Next stop on our Italy Unveiled series…
Prepare to be captivated by the allure of the magnificent city of Florence. Nestled in the heart of Italy, this enchanting destination is a true feast for the senses, offering a harmonious blend of rich history, awe-inspiring art and mouthwatering cuisine.
One cannot do justice to Florence in three days at the height of the tourist season. But one can enjoy its hidden treats and treasures. Instead of joining the tourists flocking to Florence’s museums, palaces and it’s world-renowned Duomo, we walked the back streets, took a food tour, meandered Mercato Centrale and followed locals’ advice for dining options.
Our driver from the train station suggested dinner at Ristorante Cafiggi, a charming restaurant owned and operated by the same family for the last 100 years. This gem was located an easy walking distance from our hotel. Even without reservations, the family’s warm hospitality welcomed us, so much so that we instantly felt like part of the family.
Jan indulged in spaghetti with fresh sardines in tomato sauce, while I delighted in Scialatelli with zucchini flower and saffron sauce. As an appetizer, we savored the crispy Fried Artichokes. Trust us, it was love at first bite.
To explore the local food scene further, we arranged a private food tour led by our guide Ishmael. Our culinary adventure began with a visit to a traditional panetteria, where we sampled a delectable bread filled with cheese and ham. (Florence does not use salt in their breads since it was heavily taxed in the Middle Ages.)
We then ventured into the Mercato Centrale Marketplace for a more adventurous flare, where we experienced the unique flavors of Lampredatto, the fourth stomach of the cow, which turned out to be surprisingly delicious.
The food market presented more tasty treats, including truffles, olive oils and balsamic vinegars. We, of course, couldn’t resist trying the Crostinis with mushrooms, prosciutto, and cheese, alongside fried zucchini blossoms and sage leaves.
One of our highlights was Jan striking up a conversation with the chef at the grill, unraveling the secrets behind how Italians grill various types of meat. He revealed that the secret technique involves searing each side of the meat for a couple of minutes and serving most all meats rare, resulting in a flavorful and succulent bite. We discovered that this technique seemed typical in this region, as some restaurants even had explicit notes on their menus, warning that requesting a different level of doneness meant that customers should leave!
As our food tour came to an end, Ishmael insisted we conclude with a scoop of gelato at Mordelatte. What a delightful way to conclude our culinary journey!
The Historic Duomo and Pont Vecchio can be enjoyed from the outside of the center, avoiding long, long lines. Venturing off the beaten path, we enjoyed views of Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and stumbled upon a hidden garden, complete with a friendly kitty, providing a serene escape from the bustling city. This was a perfect oasis for us to enjoy a relaxing lunch with a breathtaking view of the Arno River.
Florence, with its wealth of wonders, surely warrants a return visit with pre-arranged museum tours in the off season.
As we bid a bittersweet farewell to the captivating city of Florence, our hearts filled with unforgettable memories, we now set our sights on our next destination, ready to uncover even more hidden treasures in our Italy Unveiled series.
Stay tuned for our upcoming blog post, where we’ll transport you to quaint towns and secret culinary delights.
Italy has so much to offer, and we can’t wait to share it with you.