Sunday, November 11, 2012


 Part 2 of 3.

Although we could have stayed in Rome forever, Firenze awaited us. A quick 90-minute train ride delivered us neatly to the city, and when we arrived it was hot and muggy. We made our way to our hotel, which turned out to be the single best lodging experience of the trip. If any of you make it to Florence, I highly recommend staying at the Hotel David. Although located slightly away from the center of the city, it was warm, comfortable, affordable, and hospitable. And we didn't mind the mile walk (or bus ride, when it was raining) along the Arno River to the center of the city. Walking a few extra miles a day lets you eat even more gelato.

Although not as big and bustling as Rome, Florence is a lovely city, the birthplace of the Renaissance and full of art and beautiful architecture, including the striking Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), pictured here. You can't drive across the bridge; instead it's full of shops. From the outside it looks like little apartments smashed together.

The highlight of Florence, hands down, was seeing the statue of David.  It's enormous, beautiful, and moving. I can barely think of it without feeling it.

And of course, we enjoyed the Duomo...

And just walking around.

Like in Rome, everywhere we turned, there was something beautiful.

Naturally, we had some excellent food in Florence. Here was our lunch one day, a gorgeous spread of tomatoes, mozzarella, grilled vegetables, and prosciutto. I learned that a common practice with a plate such as this, and really most salads, is to serve the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar on the side so you may dress it as you prefer. In this case, they brought us something called balsamic creme, which was a very thick glaze that came out in glossy droplets.

Another day, we found the legendary I Due Fratellini, a sandwich shop--stand, really, that's been around since 1875. Here's the storefront.

There's no where to go in and nowhere to sit. You stand in line, order your sandwich, which is promptly handed to you in a thin paper envelope, get a glass of wine, and stand around eating it. I opted for porchetta. I'm pretty sure there was nothing else on it. No lettuce, no tomato, no cheese, no olive oil. Just pork. Yeah! Where have you been all my life, sandwich?

We snagged a spot by the shelf so we could put our glasses down and concentrate on our panini.

We had some fantastic dinners in Florence, too, including one at Osteria del Cinghale Bianco. This had been recommended by a friend who lived in Florence a number of years ago, and it did not disappoint. We ordered ribollita, the famous Tuscan vegetable soup thickened with bread, paparadelle with wild boar ragout, bacalao (salted cod) with white beans, and roasted rabbit with crispy potatoes. 

We also found a terrific spot for lunch one day, Volpe e L'uva, which specialized in small sandwiches.

We ordered quite a few: tuna and Armagnac, porcini and truffles, smoked goose and butter, plus crostone with truffled sausage. Here's a picture of the tuna and Armagnac sandwich.

I lobbied for a salad, too, to keep up with appearances

And there was some wine.

One of our best dinners of the whole trip was our last night in Florence, at Trattoria Gigi. We decided to stay close to the hotel and are glad we did--though perfectly average looking on the outside, the food was a real standout.

Throughout our trip, in addition to truffles popping up in everything, porcinis were everywhere. And when we ordered them, it was no joke. They came out in huge quantities, as if the cooks were just standing around with gigantic buckets of them in the kitchen, hoping to unload them. At Gigi, we started off with a plate of fresh fried porcinis. They came out in a mound, lightly battered, with just the right amount of salt sprinkled over them. We devoured them in about five minutes, termite-style, only stopping when we came face to face with the shiny bottom of the plate. I think I burned my fingertips. Who cared?

The husband followed this with a mixed fried plate of seafood and vegetables (he's from Kentucky--he can get his fry on!) while I opted for rigatoni alla amatriciana. Everything came out on plain white plates--no garnishes, no explanation from the waiter about the food's provenance, no fanfare. None was needed. Everything was simple, and perfect.

I'd love to return to Florence, to see the statue of David again, to eat some more sandwiches at I Due Fratellini, and to get back to Gigi. And to see many of the things we weren't able to get to in four days. It's a charming city and one we could have explored much more. But, we were Tuscany-bound.

I want this car.


  1. i've never been to a city that's so interconnected with waterways--how awesome. the car is awfully cute, but i doubt it'd be so great if it came face to face against a hummer. :)

  2. I love the way you think ... walk more so you can eat more gelato! Brilliant!

  3. grace: Isn't it adorable? Luckily, they don't have to worry about getting hit by a hummer...Italians are smart enough not to drive those monstrosities (they wouldn't fit in on the tiny streets!)

    Ben: Yeah, that was pretty much the driving goal: walk enough to keep eating full speed.

  4. Italy is a beautiful country. I too, years ago, saw the statue of David. To this day, it sticks with me. That is an amazing piece of art.

    Glad you had a great time! Thanks for sharing it with us.


  5. I'm loving these posts about a place I haven't yet seen. When I get there, I'm going to use these as my guidebooks. Lucky you!

  6. Velva: Thanks for reading!

    Zoomie: Start planning your trip...

  7. How can you stand to be home...this is the most amazing trip ever. Now I am so determined to go someday.

  8. Another wonderful installment. I can picture you both in Gigi. I'm now starving for some delicious, simple pasta.

  9. Sue: I CAN'T stand it.

    ash: You & E would have enjoyed Gigi!

  10. Where HAS that sammie been all my life?

  11. Jary: Dude, you would love that place. Someday we need to go to Rome together!

  12. Italy during mushroom season is some of the best eating anywhere. Lucky!