It happens to us all, you’re passing through Florence and you want to grab a quick bite to eat, all you see is a shady looking McDonald’s, a huge plastered Burger King sign (when did that become ok?!) and plenty of panini that look about as fresh as a used athlete’s tube sock. Not pretty, I know. I’ll admit that I have spent too much money on lukewarm Coco Cola Light and sandwiches with a strange almost ‘lighter’ version of iceberg lettuce.
Is that even possible? To save you the trouble of eating rubbery mozzarella, I wanted to write a list of places you can grab a bite to eat near the Santa Maria Novella Train Station in Florence, updated to reflect what’s good in 2016 for people who like to eat. I should note that there are some decent places to grab food in the station, including Fratelli Cuore, which is open 24 hours. Regarding my tips, I have them listed by type, along with a fun map to find each place easily. Also I love suggestions, so comment add your own & please share. On a side note, the piazza of santa maria novella has come a long, long way than my student days when I did my best to avoid this place.
Now the benches are filled with people taking breaks or eating outside and it is often home to cool seasonal markets. Nearby you will find the incredible Santa Maria Novella Church (worth visiting, and my favorite place to shop for gifts, the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Plus they have just added new contemporary museum, Museo Novecento which only adds to its charm. If you need vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free restaurants in Florence, read this.
This is a recommendation by my friend and The Florentine editor, Helen Farrell. A little spot directly inside the piazza itself, they serve up healthy juices with carrot, ginger and loads of yummy ingredients and Helen has also assured me that they have great bagels as well. Perfect for an easy snack or a pick-me-up juice.
Shake Cafe, Via Degli Avelli 2/R ( Piazza Santa Maria Novella), 50121 Florence, Italy
+39 055 295310. Opening hours: 6am – 10pm, Sat-Sun.
The rosticceria is the to-go version of the restaurant La spada but it where locals line up on their lunch break for some Tuscan favorites like bean soup, roasted meats and vegetables. I recommend stopping here and eating in the piazza (if it’s not too cold)
Rosticceria Spada, Via spada 62r. Florence, Italy. Facebook.
This is one of those iconic restaurants that happens to be a local’s favorite in Florence since well you know, 1869 (previously called ‘troia). Your typical no-fuss trattoria with white-washed walls serving up pollo al burro (chicken cooked in butter) that would make a grown man cry. Other traditional favorites that are a must-try are tortellini al brodo (the Tuscan version of chicken soup) and bistecca alla fiorentina (best steak ever). They talked about it on CNtraveller and I loved this post Sophie via The Curious Eater whose photos of the place tell more of the story than I ever could. Open daily for lunch & dinner, closed Saturday & Sunday. Price per person: around 45 euros.
Trattoria Sostanza (used to be called: Troia), Via della Porcellana 25 r, 50123 Florence, T +39 055 21269. Reservations recommended.
Ristorante Braciere Malatesta
This place got a bit of refresh lately and I am truly digging the contemporary decor. Known for the meat-based menu, there are plenty of interesting options here. It could be one of the better places near the station to try Florence’s char-broiled T-bone steak. In the warmer months, you can also enjoy your meal on their al fresco courtyard. Also notable are their thin, crispy pizzas.
Braciere Malatesta, Via Nazionale 36, 50123, Florence, Italy.
Trattoria Da Giorgio
This place is wonderful for those on a budget as they have a set menu for 14 euros a person that doesn’t suck. Plus they have been doing great value meals since 1977, for that alone I have to credit them! I have been there a few years ago and some friends say that it is still good so I’ll take their word for it. Open every day but Sunday for both lunch & dinner. You can’t make reservations.
Trattoria Da Giorgio, Via Palazzuolo 100r, 50123 Florence, Italy
Ristorante Terrazza Brunelleschi
I will admit that I have never eaten here but have only been for drinks and aperitivo. From the top of Hotel Baglioni you will experience one of the best views of the city. Of course it’s closed during the winter months but the restaurant is also on this top floor. I have seen that their menu does sound quite interesting and I would be game to try it, so I thought for that terrace alone, it deserved a spot on this list. The yelpers seem to like it. Expect to pay around 50-70 per person.
Ristorante Terrazza Brunelleschi, Piazza Dell’unità Italiana, Florence, Italy. +39 05523588865
Not Italian at all but it deserves a spot on this list because it’s literally the perfect meal on these cold, rainy November days. You can read about it on my post here, and come early, Italian ‘early’ which means around 7pm when they open.
Via dei Banchi 14r, Firenze, Italy 50123, +39 055 213776
Open Tuesday through Saturday from 7pm onwards ( closed Sundays & Mondays ) for dinner.
This independent bookshop/cafe/theater is a recent addition to Florence and what an addition it is! 180 square meters of space, 15,000 titles, a wine bar, all the coffee you could want. Free WiFi, events, readings and more – you could say that I am love with this place and you would be right. Plus the design is almost Scandinavian, plenty of wooden tables and signs – the day I worked from there, a dog wandered through the shop. Highly recommend. Open every day but Monday, 10am – 8pm.
Todo Modo, Via dei Fossi 15/R
Florence, Italy. Tel: + 39 055 239 9110, website, facebook.
Cute place to get a coffee & a pastry near the train station. I’ve been there a few times after awkward questura visits or to weather a rain storm. I am pretty sure they also serve a light lunch.
La Boulangerie del Rifrullo, Via de’ Rondinelli 24R. 50123 Florence. Italy
Santa Maria Novella
Phone number +39 05 5281658
This cafe is scarily similar to Starbucks which is what I think they were going for ;-). While I wouldn’t say they serve up the best coffee (my lukewarm latte was a little ‘eh’), they do have free WIFI and comfortable seats which is a haven when you are looking for somewhere to chill for a few hours. Plus it is literally 2 minutes walking from the station itself. Homesick Americans will love this place.
Arnolds, Piazza Unità Italiana 15, Via degli Avelli 8, 50123 Florence, Italy.
One of my (now) favorite places for a drink in town is the bar L’O inside of Hotel Orologio just off of piazza santa maria novella. Every Friday night there is live International folk music and their bartender mixes a pretty good array of cocktails. Margaritas with Patron tequila, a perfect moscow mule, you get my drift. address: Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, 24, 50123 Firenze.
I have been coming to this place for ages, it’s a fun little aperitivo bar that mixes good cocktails (like my favorite ‘moscow mule’) and has wine to boot. It has changed ownership a few times but honestly, it still remains more or less pretty similar. I still go there and think it is the perfect place near the train station to get a drink, meet friends or have aperitivo. Check out this cool post by AllaFiorentina about the place.
Sei Divino, Borgo Ognissanti 42, Florence, Italy
The Fiddler’s Elbow
I’m pretty sure this Irish pub has been in Florence longer than Florence itself. It is your run of the mill pub in the piazza serving up lager and starting conversations. Unlike many student-saturated places, this remains pretty legit and clientele can be quite loyal. You can come here to watch major sport matches and access free WIFI, rumor has it they also have a small pool table, I just haven’t seen it yet. Every Thursday is open mic night. I like this place.
The Fiddler’s Elbow, Piazza Santa Maria Novella 7R
Phone number +39 055215056
To help you guys find these places a little easier, I have created this fun, custom map (isn’t google great!) so you can bookmark it on your next trip to Florence.
Also if you get the chance, head over to the new & improved Mercato Centrale (central market) by San Lorenzo, the new first floor ‘fancy food court’ is awesome and isn’t too far from the station, they have a truly great selection of local foods and they are open every day until Midnight.
If you’re looking for my top recommendations for where to eat, drink and be merry in Florence besides this neighborhood. Check out this page with all of the dirty (read – delicious) details and please comment with your top favorites!
Some additional places I didn’t mention above plus those suggested to me by you readers are:
- Trattoria 13 Gobbi (a bit more on the pricey side) but still a good option.
- Also they just opened a 1950’s American diner on via del moro that I have yet to try. I am sure I will update this list regularly btw.
- Also on via nazionale (very close to the station) is the Conad supermarket where you can get things a lot cheaper than in the station, literally less than 5 minutes walking, it’s added to the clickable map above.
- Trattoria La Carabaccia, Via Palazzuolo, 190/r | Via il Prato 36/r, 50123 Florence, Italy. Tuscan home cooking suggested by my friend Lisa Condie, she say’s to ask to eat in the cellar!
- A great suggestion by local tour guide Molly McIlwrath is the charming Hotel L’Orologio Firenze, Piazza Santa Maria Novella 24, 50123 Firenze – Tel: +39 055 277380. Perfect place to linger over coffee and I have seen them do the occasional aperitivo.
For a fun reads about the area in and around Santa Maria Novella, I enjoyed this blog post by Sauce Magnusson (great photos), this informative post by Discover Tuscany, a Fresco Tour by The Florentine & 36 Hours in Florence by The New York Times.
wow I am so hungry now but can’t enjoy until march! great post!
Thank you Lara, I have been meaning to write this post for a long time and now thanks to google maps, I can update the interactive element as often as I’d like.
I would add La Dantesca on Via Panzani. It’s right outside the station and makes some of the best pizza in town. It’s not as special as some of your other choices but it’s casual and tourist-friendly without being a tourist trap and the wood-fired pizzas are fantastic. I can’t speak to the rest of the menu as my Florentine friends only suggested the pizza. The one with ricotta is my favorite but the crust on any of the pies is excellent. It is a friendly lets-relax-and-get-our-bearings kind of restaurant. You find locals, students, tourists, police officers in there regularly.
Thanks Cristina, I have only been there once, years ago but I do remember having a positive experience. I should go back and check it out again.
this is awesome! thanks georgette. can’t wait to check out some of these spots next week. woo hoo!
G–Re Trattoria Sostanza, did you mean meals were 45 E or 4-5 E?
Susan around 45 euros per person (if you get a few things, dessert and wine) 🙂
We liked this place, Shake Cafe.
“We had some time to kill when we got to Florence and it was lunchtime so we wandered around near the train station and found a surprisingly wonderful little deli/restaurant, Shake Cafe on Piazza Santa Maria Novella (Via Degli Avelli 2/R), where we had salads, sandwiches and wraps. “
I think I got a fresh juice there once but never food. I’ll have to go and give it another chance if you recommend it 🙂
Wow! Dinners for two from 80-140 euros ($100-$175 US)! Too rich for me. These restaurants sound like wonderful places to eat, but I don’t pay that much even in New York City. Don’t know how you do it. Think I’ll stick with those set menus for 11-14 euros per person.
Love reading about these places even if I can’t afford them. Keep the information coming! È una bella giornata!
Meals in Italy are very different than those of the states. For example here, eating out almost always includes wine, two courses, coffee and lasts over two hours. People tend to eat out much less and nobody tips. You can definitely go to these restaurants and not get wine or two courses but that wouldn’t be very fun ;-). Luckily there are some great affordable options too like Trattoria da Giorgio, lord knows I cook mostly at home :). Thanks for reading this post and commenting, I appreciate it!
Été Bistrò’s Platter has me drooling! Another great post. I usually hung around the Santa Croce area when my wife and daughter mentioned that they wanted to go to Santa Maria Novella. Because I knew that this meant they were going to buy perfume, soap and other smelly things!!!
That Pharmacy is a magical wonderland for us ladies, besides being the oldest pharmacy in Europe it still has this mysterious air of previous life (in a non creepy way). Plus I love their rose water tonic 🙂
Great post, Georgette! Another place I just tried, not too far from the station, is Trattoria La Carabaccia, Via Palazzuolo, 190/R, 50123 Firenze. Ask for the private room in the cellar.
I will check it out Lisa and thank you so much for commenting and sharing, your support is tremendous!
What do you think of the Alinari Cafe in that neighborhood? I stayed at the Hotel Cosimo d’Medici and ate there every day for dessert and espresso. The torta della gonna was fantastic!
The thing about Alinari is that their prices are too high for what it is. I have no problem paying a little more for truly amazing food and drink but 4.50 for a cappuccino is not ok :/
Damn autocorrect, not that “gonna” is a great choice, but I meant torta della nonna. 🙂
I’ve only been once, but Florence is one of my favourite cities in the whole world. We’re hoping to go back for another visit next year so I’ll keep these in mind!
Ciao Amy, thank you for reading & commenting! Florence does have that effect on people and thanks for bookmarking this. I know I personally hate not knowing where to go when I have to linger near the station of (any) city so I had to do this for Florence 🙂
Oh how I wish I’d known about that ramen place earlier… 😀
It’s a real find Robbin, always crowded but for a reason. The funny thing is that during the day it is a normal Italian coffeeshop that is suddenly transformed around 7pm. I am thinking to head there this week or next, these rainy days make me crave a heart bowl of ramen!
Hi Georgette! The railway station neighborhood is seen as an area for foreigners only- both expats and tourists. That happens worldwide,not just in Florence.
So I’ve never lunched near SMN ; when I’ m getting the train I usually nibble snacks on the platform!! But I’m coming to the very” Florence core” in a few weeks, for a Christmas shopping day out, with my fashion addicted gals.Which of the places you have listed above is the most suitable for very Italian strollers?? The truth is, as you won’t fail to highlight, that Italians linger for hours in restaurants only when they feel like wasting time. But that day we’ll have a packed line up!! We’ve been reading your useful hints and we’ll see the Picasso show!
Ciao Elisa, you are very right that in any city you are likely to find touristy options but I have to say, I’ve been to many cities around Europe that had much better options at the train station. In Berlin they even had the most delicious thai curry, very cheap, which was such a better option than your classic McDonald’s or crap panino ;-). For strollers, the fish place San Pietro is more than fine, as well as Sostanza, even the cafe’s I mentioned will be ok too :). Enjoy the picasso show, I really loved it, they did such a good job with helping the public savor each room, which is just another reason why Palazzo Strozzi is awesome. Have a great trip!
Wow, what a great list! We spent a few days in Florence at the beginning of the year testing restaurants. Didn’t try any you mentioned here, but that gives us a good reason to come back 🙂 The closest we got to SMN in terms of food destinations was Trattoria Mario; absolutely loved it… mmm, pappardelle al sugo di pernice, could go for some of that right now!
I ate at Giorgio’s this summer–it’s still good. . .two brothers run the place. . .and it is worth the find (and the wait if you get there too late–seating is limited!)
Thank you Girl in Florence. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog. I’m traveling to Florence at the end of March/beginning of April. I’ve been to Florence 3 times before in the last 20 years. Once was on a tour of Italy (Venice, Florence, Rome) and I spent only 2 1/2 days there, so we spent it with the escorted tour group primarily and were on a whirlwind of the classic, major sites. Then, years later, I visited Montecatini (for an escorted Tuscany tour in which Montecatini was our home base) and spent one day in Florence, again seeing the classic sites. Lastly, I went again on a Tuscany tour in which our home base was Montecatini again, and we came to Florence twice–one for an escorted tour again, then another day just to shop and eat. Each time I came with different people so that classic Florence walking tour was a must for them. All in all, I feel I have not really spent time, or “lived,” in Florence. So now I am staying for a week, with each morning during the week studying the Italian language at Scuola Leonardo da Vinci. After school, I just want to explore the city–not just the classic sites. Your lists, and many of your other posts, are providing me with experienced, enriched, real-life suggestions as to how to spend my time. Plus, I’m traveling solo, so I can try anything I want. It’s wonderful!
Ciao! Thank you so much for your kind words – they honestly mean the world to me. It sounds like you had QUITE the trip and brava to you. I adore Montecatini and all of the little ‘borghi’ (small towns) located around there. If you need any tips or further advice, don’t hesitate to ask and my advice is to just enjoy your time. Slowly, without overdoing it on itineraries. Italy is best savored over a glass of wine and a cheese plate :).
Great site and thanks for all the info. It’s funny I came across this page. I will be spending 8 days in Tuscany this May. Second to last day I will be driving to Florence to drop off rented car, spending the day in Florence. Don’t need more time this trip. We were there last June for 5 days. Anyway I was looking for a place for dinner near the train station before we board train to Milan to fly out next day. Want to eat real good Tuscan style quaint nice good food. Can you please recommend where please.
Also, you say up top no tip. I was leaving 15 to 20 percent last year after every meal. Is this unnecessary? Thanks again…Joe
Tipping, or at least excessive tipping, is not really required in Italy. If you receive some lose change after paying for your meal, then leave that. Certainly 15-20% is way too much. That kind of tipping can create problems for those who follow you. A taxi driver once did something special for me at two in the morning, so I gave him a tip of 3 euros. He was so thankful, I actually was a bit embarrassed. Buona giornata!
Thank you so much Earl for your valuable input. I was going to say the same thing, most Italians almost never tip and there is a reason why 🙂
Hello Joe! Sounds like you have a fine trip planned there :). I woudl go for Trattoria 13 Gobbi or Sostanza for a nice dinner, both are excellent and serve Tuscan food. Also don’t tip! The most I would suggest you leave is a few euros, here it is not customary at all since the waiters get paid a normal salary.
What are the chances of this with over 2000 restaurants in Florence. We met my nephew in Florence who was studying at NYU in Florence and went to Trattoria 13 Gobbi last July 2014.
The Tignanello was fantastic.
We are in Florence to celebrate my 40th birthday. I only discovered your blog this morning. We have one night left before we go home. If you had just one meal left in Florence where would you go? Thank you so much. Claire x
That’s a hard one, because it just depends on what you’re going for, fancier or not. If I was going for a typical trattoria, I would go for something like Trattoria Il Brindellone, also Trattoria Sostanza is near the train station and is quite well known. Otherwise for a fancier affair, I would go to La Legend dei Frati at Villa Bardini.
Suggestion for a romantic dinner for two that doesn’t necessarily have to be pricey for two fellow Texans? Visiting in Oct for first time.
I would go for Trattoria Gobbi 13! It’s great 🙂
Hello Georgette! I want to thank you for this wonderfully informative blogpost. My boyfriend and I have just returned after a few days in Florence and Pisa. We went to Braciere Malatesta and it was magnificent! We ended up booking online via tripadvisor, which gave us free glases of prosecco on arrival and 20% off the bill!!!! It was so good that we went twice. Absolutely love your blog!!
That’s awesome Azra, I’m really happy that it worked out and that you had a wonderful experience. Thanks for taking the time to comment on the blog 🙂
My kids and I stayed with my mom in Florence for a month last summer, and just my mom and I again this past March. There’s a restaurant in Piazza di Santa Maria Novella with red checked tablecloths and silk sunflowers and vines hanging from its umbrellas. It was our local comfort food restaurant, for nights when we were stumbling home from the train station at 10:00 and needed dinner. It was good food, made exceptional by a fantastic wait staff. Any chance you can find the name for us? We’ve Googled, but can’t seem to find the name.