Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
Travel Stories and Guides by Table Magazine
A collection of travel stories and guides by Table Magazine and contributors from around the world.
A Weekend in Florence
Florence is the epitome of Tuscan allure, a culture rooted in ritualistic feasting and deeply conscious dining, steeped in art and abundant in history. Winding through the labyrinth of walkways, interrupted only by architectural landmarks of the renaissance period and bridges over the River Arno, this city is devastatingly romantic and filled with culinary treasures. The cuisine is premised on locality, with ingredients sourced from the rippling hills of Tuscany that outline parameters of the cityscape.
Guided by the recommendations of locals, we unintentionally spent most of our time wandering the streets of Oltrarno, located south of the River Arno. The district is devoid of tourist shops, and instead brimming with artists’ studios, family-run trattorias and antique shops, making it difficult to fall into the tourist traps that plague the north side.
Nestled between unassuming buildings and lit by neon signage, peering into Al Tranvai is everything you hope for and more when thinking of the cosy cave-like eateries that offer a respite from the chilly winter evenings in Florence. We booked in advance to reserve a table in this twenty-something covers restaurant, and sat down next to an old man who lived across the street who mentioned he had been coming here for dinner for over ten years and ordered the same staples every time, thinly sliced lardo atop of crisped polenta, and white beans with shrimp. Bulging glass flasks dressed in plaited Tuscan straw stand in the middle of each table, the restaurant is nostalgic yet intensely relevant and romantic. The menu is a blissful blend of classics like Pappa al Pomodoro sitting alongside more innovative dishes such as Gnudi Gorgonzola e Asparagi, all deliciously authentic and devoid of fussiness. Be sure to reserve your table in advance, and if fully booked, head over to La Vecchia Bettola on the other side of the square for their Penne Alla Vodka served on long marble sharing tables.
Il Santo Bevitore
The brainchild of siblings Marco and Martina Baldesi, and friend Stefano Sebastiani, Il Santo Bevitore have been offering seasonal Tuscan fare since 2002. Twisting the conventions of tradition and subtly infusing dishes with a flare of modernity. Chilled Gazpacho is served with tempura prawns and flecks of burrata, other highlights include the handmade riccioli pasta with spicy nduja, the beef sirloin and the mascarpone cream with strawberries for dessert. Translating as ‘The Holy Drinker’, this candlelit dining room is lined with wine bottles, nestled under an arched roof in deep oak. in a city full of traditional trattorias serving home style cooking, Il Santo Bevitore is slightly more expensive but their menu is deeply considered and the service incomparable. Be sure to visit their wine bar down the road, Il Santino, where wines are paired with crostini and drinkers spill onto the street regardless of the weather. They also have a daytime outpost, San Forno, serving bottomless filter coffee and porchetta panini.
Casa Del Vino
This pocket-sized enclave is wedged between a plethora of stalls awash with mass-produced goods shipped in from Asia, a neoliberal phenomenon that is slowly tarring the San Lorenzo Market. Past the sea of brightly colored coin purses and football shirts sits Casa Del Vino, there to fulfill your wine and panini needs from 9:30 in the morning until 8:30 at night. Skip the canteen-like Mercato Centrale for their aged wooden shelves stacked high with regional wines and glass cabinets filled with warm brioche buns spread with rich butter, cradling marinated anchovies. With up to twelve bottles open at any one time, you can pair your wine with small bites and easily spend an entire afternoon chatting with locals in this enchanting enoteca.
Le Volpi e l’uva
Upon arriving into Santa Maria Novella train station, we made an a-line across the Ponte Vecchio in search of Le Volpi e l’uva, an enoteca offering vintages from small producers and bountiful knowledge of Florentine culture. Sit at the six-seat wine bar and chat with their in-house sommeliers who will guide you through their lesser known offerings whilst indulging in Crostone con Salsiccia al Tartufo and Salumi di Cinta Senese. Three of the five staff members have been part of this eatery for over twenty-five years and all are eager to share their city’s secrets and help you explore the menu.
Walking through the energetic streets of the Oltrarno neighborhood, bars spilling onto the streets and live jazz reverberating from bars, and stepping beyond the wrought iron gates into Ad Astra is like emerging into a paradisiacal oasis. Set amongst Florence’s largest private garden, this 19th-century palazzo is dripping with quirks that give off the air that you are staying overnight in the home of a Florentine aristocrat, drinking wine under their frescoed ceilings and washing away your sins in their freestanding claw-foot bath tub. In fact, the hotel is still owned by the Torrigiani family, with Marquis Marchese Torrigiani still living on the ground floor.
Flea Market at Santa Spirito
On the second Sunday of every month Piazza Santa Spirito is filled with vintage treasures, vendors occupy the square selling second hand books, clothes, records and mid-century furniture at flea market prices. The piazza is peppered with coffee shops, wine bars and restaurants, book a table at Osteria Santa Spirito for plates towered high with steaming Spaghetti Vongole, in dimly lit, rustic surroundings.