If you are tired of the vending machine mood, literary cafés are hidden gems in Florence. The options listed below are open for most of the day, so why not explore Florence and the student life at Istituto Marangoni Firenze in a new light? Take some time to enjoy a good read, the aesthetics of dried flowers or contemporary music, and an opportunity to meet new people.
Texts and digital illustratios by Margaret Mitchem for I’M Firenze Digest. Cover image: Libreria Brac, Florence.
By now, there must be very little that surprises the literary cafés in Florence. From the 1800s, when intellectuals would gather to discuss politics and society, to the modern day: students finishing group projects (or in the midst of starting them), dog owners spending some quality time with their pets, and a typical first date location, literary cafés in Florence play a unique role in the lives of the local citizens. Therefore, we set out to try and investigate the cafés we felt were the most worthwhile, noting Wi-Fi strength, hospitality, seating, and the general atmosphere. Whether you are fed up with tourist traps or simply looking for a new setting, the literary cafés you’ll find below promise, at the very least, a decent amount of sweets, books, and opportunities to meet people.
LIBRERIA BRAC: A VAST BOOK SELECTION AND CALM ATMOSPHERE
Offering the most diverse book selection in town, Brac provides a modern and quieter atmosphere. The first ten minutes inside were not spent trying to find seating but choosing a book, with a selection from culinary arts, travelling and philosophy to a more general creative genre.
Exposed brick and carpeting, it is tempting to spend hours cuddled in one of its many mini lounges. The spacing makes Brac an ideal location for an aperitivo or group project brainstorming.
As it is primarily a restaurant, it lacks proper desks or tables, so if you are okay with adjusting to the limited space of a coffee table, Brac should definitely rank in your top five student hubs in Florence. With vegan lunch options, and a balanced variety of sweet and savoury, Brac has plenty of food and books to choose from, yet the limited desk space makes it better for social events than schoolwork.
Wrap up: A 12-minute walk from Istituto Marangoni Firenze, friendly staff, and the least busy atmosphere on the list. Opening at 11:00 am, Brac stands out for its literary variety and more of a modern atmosphere than a vintage aesthetic.
IL CONVENTINO: SOCIALISING, AESTHETICS, AND FRIENDLINESS.
Il Conventino, either for its affordable prices or Instagram worthiness, meant most of the tables were reserved by midday, leaving only the so-called “hermit spot” available. If you are okay with a small work area and a limited book selection, then Il Conventino is highly recommended. Also provides outdoor seating, warm lighting, a varied menu, and artistic decoration.
Wrap up: 15-minute walk from Istituto Marangoni Firenze, opens at 9:00 am, and largest (inevitably busiest) Café.
Extra points: Slightly hidden within Florence, offering potentially undiscovered areas for both new and adjusted students.
LA CITÈ: INSPIRING ATMOSPHERE, SEATING, AND CONVENIENCE
Instantly welcoming guests with a mix of art, 70s R&B, and a lovely selection of seating, La Citè stands out for friendliness. “A breed between a pub for tourists and a café for us”, says Niccolò, Barista.
The staff is happy to chat and provide literary and menu suggestions. Despite being smaller than Il Conventino, it has a strong group of regulars and seating options, including benches, armchairs, and tables (indoor and outdoor).
Going alone or with friends, you will find a comfortable spot, regardless of your plans. Cappuccino quality falls a bit behind compared to other cafes, but it compensates with reasonable prices and treats such as lemon pie, brownies, and, most importantly: solid Wi-Fi strength. With large tables and distributed seating selection, you can sit in a more occupied area or remain mostly undisturbed on the second floor.
Wrap up: Less than a 10-minute walk from Istituto Marangoni Firenze, opens at 10:00 am (except on Sundays), and the book selection is mainly in Italian. It also provides significant entertainment, such as cards and board games.
Extra points for the many bars located on the same street.
Margaret Mitchem is a Multimedia Arts undergraduate student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.