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By Laura Mongillo in Florence—
Even though Florence is the home of the “bistecca fiorentina,” a steak that is sold by the kilo and never to just one person, the city is quite welcoming to vegetarians, vegans, people who eat kosher and various other diets. Oddly enough, almost all of the vegetarian and vegan fare that Florence has to offer in centered around Piazza San Marco. So if you are planning a trip, try to find a hotel in that area to make it easier to find meal and snack options.
Here is what the city has to offer in terms of vegetarian, vegan and kosher restaurants and markets, which often also specialize in organic and fair trade food.
Via delle ruote, 30r
This is the best-known vegetarian restaurant in Florence, literally named “The Vegetarian.” The prices are pretty low, starting at €4-6 for “primi piatti” (light dishes), and €8-9 for “secondi piatti” (main dishes). They pride themselves on using fresh organic ingredients and offering a menu of both vegetarian and vegan options.
The set up is similar to a cafeteria, so when you arrive go straight to the cash register in the back. There you can pick out your meal, pay for it and bring your receipt to the food bar to be served. Don’t forget about excellent desserts and wine, which again are all organic and vegetarian or vegan.
Via degli Alfani, 39
I know it seems odd to send vegans to a cafe with “milk” in the name, but trust me on this one. This cafe deserves its own (non-veg /vegan) post for its huge cappuccinos and caffe lattes and to-die-for desserts with homemade warm cream sauce. (Side note: If you don’t order the special sauce, Vanna, the elderly woman who runs the place, will hound you for the rest of your stay about why you didn’t get the cream sauce!)
However this small cafe, housed strangely enough in an old butchery with marble butcher counter and all, also offers a vegetarian and vegan menu at mealtimes. You’ll find cheeses made from vegetable whey, fair trade cocoa and organic vegetables. It’s not the cheapest meal in Florence, but it’s worth it for the quality of the food and the ingredients, the cozy atmosphere, and the passionate Vanna who takes pride in her small establishment and her homemade treats.
Via San Gallo, 92r
This recently re-opened pastry shop and mini-market is a great place for a snack. The shop bakes their own vegan sweets, such as croissants, danishes, cookies and tartlets, as well as salty snacks such as sandwiches and mini pizzas. The atmosphere may be a bit banal and stark, but the sweets are delicious! The mini-market in the back room offers a wide range of vegan foodstuffs as well as refrigerated items like drinks and tofu.
Ruth’s Kosher Vegetarian Food
Via Luigi Carlo Fanno, 2
Those of you who would like to stay kosher during your trip will find that there are a few options; however, they are almost exclusively located in the area around the Synagogue. In Via dei Pilastri (between the San Marco and Sant’Ambrogio areas) and Via Luigi Carlo Fanno, which houses the Synagogue, you’ll find various kosher restaurants and mini-markets, although they do seem to have shorter hours of operation than other markets you’ll find in the city. Ruth’s, in particular, is well known for its tasty dishes, which are both kosher and vegetarian, and its warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Special diets at the grocery store
Dairy alternatives such as soy are easily found in most supermarkets. There is a large brand, Valsoia, that makes a range of soy milk, yoghurts, ice cream and other staples when doing some budget-friendly grocery shopping. You can also find a lot of great vegetarian options, such as tofu and seitan, at local Asian markets sprinkled around the city.