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By Laura Mongillo in Florence—
If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, than when in Florence why not do it the Italian way and start your morning with some pastries?
Pastries for breakfast?
That’s right. I’m not talking about the old doughnut and drip coffee ritual (although you can simulate that with a caffe’ americano and a ciambella, if you please) but a nice cornetto (croissant) or sfogliatina (clam-shaped sugary pastry) with fancy foamy cappuccinos.
For breakfast a cappuccino is the classic choice, however any type of caffe (espresso) without or with milk (macchiato, caffe latte, etc.) is standard fare. Pastries here come in all shapes and sizes with fillings ranging from none (vuoto) to those with cream or chocolate (crema or cioccolato) or yummy marmelades (marmellata). You’ll also find some rice-based pastries that are rich and sugary, but a lighter flavor than regular cream or even ricotta-filled delights.
Where to find breakfast
Your best bet for a good coffee and pastry are in pasticceria (pastry shops), rather than a regular coffee bar. Espresso in Italy is generally good as long as it’s made fresh from a high pressure machine and served scalding hot, although locals analyze and debate the quality of coffee at each bar.
Here are a few places that are centrally located and that offer delicious pastries and coffee. Do note that the standard price for an espresso ranges from 80 cents to €1, so avoid spending too much on this liquid gold and beware of extra charges for sitting down at tables!
Via dell’Ariento 29
This pastry shop has a prime location on the corner of the San Lorenzo market and a quiet side street heading towards the train station. It’s renowned for its delicious confections. Offering range from standard croissants and other danishes to cookies, chocolates, cakes and tiramisu, as well as sandwiches for a quick lunch.
Look out for seasonal sweets that are definitely worth the wait. These include the traditional Carnival munchies of cenci (available in February), crispy fried dough covered in powdered sugar, and frittelle di riso, small fried balls of rice pastry with amaretto liqueur.
Via Calzaiuoli, 72
Despite its position on the main tourist and shopping thoroughfare of Via Calzaiuoli (leading from the Duomo to Piazza Signoria), the Corona Cafe is not a tourist trap! It’s usually packed and has only a few stools or shelves to rest your goods, but it’s worth any inconvenience. The pastries are incredibly good, especially the chocolate and ricotta sfogliatina. While the coffee isn’t cheap, it’s still affordable for this area.
Largo F.lli Alinari 28
Located a few steps from the train station and a hub of bus stops, you’ll find the discreet Caffe’ Alinari bar and pastry shop. The cafe boasts a traditional look, and the delicious pastries are all made fresh on the premises. Considering its proximity to the train station, whether you’re arriving or departing it’s the perfect stop for a quick, filling and sugary breakfast.
American-style savory breakfast
Can’t take that much sugar in the morning? American-style breakfasts are scrambling their way into the Florentine breakfast scene.
One of your best bets for a hearty meal is The Diner on Via dell’Acqua 2, not far from Palazzo Vecchio. This American-themed restaurant offers extensive eggs, pancakes, bagels and breakfast sandwich options.
For something lighter there is Mama’s Bakery in Via della Chiesa 34, across the Arno river. The bakery is a bit of a walk, but it’s worth it for the bagels alone (the best you’ll find in in Florence, although still nothing like H&H Bagels back in New York). Also of note are their yummy muffins.