Cheap Eats the Florentine Way

(Photo by Elena Farinelli)

Getting the best deals on food in Florence often involves being a little adventurous. There are good places to eat in the Center, but especially at the height of tourist season they can be pretty expensive. However, if youíre willing to walk just ten minutes away from the major attractions, prices drop dramatically. There you can also get a taste of true Florentine life. If youíre lucky enough to have a local to guide you, that can make a big difference, but if not here are some suggestions I got from one of the locals I know.

Piazza DíAzeglio is only about ten minutes away from the center up Borgo Pinti. Around the piazza there are several little trattorias that are popular among the clerks and professionals that work in the city. At these places you can eat a good pasta for around 5 euro, and a full meal with coffee and dessert for around 10. They are also fairly quick, but still give you the opportunity to sit down and eat something more substantial than a sandwich.

On the corner of the Piazza is Bar DíAzeglio. Itís a favorite local lunchtime cafť that serves a few different pastas and meat dishes each day. When I went I had the pasta al pesto (always a good choice) and it was particularly good. The portion was filling enough that there was no need for a second course, but I couldnít resist their strawberry and banana macedonia topped with gelato. It was simple, but itís one of the best deserts Iíve had in Italy, and it was healthy too!

One of the hardest things for me when I first got here was figuring out which places served more than just sandwiches. Often you can find first and second dishes places you wouldnít expect, like in the little grocery on Borgo Pinti that has hidden trattoria in the back.

The trattoria is small and traditional (this type of restaurant started out as an add-on to stores that were already selling food and wine) but you have to walk through the grocery to the back to find it. They have a cute little patio where itís nice to sit when itís warm out, and the place is supposed to be nice and cozy in the winter. They serve a few different pastas, meats, and side-dishes, but the selection changes daily.

I went on Friday, a traditional fish day, and so I had the intriguing pasta nera, which gets its color from the squid ink used in the sauce. Itís an interesting dish, well worth a try, especially if you love seafood. I donít, so it was a poor choice for me.

However, the cake-like fritelle di riso more than made up for it. The deserts also change daily, but if you see this around anywhere donít pass it up. Iím a big fan of the little fried dough-ball fritelle, but this cake version was even better. It was warm, soft, and comforting, with just the right amount of raisins and a fine dusting of powdered sugar. Add coffee and there are few better ways to end a meal, except for maybe that macedonia I mentioned, and of course tiramisu.

The picture is taken near Ristorante Il Rifrullo (San NiccolÚ)

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