Three years ago I studied abroad in Florence, Italy and fell head over heels in love with the city's charming cobblestone streets and wide music filled piazzas. While living there, I was a strict vegetarian eating a mostly vegan diet, and I was curious how things would be on my return as a full-fledged vegan. I was shocked to find so many of my favorite restaurants had included vegan menus, and to see that so many new vegan cafes and restaurants had popped up throughout the city. I ate my weight in plant-based pastas, pizzas, and gelatos while traversing this romantic city and reminiscing about my time as a student in Firenze.
All'Antico Vinaio is a family run focacceria with massive sandwiches on homemade schiacciata bread. This place almost ALWAYS has a huge line of hungry patrons bending around the sidewalk and through the street. They use super fresh ingredients, so every sandwich tastes amazing. I always go in and just order "una shiacciata vegana" and they work their magic. It is delicious every single time! Five euros gets you one huge sandwich that will keep you full until dinnertime.
Via Dei Neri 74R, 50100, Firenze, Italy
Cuculia is an upscale vegan friendly restaurant. There is no specific vegan menu, but the chef was more than happy to put together a fantastic pesto Tagliatelle for me. It came with a cold squash puree, which was delicious, as well as small creamy soup appetizer for free. Cuculia lacks the homey Italian ambience of Gusta Pizza and Osteria Santo Spirito, but the food is delicious and makes the restaurant worth a visit.
Via dei Serragli, 3r, 50125 Firezne, Italy
I really dislike writing negative reviews of restaurants but honestly, I have nothing positive to say about my experience at Dolce Vegan. Before we ordered, I went to the bathroom and nearly gagged when I walked in because it smelled like raw sewage. After I exited the bathroom, the heavy, rancid scent lingered in the actual dining area of the restaurant long after the bathroom door was closed. Every time someone reopened the bathroom door, that revolting smell carried throughout the restaurant! That didn't start off our meal on a very good note! When we were ready to order we flagged down the waitress and she informed us that all orders are self-entered. She proceeded to hand us each a glossy paper menu and a dull faint pencil, and we were meant to fill in our order on skinny little lines with this pencil that barely worked. Since there was such minimal space to fill in our orders, we each filled out a separate menu, only to be told that the kitchen would not process our orders together if we used two different menus. So, we got an entirely new menu and squeezed in both our orders as best we could and handed it to the waitress. I ordered their gnocchi with carbonara sauce, and my friend ordered Tagliatelle with carbonara sauce. When our order was ready, I noticed they had given me tagliatelle instead of gnocchi. I told the waitress that I had actually ordered the gnocchi and she said, "we don't have gnocchi so I decided to give you tagliatelle." Like, what? You couldn't tell me that beforehand? I told her I would have ordered another dish entirely if I knew they were out of gnocchi and she said, "You don't have to eat it. I can make you something else." But it had already taken so long to get our food and I didn't want to stay in that rancid smelling restaurant any longer, so I declined and ate my food. It didn't taste bad, but it definitely wasn't close to carbonara. Our bill came out to be nearly three times as much as other (better tasting) meals we'd had in Florence, which seemed ridiculous considering it was self-service and not that great of food. Definitely would not recommend this restaurant to anyone, sadly. It was one of the worst experiences I've had at a restaurant :/
Via san Gallo 92r, 50129 Firenze, Italy
Gelateria dei Neri
This place is a bit of a hidden gem. It lacks the world wild fame of Grom, and doesn't have the Trip Advisor following of Perche No?!, but it surpasses both in gelato texture and flavor. The fruit sorbettos are all vegan, but what keeps me coming back is their creamy and decadent Gelato Vegano Vaniglia e Nutella. Creamy vanilla wraps around ribbons of vegan nutella. YUM! It's definitely the best vegan gelato in all of Florence!
Via dei Neri, 9/11 50122 Firenze, Italy
Gusta Pizza is a Florence institution. This tiny pizzeria cooks up fresh, homemade pizzas in a big wood fired oven. The open kitchen provides for a fun dining experience as you can watch the cooks tossing pizza doughs into the air, making perfect pies for the hungry masses. I always order the Marinara pizza (it's naturally vegan!) and I add cherry tomatoes, basil, and arugula. At 5 euros, it's a steal and is the best pizza I've ever had!
Via Maggio 46, 50125 Firenze, Italy
Osteria Santo Spirito
This quaint, Tuscan eatery in Piazza Santo Spirito has been a longtime favorite of mine. It's not totally vegan, but it is totally delicious and they are willing to accommodate dietary restrictions. The two best things on the menu are the fresh bruschetta and the Pappa al Pomodoro, a thick tomato bread soup from Tuscany. The bruschetta comes on fat pieces of bread that are grilled until they're crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They're then topped with fresh cherry tomatoes, high quality extra virigin olive oil, and basil. It's so simple and flavorful. An order of bruschetta and a reduced portion of the Pappa al Pomodoro is enough to be a full meal, but if you're extra hungry, order the Rigatoni in Tomato Basil sauce without ricotta. Perfectly cooked pasta with a toothsome bite and a rich, fresh tomato sauce on top. Semplicement perfetto!
Piazza Santo Spirito 16/R, 50125, Firenze, Italy
Shake Cafe is a hip new cafe full of vegan pastries, plant milk cappuccinos, fresh juices, and smoothie bowls. It's a bit more expensive than the average Florence cafe, but the extra euro is well worth it. Get the Chia smoothie bowl and a vegan chocolate croissant...talk about a perfect breakfast!
Via del Corso 26, 50122, Firenze, Italy
I was super stoked to see an entirely vegan cafe had opened up in one of the main areas of Florence, so I made sure to pay it a visit. Their vegan dessert selection is super impressive, and their chocolate croissant is yummy with hints of an almondy taste. Super delicious! I also tried their Lasagna bolognese with Bechamel sauce and while it wasn't the tastiest vegan lasagna I've had, it wasn't terrible and filled me up well for the afternoon. Universo Vegano is a nice spot for a morning latte and a flaky pastry.
Via Pietrapiana, 47R 50122, Firenze, Italy
There's not a ton to say about this place except for the fact that it serves up a damn good soy latte and always has really awesome music playing. This dark, cozy cafe is quirky in it's decor, giving it a hipstery artist's hang out feel. People watch on the patio while you sip your drink, or tuck away in one of the shadowy corners inside and zone out to the juke boxes tunes.
Piazza Santo Spirito, 5/R Firenze, Italy
Other notable vegan eateries:
Il Vegetariano: a vegetarian cafeteria style lunch spot that's popular among the locals! Super busy at lunchtime. Good food, good prices.