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Where to lunch and what to see during limited time in Florence - help!

We will be in Florence in transit. Arriving in main train station at 11:30am and there until around 3:30pm.  

Where can we get a quality but casual lunch and see some of Florence's coolest stuff??? 

I know we won't be able to see any museums or attractions but I want to just enjoy the vibe. Thanks in advance!!

7 Answers

answered by
Carina from San Francisco

Since this is a limited amount of time, I would recommend planning on a long, relaxing lunch, close to some of Florence's best piazzas, so that you can just enjoy the atmosphere and Italian way of life. It will be absolutely incomplete if you don't stop for gelato! My recommendation for lunch would be in Piazza Santo Spirito, which is on the side of the river closest to the beautiful Palazzo Pitti — Galleria Palatina. You can walk around in front of the palace, and if you have enough time, you can enter the Boboli Gardens just behind it (this is a great idea if the weather is nice!!!). My favorite  lunch options on that side of the river are:
Trattoria Borgo Antico: Great food, and an unbeatable outdoor seating patio right in the heart of all the hustle and bustle. All the food is delicious, especially the spicy spaghettini.

Osteria Santo Spirito: This is one of my top 3 favorite restaurants in Florence. Honestly, get something from every course on the menu- just trust me, despite how full you are.

-For something really fast but really satisfying, Gusta Pizza is your spot. There's usually a line, but once seated you could be in and out within 30 minutes. They even do to-go if you'd want to pick up a pizza and take it with you to have a picnic in the nearby Piazzale Michelangelo, where the statue of David towers over all of Florence (this is the best vertical view I've seen of Florence- it's so vast that I'm tempted to call it panoramic. My best pictures were taken from this outlook). 

In terms of the gelato, I must warn against being swayed by the gelaterias closest to all the tourist attractions: their gelato is always very ornate-looking to draw in crowds, but that's because it's filled with air and food coloring(and therefore less dense, therefore is NOT gelato at all). I still swear by one place, and one place only for the best gelato in Florence: Vivoli. It's off a tiny, hard-to-find narrow alleyway somewhat close to Santa Croce- I only knew I was going the right way if I ended up getting lost for 15 minutes or so first. Their gelato looks so simple and boring, but will absolutely blow your mind- my favorite flavor was the 'riso' (rice- I know it sounds weird, but again, trust me). 

I hope you have the best time, even though you'll be there for such a short while! Instead of rushing through all the crowded shopping streets, I recommend just taking in the ambiance wherever you happen to come across a calm haven from the chaos!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Piazza Santo Spirito (attraction)
  2. Palazzo Pitti — Galleria Palatina (attraction)
  3. Boboli Gardens (attraction)
  4. Trattoria Borgo Antico (restaurant)
  5. Osteria Santo Spirito (restaurant)
  6. Gusta Pizza (restaurant)
  7. Piazzale Michelangelo (attraction)
  8. Vivoli (restaurant)
  9. Santa Croce (attraction)
9 thankscomments (2)

answered first by
Brew from Manhattan Beach

A couple of casual enotecas that are well located and would give great bang for the buck in terms of food + site seeing:

  • Enoteca Coquinarius which is right by the Piazza del Duoma

  • Le volpi e l'uva which is across the river, but you could hit the Piazza del Duoma (necessary visit) and walk across the river and down to the restaurant.

Some other options:

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Enoteca Coquinarius (restaurant)
  2. Le volpi e l'uva (attraction)
  3. Il Santo Bevitore (restaurant)
  4. All'Antico Ristoro Di' Cambi (restaurant)
  5. Osteria Antica Mescita San Niccolò (restaurant)
  6. Cipolla Rossa Osteria (restaurant)
7 thanks

answered by
Bati from California

You should eat at the Mercato- the new Market with Eataly. - just came from Florence and the food choices are excellent...number of stalls to choose from. Close to the station and San Lorenzo Market. Then just walk around...Florence is not that big. Don't miss Ponte Vecchio..

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Eataly (attraction)
  2. San Lorenzo Market (attraction)
  3. Ponte Vecchio (attraction)
6 thankscomments (1)

answered by

Four hours is enough to stroll on pedestrian streets of city center, which is near Santa Maria Novella railway station. 

Only 10 minutes to arrive to Piazza del Duomo where you can visit the cathedral and Campanile di Giotto.

You can head then to Piazza della Repubblica where you can find two historical cafes and take a sandwich and a drink. The two cafes are Caffè Paszkowski and Caffè Gilli. Optionally you can find at the opposite side of the square Le Giubbe Rosse.

Once refreshed, head to Via Dei Calzaiuoli and arrive to Piazza della Signoria

From here your track back to train station is about 25 minutes. 

Best of Florence is concentrated in this area, but for a full discovery of hidden places a 3 days stay should be worth. 

Bye :-)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Santa Maria Novella (attraction)
  2. Piazza del Duomo (attraction)
  3. Campanile di Giotto (attraction)
  4. Piazza della Repubblica (attraction)
  5. Caffè Paszkowski (restaurant)
  6. Caffè Gilli (restaurant)
  7. Le Giubbe Rosse (restaurant)
  8. Via Dei Calzaiuoli (attraction)
  9. Piazza della Signoria (attraction)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Tiana from Florence

Eat at All'Antico Vinaio (All'Antico Vinaio). It's the most famous panino place in town. I recommend going there first to avoid the line. You will pass the duomo, Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza della Signoria on your way, so you'll get to see some sights. Prob 15-20min walk through the historical city.

By 1pm you should be able to roam nicely. Go down Via dei Neri to Gelateria Dei Neri (Gelateria dei Neri) and have one of the best gelatos...swing a right and enjoy your gelato with a view of Ponte Vecchio. 

If you want the best coffee in town, go back to Via dei Neri and stop at Ditta Artigianale, they are new and the owner is a real coffee pro, World Champ Barista! 

Head to Santa Croce, gorgeous piazza! If you want a Spritz then sit in the piazza and get one at a bar. 

4 hours is not a lot to sit and enjoy a long lunch, and the piazzas are so beautiful....depends what you really want to do! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. All'Antico Vinaio (attraction)
  2. Gelateria Dei Neri (attraction)
  3. Ditta Artigianale (restaurant)
  4. Santa Croce (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by
Courtney from Los Angeles

I agree 2,000% with Jillian about seeing the Ponte Vecchio. It's insanely beautiful whether you're on it or just looking at it. 
I know this isn't exactly what you asked for and it's a weird one-off, but I would try to check out a store called Loretta Caponi. I'm mentioning it because it is kinda-sorta between the train station and the Ponte Vecchio and it's one of the most amazing stores I've ever been in. Their known for their very fine linen and fabrics and they make some beautiful things for children in particular, although they do have (mostly sleeping) garments for men and women. Really, though, you should go just to see the store which is gorgeous and goes on forever. For my money it's definitely in the "Florence's Coolest Stuff" category. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ponte Vecchio (attraction)
  2. Loretta Caponi (attraction)
3 thanks

top answer by
Jillian from Los Angeles

I would get off the train station and hop a cab to enjoy lunch overlooking the Arno and Ponte Vecchio at Golden View Open Bar. Request a window seat, and enjoy some chianti while taking in the view. I'm pretty sure I ate the gorgonzola gnocchi about three times a week when I studied abroad there. I also went back this past summer and it was just as good as I remember (maybe even better!). It looks fancy, but it's inviting and comfortable. As far as I remember, it's child friendly too. :)

If you have time, walk off the pasta down Borgo San Jacopo, stop at Caffè Le Torri for your after lunch cafe/espresso and pick up some dried or fresh fruit at the stand at end of the street before you cross over the river on the less crowded Ponte Santa Trinita. Photo opp- take pictures with the Ponte Vecchio in the background.

The more casual (and just as great) option would be to take a cab directly to the Ristorante Pizzeria Mastrociliegia for my favorite pizza in Florence. Any kind. Sit outside on the patio and just enjoy. I do feel like the service could be a little better, but it's their way of take it in!If you can, stop at the Duomo on the way back to the train station. It's really a beautiful sight that shouldn't be missed!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ponte Vecchio (attraction)
  2. Golden View Open Bar (restaurant)
  3. Borgo San Jacopo (attraction)
  4. Caffè Le Torri (restaurant)
  5. Ponte Santa Trinita (attraction)
  6. Ponte Vecchio (attraction)
  7. Ristorante Pizzeria Mastrociliegia (restaurant)
  8. Duomo (attraction)
11 thankscomments (1)

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