Eating vegan in Italy was fairly easy in general, but if there was one place we went where it was particularly so, that place would have to be Florence. Avoiding meat and dairy here is something you just don’t have to put as much thought into as you might expect, and certainly not as much research as you might for other destinations (which was handy, because I hadn’t done much); it’s just a very vegan friendly city. That goes from vegan and veggie restaurants, to great vegan options, right into to the shops; even lots of smaller supermarkets we went into had great selections of tofu, falafel, vegan burgers, and dairy free cheese/milk substitutes.
Still, because it’s the law that if you are vegan, hungry, and haven’t done any food-research in a new city, you’ll only seem to be able to find places you cant eat (conveniently walking past plentiful places you could), a little bit of searching before you go or while you’re there is always a good idea – hence this blog post, my little round up of places we enjoyed and would recommend. I’ve divided them into three sections for ease and would happily revisit any of them, although I left with plenty more on my list for next time too!
We did a lot of walking around in the daytime and only really stopped for breakfast or lunch a couple of times, mostly just grabbing things on the go (picking up foccacia to eat while exploring was something of an addiction for me in Italy). A couple of places we did stop by properly are:
Ditta Artigianale: I’d heard that this place had dairy free milk, so when we encountered it on our first morning we decided to pay it a visit for a slow start and a spot of people watching from the breakfast bar they have at the window. It’s a very cool, trendy little café down a little street fairly close to the river (near Ponte alle Grazie) and well worth a visit. They’re great for coffee and do indeed have a few dairy free milk options, but the next morning we went again for breakfast – there wasn’t loads to eat that was vegan on the menu, but we’d seen they did avo on toast. I had mine with caramelised onions and can thoroughly recommend.
Shake Café: There are two of these in Florence and they’re both fairly central, so easy to pop by while sightseeing. Shake focuses on ‘healthy’ juices, shakes, breakfasts and lunches and everything is super fresh. There were several vegan options; I had a roasted veg wrap and a juice and both were great. If you’re not into your wholefoods or liquidised fruit and veg, this might not be for you, but by the time we’d got to Florence we’d been in Italy a week and I was ready to welcome them onto the menu with open arms. Definitely good if you feel like you’ve turned into a giant walking ravioli and need nutrients stat.
Albero: On our last morning, we went for an early morning wander, and on crossing Ponte Vecchio bridge into Oltrarno, found ourselves in front of Albero. It was early Sunday morning and not everything was open yet, but this was, so we stopped for coffee and yet more juice (can you tell I’d dived into the pasta a little too enthusiastically in the days prior?) – their breakfast menu looked pretty good too if you have time to stop!
Libreria Brac, which I’ll get to next, is also open from midday and would be a delicious lunch option.
Some standard advice; if you’re not seeking out specifically vegan/veggie restaurants or places known to have lots of options, pizza marinara or pasta dishes with tomato, basil and aubergine are readily available and always delicious. If you’re looking for something more Tuscany-specific, look out for Ribollita and Pappa al pomodoro, which are types of bread soup (Yes – bread. soup. Sign me up). A couple of restaurants we enjoyed were:
Libreria Brac – I’d heard a lot about this place before going to Florence, so chances are if you’re hunting for places to eat plant-based in Florence you will have too. I must say; believe the hype and just go, it’s great. Their speciality is a tasting plate where you select one salad, one pasta and one baked dish to make up your meal. As someone with severe indecisiveness over food selection, this was right up my street; the more I can try, the better! We made sure to choose different dishes from each category so we could try six things and they were all delicious, with the highlights being possibly the fennel salad and the seitan. Make sure you reserve, as it’s not massive, so when we didn’t manage to get in on the first night we made sure to book for the second.
Konnubio – After not managing to get into Brac on the first night, a quick google brought us to Konnubio, a centrally-located restaurant and wine bar. It’s heading towards the fine dining vibe, so is a little more fancy than we would usually go for, but the food is beautiful (in appearance as well as taste). This is the one meal I wish I’d taken photos of and completely failed at, but I left the camera in the Airbnb and in any case, it’s pretty dark in there. Konnubio serves meat and dairy, but they have very clearly marked vegan options on the menu; I went for a seitan stew with peppers and tomato cream and I’d eat it again in a heartbeat. If you’re just having a main, you’ll need sides to accompany whatever you choose (unless you have a really small appetite), but these come in generous portions – we chose roasted potatoes and wilted spinach, and they were plentiful. It’s probably not one to visit if you’re on a budget, but not outrageously expensive either for the type of restaurant it is.
Il Pizzaiuolo – You’re certainly not spoiled for choice here – it’s a Naples-style pizzeria, so pretty much the only option is the top one aka the simplest one possible. Still, I was up for pizza again by our last evening and despite only being able to have Pizza Marinara, it was such a fantastic marinara that I considered it worthy of a mention. You can tell this place is great from the small crowd waiting to get inside all evening, but they do takeaway too; that’s what we did, and the pizza didn’t disappoint.
You’ll be delighted, I’m sure, to know that there are lots of places for dairy free ice cream in Florence – there’s a little green ‘Vegan ok!’ sign in the windows of many of the city’s gelato places. I entertained myself by imagining that it was to assure us that we were in fact allowed on the premises, but (I think) it’s actually just to confirm that there are some vegan flavours. As per everywhere I went in Italy, the most likely options to be vegan are the fruit ones and dark chocolate.
Festival del Gelato: We came across this place on the first evening via a Vegan ok! sign, and thank god we did; I’m going to put myself out there and say, if I may be so bold, that their dark chocolate ice cream was the best I tried over the whole trip. This was something I thoroughly taste-tested, I can assure you, so it really is amazing. Their peach flavour was the creamiest vegan ice cream I had in Florence, so as far as I can tell it’s great all round. Find it on Via del Corso (near Zara, if you’re interested).
Gelateria Edoardo: – No matter how much or little time you have in Flornce, chances are you will find yourself seconds from Gelateria Edoardo – it’s right on the main square, so if you’re visiting the Duomo day or night pop in. I went for their delicious dark chocolate and then went off piste by selecting prickly pear (I’d had a couple of wines and was feeling *adventurous*…).
Gelateria Vivaldi: This is the only place I had gelato in Florence that had vegan cones. We deserve cones, guys, so for that if nothing else make sure you pay them a visit. Luckily it certainly wont just be for that, though, because their gelato is delicious. The flavours aren’t all vegan, but a decent chunk of them are; I opted for raspberry chocolate and strawberry (and then stood in the street awkwardly trying to get a photo, a la the last image in this post). It’s the same side of the river as Piazale Michaelangelo and the Boboli Gardens, so good for tying into a trip to either of them.
That brings me to the end of my recommendations for now! We didn’t make it to half of the places I had on my list of potentials, so I’m looking forward to trying some of the others as well as revisiting some of these on a future trip. If you’re interested in things to do, where we stayed, and anecdotes you didn’t ask to hear, I’m hoping my travel diaries from each of the places we went in Italy will be up in the coming weeks. Until next time x