You’re in a city famous for its incredible food. You want to experience the best of the best, without spending a fortune. And you have only a few days to explore.
How do you choose where to eat?
Alex and I had asked ourselves the very same question when we arrived in Florence. We’d been given all kinds of recommendations from friends and family, plus a whole host of anonymous opinions thanks to the world wide web, and yet we still didn’t know where to eat.
But following the five top tips below however, we soon found our own hidden gems in the city. We were never rushed, never stressed and never so hungry that we couldn’t wait to find the perfect meal. It was a really great way to explore and I highly recommend you try them out next time you’re off on holiday.
Top Tip 1 – play the field
We’d read the guidebooks, we’d been warned: don’t just duck into the first restaurant you see. Instead, take your time to read the menu – look for simple, fresh, good quality ingredients – and compare it to others along the same stretch before you commit. The front of house staff can be very persuasive and even a little intimidating at times, offering ‘exclusive’ deals and free drinks to secure customers, but try not to let them influence your decision. If you can find one, an open kitchen is a winner as it allows you to see your food being made and demonstrates the honesty and pride of the chefs.
Top Tip 2 – do as the locals do
The locals know their cuisine. Think how much pasta the Italians eat in a lifetime. Or how much sushi the Japanese have enjoyed. They know where to go for the best of their traditional cuisine, so if the locals are there, chances are the food is going to be excellent. Menus that haven’t been translated can also be a good indication of traditional food, although it means taking more of a risk when it comes to ordering! Asking a local can be helpful too – our Airbnb host recommended an organic pasta restaurant just down the road which turned out to be our favourite meal of the holiday!
Top Tip 3 – get in line
While it may not be your favourite thing to do, queueing is usually a good sign. If the restaurant is busy it means it’s in high demand and the food is worth the wait. The best panini Alex and I had in Florence was at the end of a 15 minute queue. Every bite enjoyed made up for every minute we had waited.
Top Tip 4 – less is more
Once you’re in the restaurant, simple food is best. The fewer the ingredients, the more love and care that goes into those ingredients and the better the resulting dish. What’s more, lots of the menus will be in the language of the city you are visiting and therefore it can be hard to know what you’ll get. Complex, multi-dimensional dishes can be great here and there, but simple meals that showcase the best of the local cuisine are pretty much guaranteed to impress.
Top Tip 5 – don’t decide on an empty stomach
Decide on the restaurant a few hours prior to your next meal. As you explore the area, read as many menus as you can and note down the restaurants that tickle your fancy. An empty stomach is hard to ignore and you don’t want your rumbling tummy to make a rash decision at the promise of any food at all.
That’s it folks! See you next time.