I’m in Tuscany for a week, starting with 3 nights in Florence. I loved coming back here a couple of years ago after a long break so much, I wanted to return again soon. I’m staying in the lovely Hotel Cellai again. My morning flight from Heathrow took me to Pisa. There is an airport at Florence but small with few flights going there. From Pisa it’s an easy journey though. From the airport take the Pisamover shuttle to Pisa Centrale. You buy a ticket in a machine – €2.70 – so make sure you have some change on you. The journey only takes 5 minutes.
Once at the Centrale station there are plenty of notice boards for you to see where your train will arrive. There are about 12 platforms so this is useful. I bought my train ticket online which saves time and is easier. It was only €8.60 to Florence. It was lunchtime and I remembered there was a good little bar serving snacks on Platform 1, so I grabbed a panino and coffee to keep me going. The train journey was 50 minutes (make sure you book a fast connection with no changes) and I’d arrive soon after 2pm.
At the Hotel Cellai – only a 10 minute walk from the train station – I received a wonderful warm welcome, with a little note in my room welcoming me back.
I headed back out again soon, not wanting to waste any time in getting to see Florence again. First stop was my favourite cafe, Caffe Gilli in Piazza Repubblica, where I had an excellent macchiato and one of their gorgeous budino di riso, a little pastry with a sort of creamy rice pudding filling – a speciality here and absolutely gorgeous.
Next stop the Ponte Vecchio (literally, the old bridge) which must be one of the most famous sights in the world but always marvellous to see.
And the view from the bridge.
Then I made my way back to the hotel for a rest – given my 5am start – via the Piazza Duomo where the wonder that is Florence’s cathedral soars above you.
In the evening I headed back to the Ponte Vecchio to cross the Arno river to the Santo Spirito area where I’d booked a table at my favourite restaurant from last time, Osteria Santo Spirito. There seemed to be some kind of celebration going on and it was impossible to cross the Ponte Vecchio so I walked down to Ponte S. Trinita.
View of the Ponte Vecchio from Ponte S. Trinita.
The Piazza Santo Spirito, despite the busy cafes and bars round the edge, is a glorious place of calm. I just love it.
It was a bit quieter than usual, I thought, probably as it was a Monday. The Osteria is always busy though, so book ahead f you can.
It was just as wonderful as I remembered. A basket of lovely Tuscan bread came with homemade tapenade.
I just had to have Pappa al Pomodoro – a kind of bread and tomato soup – to begin. How do they manage to make something so simple so awesomely delicious?
Before I arrived I’d planned to have Tagliata di Manzo – slices of rare steak on a bed of rocket with Parmesan – but tired from my early start and journey, I decided on something lighter my first night. My first choice from their specials list was finished so I ended up having the same – but heavenly – courgette and Parmesan risotto I had on my first visit. I chose the ‘small’ plate option for both dishes and it was plenty.
I confess to greediness by having a dessert but I’m on holiday and when cooking is this good, you don’t want the meal to end. The chocolate cake with strawberry coulis was possibly the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. Yes, it really was that good, wonderfully oozing in the centre and richly, darkly chocolatey. It was such a big portion though I couldn’t finish it!
I had an espresso to finish and the bill came with fresh cherries, a delightful touch. It was only €27.50 for food, wine and a large bottle of Pellegrino water.
The food at Osteria Santo Spirito is simple Tuscan food but of the highest quality; the atmosphere informal and the service friendly and efficient. It’s just the kind of place I like best.
The walk back to the hotel took my along via Calimara into Piazza Repubblica again, which is such a lively place.
Then past the cathedral in the darkening light.
And soon back at Hotel Cellai. I’d only been in Florence for a few hours but already felt settled and so pleased to be here again.
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