You can find some of the best pizza, lasagna, ravioli, and gelato in the world in the heart of Tuscany in Florence, Italy. The Italian food you find here is obviously very different from the Americanized Italian version found elsewhere. Only the freshest, often locally sourced organic ingredients are used in preparation, and most recipes are very simple yet satisfying.

Here are some of my recommendations for dining in Florence:

La Cantinetta – Located in the historic city center of Florence, in the heart of the San Lorenzo district. Inspite of its touristy location, the casual Osteria offers some of the best food and wine in town. It is a great place to grab a drink, cured meat and cheese plate or light dinner after a day of shopping and sightseeing. The pasta at La Cantinetta is fresh and handmade daily. The fungi ravioli with a pecorino fungi sauce is to die for!

Florence Pizzeria – My vote for the best pizza in Florence! For under 10 Euros, you can get the most amazing personal-size thin-crust Tuscan pizza with a delicate tomato sauce, local sausage, fresh basil and melting burro, in a hip setting. There are a number of pizza topping combinations to choose from, but my favorite is the “Florens.” The restaurant also offers classy appetizers and steaks, is moderately priced and family friendly.  

Trattoria San Lorenzo – A very casual family run restaurant located next to the San Lorenzo church. Trattoria San Lorenzo is what comes closest to a typical cozy tucked away Italian restaurant with old fashioned wood panelings telling stories of the historic city. Very friendly staff serves local Florentine dishes such as steak Florentine and veal marsala. The menu is extensive but everything is prepared fresh. It is the best place to have lasagna bolognese – homemade lasagna noodles cooked gently with a sweet tomato sauce and melt in your mouth ground beef.

Le Antiche Carrozze – Meaning “the old coach,” this is where the locals go when they want an authentic dining experience. The ambiance is very romantic and typical Florence, since the building it is located in perhaps a few hundred years old. Here you will find local favorites such as Neapolitan pizza, Spghatti cacio e pepe, tiramisu and cannoli. Anything you choose on the menu is delicious!

Le’Maiala – The only restaurant in Florence that offers a very unique barter system. You can bring in fruits, vegetables, wine, olive oil, etc. and exchange it for a meal or a portion of it. The food is actually pretty good too and the restaurant is generally packed. It is located in a residential neighborhood of Florence, so you will see families and kids dining here as well. Read full review of Le’Maiala.

Ristorante Ora d’Aria – Run by Chef Marco Stabile, one of the most prominent chefs in Italy, the restaurant offers an unpretentious lunch menu ranging from 7-15 Euros. Wine connoisseur will enjoy the “hour of air” in the unbelievable collection of some of the finest wines around the world stored in the basement where the original walls have been preserved. Chef Stabile sources most ingredients locally from Tuscany and changes the menu with the seasons. If you really want to really treat yourself, go there for an upscale romantic dinner and make sure your pockets are loaded.

Of course, you cannot come to Florence and not eat gelato (that would simply be sinful), but not all places serve the same quality. So you must check out the 10 best gelaterias in Florence, a video guide produced by studentsVille Italy and strategize which flavors to try where.

See 30 things to do in Florence by Jenna Francisco, fellow Team Florence 2012 winner.