Coffee in Italy is sacred. Traditionally, it’s not a sit-down affair, but rather a quick espresso shot enjoyed standing at the bar. Whether you want your caffeine on the go or to sit down and savour, these cafés in Florence are sure to satisfy your craving.
Cafés have long been the beating hearts of Florentine community – the place to gather in the morning to chat with neighbours, break in the afternoon with colleagues and meet in the evening with friends. Politics, work, neighbourhood happenings – you can learn about it all at your local coffee shop. Like all things, everyone has their own personal favourite café, barista and beverage. Florentine resident Sabrina Crawford shares hers.
Cafe, American, Vegetarian, $$$
Ditta Artigianale sells a selection of beans to take home and brew yourself | Courtesy of Ditta Artigianale
In a land fiercely devoted to both tradition and coffee, contemporary coffee spots are few and far between. Third-wave coffee shops – with their passion for single-origin, hand-picked, slow-brewed options; weirdly wonderful science-lab style machines; and cool interiors – understandably haven’t gained much traction in Italy. However, Ditta Artigianale is the very notable exception. Here, coffee-making is an art form. It’s commonly accepted that Ditta makes some of the best coffee in town, and it also sells a selection of beans to take home and brew yourself. Come to enjoy the coffee and the casual, yet exciting, vibe.
Warm, friendly and cosy, any time is a good time for coffee here. Just a few minutes from Santa Maria Novella train station, A casa features a creative menu of speciality coffees you’re unlikely to find elsewhere in Florence. Here, you can sample inspired, decadent twists on the classics – such as espresso layered with pistachio cream, Nutella or amaretto cookies. You’ll also find cappuccinos made with almond, rice and soy milk, as well as an array of herbal teas for the caffeine-free. If hunger strikes, A casa is also fantastic for brunch or a quick bite.
Set in the centre of Piazza della Repubblica, Gilli is the café of cafés in Florence. With an army of waiting staff in black ties attentively gliding between tables beneath high ceilings and chandeliers, Gilli is on a par with the grand cafés of Paris and Vienna. Coffee in these Art Nouveau interiors is a classy affair, done just right (and the cocktails are also top-notch for those seeking something stronger). If you’re here on a quick break, chat with your fellow patrons and marvel at the baristas’ stellar skills. However, if you want to stay awhile, it’s worth splurging for an outdoor table, especially in the evening. Here in the city’s busy central piazza, you can watch street musicians, fashionistas on parade, and the ebb and flow of Florentine life.
Robiglio offers everything you could ask for in an Italian café: old-world charm, friendly service, first-rate coffee and some of the best sweet treats in town, including chocolate-filled cornetti (croissants), cream-filled pastries, tiramisu and a host of speciality cakes sold by the slice. As with most cafés in Italy, table service costs more, but if you’re looking for an experience rather than a quick caffeine fix, it’s worth sitting outdoors. The streetscape here – a close-up, cutaway view of the Duomo to the left and Piazza della Santissima Annunziata to the right – is worth the extra euro. You’re on holiday, after all. So sit back, sip your espresso slowly and indulge your sweet tooth.
Set in Piazza della Signoria, Rivoire offers incredible views of the Palazzo Vecchio. The coffee here is first-class, but it’s the café’s chocolate that makes it really stand out – Enrico Rivoire, chocolatier to the royal Savoys, first opened his doors in 1872. So make sure to get cocoa sprinkled on your cappuccino, or better yet, try a chocolate-tinged coffee like the marocchino. The pastry counter is full of delights – from cream-stuffed brioches to sachertortes – most of them starring, of course, chocolate. Rivoire is also fabulous in the winter, when baristas serve up a decadent, thick French-style hot chocolate. Come back in the evening for an elegant and expertly crafted pre-dinner negroni.
Bakery, Cafe, Cocktail Bar, Patisserie, Restaurant, Italian, Vegetarian, $$$
The area around the Duomo is crammed full of cafés of varying quality, but this is the best place to go if you’re looking to bask in the cupola’s glow while enjoying your morning cappuccino. At this historic café, coffee is serious business, as are the freshly made pastries. Try the pistachio-filled cornetto (croissant), cream-filled sfoglia (a delicate pastry creation) or Tuscan rice budino (a type of custard pudding). Settle down at an outdoor table and contemplate the artistic and architectural marvels of the Renaissance, as this superstar location faces the beautiful baptistery. If it’s hot out, try a refreshing shakerato (espresso, shaken martini style with ice and sugar, served cool, sweet and frothy).
Set in the historic Le Murate arts complex, a former convent-turned-prison, Caffè Letterario has an ambience like nowhere else in Florence. The lively courtyard is the perfect place to unwind, relax and chat with friends. Check out Le Murate’s contemporary art museum in the day, an architectural marvel with ex-prison cells transformed into galleries, and enjoy an aperitif or two in the evening. The rich cultural programme and seasonal outdoor stage means there’s something interesting on offer nearly every night, from drumming performances to film screenings and literary readings, all free and open to the public.
Shake Café is vegetarian and vegan-friendly | Courtesy of Shake Café, Via degli Avelli
Eco-focussed, vegetarian and vegan-friendly, Shake isn’t your nonno’s classic corner café. But that’s exactly the point. Shake is a great place to hit up if you’re in need of a snack or pick-me-up on the go. Here, you’ll find American-style large coffees to go and a range of quick, healthy takeaway options, from pressed juices and fresh smoothies to salmon bagels, salads and vegan baked goods. Increasingly popular with young Florentines, Shake has three sites, including a tiny spot with outdoor seats in Piazza Santa Maria Novella and a massive, airy café near Piazza San Marco that’s good for groups.
If you’re looking for a local social space to linger for hours over your coffee, La Cité is it. Popular with students, creatives and young artists, this San Frediano café, open until midnight, is a longtime Oltrarno meeting spot at all hours. The buzzy vibe is akin to a university coffee house: it’s filled with students swotting up in the upstairs lounge, cosy mismatched tables and chairs, and music always playing. In the morning, you can curl up for hours with a book, chat with friends or people-watch, while in the evening, you can pop in for drinks and often catch an author reading, a DJ set or live music.
Getting to this terrace bar can be a little tricky, as you need to enter through the library and the signage is poor. But follow the elevator signs or take the stairs to the top floor and you’ll be well rewarded. The large wraparound open-air terrace, overlooking the Oblate courtyard, offers some of the best views of the Duomo. As it’s a library, the vibe here is university-like, lively and relaxed. Groups often gather at the scattered tables to study, drink coffee and chat. There is no table service – and so no extra table-service fees. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy a coffee and take in the city.