Best Cheap Eats in Florence

Florence may be full of fancy restaurants, but it’s also easy to eat well and eat cheaply in this Renaissance gem. Look out for good value lunchtime menus at restaurants where dinner may challenge the wallet; delis offering cheap lunchtime snacks; wine bars serving up gourmet eats to pair with the best vintages; rosticcerias with a mouth-watering selection of food to go and mom-and-pop joints with the kind of authentic, homely cuisine rarely found in more up-market restaurants.

Mercato Centrale, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
Located on the first floor of the bustling central market, Nerbone’s food stall has been serving up steaming plates of warming nourishment to hungry market workers since 1872 and is a great place to find local color and rock-bottom prices. The specialty is lampredotto (cow’s intestines) served in a bun with bright green salsa verde, but if you can’t stomach that (sorry….), there is also pasta and roast meats. The locals stand at the bar counter to eat, but there are a few tables too.
Via Andrea del Verrocchio, 8r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Cibreo is one of Florence’s top gourmet restaurants, but if you manage to get a table in the adjoining, much less formal trattoria (you can’t book and there’s always a line), you eat the same food at a fraction of the price. Chef Fabio Picchi’s Tuscan-rooted specialties are legendary and he is famous for not serving pasta. Instead, you can feast on velvety yellow pepper soup, polenta with melted, herb-infused butter, polpettone (meat loaf) with mashed potato, stuffed chicken neck (which tastes a lot better than it sounds) and the best flourless chocolate cake you will have ever eaten.
Via dei Michelozzi, 9/R, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
In spite of featuring in all the guide books, this Santo Spirito favourite has a loyal local following, and the place is always packed out with a mix of tourists and Florentines who line up for good value, homecooked food. I would recommend choosing the Tuscan specialities such as the hearty minestrone with rice and black cabbage and the oven-roast guinea fowl (‘faraona’). Homemade apple cake is a great way to finish.
Via dei Georgofili, 3r/7r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
A useful address for a snack after a visit to the Uffizi or Palazzo Vecchio, this gourmet sandwich bar and deli, hidden away down a narrow lane, serves delicious panini plus the odd salad. The sandwich selection (made with focaccia freshly-baked in a wood-fired oven) changes daily but ingredients are top-notch and sourced from all over Italy: gorgonzola cheese and salty anchovies is a favourite of mine. The price of your sandwich includes a glass of wine.
Lungarno degli Archibusieri, 8, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
There are few better places from which to enjoy river views and sunsets than the Ponte Vecchio, built in 1345. Spanning the Arno’s narrowest point, this is the only bridge to have survived the German bombing of the city in 1944. There have always been shops on the bridge; the original butchers and grocers were replaced by sweeter-smelling gold and silversmiths in 1593. Sitting right in the middle is a bust of Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571), the most famous goldsmith of them all.
Via della Chiesa, 16/r, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
This authentic neighborhood bar, Il Chicco di Caffè (aka Lola’s), is run by Maurizio whose Mom, Lola, cooks for a truly egalitarian mix of local artisans, staff from the nearby Gucci headquarters, students and people like me (I live next door!) at lunchtimes. The place is always packed, so be prepared to wait for satisfying pasta dishes, succulent meat mains and great seasonal veg sides. No frills here, but prices are rock bottom and there’s a cool buzz about the place.
Via dei Neri, 37/r, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy
If you can’t stand the thought of another plate of ribollita (and it happens to the best of us), this contemporary dim sum restaurant is a good place to come for a cheap lunch: 12 euros will buy you two courses plus unlimited tea and water. The noodles are homemade (the chef does his noodle thing for all to see), and the steamed dumplings are delicious.
Via dei Neri, 76R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Fresh as you can get and a great price. The baker was bringing in steaming loaves of oven-fresh bread from the bakery down the street while we were standing in line!! Prosciutto on focaccia with warm Parmesan spread and arugula was delicious. Drink your wine on the street with other locals and travelers.
Via di Camaldoli, 2r, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy
This natural soup-n-burger joint lies far from the tourist hordes, on a quiet residential street in the San Frediano neighbourhood. The kitchen and takeaway operation (open lunch and dinner) stands on one side of the road while opposite there is a pared-down modern restaurant (open for dinner only) with a tiny courtyard. Organic vegetables and herbs and locally produced beef go into tasty, seasonal soups (creamy cauliflower with truffle or earthy lentil and kale) and juicy burgers and there are gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options too. Don’t miss the delicious desserts such as the rich flourless chocolate cake. The drinks list features excellent organic wines from the owner’s estate, craft beers and organic fizzy drinks.
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