I stayed in a hostel in Florence for a few reasons, the top being that I wanted to save money. I also wanted to meet people. Combining the two meant that I could find people in the hostel to go out for meals and drinks — and I’d still be able to afford those things because I wasn’t spending a fortune on accommodation.
Along the tourist trail in Florence, there isn’t much in the way of food that I would recommend. Most of the restaurants are overpriced and don’t look so appealing (this is a theme around Italy). However, there are a few exceptions.
I met a fellow American tourist at the hostel to go around with for a bit after a day of sightseeing. Our first stop was McDonald’s. Usually I have to be drunk to even consider going there, but in Italy they serve Peroni for one euro. We had to go have a beer at McDonald’s just so we could tell everyone that we had a McBeer.
Our next stop was Mercato Centrale, which is a tourist and local destination not far from the train station — and it’s worth visiting (but I advise avoiding the souvenir hawkers outside). My hostel companion thought the market was just the souvenir crap outside; he didn’t realize there was a whole grocery market and hipster food court inside — the food court looked like something that came straight out of Brooklyn. It also gets rather lively and crowded in the evening. Had I stayed in Florence longer, I probably would’ve spent more time at the Mercato — there was also espresso in the downstairs market for less than one euro.
We started with pizza, which was sold by weight, because it looked good it. The anchovies were delicious. It was some of the best pizza I had in Italy. After that we had some cocktails — I introduced my new friend to the spritz, which is made with Aperol (sometimes Campari or Select), prosecco, and a little tonic. After our first drink, we wandered into the crowd for something larger to eat. I ended up with some fried seafood and vegetables — the seafood was good, but the vegetables were unseasoned and bland.
At Birrifico Mostodolce, down the street from the station, I found Italian microbrew. I decided to try the Black Doll stout. It was a decent beer, but like most in Italy it was nothing special. The bar seemed like a nice place to hang out, but I was there too early to enjoy much (I intended on waking up early for sightseeing anyway). They had other beers, but nothing that appealed to me at the time. I opted for a cheap bottle of wine back at the hostel instead.
Just before I left Florence, I went in search of lunch prior to hopping on the train for Perugia. I wasn’t overly hungry, so I searched for something light — I was actually hoping for a salad. I managed to find one on the way to the station with my luggage. It was better than any salad I had seen in Italy — it was a smoked duck salad with balsamic vinegar. The thin slices of smoked duck made the meal (I find most salads in Italy rather boring).
I’m sure if I had stayed longer in Florence, I would’ve found plenty more to eat and drink, but I only had two and a half days before I had to head back to my temporary home in Perugia.