Thanks for your patience on this post! I realize that while we are in winter coats in these photos, we have already seen 90+ degree temps this year, but better late than never, right?
Ah, Florence. This was hands down my favorite city we visited on the trip to Italia (you already know what Tim’s was). It’s somewhere I could see myself visiting for an extended period, and I would have even traded one of our night’s in Rome for another here. The beautiful and historic city sitting in the middle of gorgeous rolling hills here was just picture perfect no matter what your vantage point. Plus, I ate the best pizza I have ever had in my life and ate eggs I still think about some mornings, among many other amazing meals.
Where to Stay
Our hotel in Florence was also a trip favorite. It was in a great location and had beautiful details. We were right on the river Arno looking over to the hills where Piazzale Michelangelo is and just a couple of blocks from the famous Ponte Vecchia bridge.
More importantly for these foodies, it had a breakfast spread included that resulted in me never even considering finding breakfast out in town. That is a big deal! The full french press of delicious coffee helped, but as mentioned above, I still think about the eggs when I make breakfast some mornings. I already showed you how amazingly colorful my eggs were in Milan, but here it was a whole new ball game in both sight and taste. I admit, we didn’t indulge in the Mimosa selections on any of the three mornings as we had plenty of vino in the evening (okay, at lunch too).
Where to Go For Appertivo
The concierge at the hotel recommended Odeon Bistrot. It wasn’t until we headed there that we realized this whole appertivo thing really was free food with a drink all over the country. We didn’t eat much since we were heading to dinner but, if you’re a college student studying abroad (or anyone looking for delicious budget bites!) and want to save money, you need to head here. There is a huge buffet with everything from farro and vegetable salad, to high quality pizza, to roasted vegetables and quiche.
Where to Eat Fresh Pasta
I know there are more places in Florence that must serve fresh pasta, too (and when we go back we are making a reservation well in advance for La Giostra), but in doing my research there were many warnings of restaurants becoming too touristy and losing the tradition.
One that was brought up for it’s quality multiple times was Osteria dei Centopoveri. I was shocked at how low the prices were on the menu as compared to Milan and Venice, so we ordered an asparagus appetizer and…. Tim may or may not have ordered a pizza with his pasta (minor fear of tiny plates)… and largely regretted it when he saw the immense volume of food that was served! The vegetable appetizer was good, though nothing out of the ordinary. The pasta and wine though? Absolutely amazing! I had freshly made tagliatelle with sea bass and tomato. Tim’s pasta was simply a fresh made penne with spicy marinara. He typically doesn’t like pasta al dente but I have him quoted as saying “this is really good al dente. It’s not chewy gross US al dente”. After our meal, they surprised us with some homemade limoncello, which reminded us of Vecchia Osteria back home.
Funny story, though. We also enjoyed the wine so much that I took a picture so that we could find it at home. A month later when our parents were both visiting us in Newtown, and we were out at Vecchia’s new BYO Napoli pizza place, we realized we had picked out the same amazing bottle of wine unintentionally!
I couldn’t choose just one here, so you’re going to have to hike above Piazzale Michaelangelo and climb to the top of the Duomo or the bell tower. We hiked up to both of these views in one day (skip the cab, people!), but you can take your time!
One day we decided after breakfast we’d run up to the Piazza, but on the way I saw there was an option to keep going. With these stairs (above), after running up a hill, Tim wasn’t too excited with my decision until we made it to the top! After seeing a little chapel, we kept trekking up until we were upon the Basilica San Miniato al Monte.
We of course headed over to the Michelangelo statue afterwards, and those views were breathtaking, too!
We walked down the hill and then back up another to check out Fort Belvedere on this side of the river. We made it allll the way there to find that it was closed for restoration! It was still a beautiful hike and structure.
Plus, it helped us work up more of an appetite for the best pizza ever (more on that below). This was the gorgeous trek down from the fort, too. There’s always time to stop, drop and yoga.
After pizza, we hiked back over the Ponte Vecchio and headed to the gorgeous Duomo and Bell Tower. Be sure to head into these buildings for amazing architecture as well, but the views from the top were the most spectacular for us.
Where to Eat the Best Pizza of Your Life
Thankfully, our good friends had been here in the fall and recommended we head to Gusta Pizza (one of them eats more pizza than anyone you’ll ever meet, so we trusted them). When we arrived, we saw that Guy Fieri had been there, too, which is a good sign! While we thought Rossopomodoro knocked it outa the park in Venice, this pizza is a grand slam like you’ve never imagined. And, ladies get their pizza made in the shape of a heart. If I could I would fly there right now just for this pizza.
Vivanda. Do not miss the opportunity to eat here! It was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel, tucked back a few blocks after crossing the Ponte alla Carraia bridge, and had the modern twist we were looking for to break up all of the traditional meals. The biodynamic wines didn’t hurt either!
I wish we could have tasted just a bite of the entire biologico (organic) menu! We shared a baked seasonal vegetable appetizer though, that was served along some of the best bread we’ve ever had.
Tim then had this freshly made ravioli, while I was over the moon with my hemp seed penne in a garlicky pesto sauce. They were out of this world! I SO wish we had room for dessert since the freshly made selection looked amazing.
Where to Eat Authentic Vegetarian Italian Food
Il Vegetariano Firenze is the real deal. If you want to feel like you were invited into an Italian family’s home for a meal, but Mom & Dad are gourmet chefs, go here. Tim had found it in his research before the trip, but it was in the perfect location after we had seen the David statue and popped over to Fortezza de Basso to check out the Pitti Imagine Uomo… apparently the biggest deal men’s fashion show in the world (#zoolander and #bluesteel). Of note, we didn’t actually see a dance off.
Back to this amazing restaurant. Everything on the menu is in Italian. Since we planned this trip a month in advance, my Italian grandparents were disappointed in my knowledge of the language while watching from above. Thankfully, even though the male owner who checked us out wasn’t able to speak English, his lovely wife who did most of the cooking came over and explained the dishes to us.
Below is Tim’s ridiculous vegetarian lasagna made with organic flours and leeks and the freshest cheeses. We also shared a vegan creamy veggie and chickpea soup with the most delicious and hearty croutons. My meal was a tofu, squash and black rice salad. I suppose that wasn’t the most authentic Italian meal, but every bite was delicious! And, yes that is wine in a mason-like jar. It was 4 Euro for half of a liter and Tim is pretty convincing.
We ran along the river, had espresso on rooftops, delicious gnocchi con gemberi e pomodoro, and got cute notes on drinks at the rooftop bar at the Westin. We also did plenty more, but it’s hard to document in one blog post. If you haven’t been, it’s hard not to have an unbelievable time, even without a plan!
Have you been to Florence? What was your favorite thing to eat, see or do? I’ll take any recs into consideration as I know I’ll be back!