Florence has a unique energy that keeps the city in constant motion. And depending on the time of year this could be considered a help or hindrance. Finding a quiet space to relax or meet friends away from the city’s frenetic beat is a rarity. Liberia Brac is such a saviour. Brac is one of those spaces that fuse café, restaurant and art space in one. Its modern style is the antitheses of the aging yellow sandstone outside in the street of its neighbourhood, Santa Croce. Tucked down an innocuous street, there is no sign above the door so finding it might be part of the adventure. But once you enter the walls of this library cafe, you are in for a surprise.

The front section is a cosy affair with a small bar and white wooden stools, the walls clad with Polaroid style pictures of the vegetarian food on offer. From here you can see into the kitchen where hearty plates leave the food pass. Behind the bar, wait staff pour fresh juices and blend smoothies to order. The inner Courtyard is a city oasis, over taken by an installation of draped mesh fabric, which floats above head level and gives the space an ambient feel. There are various armchairs and some hidden nooks to drink your coffee while reading one of the free magazines scattered on tables.

The back room is both library and restaurant dining with rows of bookshelves filled with tomes dedicated to art, architecture, photography, design, film and theatre. Here you can simply browse or take a book home, as they all are for sale. It is a white and bright space, perfect to work (free WI-FI) or to meet friends for a tête-à-tête. Come nightfall, candles and soft lighting create a mood ripe for romance.

Tuscany is famed for its quality meat so finding a good vegetarian in the capital is a joy. Brac’s vegetarian and vegan menu is full of wholesome fare. Piatto Misto is an ideal mixing plate: choose from a selection of pasta, salad and bread dishes for 12 euros. Pane Carasau is Sardinian flatbread filled with a selection of eggplant, tomato, and mozzarella fried to produce a crispy outside, soft gooey filling inside. On Sunday, Anglo-style brunch is prepared with pancakes, French toast and egg dishes whipped up to order from midday. The coffee and herbal tea menu is as extensive as the wine list, the latter full of boutique bottles from across Italy. From deep reds to crisp whites ideal for an evening aperitif or for food pairing. For our visit, her recommended Sicilian blend of Carricante grape with Chardonnay and Albenello was the perfect spring suggestion, crisp, dry and fruity in one.

It’s tranquil setting and hearty fare makes Brac a good alternative café in the city. Like Aladdin’s cave, once you enter its calm ambience and sample the healthy menu, you may never want to leave. 

Photo credit: Raissa Damergi