All artists' brushes point to Florence - and it never disappoints. The AirBnB apartment - "Bianca's Home" - that we chose is in the "Oltrarno" section of Florence - the "other side of the Arno" from the city center. It's a funky neighborhood with artisans at work restoring art, crafting leather, making jewelry, or sewing bespoke fashions. The apartment was really nice and our host, Valentina, was great, giving us lots of recommendations about the neighborhood. So much to see in Florence, so we scheduled 4 days to get it all in. We found it important to balance time inside museums and churches with time outside strolling the streets and parks. Our first stop was the Pitti Palace and the attached Boboli Gardens on our side of the city.
The palace was the home of the Medici, Napoleon, and Victor Emanuel II and has all the trappings of a royal residence and especially beautiful ceilings - but the gardens were the highlight for us. We strolled for over an hour imagining palace intrigue in the maze of hedges, historic statues, and fountains. The views of Florence from top made the trek up flight after flight of stairs worth it.
Taking advice from our logo designer Ian Wooster - who spent a semester abroad in Florence - we went to the student hangout Gustapizza, where we shared a table with a US expat from Central Massachusetts and her Florentine boyfriend. The pizza and the company were great.
November in Florence is ideal for avoiding crowds - we had the major art galleries to ourselves with no lines, no waiting. Getting tickets to the Accademia and the Uffizi was a snap. The chilly air and the occasional surprise showers gave us great excuses to slip into a warm cafe for tea and cappuccino and even a sweet pastry.
It helps to have local friends who can introduce you to a place like the tiny Trattoria Toscana Gozzi Sergio, filled with locals for lunch. Who knew tripe could be so delicious? Thanks too to Barbara and her family for the insider's suggestion for the best "Bistecca alla Fiorentina" for later in the week.
Patrick became a regular customer at Sbrino Gelatificio Contadino, right around the corner from our apartment, where the gelato is "artigianale" (made on the premises). Beware of a Gelateria in the touristy areas - it can be icy, drippy, over-priced, and artificially flavored. If there's neon blue gelato in the case that's your clue to move on and seek out the real thing.
Calling all Carnivores
Following our new friends' advice, we made a reservation at Antico Ristoro di Cambi (also in the OItrarno district) for a classic dinner of "Bistecca all Fiorentina" - a dining experience like no other. We started off with an antipasto of 5 local cheeses - our waitress (sporting a "GRL PWR" sweater) gave us strict instructions on the order that we should enjoy them, and we did!
Next step - choosing our steak. It took three tries for us to settle on this beauty at 1.4 kg (you pay by the weight). 21 days of aging and flash grilling delivered a steak that defined rare - as delicious as it was decadent. We enjoyed it with a local Chianti wine, of course, and a collection of yummy side dishes.
On our last day in Florence we happened upon the Basilica di Santo Spirito - also right in our Oltrarno neighborhood - where we saw one of Michelangelo's earliest sculptures, the wooden crucifix that he carved at the age of 18. The other surprise is a lovely courtyard and fountain.
For the first time in our adventures we got hit - and hit hard - with food poisoning. While we will never know for sure the cause, we have a new appreciation for the kindness of our AirBnB host Valentina who graciously extended our check out time so we could sleep it off. The good old BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) diet really does work.
Use the "Next Post >>" Button at the bottom of each post to step through our story chronologically.
Nancy McCabe &