4 Leoni Restaurant history

For decades, the Trattoria 4 Leoni was a family-run business with its historic cook Gina and offering typically Florentine dishes at low prices.

The modern history of the Antica Trattoria e Fiaschetteria dei Quattro Leoni began after World War II when it was one of the traditional wine shops of Florence that sold not only wine but also cold cuts, cheeses, and canapés.

In May 1995, following its renovation and enlargement, the trattoria reopened, maintaining and highlighting its already clear Tuscan nature:  the old ceilings were restored to new life with exposed wooden beams, stone walls, arches lined in red bricks that emerge from the walls in slaked lime, and terracotta floors.

With his energic management, Stefano Di Puccio has turned the 4 Leoni restaurant into something much more than a simple Tuscan trattoria (typical local restaurant), instilling into it a definitely contemporary, elegant character. With the words of some of our customers, we like to call it “a chic trattoria”.

From March to November, you can eat outdoors, right in the square, surrounded by plants and flowers, roses, wild flowers or cyclamens that Stefano Di Puccio himself has planted and attends to.

All around are shops, art studios, and old craftsmen’s workshops.  Here, as once all over the Oltrarno district – perhaps the only one that still preserves intact the most authentic character of a city that risks drowning in tourism – you can still find restorers, frame-makers, blacksmiths, carpenters, wood-carvers, decorators, and antique dealers.

500 4 Leone
Trattoria 4 Leoni Firenze ingresso
Trattoria 4 Leoni Firenze ingresso

Piazza della Passera: a corner of old Florence that you would search for in vain on a map (or perhaps no longer).

Piazza della Passera is where the road widens between Via dello Sprone (which owes its name to the sharp corner between Piazza Frescobaldi and Borgo San Jacopo, which forms that characteristic corner building with its little terrace and Buontalenti’s fountain crowned by the Medici coat of arms), Via de’ Vellutini (parallel to the much nobler Via dei Velluti, from the name of the powerful family of wool and silk merchants, almost as narrow as a corridor), via de’ Sapiti (once called Chiasso degli Angiolieri, from the name of another noble family), and Via Toscanella (which has almost always been broken up and called by different names: Canto de’ Marsili, Via del Canto ai Quattro Pavoni, and Via del Canto ai Quattro Leoni. Its current name comes from the noble family of the Toscanelli Dal Pozzo).
Officially acknowledged only as of 2005, but mostly absent from street maps, the origin of the place-name is still the topic of debate between varyingly poetic legends.

It’s easy to get 4 Leoni restaurant. All you have to do is abandon, for a moment, the usual tourist route that from Ponte Vecchio proceeds down Via Guicciardini, and leads into Piazza Pitti. Right before you reach the square, you turn right onto Via dello Sprone and, a bit further ahead, the street unexpectedly opens up into Piazza della Passera that presents you with a fine and little-known part of Florence, folksy and with an abundance of craftsmen’s workshops. This is the Florence that was dear to Ottone Rosai and Vasco Pratolini, to name only a couple of the artists and intellectuals who loved this out-of-the-way part of the city with its “chiassi” (alleyways), “sdruccioli” (steep streets) and “canti” (street corners) with age-old and fascinating names: Canto dei Quattro Pagoni or Pavoni, as well as Canto ai Quattro Leoni.

The Canto ai Quattro Leoni is the old name attributed to the crossroads between Via Toscanella and Via dei Velluti, where there still exists – or rather, resists – part of a bas-relief in stone, which depicts a lion rampant. This is the “Marzocco”, the warlike, virile symbol of the Republic of Florence whose name comes from that of the god Mars, protector of Florence during the Roman age.

When in the XIII century, the Orders of Justice divided the city into Sestieri, that is into six areas, and each Sestiere into Quartieri, that is to say into four Compagnie, each with its own Gonfalon, the Compagnia where Piazza della Passera was situated took the name of Quattro Leoni, after its gonfalon with four red lions painted on a yellow background. When during the time of Cosimo de’ Medici, the first grand duke of Tuscany, the trattoria was born, its sign read “Quattro Leoni”, symbol of the quartiere, a sign that has remained unchanged ever since.

In spring, Piazza della Passera makes a spectacle of itself. In this season, you can eat outdoors beneath the canopies, surrounded by boxwood hedges and the craftsmen’s botteghe that for centuries have been the lifeblood of the neighbourhood.