FLORENCE EATS: LUNCHTIME IN THE JEWEL BOX
I miss Italy. I've been toying with the idea of revisiting if only just to stuff my face. (It's a two hour train ride to San Remo from here.) I had to cook my own lunch today and I couldn't stop thinking about some of my lovely light lunches in Florence, enough to write about them. The love child of the Renaissance, Firenze is a perfect little jewel box spilling over with great places to eat. I feel for the solo traveller at lunchtime, I really do. But you don't have to look far nor do you need a whole lot of cash to eat well in Florence - the city is full of great fornos, bakeries where you can grab a slice of pizza by weight and enotecas, wine bars with great antipasti, and osterias and trattorias, informal restaurants that serve traditional, made-with-love local favourites. Between Uffizi visits, hiking to Piazzale Michelangelo for the incredible views, falling in love with the Ponte Vecchio and marvelling at the Duomo, I was grabbing a quick bite at these five memorable spots.
I due frattelini
This is a tiny paninoteca run by two brothers just off the main strip that doles out delightful sandwiches brimming with local Tuscan ingredients. They also sell a range of local wines for incredibly cheap and you’ll find glasses stacked on little shelves on the street while patrons demolish their panini - the bread they use is exceptionally fresh and there are some interesting pairings on the menu. I loved the spicy salami and soft goat cheese.
You’ll find no fuss Tuscan cuisine that will warm the cockles of your heart at Trattoria Frattelini. The lasagne is so fantastic, it would have you going back for seconds if the portions weren’t so damn generous. Try the baccala alla Livornese, salted cod prepared in a tomato sauce and served with sticks of fried polenta. Everything on offer is delicious.
It’s really convenient that the pizzeria closest to Piazza di Spirito Santo, the hippest place to sneak wine and people watch makes some of the best looking and best tasting pizza I tried in Italy. Queue out the door if you have to, even the margherita is ridiculously good.
You have to visit the wonderful Mercato Centrale while in Florence at least once. Make your way past stalls selling cheese, meats, olives and deli fare and find Da Nerbone, perhaps the most popular stall of all. This is the place that offal fans can taste the Florentine specialty, lampredotto but for the faint of heart, there's panino con bollito, a tender stewed beef sandwich.
Gelateria dei Neri
You'll find gelaterias at every corner in Florence but make the effort to seek out this one for its creamy, freshly made gelato in a huge assortment of interesting flavours. If their experimental flavours - gorgonzola and walnut, or chilli chocolate don't win you over perhaps some of the classics will.