We spent nine indulgent nights in Florence, Italy. I thought we spoiled ourselves in Spain and Portugal, but we set the bar at a whole new level in Florence. Between the wine, pastries, cheeses, gelato, breads, pastas, and the Chocolate Fair (yes, there was a CHOCOLATE FAIR in town during our stay!), we may have gone a little overboard.
Here’s a rundown at some of our escapades in Florence. (Disclaimer: I’m not responsible if this blog post causes chocolate cravings, induces carb binges, or makes you want to open that bottle of Chianti midday.)
We Ate and Ate and Ate.
We had a lot of great food in Florence. We learned we don’t really care for truffles (truffle fungus, not truffle chocolates, of course!), we fell deeply in love with Buffalo Mozzarella, and we learned how good a sandwich can really be.
I didn’t get a picture of it, but if you’re ever in Italy and see bite-sized Buffalo Mozzarella balls (Mozzarella di Bufala in Italian) at a grocery store in Italy, BUY THEM. It’s probably the best cheese I’ve had in my life. We just ate it plain from the container; it was so good I couldn’t bear to taint it by combining it with anything else!
That’s enough of that. On to more food!
A Religious Experience at Due Sorsi & Un Boccone
If you’re reading this from Florence, stop what you’re doing, put down your computer, and go get a sandwich from Due Sorsi & Un Boccone. Now. Do it!
We tried out Due Sorsi & Un Boccone (which is Italian for “Two Sips and a Bite”) because it was recommended in Rick Steves’ Italy Guidebook. We usually take Rick’s restaurant recommendations with a boulder of salt, but this time he really hit it out of the park. The service is incredibly friendly, the sandwiches are incredibly tasty, and the prices are super affordable!
Located a couple blocks North of Florence’s Duomo, this spot is pretty much on the way to anything. All their sandwiches are just €3,50, and you can get a class of wine for just €1! All their sandwiches come on Schiacciate Bread, which is pretty much just flattened focaccia. It’s like eating a little slice of heaven.
Best Pizza of our lives at Gusta Pizza
This is a big claim, but I’m ready to say it. We had the best pizza of our lives in Florence. We ventured into Gusta Pizza and each managed to take down an entire pizza and big glass of wine. Kevin practically had to carry me home because I was so full.
Cannoli is not common in Tuscany – it’s much more of a Southern Italy thing. Luckily, Kevin is ridiculously proficient when it comes to Google Searches, and managed to find a place where we could get our Cannoli fix. Carabe Gelateria serves up fresh made-to-order Cannoli that is out of this world.
In Italy, there’s a gelateria everywhere you turn, even in February. We tried a few different places, but were impressed by the serving sizes and variety of flavors at Gelateria de Neri.
We also happened to be in town during Florence’s Chocolate fair:
We Looked at Naked Men. I Mean Naked Statues.
This one’s more of an indulgence for the ladies. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Florence probably has the highest density of nude male statues of any city in the world. Combine the nude statues with plenty of wine and tasty food and you’ve got a world class city, in my opinion.
We Saw Florence’s Sights.
Contrary to what you might think at this point, we saw more in Florence than nude statues.
Florence’s Duomo has a fun claim-to-fame. Its famous Renaissance dome by Brunelleschi was the first of its kind and became a model for all domes to follow (including the US Capitol building). The Duomo was built before the technology existed to build such a dome, so a huge gaping hole was left in the ceiling! The confident Italians were not deterred, though. They knew someone would come along and figure it out. Luckily, Brunelleschi came along and got ‘er done!
The Duomo is decidedly more impressive viewed from the outside than from within. Since we visited in February there were absolutely no lines to get in so we headed inside for a quick peek. However, if the line is long, you should know that it’s totally skippable!
This church is clearly the underdog of Florence’s church scene. It was originally built in 1337 and used as a grain market! It wasn’t until 1380 that its conversion to a church began. The outside is home to copies of many famous statues, if that’s your jam. The inside is a lot more fun to look at than the interior of the Duomo – you can still see chutes in the wall where grain used to be poured in, and it has a pretty impressive altar. Plus, it’s free and never crowded!
Piazzalle Michelangelo Viewpoint
For the best views and a good workout, hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo. It’s a pretty decent slog uphill, but you’re rewarded with sweeping views of Florence. There’s even a couple places to get gelato at the top.
The Ponte Vecchio Bridge
The Ponte Vecchio deserves its reputation as Florence’s most famous bridge for its backstory as well as for its oddball appearance.
Originally, butcher shops lined the bridge and the river became a handy (but super smelly) place for them to toss their garbage. in 1565, the royal Medici family built an enclosed passage over the bridge to use for their daily commute between their Pitti Palace and their offices in the Palazzo Vecchio. (Tough commute, AMIRITE?!) The Medici family didn’t care for the smell caused by the butchers, so they pushed them out in favor of ritzy jewelry shops like the ones that line the bridge today.
The coolest part of the Ponte Vecchio’s story, though, is from WWII. All of Florence’s bridges were destroyed by the Germans in 1944 except for the Ponte Vecchio! Rumor has it that the bridge was specifically ordered to be saved by Hitler himself. He was so fond of the bridge that he couldn’t bear for his troops to destroy it; instead, they used debris to obstruct both entrances and prevent access, but did not destroy the bridge itself.
We Went on a Wine Tour Where the Company Stated That Their Goal Was to Get Us Drunk.
We went on a Tuscany Wine Tour called the Grape Escape. If that isn’t the greatest name for a wine tour in the world, I don’t know what is. This tour is geared towards people in their 20’s and 30’s, and we were informed upon our arrival that the whole point of booking a wine tour is so you have a driver and can drink as much as you want. So far so good! So drank we did.
Our small group of five loaded up into a van with our nice driver and headed out into the Tuscan countryside to the heart of the Chianti region. First stop was Tenuta Torciano, a winery that also produces olive oils and balsamic vinegars.
Next stop was San Gimignano, the most adorable, most picturesque town I’ve visited. It’s a ridiculously well preserved medieval town perched on a hilltop, surrounded by vineyards and lush countryside. Fourteen of its original medieval towers are still standing, and the winding streets are so cute it’ll make your chest ache. (Pro tip: never visit San Gimignano in the high season, when it is reportedly packed to the gills with tourists. It was delightfully empty in February!)
Fun fact: one couple on our wine tour was from the US, and we later ran into them in the Colosseum in Rome! Small world.
Last stop of the day was Fattoria Poggio Alloro, a farm/winery/olive-oilery/B&B just a couple kilometers from San Gimignano. This may have been our best stop solely because of the view:
It was also a fun stop because the tour guide was so nice and low key and down to earth, which isn’t always easy to find in a winery. We don’t know a whole lot about wine, and I appreciate it when people don’t give me attitude because of that.
If you’re in Florence for a few days, we think that The Grape Escape Tour is definitely worth its 50 euro price tag. We toyed with the idea of assembling a tour ourselves using public transit, which would’ve been a disaster.
We Had the Most Oddball Valentine’s Celebration Ever.
Have you ever celebrated Valentine’s Day by going to a church for a Vespers service (entirely in Latin) with Gregorian Chant Singing? We have! We hiked up to San Miniato al Monte Church, perched on Florence’s hilltop above Piazzale Michelangelo. They have Vespers services every evening with Gregorian chanting, usually around 5:30pm.
It was fun and eerie walking around inside the dark church with the chants emanating all around us:
We Saw a Sunset in Fiesole.
If you have time in Florence, take ATAF Bus #7 up to Fiesole. The ride is only 15-20 minutes, but you get incredible views over the whole city of Florence! Plus, sometimes it’s just nice to get out of the city and walk around in a small town.
Hike up to the viewpoint near La Reggia restaurant, where you’ll find the cute, simple little Church of San Francesco.
We Regretted our Airbnb Choice.
We happened to find a pretty cute little Airbnb in a great location. Those are the only nice things I can say about it. Let it be known, if you have an aversion to smoke, it is a terrible idea to gamble that a smoking-allowed Airbnb apartment “won’t be that bad”. It finally aired out after a few days, but we wished we hadn’t made that mistake. Lesson learned!