I never say No to a trip to Italy, as it still is, in my perspective, the perfect destination in Europe to have everything you wish for – history, culture, superb urban and rural destinations, sea and mountains, green fields and scenic routes, amazing gastronomy, so much good wine and lots of sun (the last one a bit debatable in the recent years with all the global warming).
Florence happened this beginning of April due to a girls reunion and for 3 (almost) sunny days we explored the city. Major cities in Italy, considered also to be the main touristic destinations, are not necessarily on my travel list for some years now mainly because: they are a bit overcrowded with tourists who just take photos; the prices go a bit too high because of this mass of tourists coming in too often; and I’m heading now towards more quite and small destinations, more villages and outdoors rather than cities.
Still, I found Florence to be quite an enjoyable destination, considering also the good vibe of the gang I was with. Also, as it was April we where there, it wasn’t yet that overcrowded. I’ve been to Florence 7 years ago, but just passing by so not that much time to explore the city. Besides the beautiful architecture of the city, which makes walking a true pleasure, this place has lots to offer, especially for a bunch of girls – good restaurants with local recipes and tasty wine, good coffee and lots of shops with everything you wish to buy (a local told us that after Milan, Florence is the second fashion city of Italy).
We spent two days of our trip walking around the city center, as there’s plenty to see around. The main attractions are the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Vecchio, but everywhere you go around them you will find small charming streets to explore or simply have a small break enjoying a good coffee or a tasty ice-cream.
One day was dedicated to going up to Piazzale Michelangiolo for a nice panoramic view over the city. It’s a pleasant walk going up there and it’s worth every effort once you see the view. If it’s not too crowded, it can be quite relaxing, sitting on top of the hill, enjoying the view.
Florence is normally the starting point for most of the Tuscany tours and holidays. Tuscany is probably one of the most beautiful and promoted destinations of Italy, the wine land of the country (and not only). You can also chose a day trip in some of the villages of Tuscany, close to Florence, but we left that for another time.
As I’m a bit of a foodie, everywhere I go, I try to find some good places to eat out. Florence is full of restaurants, trattorias and osterias, so there’s plenty to choose from. I made a map with places to check out, which are not the classical tourist traps, but we only had the chance to try a couple of them, considering the small amount of time we spent in the city.
Florence gastronomy (more general, the Tuscan gastronomy) has some main attractions (no, it’s not pizza) that we also tried while there. Probably the most famous one, in terms of street food is the lampredotto sandwhich – beef stomach, cooked in broth, sliced and served with salsa verde or spicy sauce. Bistecca alla Fiorentina is something you will find in most of the restaurants’ menus – it’s a good option if it’s two people willing to try, as it’s quite a bit portion. Also, lots of meat dishes – mostly lamb, rabbit and wild boar, and of course pasta, made mainly with ragu.
Here are some recommendations of places to eat out. It’s a good idea to make a reservation in advance, especially for weekends, as these places are always packed.
Osteria Cinghiale Bianco – this was our first dinner in Florence – a small place, full of people by the time we arrived. A small menu, but with very tasty dishes and a good house wine. Their rabbit and lamb stews where excellent, and their tiramisu was one of the best I’ve had so far. Also their recipe of trippa alla fiorentina is definitely worth a try.
Trattoria Cammillo – excellent food, very friendly staff willing to explain and to make recommendations, but a bit more expensive than the average.
4 Leoni – this was probably our favorite place to dine out for this trip. Set in a small piazzetta just outside the main city center, with a lovely outdoor terrace to enjoy the warm spring afternoons. The food was excellent – with lamb stews and ossobucco cooked to perfection and super tasty and fresh desserts.
Mercato Centrale Firenze – great place for lunch. Going to the main market of the city, you have the chance to not only buy fresh vegetables, cheese and meat products, but also have a tasty meal, if going to the first floor. Here you will find a big hall full of small restaurants, take-aways, who cook everything on the spot. It seems to be very trending among locals to stop by for a quick bite and a glass of wine.
On the first day, as our plane landed on the Bologna airport, we also spent a few hours in the city. Unfortunately it rained a lot, so we ended up just having a quick bite in Mercato di Mezzo (similar to Mercato Centrale Food Hall) and some wine until our train would arrive. Still, Bologna made me somehow feel that this place is more appealing to me than Florence – maybe because it’s more quiet and there are lesser tourists around.