After nearly three weeks in Italy and too many pastas, pizzas and bread sticks, when I arrived in Florence, I was on a mission to find The Hard Rock Café Florence. I had left the U.S. a month before on a boat of mediocre food, practically overdosed on the fabulous Spanish foods and drinks and was now desperate for a grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, a side of fries and a lemonade.
My Hard Rock Cafe History
When I first traveled to London in the late 80’s, the Hard Rock Café was a must see. It had a line to get in and this was before the massive expansion throughout the U.S. and the world. There weren’t many cafes at the time so it was a big deal to get the t-shirt, view the rock memorabilia on the walls and have a burger at the counter. Frankly, the food in the U.K. was pretty dreadful back then (thankfully, that’s changed over the years since that first visit) so the Hard Rock Café visit was a highlight.
It was then that I created my list to travel the world to visit all of the Hard Rock Cafes (I’ve met others who did the same). They were in the best cities (London, Paris, Rome, Sydney, etc.). At first, I did ok, visiting Paris, Sydney and Cancun and many others buying the t-shirts for family, shot glasses and pins for friends and enjoying a burger and fries away from the U.S. But then they expanded faster than I could keep up and the novelty wore off as I viewed it as just another chain restaurant especially after the Planet Hollywood incident in Paris. I wanted to explore the city getting away from the touristy restaurants (note that Las Vegas doesn’t count since it’s a casino/hotel first and I usually win there) and find local gems. So for a while, the Hard Rock Cafes were not on my travel to do list.
The Hard Rock Cafe Florence, Italy
It was this recent trip to Italy that my resolve gave out and I needed the Hard Rock Café Florence, well my stomach did anyway. It was why I was circling the streets of Florence with Google Maps telling me I walked too far to turn around on my way to the corner of Piazza della Repubblica. Then I saw it, hidden under cover of a historic building with many vendors outside selling souvenirs. I walked past the velvet ropes (thankfully no line) and walked inside.
It was really nice inside the historic building, formerly a cinema. Looking up at the original, but renovated, chandeliers told me that this wasn’t a normal Hard Rock Cafe. I found out about the cinema history later after the stay but appreciated that the designers were able to keep many of the wonderful features when they build the cafe. On your left is a small coffee cafe bar/lounge area (opens at 8:30 am for those with a coffee habit) with funky seating options while on the right is the merchandise. Walking further inside you reach the hostess stand (you can book advanced reservations online) before entering the larger restaurant and music venue. Yes, the American menu was still on offer, with a few local twists.
Inside the Restaurant and Music Space at the Hard Rock Cafe Florence
I walked down a few steps to the shiny bar in the middle of the room and took a seat, surprisingly there was a nice crowd at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday. Looking past the bar, you can see the stage for musicians/concerts (live music schedule online) and an area to dance. Sadly, there was no music today but no worries, I was happy that the restaurant was open all day (key point especially if you have kids as so many restaurants close after lunch and reopen at 7pm, it’s hard to find a late lunch or early dinner). I was a tourist desperate to eat a meal that didn’t include pizza, pasta or bread sticks and was thrilled that I could eat mid-day.
While I contemplated a burger, or the chicken tenders, I stayed with my initial craving choosing the simple grilled chicken sandwich and adding bacon (yum bacon). The bartender took my order and made my fresh lemonade (expensive but worth it). With a few sips of my drink, my food quickly arrived and I just smiled, giddy with anticipation. Silly, yes I know, but it just seemed healthy (seemed being the key word because I know if I looked up the calories online, the only healthy part of my meal was the ice cubes).
As this was Florence, I couldn’t ignore the numerous gelato possibilities that awaited me outside so I passed on the Hard Rock desserts. For me, visiting the Hard Rock Café Florence took me back to my first London visit in 1988 – it was a place that made my stomach happy with familiar flavors and foods. The Hard Rock cafes offer consistency around the world with a bit of local flair and an updated menu so I doubt this will be my last visit to a Hard Rock Cafe while traveling.
What are your thoughts about the Hard Rock Café? Do you have a favorite location? Or do you have a different chain restaurant that is your stomach salvation on long-term travel?