A mini-guide to 9 of the city’s best veggie-friendly restaurants
We’d be lying if we said Florentines didn’t love their meat. Their national dish is a chargrilled steak, which they named after themselves. Their iconic street food is a sandwich bursting at the seams with sauce-soaked cow’s stomach known affectionately as lampredotto. And they can’t face a summer’s day without a creamy gelato in hand.
But the city still finds ways to cater to the vegetable lovers out there. Lik everything the Italians do, it’s not a few carrots slapped on a plate with tofurkey. In decades past, most locals ate meat only once or twice a week, filling their tables at every other meal with delicious dishes made from nothing more than what was growing in their gardens, no steak in sight.
These days, some vegetarian friendly restaurants in Florence celebrate this chapter of traditional Italian cooking. Otherwise play on classic dishes like lasagna, while others still embrace international cuisine, gluten free cooking or make the decision to go completely raw. Whatever you feel like, Florence can provide with all the gusto, flavour and skill you’ve come to expect from a city of ardent foodies.
Florence’s first vegetarian restaurant opened in 1981 and was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, who is thought to have preferred an all-vegetable diet. Now in its third generation, Il Vegetariano is like any typical Florentine trattoria. The menu changes daily, written by hand on huge blackboards hung all around the cozy and kitsch dining room. Except everything is vegetarian and some dishes are also gluten free and vegan. Sometimes the chef will recreate classic Italian dishes like Spaghetti all’Amatriciana with seitan in the place of guanciale. Other times, they are entirely new dishes like braised pea stew with corn bread and sesame carrots or green lasagna with pesto and tomato sauce. There is no table service. Instead you order and pay at the bar and then collect your meal before sitting down. The portions are generous and most dishes go for less than €10. Save some room for the vast array of homemade vegan and vegetarian desserts and the carefully selected organic wines, soft drinks, beers, teas and coffees.
Details: Via Delle Ruote, 30 R
They don’t accept bookings, so get in early.
Tuesday to Fridays: open lunch and dinner
Mondays: open only for lunch
Saturday and Sundays: open dinner
A hipster’s dream, #Raw is at the forefront of modern vegan cooking in Florence, serving up a different burger, soup and pizza every day, as well as a selection of salads. Past hits have included a vegan cheese, avocado and sundried tomato pizza, falafel wrap with marinated vegetables and a Thai sauce, a nori salad with cabbage, sesame, marinated broccoli and date dressing and a vegetable packed Vietnamese summer roll with peanut dipping sauce. Some of its dishes are 100% raw, although it always pays to ask first, since they can be a little loose with the term. They also have a huge selection of juices, smoothies, shakes, breakfast bowls and divine vegan chocolate gelato. Dine inside or out in the cutesy all-timber interior. Smoothies and drinks are €6.
Everything else is under €10.
Details: Via Sant'Agostino 11R
Open every day for lunch
Things don’t get much more niche in Florence than Ruth’s. Here, the food isn’t just vegetarian, it’s also kosher. Ruth’s is a bit of an institution in the city. It’s right next to Florence’s synagogue and its décor is comfortable and homely with plenty of international flair like an old bookshop in an Indiana Jones movie. The menu is sparse, but all the hits are on there. A particular favourite is the
vegetable starter platter for two, which has hummus, tabbouleh, pita bread, stuffed pastry cones and vegetarian couscous. You’ll also find pizza, pasta, the odd fish dish, apple and sultana streusel and ricotta blitzes. A few pricey mains, but most dishes are under €15.
Details: Via Farini, 2a
Open every day for lunch and dinner, except Saturdays, when they’re only open
This gorgeous bookshop in Santa Croce seamlessly blends café, restaurant and modern art gallery in one. The inner courtyard is a haven from the bustling city, so try to secure a seat at one of the hidden nooks and unwind with a free magazine in hand. The fare is casual and seasonal. Salads brimming with locally sourced ingredients, sandwiches made with pane carasau, a traditional flatbread from Sardinia. Mixed platters with pasta and risotto with carpaccio on the side and, on Sundays, an English style breakfast with eggs, pancakes and French toast. All complemented by a vast tea and coffee menu, smoothies and juices made to order and a list of sommelier-chosen boutique wines from all over Italy. Dishes range from €11-€20.
Details: Via dei Vagellai, 18
Monday to Saturday: breakfast, lunch and dinner
Sunday: lunch and dinner with brunch until 4pm
5 e Cinque
“Meticulousness, parsimony and lightness typical of Ligurian cooking - vegetarian by vocation and open to Mediterranean contamination from over the sea” - that’s how 5 e Cinque describes itself and we couldn’t have said it better. All the ingredients used are locally sourced, organic and seasonal, which only makes dishes like its potato ravioli with butter, sage and parmesan, whole wheat penne with broccoli, garlic, chili and smoked ricotta or its soft-boiled egg in tomato sauce sound all the more delicious. But the restaurant’s signature dish is also its namesake. 5 e Cinque is a chickpea sandwich and the cecina with or without stracchino cheese or hummus is divine. As is the restaurant itself, transformed by its photography and antiques dealer owner into a cozy and intimate space that’s perfect for a romantic dinner for two. Mains are under €12 and the wine list ample.
Details: Piazza della Passera 1
Tuesday to Sunday: lunch and dinner
This cute hole in the wall is part produce store, part café, serving a vegetarian menu made exclusively with organic and biodynamic fruits and vegetables delivered fresh from local producers daily. The menu changes constantly, but there’s always a wide selection of breakfast dishes, salads, soups, baked dishes, vegetable patés and sweet cakes. A local favourite is the zucchini pasta, where the zucchini actually substitutes the noodles. Carduccio’s is also famous for its cold-pressed juices. The cold-pressed method preserves the structure of the enzymes and reduces the fruit’s exposure to oxygen, making it the ultimate pick-me-up treat.
Details: Sdrucciolo de'Pitti, 10/R
055 238 2070
Every day: lunch and dinner
La Raccolta Bioristorante
A collection of local producers is behind this bar/market/lunch café/restaurant, making this a one-stop-shop for vegetarians at any time of the day or night. For breakfast, you can feast on organic vegan pastries, cornettos, focaccias and other treats made from ancient grains and sourdough starter. To drink, organic coffee, soy cappuccinos and herbal teas. At lunchtime, you can nibble on rice dishes, polenta, gnocchi or a combination of all three with seitan, tofu and vegetable sides. While at dinner, the restaurant is a much more elegant affair with creative and modern vegetarian dishes like broccoli flan, crudité vegetables with avocado, white saffron lasagna and Thai rice cooked with spices and satsuma, sautéed with sweet potato and a daikon crème. On Thursday nights, the restaurant serves an all-you-can-eat vegan buffet.
Via G. Leopardi, 2r
055 247 9068
Monday to Saturday: lunch and dinner
Quinoa (and L'Ov in Piazza del Carmine)
This cheerily decorated restaurant assaults the senses (in a good way) with its lime green walls and red chairs. The menu is equally exhilarating, although not 100% exclusively vegetarian. Quinoa is actually Florence’s first 100 per cent gluten free restaurant, using a variety of grains including its namesake to produce high-end and innovative dishes like ravioli stuffed with goat’s cheese in a celery, carrot and onions ragù and purple carrot gnocchi with butter, sage, feta cheese and pistachios. But it’s not all-Italian fare. There are plenty of mouthwatering international dishes too like vegetables and tofu in tamari sauce with Jasmine rice and pad thai with seasonal vegetables if you’re feeling a little over the local cuisine.
The owners here recently opened a 100% vegetarian bistro called L'Ov Osteria Vegetariana in Piazza del Carmine in the Oltrarno off of Borgo San Frediano- head there if you're looking for the same quirky charm of Quinoa and gourmet quality but with a 100% Vegetarian menu! We tried it at the opening and think it's worth a stop for vegetarian travelers wanting unique atmosphere- plus San Frediano was voted one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world by our friend Georgette Jupe for Lonely Planet- can't go wrong!
Details: Vicolo di Santa Maria Maggiore, 1
Monday to Saturday: lunch and dinner
Sunday: lunch only
Veg e Veg in Mercato Centrale (top floor)
Mercato Centrale’s vegetarian bar is the perfect place to recharge your batteries after a day of shopping. With two stalls in Florence and one in Rome, these guys mean business, serving up deliciously abundant portions of food truck fare sans the meat. Their vegan burgers with roasted vegetables, caramelized onions, pesto and veganaise are legendary. As are the hand-cut chunky roast chips, mixed vegetable and rice salads and seasonal juices. A word of advice, there isn’t any reserved seating at Veg e Veg, so order at the counter and nab a seat wherever you can in Mercato Centrale’s sprawling, but busy food court.
Details: Via dell'Ariento (Top floor of Mercato Centrale)
They don’t accept bookings
Monday to Saturday: lunch and dinner (see mercato centrale hours)
Looking for food tours which are vegetarian-friendly? We can accommodate virtually any dietary lifestyle. Consider our Market Tour, Gourmet Food Lover's, Gelato Crawl and Aperitivo Tour as we consider them the top picks for being vegetarian friendly. We can customize any private tour as well to bespoke requests!