When in Florence eat where and how the Florentines eat, and discover the delights of the authentic local cuisine.
Lexicographers have never satisfactorily explained how the Italian word for a chubby straw-covered wine bottle — fiasco — came also to mean a failure or flop. Food and wine lovers can ignore such niceties. After viewing the glories of Florence's Duomo (cathedral) and the ancient Baptistery of San Giovanni, where better to refresh yourself than in a fiaschetteria (a wine shop selling a few warm dishes) in Piazza dell'Olio a block away?
Here, in the friendly Fiaschetteria Nuvoli, you can enjoy a steaming plate of ribollita (hearty vegetable soup), pappa al pomodoro (tomato and bread soup), or trippa alla fiorentina (tripe stew). The experience is typical of the pleasures to be found in numerous unpretentious eating stops in Florence, as in any Italian city. To track down such places, first venture into side streets off the main tourist routes. Look for an establishment where the décor is unassuming and customers eat at a long bar table standing up or sitting on stools. Avoid menu boards announcing 'specials' in four languages; instead, look for a scrap of brown paper on the door listing in handwriting four or five rigorously traditional dishes of the day.
Want something even faster and more flavorful? Let your nose guide you to the nearest trippaio, a tiny shop or street cart selling trippa. Besides the great-value food, whose ingredients are often sourced directly from Tuscan farmers, there is another reason to choose these places: you can eat with the locals, from taxi drivers to lawyers, art students to bank clerks and get a real taste of how Florentines live, cook and eat.
When to go: Year-round, except August when most local restaurants are closed. Many also shut on Sundays
Planning: Good hunting grounds for small restaurants include Via dei Cimatori, Via dei Macci, Via dei Neri and around Cappelle Medicee. Prepare for crowds at lunchtime and during aperitivo (the Italian 'Happy Hour', two hours after office hours are finished).
Websites: www.theflorentine.net, www.firenzeturismo.it, www.faithwillinger.com
Classic trippa alla fiorentina has a stew-like consistency — strips of tripe (the inside lining of a cow's stomach), cooked with onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil.
For centuries Florence and Rome contended for the title of capitale della trippa or tripe capital. In the end, Florence took the lead with its one-of-a-kind institution; the trippaio. Steel kiosks have mostly replaced the colorful wooden carts of old, but vendors remain jovial and proud of keeping alive this street tradition.
Try a lampredotto, a juicier type of tripe, inside a bun. Add garlic and parsley sauce and have a bite: you are taking part in an authentic Florentine ritual