Outside of flying into Rome, my entire Italian trip was taken by train and I am now a passionate believer in exploring Europe by rail. It is simple, fast and affordable. I also enjoy having my luggage with me without risking it getting lost en route. I arrived at Santa Maria Novella train station in 2.5 hours and walked to my Airbnb home. And what home it was! I was to live in a Belfredelli tower, dating back to 12th century and one of the few buildings left untouched by the destruction of WWII. The building took my breath away!
The interior was updated in modern design and presented a bi-level loft with living room and kitchen on the bottom floor and a staircase leading to the bedroom and bathroom up top. Looking through Airbnb, I noticed that many Italians are mavens at reworking often awkward centuries-old spaces into those of eye-capturing design and comfort. The tower had everything a modern traveler could desire while eloping you charm and romance of history. It didn’t hurt that the proprietor, Alfredo, left me a bottle of Chianti!
I had a half hour to rest before exploring the area and finding all the culinary and artistic gems! My first stop was dinner with my dad who kindly flew to Italy to meet me – it always helps when Moscow is only 3 hours away! For our first meal in Florence we chose Club Culinario Toscano da Osvaldo.
This is the name that gets mentioned quite a lot in culinary circles of Florence and is praised by local foodie bloggers. I made a reservation weeks in advance as I was anxious to take my dad somewhere wonderful. We were not disappointed. Everything from cozy tavern atmosphere, friendly staff and beyond amazing food added to an evening of many laughs and bottles of red wine. Most importantly, I have finally eaten Bistecca alla Fiorentina, the famous T-bone steak made from region’s Chianina beef. It was incredibly…big…and yes, tender, juicy and delicious!
We stumbled home happy despite the chilly October wind and went to sleep anticipating a Tuscan adventure planned for the early morning. One word of advice. If you happen to be in Florence, please make an effort to hire a car and see a few Tuscan towns. It is truly worth it! The rolling hills of Tuscany, praised over and over in film and literature, and frequently spotted on Instagram and Pinterest, are NOTHING but UNDERRATED. Tuscany is beautiful beyond words and photographs, it is breathtaking and must be seen live!
Our first stop was Siena. The city center, protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, dates back to Etruscans and boasts splendid sights such as 12th century Siena Cathedral and Piazza del Campo, a shell-shaped piazza famous for its twice-a-year horse race.
And did I mention that Siena’s Duomo has the most incredible colorful murals inside:
It started to rain and we rushed away to our next town, but not without checking out a few gift shops first. If you read the first part of my Italian adventure post, you would notice a recurring theme of sun symbol in Italian ceramics. It definitely goes well with all the warmth and hospitality these lovely towns radiate! I regret not getting a pot or a wall plate to take home!
With a quick stopover at San Gimignano with its medieval towers and cobblestone streets, we arrived in Greve In Chianti. As it was starting to get dark we rushed into Antica Macelleria Falorni, a heaven for cheese and meat lovers. Macelleria Falorni is a family run business dating back to 1806. Part butcher shop, part bistro, it houses a cheese and wine cellar and has an incredible selection of the salamis and meat cuts of all kinds. Here I got to check out the cheese getting ready in the cellar:
You can sample anything you like on the spot or have a cheese and meat board (or beef tartar!) brought to you at one of the small tables. We went with the charcuterie board and a glass of wine as we rested our weary feet from all the walking around.
It was time to drive home. Having sampled wines and eaten too much salami and prosciutto, dad and I were skipping dinner this time 🙂
STAY TUNED for FLORENCE = DREAMY VACATION (Part 3) to hear all about our remaining adventures in Florence. Also don’t forget to check out my Instagram page for more travel photos.
Club Culinario Toscano da Osvaldo Piazza dei Peruzzi, 3R, 50122 Firenze, Italia +39 055 217919 http://www.clubosvaldo.com/
Antica Macelleria Falorni Piazza Giacomo Matteotti 69, 50022, Greve in Chianti, Italia +39 055 853029 http://www.falorni.it/