I went to Florence for the snacks. There, I said it. I’m a philistine. I was lured there by the promise of fresh gelato and oily schiacciata bread crammed full of creamy cheeses, rather than anything Michelangelo has produced.
Indeed, I spent much of my time spent in museums trawling behind my art-loving boyfriend in the manner of a hideous grizzling teenager, boiling with simmering resentment. I spent more time day-dreaming about tripe sandwiches than I’d care to admit.
But, you see, I did this for good reason. Because the street food in Florence is a delight. It’s all hearty carbs, cured meats and strong cheeses.
So, for all my fellow greedy travellers, here are five of the best from me to you.
Schiacciata is a Tuscan interpretation of focaccia, and not disimilar to Rome’s Piazza Bianco. It translates as ‘squashed’, an apt name for this one-inch-thick bread. It forms the vehicle for most of Florence’s most distinguished sandwiches (see below) but it warrants sampling alone, fresh and hot from a panificio, where it is served brushed with Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil, dusted with salt and sprinkled with rosemary.
Where: Florence is not short of panificio, but Panificio Brunori is wonderful (just off of Borgo Pinto). Here you can pick up mini incarnations - schiacciattine with porcini, aubergine and artichokes. Need I say more?
Rarely do good sandwiches get the credit they truly deserve. There is no Michelin star available for gourmet sandwich shops. But if there were, Florence would have an awful lot of them. Salty, oily schiacciata is stuffed full of cold cured meats like sbriciolona (fennel infused salami) or salsiccia, creamy local pecorino cheese and seasonal roasted vegetables like plump artichokes, roasted peppers and sun dried tomatoes.
Where: For a truly exquisite iteration, head to All’Antico Vinaio. There are five different sandwiches on offer and it is not compulsory to order all of them, but it will be highly tempting to do so. Try the Favoloso or La Boss, which involves truffle cream [insert heart eyed emoji]. Be prepared to queue for anywhere up to two hours but note, it is one of the few occasions in my life I have felt 30 minutes spent queuing was time well spent.
Florence is the birthplace of gelato. Sure, people have been indulging in crushed ice for thousands of years, but it was Catherine de Medici who decided to commission a new type of cold desert for the Medici Court. The gelato became a staple of noble renaissance households and thus was born the gelato we know and love today.
Where: Slightly off the beaten track - La Carraia (Oltrano) - is home to intense, creamy gelato. Or, try Carapina for fresh and seasonal gelato, and flavours which include buffalo mozzarella and pear.
4. Trippa and Lampredotto
Regular readers may have noted my mild obsession with the lesser-loved cuts. In Florence there’s an offal lot of it (ha!). Tripa (tripe) is eaten all over Italy but here it’s stewed in a tomato sauce and served with slices of fresh bread. Lampredotto, on the other hand, is a particular (and perculiar) Florentine specialty. The fourth lining of the cow’s stomach is slow cooked in tomato, onion, parsley and celery, soaked in broth and served in a bun. Best enjoyed standing up - bun in one hand and glass of local chianti in the other.
Where: Da Nerbone is an institution.
True, more light bite than street food but still worth a shout out. Tagliere literally translates as ‘cutting board’ and, whilst they can be located elsewhere in Italy, in Florence they’re special. Boards are loaded with regional salume, prosciutto and local cheeses like pecorino, accompanied by crostini - toasted bread similar to bruschetta, which is topped with tomatoes, cheese or most commonly liver pate. If you’re lucky, you’ll find some Lardo di Colonnata on there too.
Where: Try Coquinarius, near the Duomo. It's seriously charming.