Eating Out

Florentine cuisine is, quite simply, good old-fashioned, home-cooked fare that we all know and love. Stemming from a more peasant-type style of eating, there is a strong emphasis on meat, and various kinds of tripe - trippa and lampredotto - in Florentine dishes. Although the meats, cheeses and breads are often incredible, fish is not a feature of Tuscan cuisine and ordering seafood in Florence may lead to disappointment. Expect to see antipasti like sliced rounds of bread topped with chicken-liver pâté or sliced meats, known as crostini toscani, as well as soup served with saltless Tuscan bread in dishes like ribollita and pappa al pomodoro. The various Tuscan varieties of Pecorino cheese are still arguably the region's finest product so be sure to sample some.

Dining out in Florence can be a tiring affair. With so many restaurants, cafés and other eateries abounding on just about every street corner and around every major tourist attraction, travellers wary of tourist-traps might have a hard time deciding where to begin. Head to the Santa Croce and Oltrarno areas, where the highest concentration of authentic and quality restaurants can be found. Although eating out in Florence can be expensive, it is possible to find cheaper restaurants - lookout for places frequented by locals.

Visitors should note that it is customary for a 15 percent service charge to be added to the bill - or, if it isn't, that they should tip this amount.

Shopping

More renowned for its classical architecture than for its bargain shopping, Florence was actually the historical home of fashion in Italy. Home to the likes of Giovanni Battista Giorgini, the father of the Italian school of fashion (the country's equivalent of France's haute couture), Giorgini held informal fashion shows and soirées in Florence in the early 1950s.

Florence still manages to pack a powerful punch compared to sister-cities Rome and Milan when it comes to shopping. With everything from luxurious designer boutiques and vast shopping malls to bustling open-air markets and street-side hawkers, visitors to Florence will be able to shop to their hearts' content.

Head to the Via Tornabuoni, Florence's main upmarket shopping street, where luxury fashion houses and jewellery stores abound and high-quality leather goods, shoes and clothing can be found; or head to The Mall, a huge designer outlet selling labels such as Alexander McQueen, Gucci and Burberry. For jewellery, visit the Ponte Vecchio, where tiny shops dot the sides of this medieval bridge over the Arno River; while the place to find great antiques and objets d'art from the 16th century is the Via Maggio.

Those looking for something a little less pricey should visit the local markets like San Lorenzo, a popular spot where souvenirs and leather goods abound. Head for the Mercato Centrale in Via dell'Ariento, the best food market in Florence, or visit the Sant'ambrogio in Piazza Ghiberti, where everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and cheeses, to clothes, flowers, shoes and homeware stalls are plentiful.

Travellers should beware of buying fake designer goods from hawkers as it is illegal and could lead to a hefty fine if caught by the police. Shops generally open from 9am to 1pm, and reopen at 3.30pm until 7pm from Tuesday to Saturday. Most are closed on Sundays and on Monday mornings.