Tuscany has long been famous for wonderful fresh food and amazing wine. But for many visitors, the choices can be either overwhelming (low-quality offerings in high-tourist areas) or obscure (where do the locals actually eat?). In Florence, I wholeheartedly recommend Boccadama in Piazza Santa Croce. It’s easy to find, since the church is highlighted on all the maps. As the burial place of Michelangelo, it’s a good chance you’ll be stopping by anyhow. Savvy travelers can schedule that stop around mealtime, and grab a tavola (table) on the piazza for a lovely meal with a spectacular view.
Nestled beneath Renaissance-era frescos, Boccadama offers traditional artisanal dishes, including a vegetarian Lasagna nestled in fresh pesto sauce, and the Orecchiette con Pomodoro pictured above. The wait staff is friendly and ready to help language-challenged visitors. The piazza is rarely crowded, so you can enjoy a break from the crush of daily sightseers. Choose from a terrific selection of local wines, whether you want the vino della casa or a fine Montelpulciano D’Abruzzo.
And the pasta is amazingly fresh! My orecchiette tasted like Nona had personally pressed her thumb into the tiny shells just moments before cooking. Many dishes in Tuscany are served with a generous sprig of fresh basil, which I cheerfully tore apart and added to as many bites of pasta as possible, while resolving to renew my own herb garden back home.