Student Food Guide: 13 best places to eat in Florence

By Annabelle Marenghi

Being a student in the city of Florence is incredible for countless reasons. However, one of my favorite things is the abundance of excellent food. Throughout the city, you’ll find wonderful places to sip on great coffee, try traditional Tuscan cuisine, and socialize with friends and locals alike. However, Florence attracts large crowds of tourists, and sometimes it can be difficult to find authentic places off the beaten path. I’ve been spending my six months living here searching for the most hidden spots for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Here are just a few of my favorite places to eat in Florence.

Coffee & Breakfast

La Cité

This spot is tucked away on L’altro Arno, or the “other side of the river.” The decor is eclectic and cozy, and the menu extends beyond just coffees to lunch, dinner, and drinks in the evening. I particularly love this spot for their cappuccinos and Italian-style empanadas. La Cité is the ideal place for a study session, a coffee date, or to just curl up in one of the big chairs with a great book and an espresso.

Todo Modo
Todo Modo

This cafe is another one of my personal favorites. This is not only a hidden gem, but actually hidden! Enter the bookstore, turn a corner, and find a wonderful cafe tucked in the back. The interior is warm and cozy, their coffees are delicious, and this is the best place to sit with a friend and talk for hours. And to top it all off, in the evening, Todo Modo turns into a wine bar.

Melaleuca Cafe

This place might just be my favorite cafe in Florence, and that’s a high bar. With a beautiful location on the river, my friends and I frequent Melaleuca on sunny mornings or for study sessions. Melaleuca Cafe is sunlit and filled with a wonderful ambiance. I love their coffees, breakfast and brunch offerings, and ever-changing pastry selection. Note: the cinnamon rolls are to die for.



Florence is famous for its panini, and Ino’s is one of the best spots to grab one. This classic Italian panini shop is known for its delicious sandwiches and quirky, artistic interior. Ino’s prides themselves on using fresh, high-quality, and locally sourced ingredients to create a variety of flavorful paninis. Located right near the Arno River, you can either enjoy your paninis sitting inside, or take them to go (“portare via”) and sit alongside the river to eat.

Le Vespe Cafe

A slight deviation from Italian food, but Le Vespe is the best American-style breakfast for when you may be missing home. The menu includes breakfast burritos, Eggs Benedict, iced coffees, and everything I’ve tried so far has been delicious. Insider tip: Skip the Sunday brunch and go to Le Vespe on a weekday. The menu is different, and there’s always less of a crowd.

Il Fratellini

You may find too large of a crowd at Il Fratellini for this to truly be labeled this a hidden gem, but this renowned panini shop in the heart of Florence is a must-try. It’s located near Piazza della Signoria and is known for its small but flavorful and amazingly inexpensive paninis. The shop's traditional approach to sandwich-making and its standing-room-only counter make for a very authentic Italian experience.

Ristorante Del Fagioli


Ristorante del Fagioli

Ristorante del Fagioli is one of the best places I can recommend for a delicious, authentically Tuscan dinner. Ristorante del Fagioli’s menu is home to every traditional Florentine dish and truly showcases the essence of traditional Tuscan cooking. Every time I’ve dined at Ristorante del Fagioli, I find myself to be the only American customer in the establishment – the true sign of a hidden gem in Florence. And as Florence is known for “bistecca alla fiorentina,” or Florentine-style steak, this is certainly the place to try it.

Trattoria 4 Leoni

Trattoria 4 Leoni is a charming restaurant located on the other side of the river. This restaurant is my favorite spot for authentic Tuscan cuisine, hosting a warm and welcoming atmosphere with its rustic décor and intimate setting. I highly recommend trying their signature dishes, such as the iconic pear and pecorino ravioli and Tuscan pecorino plate, showcasing the finest local ingredients. You can dine in the indoor part of the restaurant or enjoy al fresco dining in the beautiful courtyard.


Sbrino Gelatificio Contadino

I like to think of myself as a gelato connoisseur after six months in Florence, and I can wholeheartedly say that Sbrino is the best gelato in the city. Sbrino has several locations throughout the city, although my particular favorite is on Via De’Serragli, as it’s right next to one of the charming vintage photo booths that are signature to Florence. SBrino constantly rotates through seasonal flavors, and every one I’ve tried is of such high quality and rich with flavor. It’s also delicious to get your gelato “con panna” – whipped cream on top!

S. Forno Bakery

This bakery is host to deliciously authentic pastries, freshly baked Italian bread, and a constantly changing curated collection of jams, cheeses, and other Italian delicacies. I adore this bakery for its warm and comforting environment, as well as their unbelievably fluffy, airy croissants.


This may be less hidden, but Vivoli is worth all of the hype. It’s located near the beautiful Piazza Santa Croce and offers both coffee drinks and gelato. The affogato is a must-have – it’s a cup of creamy vanilla gelato with an espresso shot poured in the middle, and the result is incredible.

Aperitivo & Drinks

Art Bar

Art Bar is tucked off of a side street and is somewhat difficult to find the first several times! The interior is covered with eclectic picture frames, colorful modern art and knick-knacks on shelves. The owner is known for making the most incredible, artistic drinks with fresh fruit piled up on top of each cocktail. This is the kind of place to bring a deck of cards and a few friends and spend a long evening talking.

Bulli e Balene

Located across the river, Bulli e Balene is one of my absolute favorite spots for aperitivo, or a light appetizer before dinner. Aperitivo is a common social tradition in Italian culture, similar to an American happy hour, that includes light appetizers and drinks before dinner. Grab a delicious spritz and a selection of 1.50 euro crostini in all different rotating seasonal flavors! This feels like a “locals only” place. On a warm day, take your drinks and crostini out to the square and relax on one of the benches. 

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