I spent four months during my senior year of college studying abroad in Florence, Italy. It was my first real experience being thousands of miles away from home, in an entirely foreign place, and it is during that time that I fell in love with the unfamiliar. While I spent many weekends jet-setting off to other European destinations on buses, trains, and $20 RyanAir plane tickets, I hold a very special place in my heart for the Italian city that I called home for four months. What I love most about Florence and many other Italian destinations is that it is a place that is less about doing and more about being. They take simple joys seriously- like food, wine, and family- and they don’t sweat the rest.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that I returned to Italy after six long years (and six years too many). I took my mom on a 10-day tour of my favorite places in Florence and the postcard-perfect Amalfi Coast, and it didn’t take me any time to fall back in love with it all.
Being plant-based and much more conscious of my shopping habits this time around, it was fun to seek out places that are conscious about their environmental impact. And while Italy is very much a country fixed on tradition, it was encouraging to find that there are, indeed, establishments that are more forward-thinking. Yes, you can still eat well as a vegan in Florence without subsisting on cheese-less pizza (and good news- wine is vegan!) There are even several gelaterias now that offer dairy-free and soy-based options.
Where to Eat
A vegan/ vegetarian cafe that also serves as an art gallery/event space.
Cecilia Natural Food & Drink
A healthy cafe with a farmhouse-inspired interior serving coffee, juices, smoothies, pastries, and light fare.
Edoardo Il Gelato Biologico
A gelateria close to the Duomo that serves organic ice cream made from entirely organic ingredients. They offer a few rotating dairy-free options as well. Its location makes it a perfect place to stop for a treat in between sight-seeing.
Gelateria Dei Neri
One of my favorite gelaterias in college, with unusual flavors like ‘ricotta & fig.’ They offer rotating fruit-based and soy-based flavors for vegans.
A beautiful, cozy restaurant serving plant-based Italian cuisine and organic wine.
On the lower level you will find dozens of stalls selling local produce, dairy, meat, and other traditional Tuscan fare. The top level is recently renovated with many food stalls and restaurants, wine bars, and even a Tuscan cooking school. A great place to go if you and your traveling partners can’t agree on what to eat. There is a vegetarian “burger” stand with several vegan options.
A counter-serve pizza restaurant with gluten free and vegan options.
A raw vegan cafe in the Santo Spirito neighborhood serving juices, soups, wraps, and fresh coconut water.
If you need to detox from wine and carbs, head to Shake Cafe for a cold-pressed juice or smoothie. Their menu also includes light, healthy fare including wraps and salads.
Trattoria Enzo e Piero
A quintessential, family-owned Florentinian trattoria with traditional dishes like pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup) and zuppa di farro (white bean-farro soup). They offer a seitan dish as a main course for vegans.
A popular Tuscan restaurant, just a stone’s throw from Mercato Centrale, with a cozy, rustic atmosphere and delicious Florentinian food.
A Scandinavian-influenced, minimalistic boutique selling a variety of sustainably-focused labels and independent magazines (like Kinfolk).
One of Florence’s most popular thrift shops where you can score vintage finds by Italian designers.
This small shop contains an eclectic assortment of sustainable goods, including beauty products, apparel, crafts, and more.
A sustainably-focused stationary store selling an assortment of kitchy goods. They have a backpack made from cork and 100% plant-based, cruelty-free sources.
Come here for eclectic, high-end fashion finds from indie labels.
Pesci Che Volano
A quirky little shop selling mostly fish-themed, handcrafted metal jewelry.
One of the main focal points of the city of Florence is Ponte Vecchio, a bridge running across the Arno River, which is housed with generations-old jewelry and watch shops.
These beautiful gardens make for a serene escape from the crowds. Bring a baguette or a panino and enjoy a picnic out on the lawn in between admiring the flora, foliage, and sculptures.
Tuscany in a Bottle
Take a half-day tour through Chianti tasting local wines and olive oils and learning about the wine-making process.
Hike uphill to the beautiful plaza overlooking the Arno River and the Florence cityscape, where you can grab a gelato and hang out under the Statue of David replica. There is a restaurant on top which makes for a great setting to enjoy a cocktail at sunset.
Santo Spirito Organic and Flea Market
If you happen to be in Florence on the third Sunday of the month, you’re in for a real treat. The Santo Spirito Organic Market (also called the Fierucola Market) hosts a variety of vendors selling local, organic food products and hand-crafted goods including pottery, textiles, rugs, natural soaps, and more. There is also a vintage/ flea market in the square on the second Sunday of every month.
Flower Market at Piazza della Repubblica
A beautiful way to spend a Thursday afternoon is perusing the flower market at the buzzy Piazza della Repubblica (gelato in hand).
This architectural masterpiece was built between the years 1296 and 1436 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can climb the 436 stairs up the tower for some of the best views of the city, but make sure you book your spot in advance.
Head here to see the original Statue of David sculpture, a truly awe-inspiring work of art.
A contemporary art museum tucked on the edge of the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, with rotating exhibits by mostly Italian artists.