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17

VOYAGE

“The Florentine food scene has woken up recently

and become more open to both experimentation

and to street food”

chef Simone Cipriani of Essenziale is fond of pushing the

boundaries: “Without creativity, tradition wouldn’t exist.

Italian tradition came about during times in history when

we only had a few ‘impoverished’ ingredients available

to us.” In a curious way, Eataly Firenze (

www.eataly.net

),

Oscar Farinetti’s famous foodie emporium, straddles both

camps, linking quality to slow food in a price-sensitive way.

Eataly is now an international brand but also has a popular

branch in Florence. As a champion of slow food, Eataly

offers regional tasting menus at different food stations and

is one of the most tempting places for sourcing Christmas

treats, from artisanal panettone to the finest Italian

sparkling wines.

Florence is currently being spurred on towards even

greater creativity in the kitchen. Essenziale (

www.

essenziale.me

) is a daring new restaurant in the Oltrarno,

as self-consciously casual as it is creative. In design terms,

it’s techno-chic, all beams, metallic skylights and sofas,

with challenging menus to match. Reflecting its name,

Essenziale (Essential) aims to deliver the essence of good

food, but it’s not easy, except on your wallet: “To complicate

is simple but to simplify is complicated” is Chef Simone

Cipriani’s motto. The ambitious menus are playful but

not pricey, ranging from root vegetable risotto or a riff on

Tuscan bread soup to wild flights of fancy that actually

work, such as guinea fowl and passion fruit.

San Niccolò 39 (

Via di S. Niccolò, 39, 50125

) is

another tempting new eatery that challenges traditional

Tuscan tastes. This chic but contemporary haunt is tucked

between the historical centre and the foot of Piazzale

Michelangelo. Dishes are vaguely Tuscan with a playful,

international touch, ranging from Chianina beef to salt-

baked sea bass or a cod burger served in a seeded bun.

Paul Feakes, the experienced English restaurateur, loves

the rhythm of his Florentine foodie life: “I feel like a new

Florentine, not a foreigner in a strange town,” he says.

Opposite page:

Tables all set for

lunch in the Chianti

region. This page,

clockwise from left:

Savvy restaurateurs

translate their

Florentine

specialities for

tourists; locals

enjoying a

cappuccino and

pastries; a regional

linguine dish