. In the afternoon, I always find some exhibitions to visit or I head over to Palazzo Strozzi, my favourite exhibition space. Art is a great source of inspiration for me. I wrap up with an aperitivo at Locale, one of my preferred cocktail bars.

Sunday brunch is a must for me, perhaps followed by some shopping in the bustling city centre or in the Oltrarno. A visit to a bookstore like Giunti Odeon is also a requirement. It is a historic Florentine venue and an old cinema that has been given a new lease of life as a bookshop and movie theater in English. During the day, they show classic movies suitable for children, which is perfect for families. To finish a weekend of fun and relaxation, nothing beats a beautiful sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo and a typical Tuscan dinner at a family-run osteria. Give me all of this and I’m fully energized on Monday morning!

Max Musto, General Manager, Four Seasons Hotel Firenze shares, “My ideal Saturday is a day spent with my whole family: we love to have lunch at our favorite Chinese Dim Sum restaurant, Element, or the perfect place for a casual pizza, ‘A Puteca. After lunch, we’d walk around the city center and have an ice cream from my son’s favorite place, Gelateria Della Passera.”

“I love Chic Nonna, the new fine dining restaurant in town opened by the famous Chef Vito Mollica. Located inside the historical Palazzo Portinari it is not to be missed. Then, there’s Il Locale, a bar and a restaurant that has become an icon and a point of reference for locals’ nightlife.” – Ariele Duina

When asked about her perfect weekend away from the hotel, Ariela Duina, General Manager, Villa Cora shares, “I live in the little village of San Casciano Val di Pesa, twenty minutes by car from Firenze, in the Chianti area. During summer, I love to enjoy the Tuscan countryside, relax in the garden surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, and refresh in the pool. In winter Firenze is always full of things to see and visit but on a sunny day, I also love to drive to the seaside, to Viareggio or Forte dei Marmi, not crowded and perfect for an outdoors as the temperatures are always nice. If I were in town, I love Chic Nonna, the new fine dining restaurant in town opened by the famous Chef Vito Mollica. Located inside the historical Palazzo Portinari it is not to be missed. Then, there’s Il Locale, a bar and a restaurant that has become an icon and a point of reference for locals’ nightlife. Amazing environment, food and cocktails have made Il Locale win several awards. Book here your aperitivo to start a great night!

Meanwhile, at Hotel Savoy, we checked in with longtime General Manager Giancarlo Rizzi for his ideal Saturday. We love that his perfect day involves an out-of-town adventure, sharing, “I would love to take you to meet my friend Giulio, the truffle hunter who I like to spend time with during the weekend. He’s based in the nearby countryside and he will show you the beauty of the Tuscan hills next to Florence. Afterward, back to his home, Giulio’s songs will accompany great food and wine selected and prepared by his wife along with many funny stories. You will fall in love with his dogs, likewise learning immensely about the world of truffles.

Things to Do in Florence

Off-The-Beaten-Track Florence

Where to Eat in Florence

Best Restaurants in Florence for Classic Trattoria Vibes

Best Restaurants in Florence for Bistecca

Bistecca alla Fiorentina is one of the most “iconic” dishes in Florentine cuisine; here are some restaurants where you can’t go wrong!

Best Restaurants in Florence for Truffle Lovers

Best Restaurants in Florence for Seafood

Best Restaurants in Florence for Pizza

Best Restaurants in Florence for Vegetarian or Vegan Cuisine

Best Street Food Restaurants in Florence

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