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For centuries, Florence’s streets north of the River Arno have attracted plenty of attention. The Uffizi, the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio all lie north of the river. However, the neighbourhoods on the other side of the picturesque waterway have recently become popular as well, and none more so than Oltrarno. Tipped as Florence’s up and coming neighbourhood, it’s rich in culture and its culinary offerings rival any other part of the city.
They say that Sicily is the Italian pizza capital, but the team at Gusta Pizza are certainly giving the Sicilians a run for their money. This little hole-in-the-wall is exactly what an Italian pizza restaurant should be: unassuming, friendly, and warmed by a huge wood-fired oven. Word of Gusta Pizza’s success has spread through locals both north and south of the river, and there are often queues outside, but their fresh ingredients and doughy pizza bases make it well worth the wait. The communal tables encourage sharing and create a lovely family atmosphere.
Gusta Pizza, Via Maggio, 46r, Florence, Italy, +39 055 285 068
If you ask a local Florentine for a restaurant recommendation, the majority will point you straight towards La Casalinga, a hearty trattoria serving some of the finest food Florence has to offer. Both delicious and very reasonable, it’s the best place to go for some genuine Italian eats, serving simple dishes such as lasagne and steak, cooked to perfection. Reservations are essential if you’re not prepared to queue, and definitely don’t leave without trying one of their traditional Italian desserts.
La Casalinga, Via dè Michelozzi, 9R, Florence, Italy, +39 055 218 624
Any holiday to Italy wouldn’t be complete without an experience of the Italian culture of antipasti Throughout the day, but most commonly in the early evening, local wine bars put on a selection of small dishes for customers to taste as a pre-dinner snack. One of the finest wine bars in which to try this local ritual is Le volpi e l’uva, well-renowned not only for its excellent wine list, but for its platters of cold meats and vegetables.
Le volpi e l’uva, Piazza dei Rossi, 1, Florence, Italy, +39 055 239 8132
This restaurant is truly earning its title as ‘The Holy Grail’ of Oltrarno haute cuisine, going from strength to strength since its opening. The chef at Il Santo Graal, Simone Cipriani, who trained in many Michelin starred restaurants has crafted an exquisite menu, featuring some amazing and unusual takes on traditional Florentine dishes. Dishes featured on the ‘menu degustatzione’ include fresh pasta with coffee powder, dry capers, hazelnut and aged parmesan, and an imaginative vegetarian option with watermelon, strawberry, basil, goat’s cheese and pistachio.
Il Santo Graal, Via Romana, 70R, Florence, Italy, +39 055 228 6533
The family-style seating in Alla Vecchia Bettola means you’ll often find parties of guests mingling, children playing, or locals cheerfully advising tourists what to eat. To describe the portions as generous would be an underestimate, so make sure you’re hungry when you visit. It’s an excellent venue to try out traditional bistecca alla fiorentina, a classic and simple dish of grilled steak. Combine that with their house wine at four euros a glass, and you’ve got a match made in heaven. Make sure not to leave without trying the dish that gave the restaurant its name.
The food at this little cafe is simple, reliable, and tasty. But as all Oltrarno locals know, no one really comes here for the food. Cafe degli Artigiani is famous for its coffee, and for a very good reason. While it’s hard to find a cafe or restaurant in Italy where you can’t get a decent cappuccino or espresso, Cafe degli Artigiani does something special with their caffeine. Rich, dark and creamy, any coffee-lover would have missed a trick if they left Florence without a visit to this little gem. They’ve also opened a gelateria across the alley, so it’s the perfect place to take kids to enjoy an ice cream while you refuel with an espresso.
Cafe degli Artigiani, Via dello Sprone 16r, Florence, Italy, +39 055 291 882
Florence is so full of would-be-restaurateurs that nowhere would last more than half a century in the city without being truly excellent. Founded in 1950, All’Antico Ristoro di’Cambi has stood the test of time, and shows no signs of slowing down now. A family-run business, they serve some of the best authentic Florentine dishes, steeped in a history of family recipes. With dishes including lampredotto (made from the fourth stomach of a cow) and fried brain, adventurous souls will be at home here, while more conservative eaters might like to try their ribollita, a thick onion soup. Their counter, displaying a selection of meats and cheeses, is sure to make anyone’s stomach rumble, and we can’t recommend their tiramisu highly enough.
All’Antico Ristoro di’Cambi, Via S.Onofrio, 1R, Florence, Italy,+39 055 217 134
By Imogen Beecroft