Food & Drink Guides
The Unseen Side of Florence
By Aleks Cvetkovic
Jul 13, 2022
The Jackal’s Aleks Cvetkovic walks you through his best kept Florentine secrets and favourite post-Pitti treats.
Pitti Uomo. It continues to be one of the most bizarre, entertaining and perplexing events in the menswear calendar. A trade show filled with fascinating brands and craftspeople, perennially over-populated with show-offs, it always succeeds in uplifting and bemusing in equal measure.
Once Pitti’s wrapped up each day, I try to take some time to escape the madness of the Fortezza. That means venturing south over the Arno to the less tourist-y, residential district. It’s a lesser visited side to Florence and for my money it’s where most of the gems in the city lie. Certainly, it makes for rich pickings where food and drink is concerned.
First things first, where’s the best spot for a refreshment break after the peacocks’ neon suits have assaulted the senses? Cross over the Ponte Vecchio, continue down to the Piazza Pitti and you’ll stumble across a row of wine bars. Some are good, some are not. The one to pause at is Enoteca Pitti - it’s got a great view up to the Palazzo’s frontage and an old-world Florentine feel. It also has one of the best selections of Tuscan tipples I’ve found in the city - ask the barman’s advice on the Asti of the moment.
Pepped up, gather your thoughts and turn left out of the bar, then left again down Via dello Sprone. You’ll come to the Piazza della Passera. It’s got a curious history: in the 18th and 19th centuries this square was the gathering point for Florence’s ladies of the night. Today, it’s a tranquil spot with a great gelateria and Quattro Leoni, one of the south side’s more refined restaurants. If you only eat one thing make it the house’s signature dish - poached pear ravioli with asparagus and a silky smooth taleggio sauce. It is out of this world, a very Italian experience. Trust Florence’s finest to put fruit in ravioli and make it work.
Continue onwards through a few dubious-looking side streets and you’ll hit Santo Spirito. It’s the ideal place to pause for a Negroni (be warned, they make ‘em strong here) at one of the cafes around the square. It’s also worth taking a moment to appreciate the workshop of Roberto Ugolini, one of Florence’s few remaining independent shoemakers, whose tiny atelier is just around the corner, facing the Basilica itself.
Another five minutes on is a spot that’s unromantic, but a must-do. I’m talking about the family-run tripe cart in Piazza dei Nerli, owned by a husband and wife pair who’ve been cooking fresh Florentine takeaway dishes for the best part of thirty years. The panino con lampredotto (Florentine stewed tripe served in a hollowed-out roll with chilli oil and salsa verde) is truly special. One of those rolls would be my last supper, no question.
There’s an authenticity to this part of Florence that’s refreshing whether you’ve faced the horrors of Pitti itself, or just fought your way through the centre of town on holiday. I can’t recommend it enough. After all, Drake’s isn't just about honest clothes, but about honest living too and Florence doesn’t get more honest than Santo Spirito.