I think I am growing up… I didn’t want to stick around Saluzzo during Carnevale for all the loud music, costumes and confetti. Considering I had 5 days of holiday and was itching to get away anyway, we decided to take a drive down to Florence for a couple days (4 hour drive)! Here is our BEST OF list on a budget:ACCOMODATION:

Hotel Dali: Prices almost like a hostel (60€/night). We tried the scary “out of room bathroom” experience which turned out to be ok. It was all worth it for its incredibly central location and free parking (which is a nightmare in Florence”)

view from hotel

BEST BAR:


Our first night in Florence we spent “freestyling” and found a very cool bar for aperitivos called VOLUME. It was in the Oltrarno area on the other side of Ponte Vecchio. We found this place only because everything else seemed basically deserted! This is one of the pluses of visiting in February…very few people around. Ponte Vecchio was eerily damp and desolated. Well, this old woodshop has been turned into a bustling bar where we happened to meet some American pastry chef trainees. They all were from NorCal and coincidentally had two extra spots available for their dinner reservation.

COOLEST REASONABLY PRICED RESTAURANT:

Of course we took them up on their offer and headed to a chic restaurant in the same area called Il Santo Bevitore. We were served as special guests, and although we were not so hungry after our hefty aperitivo snacks, I ordered a main dish of cream of baccalà with pesto and pine nuts. We were offered a Cauliflower soup with salmon and caviar to start with too. Let’s not forget about the lovable tradition of serving prosecco to the customers upon arrival. So cool!

THE MOST AMAZING SIGHT:

In a city full of Renaissance masterpieces it is hard to choose the most beautiful sight but what really struck me was Giotto’s works on the “Duomo”. I know it should be the Uffizi but the truth of the matter is, that I guess I am not cultured enough to truly appreciate what this museum has to offer.

BEST PLACE TO GET A CHEAP LUNCH:

Normally, I am not a creature of habit but after finding this place the first day, it became our place of refuge for the next couple days. Nerbone is famous for their Lampredotto, a boiled beef sandwich made from the fourth stomach of the cow and covered with sauces…watch out for the red spicy sauce! I had my first Ribollita there, a traditional vegetable soup. However, what I was really eyeing were the artichoke hearts at the other table so. Our combined meals were all under 10 Euros.

BEST STOP FOR FOODIES:

One of the first stops I wanted to make on Saturday morning was at the Mercato Centrale. It is a covered area full of eye candy: fruit and vegetable stands, butchers and the great lunch places like Nerbone. When in dire need of fruit, we came back to this lovely spot too!

FAVORITE GO-TO RESTAURANT AND FAVORITE MEAL:

While with our new pastry chef friends at VOLUME, they told us that the restaurant across the street called Osteria Santo Spirito was a nice place to eat. One night after desperate restaurant searching, we decided to go back over the bridge and trust our new friends, after all they proved to have good taste! The waitress was incredibly friendly, the atmosphere was warm and cozy and the tables were mixed with Americans and locals too. I finally saw Pappa al Pomodoro on the menu and I knew I was going for that! I had been wanting to try this again ever since I ate it at the Wine Blogger’s Conference and it didn’t disappoint. Pappa al Pomodoro was a “peasant’s dish” and a way to use old bread by letting it stew together with celery, carrots, onions and tomatoes. Just my kind of meal. I was more than satisfied with that and some sauteed spinach. I had to keep in mind the traditional custom of  dipping “cantucci”(biscotti) in Vin Santo after the meal. I loved this!

Sunday was forecasted to be rainy. So it would be the perfect day to visit the Uffizi Gallery, too bad everyone else had that same idea! With a two hour line, we decided to ditch it and go see David instead!

Our true dilemma though was trying to find Claudio the best price/quality for a Fiorentina steak. We were recommended to go to I Latini, a family style restaurant famous for their massive “Fiorentina”. While we waited for 40 minutes, we realized that EVERYONE was eating one steak shared between 2 people. At this moment Claudio was seriously asking himself why he married a vegetarian! There was no way he could eat a 1.3 kg steak by himself, which would also be a shame to waste at 45 Euros/Kg. As soon as we sat down I started having mixed feelings of disappointment and anxiety when they told us they couldn’t make a half order. The waiter gave us attitude, and even though we already had a sip of house wine which was on the table, we decided to get up and GO! Laughing the whole way and feeling devilishly guilty about our rude tourist act, we both felt relieved. But the problem was going through the endless restaurant-searching frenzy all over again so late in the evening. We opted for our safe haven, Osteria Santo Spirito and had two fantastic pasta dishes, rigatoni with tomato sauce and ravioli with cream and walnuts. At least we had plenty of churches to visit the next day to ask forgiveness for our sins!

can you see the scary birds in the sky?

BEST THING TO DO ON A RAINY DAY: 

Monday was rainy and freezing again! We got shelter from the rain in Cantinetta Antinori where we had a crazy know-it-all waiter who served us a beautiful Sassello Super Tuscan and a Vintage ’99 Chianti Classico Riserva. They were excellent! The Sassello, still tasted a bit young and revealed red fruits and tight tannins, while the Reserve was salty, and leathery and as Claudio described almost sweaty but very rich and satisfying. Then we went off to a restaurant called Bordino where you could find great deals and get a 500 gram steak which was perfect for Claudio. I know it is not really a Fiorentina, but it satisfied our needs for the night.

BEST VIEW:


We crammed in the Uffizi on our last morning, and went up to Piazza Michelangelo just as we were leaving since it was the first glimpse of sun we got our whole trip. I loved Florence and can’t wait to explore the Tuscan countryside next time!

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