- All’Antico Vinaio in Florence, Italy, is the most-reviewed “quick bite” on Tripadvisor.
- I visited the shop to try three of its signature sandwiches for myself.
- These delicious paninis were worth the wait and quite affordable.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Florence, Italy, is known as the “Cradle of the Renaissance,” but one of its biggest attractions has nothing to do with the city’s history and everything to do with sandwiches.
Around for decades, the sandwich shop All’Antico Vinaio has lines that rival those of Michelangelo’s statue of David.
Its concept is simple: 6 euros, or about $7 USD, for a sandwich made with warmed schiacciata, a flat, Tuscan bread thrown together with olive oil and plenty of salt.
Locals and tourists continue to stand in line for up to an hour to get their fix, and All’Antico Vinaio’s owner Tommaso Mazzanti told Insider that the shop serves about 1,000 sandwiches each day â€” more than one per minute.
To see what all the hype was about, I visited the shop to try its world-famous sandwiches for myself.
All’Antico Vinaio is one of the most-reviewed sandwich shops in the world, according to Tripadvisor
Tripadvisor’s senior communications manager Hayley Coleman told Insider that All’Antico Vinaio in Florence is the site’s most-reviewed “quick bites” location.
The shop has over 29,000 independent reviews, but it wasn’t the testimonials that caught my eye.
Soon after moving to the city, I first came across All’Antico Vinaio when I spotted hordes of people nearby the Piazza della Signoria eating huge paninis wrapped in the same signature red-and-white paper.
I followed the direction they were coming from and found a line of customers that stretched over 100 meters long. The street was patrolled by All’antico Vinaio employees on the lookout for any line skippers.
When I visited All’Antico Vinaio, the line stretched down the entire street
From the moment the shop opens at 10 a.m., the line doesn’t subside, although the restaurant is busiest around lunchtime.
Interestingly, other sandwich shops in the area seem to benefit by taking in the overflow of people who don’t want to wait in line. A couple of streets away, another panini shop uses almost identical branding.
Even on the freezing winter day I went, there were a lot of people waiting to get their panini, many of who seemed to be office workers on their lunch break, as well as groups of friends and students.
At the front of the line, the original hole-in-the-wall counter has expanded to fill four storefronts on both sides of the street, with one venue taking limited sit-down customers and serving wine and charcuterie boards.
Surprisingly, the line moved very fast â€” I was at the front within 20 minutes.
Deciding on what to order was stressful once I arrived at the storefront
Inside, the store was loud and it was difficult to see what sandwiches were available to order. I think the shop may benefit from more signs along the road so customers can ponder while they wait.
In addition to advertising the five most popular flavours, the shop highlighted around 15 other options on its walls.
Whole legs of cured meat hung behind the counter, and the delicious smell of truffle wafted through the small interior.
At this point, there was pressure to immediately order, so I didn’t get much time to peruse the less famous fillings.
And while I was ordering, a baker turned up with four huge, flat loaves of schiacciata under his arm, freshly heated and ready to cut up into sandwiches.
I ordered La Favolosa, the shop’s most popular sandwich
I went for the shop’s most popular option, La Favolosa, meaning “fabulous.” This order was the first on the menu and was also voted one of the top sandwiches in the world in 2019, according to a posted sign.
This option came packed with homemade pecorino and artichoke creams, spicy grilled eggplant, and sbriciolona, a type of salami unique to the region.
Although placing my order was overwhelming, I was impressed by the efficiency with which the staffers made the sandwich â€” they perfectly arranged the ingredients while simultaneously taking the next request.
All’Antico Vinaio also had the payment system down to a T, with contactless card machines and ready-to-go beer behind the counter. I might have actually ordered a drink if I’d had more time to see what was available while waiting in line.
I ate my first sandwich with a view of one of Florence’s famous bridges
Hot schiacciata sandwich in hand, I found a spot near the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge to eat my meal.
This sandwich was delicious, with the artichoke paste and creamy pecorino offsetting the spicy grilled eggplant. The bread was crunchy and soaked up the juices, and the messiness and massive size just added to the whole experience.
Although it wouldn’t have made a big difference to the taste, I thought the combo could’ve benefited from some arugula for an extra touch of freshness and colour.
I went back to order 2 more sandwiches
I ended up going back again to sample more of All’Antico Vinaio’s top-rated sandwiches.
But the process didn’t get any less stressful on my second try, and my friend and I were pushed up to the counter to order and pay.
That said, the staff was super friendly despite the chaos, letting the people behind me mix-and-match ingredients to create a custom sandwich.
I ordered another of the shop’s top 5, and my friend got a sandwich named after an Italian poet
My order, the Schiacciata del Boss, was filled with ham, truffle cream, and pecorino.
And my friend’s La Dante, a tribute to the 750th anniversary of the namesake Italian poet and writer, contained a marbled cured pork called capocollo, a creamy local cheese named stracchino, fresh arugula, and truffle cream.
This was a winning combination, and I’d order this sandwich again next time.
Almost as important as the meal is the spot where you choose to sit and enjoy it.
The Piazza della Signoria wins top marks for people watching, but for a more relaxing option, we perched ourselves on a wall overlooking the Arno River, laid out our sandwiches, and dug in.
I’ll definitely come back to All’Antico Vinaio, but only if I have time to wait in line
All’Antico Vinaio also has branches in Milan, New York City, and Los Angeles, so it’s certainly not a secret that has stayed within Florence. That said, I was pleased to find out all this attention hasn’t seemed to have impacted the quality.
I’ll definitely come back to All’Antico Vinaio, especially when I can show visiting friends what all the hype is about.
The sandwiches are also a good value for the money, which makes them a great lunchtime option after a morning study session or sightseeing tour. And since the shop stays open until 10:30 p.m., it would be a good spot for a take-out summer dinner as well.
And if you don’t want to stand in line, All’antico Vinaio will deliver to anywhere within the city centre for an additional charge. I saw a constant stream of delivery bikes coming and going while I waited.
There are other good sandwich shops nearby I might choose for a more relaxed and quick experience, but All’Antico Vinaio wins for portion size and acclaim.
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