THE AMERICAN STUDY ABROAD STUDENT GUIDE TO CAFES IN FLORENCE
I love a genuine Italian bar, standing and sipping my espresso, pretending I can order in Italian with my course 1-level language. But, I admittedly crave a chic cafe to park myself for hours with my laptop and enjoy an oat milk latte. Especially on the brink of finals, I find myself on a constant hunt for stylish cafes to sit among other students and digital nomads working. These establishments are surprisingly not in abundance, for such an art-focused city. I had only heard of Shake Cafe and Simbiosi, and while these are somewhat viable options, I can do you one (or 5) better.
My personal criteria include; location, price, ambiance, and physical space, food/drink quality– and believe me, my standards are high. For the American study abroad student on the brink of finals, here are the best cafes in Florence to study, fuel up on some non-pasta dishes, and American-style lattes, and get to work (in no particular order).
Via Giosuè Carducci, 2/4 R, 50121 Firenze FI
Ole reliable and my most visited. Ditta has four locations, however, my favorite sits near the entrance of the Sant’ambrogio market. With spacious rooms, large tables, comfortable seating, and most of all, tasty, objectively well-priced food, this place ranks well in all my categories. The only bagel I have repeatedly ordered in my time here is the Ditta Lox bagel, and that says a lot coming from a Chicago Jewish girl. I have not pulled out my Airpods here because their playlist rivals my own, full of American indie bands and classics alike. Overall a relaxed, but still bustling ambience that does not distract from the task at hand when you have an art history paper due. Best of all, you can reward yourself with a walk through the charming Sant’ambrogio market when you are done.
Via dei Fossi, 15/R, 50123 Firenze FI
Upon entry, Todo Modo appears to be just a colorful, kitschy bookstore. But continue 10 feet forward and find the “teatro”, a homey, comfortable cafe and wine bar fit for a study session. There are soups, sandwiches, and a full espresso bar (with non-dairy milk of course), as well as floor-to-ceiling bookshelves adorning every wall. This establishment offers the ambience, and the food/caffeine to keep you working. And unlike some of the other cafes, there is no “coperto” (seating cover charge), and a cappuccino with oat milk stays at 1 or 2 euros. On a busy day though, it can be tough to get a seat, especially for a group, so this place is best when solo. And when you get sick of your schoolwork, they have a fantastic English selection of books you can crack open.
Piazza di San Paolino, 1, 50123 Firenze FI
This funky hotel houses both a restaurant and cafe space open to all to dine and enjoy the space. If you are looking for character and an amusing interior, 25hours has just that. The alimentari offers paninis, salads, and other small dishes, and you can order coffee and other refreshments at any time of day. The heart-shaped chairs and glass walls and ceiling create almost a jungle-like atmosphere, with plenty of seating options and tables for laptops and books.
Lungarno delle Grazie, 12R, 50122 Firenze FI
I stumbled upon this cafe while waiting in line for a table at the infamous brunch spot, Melaleuca, but it has quickly become a chosen destination of mine instead of an in-between stop. The balance between hipster cafe and Italian charm with a patio right on the Arno River, Rivarno is the perfect place to brunch and work, rain or shine. The artisanal cafe lattes are priced higher than the average espresso, but being organic lavender and pumpkin spice flavored makes sense. The menu is filled with lunch items fit for the days when you don’t feel like another bowl of pasta or a panini. I promise you won’t find a chicken salad wrap anywhere else in Florence. The space is a decent size, and they do have outdoor tables, however, they are a busier place. But in my experience, tables open frequently and if you get there before or after the busier lunch hours, you
will have no problem finding a spot for you and your laptop.
Via de Ginori, 8/R, 50123, Firenze FI
If you are looking to treat yourself and spend the day at a more upscale cafe, then (and only then) is La Menagere the place to go. This serene restaurant is also home to a boutique flower shop, and the aesthetically pleasing decor with top-notch service is what you pay for. They welcome students during the day to do work, to lunch and socialize, and to enjoy the collective space. There are plenty of spaces within the restaurant to do work, including their outdoor covered patio. No matter where you sit, you are surrounded by flowers, relaxing coffee house music, drool-worthy aroma of food options, but a spectacular experience all around for a more special occasion–or if you really want to hunker down and get your work done in style.
BONUS: Il Conventino
Via Giano della Bella, 20, 50124 Firenze FI
I write to you from the least convenient cafe location-wise, but one of my favorites by far and quite the hidden gem. Admittedly, I wish I could keep this a secret (even though my dear friend Lili shared it with me), but it is too special not to. Difficult to find and on the outskirts of Firenze, Il Conventino houses a variety of purposes with a cafe/restaurant, scenic courtyard, and art spaces upstairs. Floor-to-ceiling arch windows and indoor trees make the space angelic, and perfect for enjoying fresh baked goods, delicious lunch, coffee, and spending the day with a project or schoolwork. Locals are the majority of the customers, but they kindly welcome an American student (from firsthand experience).
Written by Spring 2022 Student Gabrielle Donenberg