Traveling can be expensive, and you have to decide where you want to dedicate your expenses. My priority is always and forever… food. I love to eat anything and everything the world has to offer. That being said, I don't think that more expensive equals better. The best meals I have ever eaten haven't been at the fanciest restaurants. While I was in Florence I had some of my absolute favorite meals, and my two favorite places are absolutely affordable and shouldn't be missed.
If there's one place that you eat in Florence, make sure it is All'antico Vinaio. This restaurant makes some of the best sandwiches you will ever eat in your life. I was lucky enough to be in Florence when it wasn't a standard vacation time. The lower level of people and the light drizzle meant I didn't have to wait long for my food. Usually there can be a bit of a wait but don't be intimidated by a long line, it moves quickly and it is so beyond worth it.
When you walk in you can see the traditional artistry that goes into every sandwich. Cured meats are piled up and more are hanging from the ceiling. Italian wines line the walls. Giant slabs of fresh bread make the restaurant smell intoxicating and inviting. Numerous spreads lie out before you, daring you to get adventurous. This is an experience just as much as it is a restaurant. You feel immersed in the food before you have even had a chance to taste it… and that's the best part.
To be honest, I don't know what kind of sandwich I got. The handsome Italian man asked me what I wanted, and I said surprise me. Well he did! I know there was a mixture of eggplant spread, garlic spread, prosciutto, and more but I didn't need to know much to tell this was the best sandwich I ever had in my life. This was the best ciabatta bread I have ever tasted because it was so fresh and perfectly seasoned it perfectly balanced out all of the fillings. I'm not kidding about how good it was. Years later my sister was asking for restaurant recommendations in Florence and I cried thinking about how she was going to get to eat this. You can check out their menu and see which combination works best for you! The best way to enjoy is to grab a sandwich, a glass of wine, and enjoy right on the street with everyone else!
Afterwards you might be tempted to grab some dessert. Don't go to any old gelato shop! They can be overpriced and mediocre just because they're in the perfect tourist trap location. I was travelling with people who wanted to get some gelato, and they knew it wouldn't be great but it was an immediate need. While I waited for them on the street this old Italian woman came up to me and started yelling. She wasn't angry but was urgently trying to warn me about this gelato place. Once it was clear I didn't speak Italian she just kept saying the same name over again. I said thank you and gave her my most grateful smile, but sadness engulfed me. I had literally zero idea what she was talking about but I knew it must have had incredible gelato.
I tried to tell my friends about my encounter with this magical Italian guardian angel, but they weren't interested. So I thought about what she had said and tried to think of what she could be talking about. Later on in our trip someone said they knew someone who studied abroad in Florence and they had a recommendation. Crossing the Ponte Vecchio we made our way down the river to this small square, and suddenly I knew exactly what that woman had been saying… La Carraia. Right in that square was a large and beautiful Gelateria. I could've cried.
She was right, and it was incredible. Rows and rows of flavors that were interesting, expertly made, and delicious. Their chocolate was the richest chocolate flavor I've ever had, and mixed with peanut it was just next level. It is only a little out of the way but the Gelateria is a favorite amongst both visitors and locals for good reason.
If you're going to Florence then check out these two places. Trust me they are affordable, delicious, and incredibly Italian. And remember, whenever a wise guardian angel yells at you on the street, be sure to heed their advice.