An unfortunate Florentine truth: the fixed menus, faux leather and overly friendly vendors of San Lorenzo prompt some to steer clear of this vibrant neighborhood. But amid a sprinkling of choice Chinese eateries, the boisterous, blue-collar soul of this district is alive and well in one sidestreet. Between the bus stops in piazza dell’Unità Italiana and the stalls of via dell’Ariento lies via Sant’Antonino, where you’ll find that spirit in these spots.
Trattoria Palle d’Oro
San Lorenzo has seen more than its share of trendy openings in recent years, but sometimes you may want to bypass the chic and head for the hearty. When that comfort-food craving comes around, head to Palle d’Oro for a plate (or three) of traditional Tuscan fare. In-the-know regulars are particularly keen on the pasta fresca dishes and peposo. Though Palle d’Oro is open for dinner, it’s liveliest at midday, perfect for both leisurely and al bancone lunches.
Enoteca Fratelli Zanobini
‘I don’t ever drink. I only work—because knowing about wine is my work,’ says Simone Zanobini with a smile. He’s one third of the charismatic management team at this family-run institution, where every inch of the wall is lined with top-shelf tastes, from grappa and gin to the Zanobini’s own Le Lame wine label. Need a time-out from the madness of the market? Duck in here for wine by the glass at modest prices: propped up on a stool or spread out on the storefront bench, you’ll feel like you’re sitting on an old friend’s porch.
Gioia della Casa
A cabinet of curiosities for the domestically inclined, Gioia della Casa stocks both staples and a plethora of products you never knew you needed. The multitude of Moka pots on display is what draws eager tourists inside, but the loyal customers keep returning for the kitchen practicalities. From rolling pins and fondue pots to spice racks and silverware, the shop has a solid mix of necessities and niceties, all at modest prices.
Il Cantuccio di San Lorenzo
Got a friend with a sweet tooth visiting Florence for the first time? Stop in at Il Cantuccio for a crash course in quintessentially Tuscan treats. You’ll be in good company, likely to bump elbows with Lazio or Calabria residents hankering for a taste of Tuscany—Il Cantuccio is particularly popular with discerning Italian travelers. Load up on the bakery’s namesake cookie, prepared according to a secret family recipe, plus panbriaco, brutti buoni, frollini and plenty of other delicacies.
Photos by Giacomo Badiani