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Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Foodie Picnic Tour

Create a picnic from some of Florence's best food shops

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.0 miles / 1.6 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly
Overview: There is nothing like discovering the local cuisine to really get to the heart of a city.

Genuine Florentine food is simple, rustic and economical—the Florentines are great at doing things with leftovers (think of the lovely bread soups for summer or winter or panzanella salad made with leftover bread and ripe tomatoes), and are quite fond of using the "less noble" cuts of meat, including plenty of tripe.

But everyday food, the food you might grab during your lunch break from work or as a snack, can be a simple panino perhaps filled with some roast pork, a focaccia (or schiacciata) baked with fresh tomatoes or squash blossoms when they are in season. In the summer it might even be some fresh juicy cantaloupe with salty slices of prosciutto. And always plenty of bread—that rustic, saltless Tuscan bread, ready on hand to mop up sauces or layer with salty cured hams or cheese.

As a treat, a gelato is always a favorite and a good coffee is a must!

Explore the local traditions with this guide to some of Florence’s popular local foodie haunts, pick up some goodies along the way and have yourself a picnic in one of Florence’s local parks.

Tips: This walk is best Monday through Saturday mornings or around lunchtime. Note that certain foods mentioned are seasonal and therefore not available year-round.

Note that Florence has a unique address system! Any street number with an "r" after it means "red". Look for red-coloured numbers, which usually signify a business. Any numbers written in blue or black are usually a residence. This means any street could have two separate places with the same number, one black, one red, and they are not always near each other!

Points of Interest


Piazza della Repubblica

Piazza della Repubblica is one of Florence's most central squares and was once the heart of the city's medieval food market.

Known as the Mercato Vecchio, this "old market" and its labyrinth of medieval streets and market stalls were torn down in the late 19th century to create the wide, square piazza you see today. Before that, it was the place all Florentines came to buy their food products, set up in little open-air stalls that offered everything from meat and vegetables to spices and oil, along with countless other market goods.

Some of the streets around the piazza still bear the marks of the old market, such as Via degli Speziali, street of the spice sellers, or the apothecaries, who sold mixes of spices and medicines. You can still find one of these "speziali" on nearby Via della Condotta at the shop Bizzarri. Be prepared for being taken back to a past century when stepping into this shop. It's an excellent place to buy interesting spices.

When the market was torn down to create Piazza della Repubblica, a new structure was built in the neighborhood of San Lorenzo to hold the city's food market, the Mercato Centrale. While the Mercato Centrale, or Central Market, is a food market worth exploring, it is a well-trodden path, so this trail will take you to the Sant'Ambrogio market, a slightly smaller but great-quality local market.

Cantinetta dei Verrazzano

Cantinetta dei Verazzano is the bakery, wine bar and cafe of the famous winemaking Verazzano family.

This first main foodie stop is a good place to begin the trail with an excellent espresso or cappuccino--standing up at the counter, of course, like a local.

The bakery will entice you with its delicious, traditional pastries, breads, focaccia and biscuits. The focaccia is made in the wood-fired oven toward the back and comes with many seasonal toppings, such as squash blossoms, tomatoes or prosciutto and peas.

At certain times of the year you can also find some of the local specialties such as "cecina," a sort of pancake-like focaccia made with chickpea flour (excellent served warm with a grinding of black pepper and extra virgin olive oil), or "castagnaccio," an ancient dessert made with pine nuts, raisins and chestnut flour. Both of these tasty local snacks are gluten free.

You could even pick up a bottle of wine here. The Verazzano winery is located in the heart of the Chianti, but if you can't get out there you can try a glass here.

Via dei Tavolini 18-20r
Monday-Saturday 8am-9pm
Sunday Closed

Corner Via Dante Alighieri & Via dei Cerchi

On the corner of Via Dante Alighieri and Via dei Cerchi you will notice a busy food van selling one of Florence's most popular snacks--a lampredotto sandwich. Lampredotto is the fourth stomach of a cow, not often used in other cuisines. The boiled cow's stomach is served hot, with the bread roll dipped in its juices, topped with some salsa verde. It's a nutritious and tasty meal that illustrates perfectly how traditional Florentine cuisine is good at using leftovers.

Vestri Cioccolateria & Gelateria

This family-run chocolate shop sells exquisite handmade chocolates made in the family's Tuscan laboratory in Arezzo.

Find fine chocolates filled with nuts or spiced with chili, chocolate-dipped dried fruit or even a wonderful hot chocolate mix to take home.

In the summer this is a perfect stop for a creamy gelato in delectable flavors like white chocolate, hazlenut chocolate or white peach. In the cooler months, a shot of the delectable pure hot chocolate is just the thing to keep you going.
Borgo degli Albizi 11/R
Monday-Saturday 10am-7pm
Closed Sunday
Other Resources
Vestri (English version)

Sant'Ambrogio Market

Undoubtedly Florence's best local food market, the Sant'Ambrogio market consists of an indoor structure where meat, fish, pasta and bakeries can be found. Outside there are the fruit and vegetable stalls as well as plants, clothes and household items.

Along with the fruit and vegetables, where you will find mostly local and seasonal produce, there is also the odd stall selling marinated olives, artisan cheese, organic honey or roast pork ready to be sliced and taken home or made into instant panini.

Prices are clearly displayed (usally by weight, in kilos or per 100 grams, where you see the word "etto"), most often you should tell the grocer what you would like and he or she will bag it for you, but on a busy morning they may hand you a paper bag and you can choose your own produce to hand back to them to weigh.

The indoor part of the market is where you can find several bakeries where you can pick up freshly baked bread, pastries or freshly baked mini pizzas. Don't forget to have a good look around at the interesting things on offer in the butchers' windows and fresh pasta counters.

Wonderful cheeses or cold cuts can be found in the delicatessens. Try the local produce--choose a Tuscan pecorino (sheeps' milk cheese) as opposed to Parmigiano or mozzarella, stay away from balsamic vinegar and try a Tuscan olive oil instead--fruity, peppery and flavorful, great for using raw on salads, bruschetta or grilled meat and vegetables. Try Tuscan prosciutto (saltier than Parma ham) or finocchiona, a wide Tuscan salami flavored with fennel seeds.

If you want to buy something from the deli, you may notice people holding tickets with numbers on them. Find the machine where you can take a number, then patiently wait your turn.

Select the things that are too tempting not to get, and then take yourself to the nearest park for a little picnic.
Located at Piazza Ghiberti
Note: it should not be confused with the nearby "piazza sant'ambrogio," where the church of Sant'Ambrogio is.
Monday-Saturday 7am-2pm
Closed on Sunday

Piazza d'Azeglio

This leafy, tree-filled piazza is the neighborhood's playground. Kids can play on the swings or carousel, or kick around a soccer ball. People walk their dogs here or let them play. Park benches make a nice place to stop and sample the wonderful food you have come across on the trail.

This piazza was also the home of one of Italy's most illustrious cookbook authors, Pellegrino Artusi. His book, "Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well," was printed in 1891 and is likely still to be found in every single household across the country. This makes it the perfect place to end this little walk discovering some of the local gastronomic treats.

Buon appetito!

Pictures in this guide taken by: Emiko Davies, Emiko, wikipedia

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About the Author

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I am a photographer, writer and former art restorer with food, travel and art particularly close to my...

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