Saturday, January 2, 2010

Where to Eat: Best Coffee in Florence

After Rachael's claim of finding the "best cappuccino in Florence" I did some research to find what other people believed to be the "best" in Florence.  To my surprise and dismay there was very little out there.  How could this be?  No coffee lover's guide to Florence?!  Where are the top 10 cafes in Florence?  The top 5?  If you can find them you are a better explorer of the internet than I, but my internet did not have much for me to go on.

This was a sign that I needed to do something.  I couldn't let this continue any further.  People need to know where they can expect to get a good coffee.  You don't want to be wandering around aimlessly when that caffeine level starts to dip low.  Bad news.

In light of this, and to verify for myself the accuracy of Rachael's "best cappuccino" we set out to try and compare 4 of the better coffee shops we have found thus far.  Its important to note that none of the bars I review below were disappointing, if you're ever in a pinch for some quick caffeine any will more than suffice.

To allow for equal comparison at each bar I had a caffe and a cappuccino.  Here are the results(in no particular order)...

1. The first bar to be tested was Donnini Caffe' Pasticceria.  The caffe I had at Donnini was medium to full bodied.  It had dark roasty flavors that made the espresso quite smooth with a short finish.  The caffe was lighter in crema than I would have liked and the shot could have been pulled for a few seconds longer, which may have created a more lively drink.  Second came the cappuccino.  This was very well made.  The dark flavor of the espresso melded well with the milk.  The barista also added a dash of cocoa to the espresso before pouring the milk foam.  Overall the drink had a nice balance, velvety foam, and was served at very pleasant drinking temperature.

You'll find Donnini on the southwest corner of the Piazza della Repubblica, behind the outdoor seating and awnings.  In addition to having good drinks Donnini's is also said to have the best pastries in Florence.  I have heard many independent verifications of the quality from numerous "experts."  The bar had a very laid back atmosphere that seemed shielded from the hustle of the piazza. 

Caffe - 0,85
Cappuccino - 1,10

2.  Next up is Gilli.  The caffe was bright and lively.  Unexpectedly it still had mellow earthy flavors with a hint of nuttiness.  A slightly complex coffee with a light body.  The cappuccino had balanced flavors, but to me it left something to be desired in how the drink was assembled.  The cappuccino was wetter than I prefer, and although the foam had well formed micro foam it had separated completely from the milk.  This made the drink closer to a short latte than a cappuccino.  It tasted good, just not what I wanted.

This bar is on the opposite corner of Piazza della Repubblica from Donnini.  Like most of the eateries in this piazza they offer indoor/outdoor seating as well as a lunch and dinner menu.  There is a lovely selection of chocolates to be found inside as well!  Gilli tends to be busy, its right on one of the main shopping streets in Florence.

Caffe - 1,00
Cappuccino - 1,30

3. Third on the list was La Loggia.  The caffe was citrusy with a little fruitiness as well.  There were subtle roasty notes.  The caffe had a full body with a smooth finish.  The cappuccino had well balanced flavors, but was still a bit wet.  The foam was very smooth.

I really enjoy coming to this cafe.  Its right in the middle of things on Via del Corso.  It has a nice atmosphere.  I have had the good fortune to stop by on several occasions when they were just bringing out freshly baked bombolini which makes any visit more than worth it. 

Caffe - 1,00
Cappuccion - 1,20

4.  The final cafe in our adventure was Il Bigallo.  The caffe at Il Bigallo had a light body to it.  It was rather bright and had lively citrus flavors.  The cappuccino was perfectly balanced in flavor and the milk to foam ratio.  The foam was lush and smooth.  The coffee flavor was prominent without overwhelming, and was accentuated by the dash of cocoa added.  This is the best cappuccino I have had in this country.  This place was visited on Rachael's recommendation, it did not disappoint.

Il Bigallo is found on a quite corner outside of the touristy section of the city center.  Simply continue following Corso down and it will be on your right hand side.  It smaller than the other bars reviewed, but seems like a place that most locals frequent.  The staff are also very pleasant and talented drink makers.

At this point I was too jittery to remember to take note of the cost (these tastings were done in roughly an hour on an empty stomach.  Whoops.)  On my next visit I'll be sure to find out and post it.

A map of the above bars, along with all the places reviewed in "Where to Eat," can be found by clicking here.


  1. I don't even like coffee but at Giacosa it's really good and for a non coffee drinker to like it should mean something. I have to totally disagree about Donnini, their pastries are ok and their deserts are worse. I had a rubbery panna cotta and dry moelleux there. Patrizia Cosi is by far, very far, one of the best pasticerria's in town

  2. In Florence I drunk the best coffee. I travelled with:
    and with Hotel Firenze Centro

  3. This was an incredibly useful list, thanks! il bigallo was fantastic!
    As a tourist here, I can't give you any more pointers in Florence, but if you ever visit Berlin (a city generally plagued by limp, stale espresso and buckets of boiled milk froth) here's the scoop: Bonanza Coffee Heroes (Oderberger Straße 35) and
    Passenger Espresso (Oppelner Straße 45)

  4. I'm really glad that you enjoyed it!! Thanks for the suggestions. If I ever get the chance to visit Berlin I will make sure to give those try.

  5. Wow you are right, very hard to find espresso recommendations for Florence, most just say "it's all good," very helpful.... thanks for your detailed notes, I'll be in Florence tomorrow and look forward to trying all your recommendations!

    1. Seems so that "all good" is the general Florence-trademark haha. I asked my friends what to visit and they said "Everything"- great help :D...

  6. It is all good though (almost). tehre is a nice starter list for other Italian cities here -

  7. I am in firenze right now and going off on one of your recommendations!!!

  8. Thanks - I used your advice this week in Florence. La Loggia was sadly closed for renno this month. Donnini was fantastic, for me head and shoulders above Gilli, though the later has quite a bit of charm and history. Il Bigallo was sadly too far afield for me on this trip.

  9. Thanks for this article! I will visit Florence in December (before Christmas) and I found your post when I was searching for nice cafes in Florence. I will read the comments and decide which to visit (may be all of them haha).