I was a fan of Judy Witts-Francini long before we met face to face. I got to know her through her fantastic Divina Cucina web-site, the best guide to the food of Florence out there. Judy’s a native California gal, who moved to Florence over 25 years ago, and now is a central part of the town’s culinary scene. I finally spent time with her in person last year, just before her wonderful first cookbook was published: Secrets of My Tuscan Kitchen.
Just like her Divina Cucina Logo (an angel holding a wooden spoon), when I’m with Judy–whether it’s in the Central Market of San Lorenzo or just walking through the streets, I feel like she’s a guardian angel by my side, guiding me to the best tastes out there.
So I asked Judy for her version of a Golden Day In Florence, and here’s what she had to say:
Florence is such an easy place to walk around and enjoy each of its neighborhoods with art, history and fabulous food at every corner. Since I lived by the fabulous Central Market of San Lorenzo, I often never left my neighborhood–it has everything.
To start the morning off right, at the corner of Via San Antonino and Via dell’Ariento is one of Florence’s best pastry shops, Siena. The old brick woodburning ovens were replaced over 10 years ago, but they remounted them on the wall in the front room which is a nice touch. Serving Illy caffe, Master Coffee “barist” Massimo will make creamy cappucino. If you want a caffe latte, don’t say latte. Latte means milk and he’ll hand you a large glass of hot milk.I like to order a mini Napolitano- style Sfogliatelle here, they are filled with a light Chantillly cream and are to die for.
After breakfast, cross the street and head inside to the food hall. Even if I’m not shopping, it’s a paradise of color and great place for photos. There are places for more snacks or a light lunch, such as Nerbone which opened in 1870 or farther down at Pork’s, a little bit of Sicily with Mamma Benita and her family.
On the backside of the market, are some of Florence’s best little trattorias. Mario’s (Via Rosina 2r, Closed Sun, cash only) and Pepo’s are two of my favorites.
Behind the trattorias, I head down Via Taddea, to one of my favorite shops–the Civaiolo. It’s a one stop kitchen shop, old style, and the first place I go to look for anything: beans, rice, toilet paper, pots and pans in alluminum, stainless steel or the traditional clay, which I adore.You can even have keys made here.
Leaving via Taddea, we run into Via Ginori, lined with artisan shops. On the left are handmade books, plexi-glass fun jewelery, custom picture frames, a Bagel shop and Coccoli, a new Artisan chocolate store.
If I turn right and head down towards the Duomo, the street changes to Borgo San Lorenzo, another great shopping street with ceramic shops, shoes and clothing, without downtown prices.
Not to be missed is the famous Medici Chapel. Behind it, I can turn to via dei Conti and enjoy a fabulous Bistecca alla Fiorentina at Cipolla Rossa, a butcher owned restaurant. You can’t go wrong there.
Heading past the Duomo, I pass by Ricceri Ceramic shop, run by the famous family from Impruneta. They ship and I have always found something there very special.
Continuing down the street, on your left is Penko, probably one of the best goldsmiths in Florence. This is where I bought my wedding rings–copies of an ancient design that was popular in Florence during medieval times.
My favorite gelato shop, GROM, is to the right of the Campanille, down the alley. Famous for using the BEST ingredients, GROM is now a chain, with shops in Bologna, Torino, Paris, and NYC.
Now I am downtown and really in trouble as every block has something special. To get away from the touristy part of town, cross over the Ponte Vecchio and head over to what is called the Oltr’Arno. Getting off the main streets here, you find yourself in a maze of artisan workshops.
Borgo San Jacopo is a fun street to start on, where the 5 star Hotel Lungarno is located. Walk down the tiny alley to the small terrace overlooking the Arno River. This is my favorite photo spot in town with the Ponte Vecchio right behind you.
The street is shop after lovely shop and as you keep going, it changes names to become Borgo Santo Spirito. Don’t miss the Angela Caputi shop or the expensive but Magical Aprosio, with their tiny glass beads made into fantastic pins and earrings.
No one can shop without keeping up their strength. I enjoy the Santo Bevitore, just at the end of the street for a light lunch or possible the lovely Osteria di Convivium.
If I only could have one dinner, I would head to Cibreo. You have a choice of eating at the main restaurant, which is expensive, but the service, wine cellar and appetizers make it one place I suggest to all my food loving friends. You can also head around the corner, to the Trattoria where the food comes from the same kitchen at half the price! No fancy stemware, no tablecloths, no huge wine list, communal tables at times, but the same incredible food!
I’ve just given you a tiny taste of Florence. I believe Everyone should try being Florentine at least once a year.
I have a dining guide available by neighborhoods. I think while exploring the wealth of art in Florence, you should always be able to discover the local places we love. No need to backtrack for a great meal.
And there is always gelato!
—Grazie, Divina Cucina. I’ll be back soon for a Cibreo fix, etc…