Like most other visitors to Florence, I’m here for the food and the art. The Renaissance was born here but so too was gelato. Both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were born in Tuscany and modern gelato was born in Florence at the time of the Medicis in the early 16th century. I’ve been doing a good job of enjoying both my love of art and my love of good food since arriving a couple of days ago.
Yesterday I did a brilliant 4-hour food tour with Eating in Italy. Our guide Omar was half Italian and half Egyptian but having been brought up in Florence he knew it better than most people and was an excellent guide – well informed and knowledgeable but fun too. The tour was based in Oltrarno – literally ‘the other side of the Arno’ and away from the main tourist areas. This is where you’ll find locals and artisan shops, cafes and restaurants. We began with a typical Florentine breakfast of coffee macchiato and budino di riso (a delicious little cake with a rice pudding filling) at La Nuvole cafe.
We watched 80-year-old Roberto make cantuccini in Pasticceria Buonamici (he’s been working there since he was 13!) and sampled some straight from the oven. Roberto only cooks them once rather than double-baking them, so they’re deliciously soft and chewy in the middle.
We visited a typical deli – Sandro & Ivana – and tried Tuscan prosciutto and fennel salami and fantastic cheeses.
We sampled lampredotto – a kind of tripe; cow stomach – at a street stall, which apparently the Florentines love but Travel Gourmet wasn’t too impressed by. We then stopped for a glass of Chianti Classico at a wine bar – Fiaschetteria Fantappie – which I was definitely very impressed by.
We then moved onto Trattoria I’Raddi for a 2-course lunch. We finished with some of the best gelato I’ve ever had anywhere (and I’ve had some pretty amazing gelato in my time) at Gelateria della Passera.
They had some really exciting and creative combinations of flavours. I had chocolate & orange and elderflower berries, blackcurrant & cranberry. They were both fabulous. Such rich, deep flavours yet refreshing in the heat outside.
Today has been a cultural day – but only after a cappuccino and delicious croissant at Gilli, one of the city’s oldest cafes. Remember to always stand at the bar. I paid just €2.60 for both but it can be well over twice as much to sit down in cafes.
Then I went to the Uffizi. Not only does it house some of the best Renaissance artwork you’ll find but the building itself is great to see and offers fantastic views across the city and down the Arno river.
Do book in advance or you may not get in or face a horrendous queue.
I took a break for lunch at a pizzeria I’d passed a few times which is totally organic. I enjoyed a delicious pizza and organic Tuscan wine at Simbiosi in via de’ Ginori (€19.50 for pizza, wine and coffee).
I came out and crossed the road to My Sugar, an artisan gelateria, which was winner of the Florence Gelato Festival 2016. A small cup was €2 for 2 flavours. I had watermelon and honey & ginger.
Then it was time for Michelangelo and David. Again I’d prebooked saving myself from a huge queue and I heard someone being told there were no tickets available until next week. David is such a symbol of Florence and indeed a symbol of freedom and civic pride to the people of Florence. I’ve seen him before but even so I was still awed by his beauty.
Also I liked seeing the few unfinished works which show you how Michelangelo worked. He believed the carvings, statues, were inside the blocks of marble and it was his purpose to release them.
After a busy morning and early afternoon it was time for a rest back at my cosy hotel before venturing out again.