The place that time forgot: Leonardo Canteen, Florence

As marketers, we probably shouldn’t be saying this, but some places are really better off with less marketing, because they are less likely to become over-popular, too cool for themselves and therefore lose their sincerity. In Florence Italy, Creative Director Alvin Chia stumbled upon one such place, a quiet self-service restaurant that may have been around since the 50s, or even earlier, who knows, located in the historic centre of the city, whose unassuming canteen aesthetic won him over.

With its high back wooden benches and communal tables with graph paper print laminate on the tables, the whole vibe is one of monastic simplicity
Notice the bottle openers attached to the edge of the tables, how many places in the world still do that?

Occupying the entire first floor of a building just steps from the Duomo, the restaurant presents:

  • simple Italian fare with prices that aren’t out to fleece tourists, in fact the cheapest bottled beer we found in the city
  • staff with a very down to earth, humble and friendly attitude to customers (perhaps a reflection of their gratitude at having a job, even a humble one)
  • an ideal location to hide from the flock of tourists and the local glamour pack especially if you’re not feeling overly fashionable
  • a place to mingle with the working class locals and eavesdrop on them discussing the real difficulties of working life amongst themselves, if you can understand Italian.
  • a vantage point on the 1st floor to observe the vehicle and foot traffic on the busy street below

It’s one of those places that is not trying to be anything, but just wanting to get by a day at a time, like its many blue collared patrons.

We hope that the place will be around for a very long time. Even though the rest of the world may seem to have forgotten about it (as it’s usually not busy) or think it’s not as cool as the dime and a dozen new and over-marketed restaurants flaunting the canteen/communal dining concept, this place justifies us saying “they don’t know what they’re missing”.

The restaurant is called Leonardo and is located at Via de’ Pecori 35/r, Florence, Italy.

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