Fresh ravioli being prepared for lunch in Italy


Lunch in Italy:
The best bites in
Rome & Florence

Food in Italy is the most delicious cliché. The pizza? Bellissima. The cheeses and fresh, oil-slicked olives? Perfetta. And the pasta?! Mamma mia is right. In this writer’s humble opinion, if you’re not maximizing every meal, you’re doing it wrong.

On an EF tour, dinners are typically booked in advance and enjoyed together as a group. That leaves lunchtime for culinary exploration. Since our itineraries are so planned-to-the-moment, your group may only have an hour or so to grab a bite between activities. But our Tour Directors, who are experts on (and, often, locals from) the cities you’re traveling in, give the very best lunchtime recommendations. On a recent trip to Italy, Tour Director Simona did exactly that for us.

Read on for a few of the spots we tried.

Pizza & suppli

La Prezzemolina

Lunch in Italy served at La Prezzemolina in Rome: images of pizza and suppli, the restaurant's front door, and slices of pizza on paper plates

📍  Via del Colosseo 1 E/F, Rome

🇮🇹  Near the Colosseum and Roman Forum

🍴  Pizza al taglio, cut to order by weight, and suppli: fried balls filled with rice, sauce, and rich mozzarella

For a takeaway lunch in Italy, you can’t go wrong with pizza. It’s one of those foods that’s familiar—what high-schooler doesn’t like pizza?!—while still maintaining its cultural authenticity. After wrapping up a guided tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum, Simona pointed us down a side street dotted with small restaurants and cafés. With an hour before we had to hop back on the bus, she suggested strolling over to La Prezzemolina, off a small side street on Via del Colosseo.

It’s a tiny space with a few tables inside. Under the arched opening that looks back into the kitchen, the counter displayed an array of crispy, rectangular pizzas being served al taglio—ordered by weight and sliced accordingly with a pair of scissors. Options included everything from prosciutto and tomato-basil-mozzarella to a dairy-free version with olives and no cheese.

Tour Director Simona enjoys cheese-filled suppli during lunch in Italy

But what we were really there for were the suppli. A typical street food in Rome, Simona explained, suppli are deep-fried balls molded out of rice, tomato, and mozzarella—and they’re one of her favorites. La Prezzemolina’s suppli classici didn’t disappoint, but we especially enjoyed their lasagna fritta take, which is exactly what it sounds like: a fried ball of gooey lasagna deliciousness. We took our suppli and pizza to go, posting up by the quintessentially Italian row of bikes and scooters parked across the tiny, cobblestone street.



Florence's Amorini serves lunch in Italy; images of a server cutting meat to prepare a sandwich, the storefront and sign, and a panino with a few bites removed

📍  Via dei Servi 16r, Florence

🇮🇹  Around the corner from the Duomo

🍴 Easy-to-order panini with fresh ingredients and a magnificent view

A few days later, we found ourselves in Florence. With about 45 minutes before our guided walking tour of the city, a few of us wandered with Simona down a side street and were hooked by the impressive list of sandwiches, translated into English, outside Amorini.

A bit of advice for lunch in Italy: Always get the focaccia. Every sandwich at Amorini has the option to choose between “panino,” a simple roll, or “focaccia,” a flatter, chewier bread brushed with olive oil. The focaccia is worth the couple of extra Euro—it’s both a little larger and the superior bread.

As for which sandwich to choose, well, no one in our group left disappointed. We sampled the “Masaccio,” stuffed with salami and artichokes, the “Machiavelli” with ham and mozzarella (we added pesto), and the “Medici,” a simply dressed roast pork. And we couldn’t resist the “Rucellai,” made with roast pork and truffle cream, which an Amorini server told us was his favorite sandwich on the menu. Simona, who recommended the lardo or soppresata as typical Florentine sandwich fixings, summed the meal up nicely: “It’s quick and easy, but healthy and very good.”

Students enjoy views of the Duomo like this one during lunch in Italy

The real star at Amorini, though, is the view. There are a few stools inside, but we opted to enjoy our sandwiches on the sidewalk in order to take in the Duomo, a never-not-impressive presence at the end of the street.

Pasta, pasta, and…more pasta

Che pasta

Pasta's for lunch in Italy at Rome's Che Pasta; image of pasta being prepared, the restaurant storefront, and ravioli being enjoyed

📍 Via di S. Agostino 16, Rome

🇮🇹  Near Piazza Navona and the Pantheon

🍴 Affordable fresh pasta spot popular with students

Back in Rome after a whirlwind trip through Florence, we took Simona’s recommendation for one of our last lunches in Italy and visited Che Pasta, a local favorite of students from the EF language school around the corner. Per Simona, “It’s a pasta bar. Also, the name is fun, no? Where are you going to have lunch? In a pasta bar. Wow!”

Interior shot of Che Pasta, where students often enjoy lunch in Italy

Inside, menu items are framed on the wall—all fresh, homemade pasta in various shapes, dressed in different combinations of sauces and cheeses. There’s a visual for each dish, as well as an ingredient list in both English and Spanish. The opposite wall is counter-to-ceiling glass panels looking into an immaculate open kitchen where you can watch staffers scurry through a perfectly choreographed food prep dance: boil, drain, toss, season, grind some pepper, grate some cheese, repeat. It took a few minutes to prep our meal since each dish is made to order, but the results were well worth the wait.

We grabbed a spot outside at one of the small metal tables on either side of the entrance. Our group tasted the “Tonnarelli cacio e pepe,” a thick spaghetti coated in rich cheese and black pepper. We also sampled the “Ravioli Nonna Pina,” ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese, and doused in a tart red sauce. Portion sizes were perfect for a quick lunch (you can order yours to-go if you’d like), and we were back out and sightseeing in no time.

Lunch in Italy isn't complete without gelato; image of many different types of gelato behind the counter of a gelateria


Gelateria della Palma

📍 Via della Maddalena 19, Rome

🇮🇹  150–200 meters from the Pantheon, 600–700 meters from the Trevi Fountain, and 500 meters from Piazza Navona (their exacting measurements, not ours!)

🍴 Busy gelateria, popular with locals, that’s been around since 1978 and boasts 150 flavors

Gelato isn’t technically lunch, but it’s the perfect addition to every single possible lunch in Italy we could dream of—so this round-up just doesn’t feel complete without it. In Rome, almost every student in our group visited Gelateria della Palma at least once on Simona’s recommendation.

When you get inside, you pay first and are handed a receipt, then head to the counter to place your order. The selection is vast with 150 flavors, including classic cream and fruit gelati, options like pear & cheese, rose petal, and avocado for more adventurous palates, and even dairy-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free selections.

Two cones and two cups of gelato enjoyed after lunch in Italy

The gelateria is in a very busy area, so we retreated to a side street to slurp our cones before they melted and enjoy the people-watching. We took this assignment seriously and tasted lots of flavors. Here are our mini-reviews, including a couple from some students we ran into:

Tiramisu: “Very sweet. Very creamy.”


Nutella: “Spoonfuls of Nutella swirled throughout.”


Lime: “Tastes exactly like a lime.”
Student quote about gelato after lunch in Italy that reads,
Straciatella di cioccolato: “Huge pieces of chocolate, not just tiny slivers!”


Tropical: “I taste, like, every fruit. It’s so good.”


Coconut: “Super-fresh.”


Biscotti: “Big chunks of cookies
and a caramel drizzle.”
Student quote about gelato after lunch in Italy that reads,

The moral of the story? When it comes to gelato in Italy, you can’t really go wrong. In fact, that’s the truth about most lunches in Italy—and other meals, too. Keep an open mind, taste everything, and buon appetito!

Hands reaching for pizza during lunch in Italy

Fancy yourself an Italian foodie?

We’ve got an itinerary for that. Enjoy Cuisine & Culture in either northern or southern Italy.

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Heather McHugh

Heather is a writer and associate creative director at EF. She drinks an excessive amount of seltzer, she’s happiest when she’s at the beach, and, if she wasn’t a writer, she’d probably be a professional organizer. Her favorite place to visit is Italy.