Ah, Tuscany. Ever since you charmed me during our brief time together 7 years ago, I knew I’d be back. As this was Ted’s first time in Florence, this trip had some “oldies but goodies” and new experiences, too. For example, gelato consumption was the same, but I slept in a real bed as opposed to the [unexpectedly comfortable] floor of Haley’s room (context: it was Spring Break of study abroad and my joints were way more forgiving).
Our first full day in Firenze was spent getting a lay of the land, and doing some of the touristy things like crossing the Ponte Vecchio and visiting San Lorenzo Market, famous for its leather goods. Ted bought a snazzy new belt and we ate an amazing lunch at nearby “de Nerbone”, a family-run Florence staple for nearly 100 years. Yum. Florence is very walkable- -we didn’t use public transport a single time- -which makes exploring extremely easy. The river Arno runs through the center of the city so in addition to providing a beautiful photo, it’s simple to orient yourself based on counting bridges. It’s also worth noting that Florence isn’t very expensive. Sure, if you’re buying Ferragamo shoes and Prada bags it’ll cost you but food, attractions, and exploring can all be high quality and low dollars- -excellent!
Even the trash bags are designer…. 😉
We headed back to the apartment to mentally and physically prepare for a marathon dinner with our talented foodie friend/ colleague, Marco, who grew up in Florence (and currently lives in Barcelona). Marco is truly my caloric sherpa, and I trust him blindly with any food decision. He introduced us to his family’s favorite restaurant, L’Osteria di Giovanni, where of course everyone knew him by name- -including Giovanni himself. Going to restaurants with locals is always special; you get such a different and better experience. Marco explained that L’Osteria di Giovanni was opened after two brothers had differing opinions on how to run the original family restaurant just around the corner. In the split, Giovanni retained many of the locals, while the other brother caters more to tourists. Another interesting fact is that back in the day, because Giovanni’s father had a strong appreciation for the arts, it wasn’t uncommon for someone to pay for their meal using their artistic talents. Decorating the walls of the restaurant are paintings, elaborate drawings of iconic Florentinian architecture on the back of napkins, etc. Neither Ted nor I have pronounced drawing talent so we used the longtime tradition of cash to pay for our excellent meal. Ted and I also decided that we’d really like to get to know the owners and staff of our favorite restaurants back home. I’d love to get to a point where we’re on a first name basis and asking about the family doesn’t sound creepy. Anyway, something to work toward.
Since Thursday was a national holiday celebrating when Italy officially became a Republic in 1945, Marco, Ted and I went on a Tuscan adventure! It was a day of race cars, rain, pizza, Pisa (way more lean-y than I expected!), and a truly delicious home cooked meal by Marco himself.
With Marco back in Barcelona, Ted and I were left to fend for ourselves for the remainder of our time in Florence. We did well, visiting the beautiful Boboli Gardens, aperitivo overlooking the Ponte Vecchio, Michelangelo’s “The David” statue, and the Piazzale Michelangelo which overlooks all of Florence, among other things. We even found some delicious food stops on our own, particularly a local artisan sandwich spot and a Sicilian gelato shop (yeah, that’s a thing).
One day was reserved for a day trip to the Cinque Terre region, about 2.5 hours away by train. We woke up early and planned to hike the coastal trail between towns but found that the recent rain closed that route. Our only option to get to the next town (aside from taking the train…ew) was the significantly more difficult/ technical upper trail between Monterosso and Vernazza. Ted and I consider ourselves generally fit so we opted for the tough route but I’m going to be real honest here: that trail kicked our asses pretty much the whole time and I was the sweatiest I’ve been in recent memory. The scenery and climate were tropical-esque and it was SO humid hiking through the tall vegetation. I’ll also need a new daypack because the mixture of Ted’s dried sweat and oil could cause it to combust at any moment. A challenging 3.5 hours later, we made it to Vernazza for a well deserved lunch and feet-dipping session in the Mediterranean. Due to time constraints, we ended up taking the train to the other towns, ending in Riomaggiore before heading back to Florence. After initially being bummed that the coastal train was closed, our tough hike was the highlight of the day! Some photos:
Looking back at our sea level starting point of Monterosso after the first big climb.
After a successful 5 days in Florence we were off to experience more of Tuscany, this time in the countryside. It’s so unbelievably amazing and untainted by tourists here that I can’t even post the name of the town for fear of ruining its secrecy. Just kidding, I’ll tell you everything in the next post.
Finally, a big thank you to our friend Marco and his family for hosting us during our stay in Florence. Once again, thanks to their hospitality (and his Mom’s homemade brownies), our time in the city was better than imagined. We look forward to repaying the favor soon.
posted from: That secret location in Tuscany’s countryside.