We woke up at 6AM to catch the 7AM bus to Florence, we wanted to make a 10AM Food Tour. Upon arriving to Florence, it was more complicated to navigate than expected – the streets are poorly labeled and seem completely random in layout. The street that our bed and breakfast was on had house numbers in 2 different colors with no correlation between the sets of numbers. We finally found the apartment and dropped our luggage then headed to San Lorenzo Basilica to meet up with the tour – however there is also a San Lorenzo Market which helped to keep things confusing, finally we found the basilica and shortly after met the tour group.
Florence for Foodies Tour
Some of the group had done the “Nude and Food” tour option which includes seeing David at The Academia prior to the food tour, which would have been ideal, but we hadn’t arrived early enough for that option. There were about 8 other people on the tour with us and we got to know each other immediately. We started at a local café shop where we learned how to drink cappuccino in a minute while standing at the counter (the Italian way to do breakfast), then headed to the San Lorenzo market which is a fantastic old market with plenty of vendors selling their specialty food the same way their parents and parents’ parents did. We had Bollito panino (boiled beef sandwich) dipped in a flavorful broth from Nerbone and a few carafes of wine. Natalie, the tour leader, was insistent that we be true Florentines and eat like “cavemen” (with our hands in a messy fashion) and that we not let any food or alcohol go to waste – there was a lot of both on the tour so it was tough at times.
We walked through the market and learned a bit more about typical Florentine foods and how they differ from the other regions of Italy (not much red sauce here, no salt on the bread so they have a bruschetta to add flavor to their dry bread, Bistecca a la Fiorentina giant bone-in steak to share for celebratory dinners). Natalie kept reminding us that “Italy has only been a country for 150 years!”, so it is a very regional country with some animosities or rivalries between areas. After the market we went to a local wine shop where we snacked on a regional bar food (coccoli) which was like a salted fried donut. We had a local prosecco and tried the owner’s own chianti classico. The wine was good but we agreed not as good as the Brunellos. They briefly discussed DOCG, we gathered that the rules for Chianti Classico are different from Brunello but couldn’t pick up on the specifics. Then we all went through what Natalie called the “baptism” in which we were sprayed down with grappa mist – it was funny but not exactly pleasant.
We walked through the vendor stalls of leather goods and souvenirs on our way to La Divina Enoteca where we tasted wines and the owner/sommelier (best sommelier of Italy 2014) educated us on some of the wines and pairings. We tasted local novelty spreads like olive tapenade and rich truffle spread, hard cheeses, olive oils and different ages of balsamic vinegar. Finally, we went to BellaMia gelato shop where we tasted many flavors of both gelato (with cream) and sorbet (no cream). The gelato was kept in tubs hidden beneath the marble counter, we were told the heaps of gelato with fruit and décor sticking out are more for tourists and not as good of a product. Amanda enjoyed the coconut gelato and extra dark chocolate sorbet while Ryan opted for the caffe and hazelnut gelatos. This was without a doubt the best gelato we had in Italy. The tour ended around 1:30PM after the gelato shop and cost 69 euro each. This was a good way to learn about the local flavors and see a bit of the city, though we’d advise the Nude and Food version so that you get more of the history and art on the guided tour.
After the food tour we walked to il Duomo but Amanda was denied entry because she was wearing shorts – embarrassing, but helped us learn the lesson for Rome and the Vatican. We went home to grab pants and then returned to il Duomo and the Cathedral. This was the first church we had entered in Italy and it was spectacular. It really is shocking to see how much time and money were directed into these houses of worship, this sometimes made it difficult to interpret who or what was actually being worshiped – but beautiful to admire. The Duomo ceiling was quite impressive and began to get us excited for the Sistine Chapel on our return to Rome. We had reserved tickets to the Accademia in advance so that we didn’t have to wait in line upon arrival, we headed there after leaving the Cathedral. We were still a bit drowsy and not in full art appreciation mode at this point so we kind of bee-lined straight to David, this was a good experience but not as momentous as expected. We spent another half hour exploring the artwork in the Accademia but maybe not appreciating it as much as we should have. We left Accademia and walked down to Ponte Vecchio to explore the area a bit, saw where the embankment had recently collapsed and crossed over the river, this area was interesting to see but super crowded. We decided to go home and nap for a bit before our dinner reservation as we were exhausted and not digging the mass amounts of tourists and odd smells as we walked through Florence.
Ristorante Del Fagioli
Natalie (the foodie tour guide) made us a reservation at Ristorante Del Fagioli which was an adorable restaurant with a great vibe though mostly all tourists (like the rest of Florence). We opted to try the bruschetta, a Florentine ravioli and the bistecca a la Fiorentina with asparagus (when in Florence). Everything was delicious, the steak was perhaps not the cut we would choose regularly but it was fun to experience the celebratory meal of Tuscany. There was a couple at the table next to us who had just come from Venice, they were thrilled about arriving in Florence and said the crowds and smells were 15x worse in Venice – we might never want to go to Venice.
After dinner we were feeling pretty giddy and decided to explore the area around Uffizi Gallery – Piazza della Signoria. We admired, mimicked and made up stories about the sculptures in the square. We walked through Cortile di Michelozzo to check out the frescoes of different cities along the walls, we wandered through the Palazzo Vecchio Museum where Ryan loved getting more of the Florentine history. We strolled back to the room and slept well before leaving for Sorrento in the morning. We agreed that Florence was our least favorite stop of this trip, but concede that we may have been too tired and not allowed enough time to fully enjoy what Florence has to offer. Still would have opted for more time in Siena over Florence.