Even though we weren’t the biggest fans of Florence as a city, we have to admit that we ate very well there, and there are a surprising amount of vegan options. Italian food is easily veganized, but because we wanted to try the vegan scene in Florence, we mostly only went to all vegan restaurants when we went out to eat. Since we were housesitting, we also got the chance to try vegan products available at the grocery stores which was great fun and very delicious! After spending a week in the city, we sampled a majority of the vegan restaurants, so without further ado, here is our vegan guide to Florence!
We speak no Italian, but were surprised to find that many people spoke English, at least where we went. Still, some phrases are definitely useful for getting around. Download Google Translate’s Italian pack if you don’t have data when you are there!
HELPFUL ITALIAN PHRASES
Obviously this is very basic but these were the ones we used again and again!
Do you speak English? – Parli inglese
Thank you – grazie
Please – per favore
Without cheese/milk – senza formaggio/latte
Soy milk – latte di soia
Giumella is a cozy little deli tucked unassumingly off a busy Florentine artery. Visiting was a bit difficult, as it was quite a trek from where we were staying and the first time we went the place was closed for the holidays. But we persevered and went back another day, which we are very glad we did!
Giumella was our favorite vegan place in Florence. The food we had at Giumella felt like something that vegan Florentines ate at home. Everything was made from scratch and with care – and it shows. There were flavors in the food at Giumella that we hadn’t tasted anywhere else in Florence. The chef was clearly influenced by traditional Tuscan cuisine but she put her own twist on the dishes.
The owner is incredibly sweet and took the time to patiently explain all the dishes to us in English. The dishes change each day as they are made fresh, but everything we had was fantastic, including the baked goods (we had biscotti and a savory muffin). We only split a plate of food between the two of us since we had a dinner reservation later at Crepapelle (we were really trying to squeeze in every place once they opened back up again after the holidays!), but enjoyed every bite. The owner even gave us two glasses of wine on the house to have with our dinner, and we sat in one of the tiny tables and watched locals come in, moped helmets in hand, and order take-away dinner for the night. It was a true Italian experience and one of our favorite memories of our trip.
We had some lasagna, roasted veggies, a barley casserole, and an unidentified yet tasty veggie log. Unable to resist, we went back for a second round of a savory muffin and got some biscotti and cookies to go.
Tip: You pay by weight and for a full plate it was around 9 euros. Baked goods were 1-3 each. You can also call ahead and order a lunch box for a cheaper fixed price (7.50).
Crepapelle is another very homemade and cozy local spot. The interior is warm and inviting, with quirky hand-drawn comics adorning the walls and vegan books for perusal. It’s clearly a popular local spot and we were the only non-Italians there – always a good sign.
The first time we tried to go, they were booked for the night, despite the fact that we arrived exactly when they opened for dinner at 7:30 pm! We made a reservation for the following night because Sam wasn’t to be deterred from having vegan crepes. Again, we were glad that we returned, because Crepapelle’s crepes were decadent (do not miss the dessert crepes!) and the pizza was delicious as well.
Sam had a savory crepe, filled with cannellini beans and black cabbage. Cannellini beans are a very Tuscan food, so the choice was easy as to which crepe to get. The crepe had a nice chewy texture, with tender cabbage, and creamy soft beans. This came accompanied by a side of fried polenta (also typical of the region), which was perfectly crispy and soft inside.
Veren had been dying to get his hands on a vegan pizza with cheese and this did not disappoint. Having previously eaten a marinara pizza in a residential, non-tourist neighborhood the first night we arrived, his standards were up to snuff. At Crepapelle, the crust was crispy, the tomato sauce was rich, and it was topped with dollops of creamy, vegan cheese much like a finer grained ricotta.
The only downside to this place is that its popularity is overwhelming itself! They seem to have only one or two people working in the kitchen and it took quite a while to get our food. We have gotten used to laid-back restaurants in Spain and are not demanding when we go to restaurants, so it wasn’t a huge deal, though it may be for some as this was definitely longer than the norm. The waitress apologized for the wait though, so maybe it was just a fluke!
Tip: Call ahead and make a reservation! The first time we tried to go they were booked up for the evening. It’s a small place and a bit far from the historic center, so calling ahead is definitely worth it. They have an English version of the menu online, so if you don’t speak Italian, you might want to take a look beforehand as the waitress we had did not speak English. The owner clearly did though so if you call ask “parli inglese?” you’ll likely be given to the owner. If it looks busy, order and appetizer if you’re super hungry as your food may take a while to arrive!
Universo Vegano is one of Italy’s vegan fast food chains, but hold off on thinking this bears any resemblance to an American McDonald’s. “Fast food” in Italy just means that the food here may be prepared beforehand and heated up, which is not all that different from 99% of restaurants. It also might mean that the restaurant doesn’t prepare all its ingredients from scratch (they buy premade vegan cheese for example – also not unlike most restaurants).
Basically think casual atmosphere and dining, ordering at a counter, and minimal table service. But don’t let this deter you. The quality of the food is very, very good. The menu is extensive and the staff was super friendly and willing to explain in English.
Sam had a fresh pasta dish and Veren had a veggie burger combo. This was a black bean patty with a bit of spice accompanied by tomato, onions, and a side of seasoned potato chunks. Nothing special here, just solid and satisfying. The best part was actually the long green pepper stuffed with a creamy nacho cheese – the pepper was crunchy fresh, and the filling clearly house-made. The staff, amazed that Veren ate it, said everyone else skips it. Might be just too much of a spicy meat–ah ball for these Italians.
Tiramisu is an old time favorite of Veren’s. He spent his overweight adolescence patronizing Italian restaurants scarfing down these cream laden treats. Once going vegan, he pushed these memories into long-term storage, along with others like bagels and cream cheese. But he hasn’t forgotten what makes a good tiramisu. Ladyfingers, or cake, soaked in coffee (and sometimes rum), with dollops of cream/mascarpone cheese on top, finished with cinnamon and cocoa powder. Universo Vegano’s tiramisu had the layered texture right on, with ample amounts of fluffy cream. The coffee flavor could’ve been stronger, the cake more moist, and the cream richer, but this is understandable, as vegan versions tend to be lighter. This was a strong start, and if any indication of the future of vegan tiramisu, we are excited. (This previous sentence was Veren’s opinion and Sam would like to state for the record that this was an amazing vegan tiramisu and that Veren’s discerning vegan palate is at times a bit difficult to please).
We actually ended up at Universo Vegano again on our last day. We really wanted to try their lasagna and risotto that had been sold out the first time we went. Sadly, on our second time, they were sold out again, despite the fact that we went around 1:30 pm. Guess we’re just solidly on Spanish dining schedules, where lunch does not start before 2 pm. So on our second time here, we shared a pizza, eating it on the steps in the piazza outside.
The crust was crispy, with softer ends, an even coating of shredded cheese, and (not a ton of) sauce. If all vegan pizza was as good as this, we’d be very happy. It’s a bit small, so if you’re hungry and sharing, get two.
Tip: Come for lunch and early. Everything that we originally wanted was out for the count. Ask the counter staff to let you know what’s run out, so you can dash your hopes before they grow.
This particular location is actually the flagship of this Italian chain. It’s all impressively vegan, with wood walls, wood floors, wood chairs. Everything you couldn’t eat seemed made of wood.
We actually didn’t eat a meal at Veggy Days because the burgers didn’t look terribly appealing and when we went to try lunch one time we weren’t interested in the plate of the day. But we did have a coffee and pastry here and can recommend their filled croissants. It was actually our first vegan chocolate croissant and apricot filled croissant and it did not disappoint. They were buttery, flaky, and dark chocolatey. The apricot was surprisingly good and its tart sweetness cuts through the rich pastry flavor.
The menu had typical vegan staples, as opposed to veganized traditional Italian foods. While not a bad thing, with our limited time in the city we set a standard of only eating food that seemed unique and signature to the Tuscan region.
What’s this you say? A vegan clothing store? Do they serve food? No! But this is a vegan guide, so it’s totally appropriate.
While we find most non-food vegan establishments out of financial reach, we were really impressed with this store. The staff was super friendly and helpful and we learned all about bamboo based clothing, which they sell in abundance here! These products are of superior quality to most conventional fabric, and are super sustainable – they even had customizable shoes made out of recycled bottles! This one wins big with us as we always try to reduce our carbon footprint whenever we can.
Their prices were more than we normally spend (we’re avid thrift-store shoppers and Sam has to twist Veren’s arm to even spend $5 on something), but compared to walking into any normal clothing store and going shopping, the prices were very comparable. For example, Sam bought a bralette (say no to underwire!!) in Madrid recently for $15. At Vegan Chic, the bralettes were $18 and made out of bamboo, meaning they’ll last much longer. Yes, please.
A testament to how awesome Vegan Chic is – Veren bought his first overtly (yet not quite explicitly) vegan shirt.
Tip: They have sales. As with sales, it’s a limited selection, but we did manage to get the shirt half off.
Brac is a vegetarian restaurant and a bookstore with two main spaces separated by an outdoor courtyard. The decor creates a very cozy space with a casual/hip atmosphere.
We opted to try their menu of the day for 14 euros which allowed us an option of salad, pasta, and stuffed flat bread called Piadina. This came as a large plate, with smaller portions of each item than if ordered separately. All the ingredients are locally sourced when possible and we could tell. Despite European conventional produce being much better than were used to in America, we could tell this was a step up. The tomatoes in Sam’s salad tasted like summer, despite the fact that it was the middle of winter. And not a single blemish besmeared the slices of avocado carpaccio.
We were both craving fresh made pasta and Brac delivered. The pasta was super tender and the tortellini stuffing was rich and creamy, albeit a bit too salty. The piadino was stuffed with a beet potato filling. They weren’t kidding about the bread being flat. For Americans, this bread could be called paper thin. It’s super crispy and fun to eat, but it was more like a cracker than bread.
Overall the food was very good, but we suspect that this might be more satisfying for vegetarians. While we were eating, we kept seeing other plates coming out doused and oozing with different Italian cheeses and couldn’t help wishing for something just as decadent.
A-Tip: Make a reservation and come early. There’s not a huge amount of vegan options here, but what they do have, they do well.
These spots are not vegan or vegetarian but have many vegan options.
Hot damn, we’re glad this was our first gelato stop. This gem sits on the south, non-touristy side of the Arno River and has six, that’s right, SIX vegan options. The interior is cozy yet still quite, a perfect respite from the crazy Florentine streets filled with tourists and overzealous drivers.
We opted for the almond rum, chocolate, and pear with mango. Usually sorbets are underwhelming, but if there’s such a thing as capturing the essence of pear, this was it. The mango was just as good, but we just were blown away by the pear. The texture was so smooth and creamy.
But it was the chocolate and almond rum that showed us why people swoon over the mention of gelato. It was super rich, super creamy, and the dark chocolate was anti-matter dark; but it was the texture, the almost gooey, nearly stretchy (but not gummy) texture that tied it all together. Sure, we’ve had amazing ice cream in the U.S., but if Veren had to choose one to catch his fall, he’d skydive into Italy, head first.
The key ingredient? A rice milk base. Bravissimo! Rice is super pliable and this made for excellent vegan gelato.
Unfortunately, our experience at Vivaldi would spoil us and set a high standard for vegan gelato that wasn’t met anywhere else.
Sam is a wino, and after seeing Edoardo’s advertised red wine flavor demanded that we try it.
Maybe if we hadn’t just had Vivaldi’s gelato the day before we’d feel differently. But Edoardo’s gelato was just meh. It was not nearly as rich and a bit icy, actually. The same went for the chocolate. This place claimed to be all organic, ecological, earth-friendly, handmade, yadda yadda, so not surprisingly, we were a bit disappointed. We should’ve taken their location next to the Duomo as an indication.
There’s an impressive amount of vegan cornetti in Florence. There was a solid option at the train station, then there was Veggy Days, and a nice surprise was this local spot around the corner from the train station. We were just passing by one day when we happened to notice their sharpied paper sign offering vegan cornetti and latti di soia. The name is literally the equivalent of “Bar Pastry Shop” so you can get an idea of what kind of place it is.
Stepping in, you’ll immediately see that this is a local joint, with a range of Florentines and an all women staff with hardcore attitudes (there was a sign that said they refuse to service anyone speaking on their cell phone – we approve).
We made for the standing space and took advantage of the people watching, while really awful Italian pop metal videos play on the TV in the back.
This spot works best on your way in, or out, of Florence. Find it on the corner of Via della Scala and Via Santa Caterina de Siena.
Quick and Readily Available Vegan Bites:
Pizza marinara – Need a bite and fully depleted on vegan search energy? Order a pizza pie a la marinara at virtually any pizza spot. Expect a crispy crust, a generous layer of sauce, and slices of garlic with a rich finish of drizzled olive oil. Ordering this is completely normal – won’t make you seem strange, bizarre or garner you stares.
Foccacia – You can find this at grocery stores and delis. Sometimes they offer two kinds: a softer one and a crispier, more well-done one. Foccacia is just flour and oil, but you may even find spots with tomato and caramelized onion as toppings. We suggest you avoid the traditional Tuscan bread, as it is rock-hard on the outside, kinda soft inside, and has no salt – probably because they eat it with cured, salty meats. Not so great for eating alone.
Gelato Sorbet – there are almost always fruit options to consider, but it’s not rare that a spot offers vegan chocolate, as it’s easier to retain its flavor.
Strachicco – Veren, a cheese fiend at heart (trust us, more than you ever were) was very impressed with this. It’s perfect if you want to grab with some focaccia and eat in a park, or if you want a snack to keep in the fridge where you’re staying.
Available at the supermarket, it’s a fresh cheese sitting in a tray of water/rice whey to keep it moist. It’s super spreadable and tastes great right out of the package. While the vegan world is starting to cement its handle on the semi-hard cheeses (for example, there are lots of Northern European products with a coconut oil base, manufactured in Greece), we had yet to try a soft and fresh product that has wide commercial reach (i.e., not an artisanal product made by one person). Thus far, this Italian interpretation of vegan cheese is unique (rice base again!) and we’re excited about the future of vegan products made widely available.
For more tips on eating vegan in Italy in general, Wendy aka The Nomadic Vegan used to live in Rome and extensive experience in that department, so check her Italy archives for posts like accidentally vegan Italian foods and vegan street food. Laura of Vegan Vs Travel also has a great round-up post of how to be vegan in Italy.
Which place would you like to try most? Been to Florence and know of other vegan spots we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Latest posts by alternativetravelers (see all)
- Vegan Guide to Madrid: Best Vegan Restaurants for a Menú del Día - March 19, 2017
- 5 Tips for Avoiding Potentially Bad House Sits - March 16, 2017
- Berlin Vegan Guide - March 5, 2017