It is a well-known fact within the Black Sheep Restaurants family that co-founder Asim was Florentine in a past life. Florence is Italy’s capital for food and culture and over the last six years, it has become the first and last stop on wine-buying or culinary trips the team take through Italy. The city has become very special to Asim, he has spent at least a week every year in Florence over the last six years and he has often bragged about his secret life there. So ahead of the team’s next research trip to Tuscany, for a new concept that is percolating, we asked Asim to let us in on the secret and share with us his tips for where to eat, drink and play in Florence.
Where to Eat:
This famous trattoria has been around for over a hundred years and sticks to the old-school Florentine recipes. It is a bit touristy but the food is always excellent.
Sostanza is a traditional Florentine restaurant that is full of history. Go for lunch and eat the butter chicken.
A winemaker friend took me here two years ago. With warm service, great food and a family atmosphere, this is the trattoria Florentines go to.
The city is full of panini shops but this one is head and shoulders above the rest. The best thing to do is to tell them what meat you want and let the team make a sandwich for you. This is one of the many inspirations for Stazione Novella.
I am something of a gelato connoisseur so trust me when I say that Gelateria Perché No is the best gelato in the city. I am a purist so I recommend trying the hazelnut (the best hazelnuts come from Piedmont in Italy) or the real test of a good gelato shop is their fior di latte.
It is about an hour drive from Florence but for me no trip is complete without a visit to our friend Dario. I inevitably wake up the day after a dinner there with a sore head and a belly ache from too much eating and laughing, but it is always worth it.
Where to Drink
An iconic Florence bar, even if the crowd can be a bit chichi.
Rooftop bars around the Ponte Vecchio
There are lots of five-star hotels close to Ponte Vecchio. Portrait Firenze has a balcony overlooking the ancient bridge. Go to one of the rooftop bars at sunset and sip on a spritz.
Chianti at sunset
Buy a bottle of Chianti from one of the wine shops around Via dello Sprone. You should be able to find a great bottle for less than 10 euros. Sit on the platforms on one the many bridges over the river Arno and watch the sun go down.
Dive bars around the universities
Florence is a university city so you will find lots of dive bars around the big squares. Head for the Piazza Pitti, Piazza della Signoria or Piazza della Republica and roam the backstreets to find the hidden gems.
What To Do
This historic gallery houses the biggest collection of Renaissance art under one roof, including busts, statues and paintings from the likes of Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo. Do some research before you go so you do not miss your favourites. Try to get there early as the gallery is large and often busy.
If you want to avoid the crowds, head to the refectory to see Ghirlandaio’s exquisite Last Supper.
If fine art is not your thing or you just need a break from the Rennaisance, the Gucci museum is a compact history of one my favourite brands and an hour well spent.
If the weather is on your side then a stroll around Boboli Gardens is spectacular, there is nothing like it in Hong Kong.
Spread over two floors, Mercato Centrale is a must-see for food lovers. There are lots of artisanal shops downstairs selling fresh vegetables and meat. Upstairs is a Florentine ‘food court’ with everything you could want from an Italian market, from truffles and salumi to fresh pasta.
Gucci, Ferragamo and Cavalli all come from Florence so, as you can imagine, there is a big fashion scene, and there are lots of cool boutiques dotted around the city. Florence also has a rich history of leather production and there is a strong market for artisanal leather goods. Try Legatorio il Torchio di Erin Ciulla on Via de’ Bardi, 17.
For more Italian inspiration, discover the history of the distinctly Florentine Negroni and read our guide to aperitivo culture or for another European foodie destination, explore the culinary capital of Lyon.