When you think of great street food, you probably think of Bangkok, San Francisco, or Tokyo. But Florence? The idea of a grab-and-go meal is at odds with much of the indigenous culture of this Italian capital, where slow meals around the table have been the norm for centuries. But the realities of modern tourism are bearing down on such genteel Florentine traditions, and the result has been a panino Renaissance — a surge in popularity of sandwich shops (paninoteca), which offer the highest-quality salumi (anything, really, from the cured-meat family), roasted meats (like porchetta), veggies, cheeses, herbs, aromatics, toppings, and spreads overstuffed into crusty breads. Of course, local wines are served by the glass to wash it all down.
Such bites are available all over the city, but in the sleepy area directly behind the Ufizzi Museum, on Via dei Neri, it's a regular paninoteca row, featuring two of the city's most sought-after shops, and another in the nearby shadows, that have the streets so full of curb-sitting, sandwich-chomping, charcuterie-board-sampling, wine-guzzling tourists, students, and young locals, that it looks like a nonstop block party. So the next time you're in Florence, skip the two-hour, four-course sit-down meal and take a gourmet sandwich on the streets behind the Ufizzi.
Where to Go:
All'Antico Vinaio: Via dei Neri, 74/RL
This is the reigning king of paninoteca in Florence, with an osteria across the street, and all-day lines for this shoebox sandwich shop, which can rival those at the nearby Ufizzi.
La Prosciutteria: Via dei Neri, 54/R
Just down the block from, and just a tad less tiny than All'Antico Vinaio, this is where the informed go to avoid lines and enjoy locally sourced products and a grand selection of Tuscan wines, including some big daddies like Chianti Classico Riseva, Brunello di Montalcino, and Tignanello.
Ino: Via dei Georgofili 3
Tucked behind Via dei Neri, near the River Arno, this gourmet sandwich shop has a well-known gastronome owner, Alessando Frassica, modern décor, and inventive new offerings each day to accompany the typical standards.