I was recently in Florence and had the opportunity to partake in one of my favorite traveling activities: a food tour. Eating Europe has contracted with locals to guide you to the best food in the area, no planning or Italian required.
Even though I’m a planner and will spend hours digging through TripAdvisor or Yelp reviews looking for the best places, those review sites are typically full of reviews from other tourists, so why not let the experts guide you through Florence?
Eating Europe (http://eatingeurope.com) offers several Florence tours, and the one that I took was ‘The Other Side of Florence Food Tour’ which focuses on the south side of the Arno River. Our tour guide, Omar, led us through the Bohemian neighborhood of Oltarno, and the four-hour walking tour was spent mostly at one of the eight stops, not spending hours on your feet.
The highlight of the tour for me was the second stop, Pasticceria Buonamici. Not only did we get to try Cantucci (the original biscotti that originated nearby) but they had arranged a baking lesson with Mr. Roberto who has been working at the store, since it opened, for 70 years. He told us some great stories and I was brave enough to ask if he got tired of baking the same recipes for so long. He replied, “I could change the recipes, but they’re already perfect!”
Mr. Roberto preparing traditional Cantucci.
The famous and delicious Lampredotto sandwich.
Another one of the highlights was visiting ‘Formaggi e Salumi Sandro & Ivana.’ A plain storefront hides culinary treasures on the inside. We learned about the different home regions of many types of cheese and salumi, and got to try samples. The owners had almost limitless knowledge, so it was like speaking to a Wikipedia of Italian food. On the wall, I even spotted a picture of our guide, Omar, from what looked like 10 years ago, posing with the owners of the shop.
Other stops included a traditional style Italian Trattoria, a wine shop that serves Crostino, and while there are many, many Gelato shops in Florence, and there are many lists online that cover them, we found ourselves walking back across the bridge the next day, back to Oltarno, to get more gelato from the shop that Omar took us to. I had my favorite flavor, lemon, and it was so wonderfully tart and sweet that I’ll never shake the flavor from my head. It’s probably for the best that it’s a few thousand miles away.
This is a food tour for foodies, so we were taken to a sandwich stand selling one of the Florentine city specialties, the Lampredotto sandwich. The beef that is on the sandwich is made from the fourth stomach of the cow, which sounds very scary, but it’s slow-braised and sliced very thinly and is quite delicious. It’s a much different (and better) experience than eating Mexican-style tripe as you lose all of the chewiness. It reminds me very much of roast beef sandwich, and it’s available city-wide and is considered street food, so eating from a street stall is recommended.
The Other Side of Florence Food Tour costs 75 Euros for the four-hour tour and is inclusive of everything except an optional gratuity. It lasts four hours and departs at 10:00 am from Monday to Friday and is bookable on their website: https://www.eatingeurope.com/florence/the-other-side-of-florence-food-tour/. Certainly, eat a light breakfast as you’ll be spending nearly that entire four hours sampling the finest food in Florence. Even if you skip on the Lampredotto sandwich, the tour offers amazing value. You get way more than the food: you learn the history and why this food is so important.