Italy Trip & Where to Eat in Florence

Hi friends. 

We got back from our Christmas vacation in Italy last night. My belly is still full and my heart is still happy. 

I'm going to share some details about our day-trips first and then tell you about the FOOD. Warning: many photos coming your way.

Though we spend most of the week in Florence, we took two day trips. One to Cinque Terre and one to San Gimignano. 

Cinque Terre is a 2-3 hour train ride from Florence. The "Five Lands" encompass 5 little fishing villages along the Italian coast. The villages are not accessible by car and are connected by hiking paths. 

When I studied abroad in Florence, my weekend trip to Cinque Terre was one of the highlights of my trip. I went in June and was lucky enough to be able to hike the entire trail. I was so excited to have the opportunity to share this place with Adam and my family. 

One lesson I am continually learning is to let go of expectations. I had such high expectations for our day trip to Cinque Terre. I had fallen in love with it from the moment I stepped off the train at the first village, and I assumed my family would too.  

When we got to the first village, it quickly became clear that most of the stores and restaurants were closed. The day was partially cloudy, and when the wind blew, it chilled us in our light jackets and scarves. I was still optimistic about the day until I learned that the first scenic part of the trail, Via dell'Amore (Lover's Lane) was closed because of land slides. I had dreamed about taking Adam there when I visited almost 7 years ago and was devastated. 

However, with encouragement from Adam and my sister, I let go of some of those expectations. I realized this wasn't about recreating my memories from 7 years ago (however wonderful). It was about creating new experiences and memories with Adam and my family.

So, even though we only got to 4 of the 5 towns, and even though most of the hiking paths and stores and restaurants were closed, we had a wonderful day. We snuck lemons and oranges from the many citrus trees. We watched the sun set over the water and marveled at the colorful houses built up along the rocky coast. And even though it was completely dark by the time we reached the last town, we walked along the water's edge and listened to the waves crash against the shore.

Our second day trip was to San Gimignano, a medieval walled village in Tuscany. This was a much easier day trip from Florence, with a 45 minute bus ride to Poggibonsi followed by a 10 minute bus ride up to San Gimignano.

My favorite part of San Gimignano is the stunning views of the Tuscan countryside, which is lovely even in the middle of winter.

I also enjoy just winding around the village's narrow streets and alleys, popping into artistic shops or catching another breathtaking view of the Tuscan hills.

Now I get to tell you about the FOOD.

First I have to apologize because for the first few meals of the trip, I was so preoccupied with eating the food that I completely forgot to take any pictures of it.

Where to Eat in Florence:

Trattoria 4 Leoni
I made a reservation here on our first night in Florence. I first heard about Trattoria 4 Leoni from my Italian literature professor Lucia. She told us that we had to try their signature dish, the pear pasta. On their menu, the "pear pasta"is fiocchetti alle pere con salsa di taleggio e asparagus or fiochhetti with pear & tallegio and asparagus sauce. The sauce is creamy and rich and contrasts beautifully with the sweet pear, sharp cheese, and crunchy bits of asparagus. I was so excited to find a recipe online that I will be trying soon! I also love Trattoria 4 Leoni because it's in a quiet little piazza on the other side of the Arno. Their menu is only in Italian, and the place is filled with locals, both of which are good signs.

Trattoria Zaza
Zaza's is highly rated on Yelp and Trip Advisor for good reason. Though it is in a touristy area and has an English menu, the food is delicious. They have an entire menu dedicated to items with truffles. Our favorite items were the spinach, the white beans with tomato sauce, and the pasta a la carbonara.

Rinascente Cafe  
I found out about this cafe from Aspiring Kennedy's florence guide, and I'm so glad that I did.  The Rinascente is a bustling, high-end department store in the Piazza de la Republica. If you take the escalator all the way to the top floor, and then keep going up the stairs, you'll end up at the little rooftop cafe with amazing views of Florence and the Duomo. I probably paid too much for my cappuccino, but the view was worth it.

If you come to Italy, you HAVE to eat Gelato. At least once a day. Trust me. These are my two favorite places:

One way you can that Grom is good is that the gelato is kept in metal tins, not piled up high with toppings like the touristy gelato shops. They have many different seasonal flavors that are delicious, but whatever you do, you have to try the chocolate.

Gelateria Santa Trinita
Located at the other side of the Santa Trinita bridge, this gelato shop is colorful and fun. The fragola (strawberry) is my favorite.

Ya'll, I have been dreaming about this pizza for the past 6 and a half years. For real. I went there twice when I studied in Florence, and I think each time I ate almost the entire pizza. I'm so thankful to my friend Jack for introducing me to this place.

The pizzas are made Naples-style in a burning hot wood-fired pizza oven, which you can see in the photo below. The classic margarita pizza is a must try. We also got a white pizza with broccoli rabe and sausage (shown above) that was fantastic. I'd recommend ordering the house Italian beer alongside your pizza. I'll be dreaming about this pizza until I return to Florence. 

My mom's one request on the trip was to go to a chocolaterie, and my research pointed us to Rivoire. Rivoire is located in the popular Piazza de la Signora by the Uffizi. It has a sort of classic-French vibe with elegantly dressed waiters and lots of paintings adorning the walls.

Adam and I drank cappuccinos and ate pastries, while my mom drank a luxurious hot chocolate, which she said was like drinking melted chocolate. Rivoire also sells cute little boxes of Italian chocolates.

Finally, some of the best meals of the trip were meals that we prepared ourselves. We rented an apartment for the week through VRBO, which was much more affordable than a hotel and gave us the benefit of a kitchen.

Shopping in the central market in Florence was one of the highlights of the trip for my parents and sister. Instead of having a set menu for our meals, they wandered around the market until they found vegetables, meats, and cheeses that inspired them.

On Christmas Eve, my sister made us a feast of fresh artichokes au gratin, meatballs (made with homemade breadcrumbs, parmesan, ground beef, and lots of fresh parsley) and white beans with tomato sauce.

On Christmas Day, we had a pork loin seasoned with garlic and rosemary, fresh orecchiette pasta with parmesan and parsley, sautéed onions and peppers, and a simple salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

It was an amazing trip. It was not without hiccups, of course. We very nearly missed our plane into Florence,  we missed two trains, and once we got lost after getting off on the wrong bus stop. It was all part of the adventure, and I'm so very thankful that I got to share my favorite city with my favorite people.

Thanks for reading and scrolling through all the pictures, friends.

Happy New Year!

1 comment :

  1. Wow - what a wonderful trip and such beautiful photos! Looks like you have a great time and the food looks so, so good! Happy New Year!