Greetings from Venice! Thank you all for the wonderful comments and emails about my last post. Your kind words mean more to me than you know <3
Florence was my favourite Italian city by far and probably my second favourite city in the world, behind Paris (of course). The architecture, history, food and people made it the one Italian city I could actually live in long-term (well, semi-long-term seeing as I have commitment issues).
Like Paris, it’s one of those cities you can get lost in just walking around aimlessly for hours. Everything and everyone is so beautiful – I swear I fell in love 10 times a day.
I stayed in a three bedroom apartment, which I had to myself most of the time, in the city centre. Everything was in walking distance, including the best gelato I’ve ever had in my life.
I saved a lot of the tourist stuff for when Em came to visit. First up was the Duomo! We climbed all 463 steps to get to the top, and then climbed the 414 steps to the top of the Bell Tower immediately afterwards. We earned our gelato that day!
A note for anyone planning to visit the Duomo: you need to buy your ticket from the official outlet before you stand in the massive line outside. We learnt that lesson the hard way!
We had to line up for 90 minutes to get in, but it was worth it! It was about a thousand times better than the Vatican.
On the first Sunday of every month, the Uffizi and Galleria dell’Accademia offer free entry. I was kind of glad I didn’t pay to get into the Galleria dell’Accademia, as it was super small and David was the only thing I was really interested in seeing. Insert joke about the size of his hands here…
I was fortunate enough (<<<sarcasm) to climb the huge hill not once but twice to see a great view of the city.
I went here twice but only managed to take one crappy picture, which is a shame as the view of the city was just gorgeous! It’s only about a 10 minute drive outside of the city, but you feel like you’re in the countryside.
One thing I haven’t been able to understand on this trip is how the food has managed to get better in every city I’ve been in. I was blown away by the pasta and gelato in Rome, and then I almost died from happiness every time I ate in Naples. Florence was just another level. I will seriously miss the food. I don’t know if I’ll ever return to the city, so I particularly took advantage of all the gelato on offer.
Almost everyone I met on my travels recommended this place to me, so I had to see what the fuss was all about. I mean, it’s a sandwich shop – how good can it be? (I later found out it’s the most reviewed restaurant on TripAdvisor on the planet!)
It was my very first meal in Florence, and I actually said “oh my god” out loud when I bit into that thing. They had five signature paninis, and I of course had to try them all. I went 12 times in 25 days – I don’t mess around.
My favourite was L’inferno, which was roasted pork, eggplant and zucchini, and some kind of tomato-based spread from the gods.
Based on another personal recommendation, I also tried this sandwich place. It was very good, but nothing could compare to L’antico Vinaio. I ordered what sounds like a terrible combination but was actually divine: roast beef, sundried tomato, pecorino cheese and some kind of white sauce.
Osteria il Buongustai
A few different people told me to go here, and I was sceptical because it was right in the centre of the city surrounded by tourist traps. It was damn good and stupidly cheap, so I went back a couple of times.
They had a bunch of different kinds of bruschetta, but I couldn’t pass up the prosciutto and pecorino. Have you noticed I like meat and cheese?
The crab pasta was delicious and probably the second best pasta I’ve had in Italy (number one belonging to Da Enzo Al 29 in Rome).
The second time I had sausage and mushroom risotto. It was delicious!
Trattoria Za Za
I had a disappointing carbonara the night I first arrived in Florence, so I was determined to rectify it at Za Za. This one was made with truffle cream, and blew the other one out of the water. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to eat a carbonara which will compare to this ever again.
Trattoria Mamma Gina
This place was in Oltrarno, which is the “other side” of the river and probably my favourite neighbourhood. Here, I ordered my first canneloni in Italy, and it was damn good. The waiters were a bunch of old, adorable Italian men and they made the experience memorable.
I couldn’t bear to look at pizza again for a while after Naples, so I waited until Em arrived to try this place. It’s a crowded, traditional pizzeria with only five or six options. Mine had buffalo mozzarella, pecorino, tomato and basil. I still have no desire to eat pizza again. Haha.
Osteria de Benci
Although I am sick of pizza, I could never get sick of pasta. And definitely not pesto pasta! Someone recommended this place to me, and I’m glad I went. We sat outside on the street and it was tres romantic.
I basically lived in this coffee shop, as it provided a nice change of pace for when I got sick of working at home. It’s a very hipster place (they make coffee with almond milk, which is unheard of in this country!) but the coffee and food were amazing.
It’s on the same road as my sandwich shop and literally around the corner from my favourite gelato shop. In the ultimate trifecta of foodgasms, I would often start my day here with a coffee and croissant, work for a few hours, and then reward myself with a panino and gelato. If I ever move to Florence permanently, I will definitely find an apartment on this road.
I occasionally went to this place instead, which was slightly closer to my apartment. I usually had a shakerato, which is Italian iced coffee, but couldn’t help trying their hot chocolate too… I swear everything in this country is designed to make me fat.
I made it my mission to try all the “best” gelato recommendations in this city. I think during the 34 days I spent in Florence, there were only three days where I didn’t have gelato. YOLO.
It was a very, very tough decision, but this place took my top spot. I am a chocolate lover through and through, but my favourite flavour combination here was actually strawberry cheesecake with ricotta and pear. I don’t know what they put in that cheesecake but it was like crack.
The gelato was super thick and creamy, and every single flavour I tried was out of this world. Look at that gorgeous bacio with solid chocolate!
I even took a Florentian here for the first time, who proclaimed it the best gelato he’d ever had. Winner!
This was a close second. The only reason they lost out is because they have less flavours available, their portions are smaller (hey, I’m a fatty) and most are fruit-based – which I have to be in a specific mood for.
You know you eat too much gelato when you walk in the door and the owners greet you with “hey, it’s Tara Pig!” (they follow me on IG, haha)
Their special flavour of the month, however, was probably my favourite flavour in the world. It was hazelnut and chocolate peanut, and it tasted like straight up Nutella. Their tiramisu is also better than any actual tiramisu I’ve ever eaten.
This was one of those steel drum, artisan places where you can’t see what you’re ordering. The dark chocolate had flakes of chocolate in, and the salted caramel was as good as it sounds.
This place is right by Ponte Vecchio (aka tourist central) so I was not expecting it to be good. Unlike all the other shitty places nearby with mountains of fake coloured gelato piled high, this place was empty. By this point I was hoping that one of these places would not be as good as I had read about, because my list of places to take Em was getting too long! But, nope, it was freakin’ amazing.
Gelateria dei Neri
This was another place on that magical street. They had chilli chocolate pistachio and chocolate and pear mascarpone. I’m all about the unusual flavours!
Festival del Gelato
A local recommended this place to me, and I was sceptical as all the fluro lights make it look like a nightclub from the outside. I had cheesecake and bacio. It was okay but it couldn’t beat La Carraia.
Timings and weather
I arrived in mid-August, right before a big national holiday. Do not plan a trip anywhere on the week of this holiday, Ferragosto. Even though the holiday was on a Saturday, almost every business was closed for the entire week. Florence itself is a ghost town for most of August, as all the locals flock to the seaside, so a lot of shops and restaurants are closed down.
I had a list of restaurant recommendations to make my way through, and most days I would have to go to three or four different places before I’d find one that was open. I was, however, warned that this would be the case by my flatmate in Rome, who was originally from Florence and told me I was crazy for going for an entire month at that time of year.
But I loved the quietness of the city. After the noise and rush of Rome, and a hectic two weeks in Naples, I loved spending some time just enjoying the simple pleasures of walking around, writing on my balcony and going to the market every day.
Like everywhere in Italy, it was incredibly hot when I arrived, but it seemed less intense due to the wind that passes through the city. I also got caught in a spectacular downpour one day, which I loved as it was the first time I’d seen rain in two months.
I trained at Savasana on Via delle Porte Nuove, which was a two minute walk from my house. It was huge and had everything I needed. I trained in the middle of the day, and usually had the place to myself.
Phew! I think that’s everything. I love how half of this post is about gelato…
Have you ever been to Florence? What’s your favourite flavour of ice cream?