Just like cities in the US, there is a mix of amazing, average, and below average dining experiences in Florence. It’s a competitive market, with lots of tourists, and lots of restaurants. One of the hardest parts is figuring out where to eat.
So, I did my homework. Thanks to Yelp, we were able to plan in advance which restaurants we wanted to visit, and had a fantastic experience at every place we ate. Yelp is easy to search, and allows you to save all the restaurants that you find. Here are my recommendations on how to search Yelp:
Start by searching for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. What type of meal do you want? To map out our meals in Florence, I began my search by specifying which meal of the day I was looking for. For example, to build my list of potential breakfast spots, I started by searching for “breakfast in Florence, Italy.” Eventually, I created three lists: restaurants that serve breakfast, restaurants that serve lunch, and restaurants that serve dinner. This is especially important for lunchtime in Florence, because many restaurants only open for dinner.
Narrow choices to restaurants with 4 stars or higher. After searching for restaurants that served a particular meal, I would sort the results to show me the restaurants that were rated the highest by other customers. And these weren’t always the most expensive ones! It just means that on average, other customers have had positive experiences there. Typically, a restaurant needs a customer rating of 4 stars or higher to make my list. It also helps to have ratings from more than just a handful of customers; a 5-star rating with only 2 customer reviews is not as impressive to me as a 4.8 star rating with 100 reviews.
Read what other customers are saying. I love to read the write-ups posted by other customers, and usually gravitate towards the ones that focus on the quality of the food, rather than other issues like service, parking, or decor. Also, I look for patterns in the reviews. Multiple reviews than mention the same issue, whether positive or negative, are a good sign that the review is trustworthy. For example, if five reviewers specifically mention how great the tiramisu was, I’ll probably visit!
Take a peek at what’s on the menu. Many restaurants on Yelp have either a portion of their menu on their restaurant profile or a link to the menu on their website. This is especially helpful, because I like being able to know what’s available in advance, just to make sure we can each order something we’ll like.
Before even leaving the US, I came up with 10-15 potential places to eat. And while we planned to go to certain restaurants during our time there, we also wanted to maintain our flexibility. There were some times we were out and about, decided we wanted to eat early, and needed to find a place on the fly. In those cases, it would be cumbersome to search for each restaurant we walked by, so we followed a few general principles:
We avoided restaurants that had pictures of the food plastered outside.
We looked for restaurants with signs in large large Italian writing, with smaller English subtitles, rather than the other way around.
We looked for restaurants where there were a lot of Italians. While this wasn’t as easy from the outside, it’s more a matter of looking around once you’re inside. The more people you hear speaking Italian, the better you can feel about having an authentic Italian experience.
And even though we’re back in New Jersey, we still use Yelp when searching for a new local restaurant and we’ve even been surprised at finding new places to go in our own home town.
Tomorrow, I finally will be talking about one of my favorite parts of Florence: the cappuccino! We went back to the same espresso bar 10 times during our stay in Florence and loved the coffee so much that we brought back 5 bags of coffee beans!