the café crawl

The temperature is dropping, the winds are picking up and rainy season is settling in. Spooning your laptop and a space heater in your bed is becoming more and more alluring. But you’re in Florence! You have a dome to conquer, masterpieces to entertain, leather to splurge on, and a whirlwind romance awaiting you. But as you lie tucked under a million blankets in your heatless Florentine flat, you very sincerely convince yourself that getting up will be the worst kind of torture that has happened to anyone, in the whole wide world, ever. So how, HOW?? A visit to a charming Italian café is the simple solution. It will be your drug this winter, so we suggest you pick up an addiction, and fast. Nothing will keep you blazing through your free Florence activities like hot caffeine pulsing through your veins.

Truth be told, Meg and I are not major coffee consumers (I know, gasp!). Even though we are not shooting espresso, we still find nothing more rejuvenating than a periodic pausa at a local bar for a hot chocolate, pastry, or a completely inappropriate afternoon cappuccino (sue me). Whether you are tackling a taunting to-do list, exploring Florence on limited time, or simply need a shopping pick-me-up, it’s important to be armed with a basic café consciousness. OR perhaps you are a caffeine junky and you’re eager to embark on your very first (or twentieth) café crawl.

*Note, the authors of Florence for Free are not liable for shakes, insomnia, and scary fast heartbeats. 

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A few rules if you are new to the euro-café scene.

  1. Order and pay the cashier first. You will be handed a small receipt.
  2. Go to the bar and wait for the barista to ask you what you ordered, or more likely simply take your receipt.
  3. Stay standing. Cafés are largely designed for the customer on the go. Remain standing at the bar to consume your drink and/or pastry. However, sometimes it’s nice to sit, relax and enjoy your cup of wonderful. If you choose a table, just don’t be surprised to see a slight service up-charge.

Without further ado, the cafés that fueled, and will continue to fuel, the free Italian adventures of Meg and Hannah, from north to south. For an interactive map click here.

Bar Pasticceria Ruggeri, Viale Giacomo Matteotti, 2/r

Only one block from our library, you can bet that Bar Pasticerria Ruggeri received plenty of business from these bookworms. Just across the Viale, that magical line that no tourist can seem to pass, Ruggeri is delightfully local. Pastry options are expansive and the hot chocolate runs particularly rich!

Gran Caffè San Marco, Piazza San Marco, 11 R

On the northern side of the city center, Gran Caffè San Marco is good for a morning boost on your way into town from the north. Near the Accademia, it is also a solid choice for a pre-museum pick-me-up (no one wants sleepy eyes when they’re checkin’ out David). Speaking of works of art, we recommend trying the cappuccini. If you need something a bit more substantial, this café offers pastries, sandwiches, chocolates, tortes, and gelato as well.

Caffè Cibrèo, Via Andrea del Verrocchio, 5r

Allow Caffè Cibrèo to serve as your one stop shop when in the Sant’ Ambrogio neighborhood. With a counterpart trattoria as well as ristorante, Caffè Cibrèo has your whole day covered. Many swear that Caffè Cibrèo brews the best coffee in the city. We’ll let you be the judge.

Bar Pasticceria Robiglio, Via dei Tosinghi, 11/R

Situated smack dab in the center of the city – between Piazza del Duomo, Piazza della Signoria AND Piazza della Repubbilca. I couldn’t help but always find an excuse to bop into Robiglio for a cornetto con cioccolato and a cappuccino. Simple, beautiful, delightful and delicious. Not to mention the Christmas decorations are spot on – and that’s big in my books.

Robiglio, by Libby Coulter

Robiglio, by Libby Coulter

Caffè Gilli, Via Roma 1r

To mix a dash of culture in your coffee we recommend Gilli. We are sure you will leave Gilli feeling both rejuvenated and inspired. Located in the posh Piazza della Repubblica, this famous café embodies a certain ritz that will add a dash of fabulous to your day.

La Rinascente, Piazza della Repubblica, 3-5

For coffee with a view there is no better locale than the roof of La Rinascente, bordering the east side of Piazza del Repubblica. Catch the escalators to the top floor of this upscale department store. Follow signs and a small staircase that will lead you to a terrace that opens to magnificent eye-level views of the rooftops of Florence. Sure, the air might be a bit nippy up here, but with a scalding cappuccino and a breathtaking view, we doubt you’ll notice.

Caffè Giacosa, Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza Strozzi

Speaking of cafés in unexpected places, let’s head to the Palazzo Strozzi, just west of Piazza della Repubblica. In the courtyard of this Renaissance Palazzo find the Caffé Giacosa. Treat yourself after enjoying the current art show running at the Palazzo. On Thursdays, when the Strozzina stays open (and free!), the Caffé Giacosa will remain open for a late night bite. Even if you didn’t go see a show, grab a drink and a seat and feel  just. so. classy.

ChiaroScuro, Via del Corso, 36

Like Robiglio, ChiaroScuro is so perfectly positioned in the city center, you couldn’t possibly be expected to avoid it – and why would you? Upon entering, artfully displayed salads, sandwiches and pastries will hold your attention only until your eyes drift up to the menu behind the bar. The options! The glorious, torturous options! Console yourself with the reassurance that you will be back several times to try every flavor, variety and twist on a cup of joe you’ve ever seen. While my friends indulge in the hazelnutty, carmelly, cinnamony masterpieces, I am weak before my chocolate addiction and most always cave to a cup of pure hot chocolate.

Rivoire, Piazza della Signoria, 5

Speaking of a hot chocolate, for the ultimate chocolate fantasy, head to Piazza della Signoria for a life changing experience. Now, at this stop, I insist that you find yourself a seat on the patio, particularly at night, and during the Christmas season. At Rivoire, the hot chocolate runs so thick that it’s easier to attack it with a spoon. Let the melted chocolate warm you from the inside out. As you float down from your chocolate cloud, fall blissfully into your lovely reality. The illuminated statues of the Loggia dei Lanzi dance before you on their stage, the imposing Palazzo Vecchio softens in the moonlight, and if you’re lucky, the Gucci Museum is displaying its holiday projection show on the facade across from you. And it is all accented by the soft glow of twinkling holiday lights. Le sigh.

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Gucci Caffè, Piazza della Signoria, 10

Drawn by the curious, hypnotizing facade projections, the Gucci Caffè is your next stop on the café crawl. As a part of the new Gucci Museum in Piazza della Signoria, many (including myself) venture into this café for the sheer novelty of it. With a delightful array of sweets, encompassing coffee menu, Gucci logo shaped sugar cubes, and the best looking staff you’ve ever seen – Gucci does not disappoint.

Hi Bar, Via dei Renai, 27

After all that class, it’s time to hit up an establishment where we can feel a little more comfortable slouching in our seats, relaxing, and wearing our sensible shoes. Hi Bar in the San Niccolo neighborhood of the Oltrarno is just the place. With a relaxed crowd of mostly locals, welcoming seating, bookshelves full of brain candy, and even a few neighborhood pets wandering in and out, you’re sure to unwind with something steamy to sip on here.

Pasticceria Giorgio,Via Duccio di Boninsegna, 36

For serious bonus points, venture to the Pasticceria Giorgio, a bit outside of the city center, but recommended by my favorite guru on all things Florentine, Suzanne. The pastries, millefoglie in particular, are highly esteemed not only among the easy to please American palettes, but Florentines as well. If you make the trek to the famous Pasticceria Giorgio, make sure to reward yourself by grabbing a seat and enjoying your cappuccino and pastry like a true local.

Well there you have it, the secret to success this Florentine winter. So this season, don’t fold to your blankets and binge-watching Breaking Bad. You have a world to see. And when you doubt yourself, just look at this…..

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Cheat Code: For the hyperactive traveler, student setting up shop in the archives, or those of you attempting to stay up your entire last night in Florence, because you can’t bear the thought of wasting a second on sleep (not that I have done that 5 times or anything) just go straight for the Pocket Coffee.

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3 comments

  1. […] walks along the Arno trail and to the Medici Villas, ventured up to Fiesole, and even crafted up a crawl inspired by our favorite coffee […]

  2. […] is one of my favorite spots in the city, so I’m partial to a stroll past the carousel, Caffè Gilli and Miu Miu. A walk around Orsanmichele to admire the structure and statues is also great. Or, if […]

  3. […] your walk off right with one of our top choices for a cappuccino in town, conveniently located in Piazza San Marco at Gran Caffé San Marco, and study your […]

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