Florence was the one city that every single (not even exaggerating) traveller I’d met had said I HAD to go to. “You haven’t been to Florence, oh wow, you have to – you’ll love it!” So, obviously I went in with huge expectations. And, like with everything – go in with big expectations, and you’re likely to be disappointed. Okay, let’s be nice – it wasn’t bad, it has its beautiful architecture and cobbled streets, but to be given such acclaim, I just couldn’t get it. I’m sorry to offend anyone here!
The drive to Florence was possibly the highlight as I was able to take in the gorgeous greenery and Tuscan hills. I also got to play a lot of one of our family’s favourite car game – the tunnel game. In short, you just have to hold your breath through a tunnel, but in Tuscany’s case, after the twentieth tunnel, my lungs had had enough. Because we had a car, Jules drove us to Fiorele, which provided us with the most breath-taking views of Tuscany, and Florence in particular. We had a glass of Chianti while overlooking the hills and I can happily say, this was up there in my favourite moments since being in Italy so far.
Oh, and we also got to stay in an apartment in central Florence, literally two minutes away from il duomo (cathedral) so we had two days of healthy eating and my cooking. On the first night, I ate possibly the healthiest thing I’ve had since being here – a huge salad with soft boiled eggs, tuna, tomatoes, mozzarella, feta and onions. I think my body must have gone into shock as it didn’t even want pudding after. Crazy. On Saturday, I cooked us a Tuscan speciality of risotto primavera, and taught Kristine how to make risotto too. Both of our dishes worked out really well, you can check out the recipe here. And given how I haven’t been overly impressed by any of the tiramisu so far, I decided to make it for our pudding. Recipe here!
Jules was essentially our tour guide of Florence. He’d been there before so we just followed, a little like sheep actually. I’ve realised I quite like to ‘follow’, especially after weeks of looking after myself and making all the decisions, it’s actually quite nice just to take a back seat. We visited the duomo, which was absolutely beautiful – the colours and intricate details that went into designing it were mind blowing. We queued for a while to get in, only to be told that we couldn’t wear shorts, so back home to change and we tried again. And, unfortunately the inside didn’t reflect the masterpiece of the outside. My favourite still remains with the Sacre Coeur in Paris.
We hunted everywhere for good pizza, luckily Kristine is just like me in that she won’t settle for bad food but we didn’t have much luck in finding anything that a) looked tasty or b) was under 3.50 euros. We ended up buying a piece of focaccia with zucchini from a supermarket, which was possibly the best ‘pizza’ I’ve eaten in Florence. We ate one slice from a shop and the dough just tasted floury and too crisp, and they all the pizza bars seemed to offer the same, dry looking pizza. We did find a nice place yesterday though – it was made freshly and was covered in prosciutto, artichokes and pesto and served on a cool circular wooden board. Although the toppings were nice, the dough almost tasted like it’d been made with butter so took on a more pastry like taste. However, I loved how it was presented and what the shop looked like so this was definitely good research for MYO.
We’d intended to go to Cinqueterre yesterday. We’d bought our tickets, got on the train and started typing away on our laptops out, and the next thing we know, everyone’s getting off. After a lot of eyeballing the crowd and looking at each other, we decided to disembark, only to find out that pretty much every train had been cancelled and there was a train strike. Typical. Thanks for letting us know when we bought the tickets! So, a little despondently we decided we’d stay another day in Florence and do a food tour, on a mission to find Florentine biscuits, the best gelato and something authentically Italian.
After 3 hours and probably 5 miles walked, we weren’t successful. The gelato is all crazily priced, with the ski slope variety (See picture above) starting at 4.50 euros for a small! We settled on a smaller gelateria and opted for triple chocolate and pistachio for 2.50 euros and we were pretty disappointed. I’d been told that Florence does the best gelato, and after trying three different places, I’m not sure whether I’ve massively missed something or whether to question peoples taste buds. We couldn’t find Florentine anywhere, the internet had said Florence was famous for them, but we couldn’t find a single café, patisserie or snack bar which sold them. I did try panforte though, it’s essentially a rock cake, but you see them everywhere in Florence so I thought it’d be wrong to leave the city without trying one. And, in terms of something authentically Italian, well we found the police with their rock-hard white plastic caps quite hilarious. We couldn’t work out why they needed such strong head protection… if anyone has any ideas, please comment!
So, on (hopefully) our last evening in Florence, we cooked smoked scarmorza with bread for our starter, washed down with one of our wine tapas selections. If you haven’t tried scarmorza, it’s basically a soft, mild cheese which is best eaten melted. I then cooked a newly created recipe – linguine verde parmiagiana, you can read the recipe here soon! We had an early night, and prayed that we’d be able to get to Cinqueterre tomorrow.
Our prayers were answered and we’re now sat on a train to La Spezia. Gorgeous views, wine on the terrace, hiking and stuffed shell food here we come! Unless something else happens of course, which I’m fully expecting. Catch up soon!