Here is a recap, if you are just tuning in. My husband and I recently spent eleven days in Italy. We ate, saw the sights, and ate some more. Previous posts covered Rome, followed by Tuscany.
This is the third installment, which will focus on Florence. Venice will be next.
For the next four nights we are in Florence. We stay at Mr.My Resort, which we discover in a book called “Special Places to Stay” by Alastair Sawday. It’s certainly an odd name for a b&b. According to their website “in the XVIII century, together with the surrounding buildings, the Grand Duke of Tuscany converted the building into a lunatic asylum. Traces of this past are still present in the rooms and also in the basement, where the delirious people were kept.”
This may not be a ringing endorsement for the place, but somehow I am not put off. It is a truly unique establishment, and obviously we fit right in.
|our room at Mr.My resort Florence Italy|
The hotel is not too far from the enticing leather vendors outside the Mercato Centrale where we head on our first day in the city. Food momentarily takes a back seat to shopping. I am overwhelmed by the selections. By the end of the day I overcome my feelings of confusion and purchase a leather jacket. It takes me a few more days of perusing dozens of market stalls before I can make a decision on a leather bag and a variety of scarves.It’s actually a nice diversion away from food, although it isn’t long before my attentions return to dining.
Our first dinner in Florence is at Trattoria Garga, which I have identified on a website called www.Sally Bernstein.com I have no idea who Sally is, but she mentions inventive cuisine and says it is “an event to eat here.” My advisers from the Chowhound site, where I ask for verification of my dining choices, do not dissuade me. Happily, two of the dishes stand out among the best of the entire trip.
We begin by sharing a dish referred to as Tagliolini Magnifico. It is pasta with orange and lemon rind, mint-flavored cream, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It is truly magnifico!
|Trattoria Garga 1/2 portion of Tagliolini Magnifico|
My main course is veal with avocado cream and truffle oil. This is a dish so rich and delicious, that the taste lingers on to this day.
|Trattoria Garga veal|
My husband has swordfish with capers, tomatoes, and oregano. He declares it the best swordfish he has ever eaten.
|Trattoria Garga swordfish|
After we return home there is a post on Chowhound from someone who comments that their meal at Trattoria Garga was not particularly good. I’m glad that I saw this after my return as it probably would have led me to change venues. An important reminder…one person’s negative experience can always be another person’s positive one.
It’s a hectic day with visits to two of Florence’s most famed museums the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’Accademia. I have not pre-selected a location for lunch, but of course that doesn’t mean I am going to settle on just anywhere. I have downloaded an app called Eat Florence by Elizabeth Minchelli (which I highly recommend) and I can select our location and find places to dine nearby. It is not necessary to be online to access the application, which is particularly useful since I have disabled my internet access.
I am looking for a place called ‘Ino, which specializes in gourmet paninis. It is on a small side street that is easy to miss, but is an absolutely perfect place for a quick sandwich. I have a paninni with vegetables and olive tapenade on the most wonderful bread imaginable. Another plus- a glass of house wine is included. I know I have much more religious art ahead of me but I can’t pass up free wine. My husband wisely resists. Yes, I’m a little sleepy when we get to see Michelangelo’s David, but it’s worth it.
|‘Ino display case|
I change our dinner plans from a place we have been warned away from. Instead, we choose to dine at Trattoria Baldovino, which is owned by the Gardners who are also the proprietors of Villa Bordoni which is where we stayed in Tuscany. They don’t do much in the way of steering guests to their Florence restaurant, aside from mentioning it casually. We have come to this decision on our own. When we arrive the staff are surprised that the Gardner reservation is for us rather than their owners. Do the owners really need to make a reservation at their own restaurant? That surprises me!
We are starting to tire of multi-course meals. We decide to share an Italian salad and I have free range chicken marinated in oil and lemon and grilled. It sounds like something I eat at home on a regular basis. Did I make the right choice? Fortunately, the chicken is moist and flavorful, and really is a refreshing change.
|Trattoria Baldovino chicken|
Our third day in Florence has remarkably been left unplanned. Catherine from Villa Bordoni has suggested a food tour, and directs us to Florence for Foodies. I can’t believe we haven’t thought of this sooner.
We meet our guide at the piazza near the Mercato Centrale. At first I am a bit disappointed when I discover it is only my husband and I on the tour. But this quickly turns to delight as I realize this can be a personalized food tour. What could be better? Nathalie, our guide, is knowledgeable, warm, and engaging. Her English is impeccable. My husband asks where she has learned to speak the language so well and she replies “by watching episodes of Sex and the City.” I love this woman!
Our tour of the market includes tastes of cheese, olives, and a visit to Nerbone which is a popular place known for prepared food including soups, stews, pasta, and tripe. I hesitate, but my kosher-keeping husband encourages me to try lampredotto, which is a typical Florentine peasant dish, made from the fourth and final stomach of a cow. The meat is tender and quite tasty!
We spend a good bit of time sampling olive oil, vinegar, and other tasty Tuscan treats from a purveyor called Conti. We purchase fresh olive oil, bruschetta, salt with truffles, vinegar, and truffle oil. It is here that I realize despite the smell, I am deeply in love with truffles. Sadly, as we are departing Italy it is discovered that my husband and I have each packed these purchases in our carry-on luggage. The fresh olive oil and bruschetta do not escape discovery at security, and are tossed in the trash. Such a tragedy- although the truffle products are so small that they escape confiscation.
We also are taken to a well known spot for gelato. I have come to Italy with high expectations. So far, I have had gelato that’s quite good, but I haven’t been blown away. A few times I seek out specific well-known places, but somehow each time I can either not find the place, it’s closed, or am too tired to walk any further. So I am feeling a bit gelato-frustrated. Nat takes us to Gelateria Perche’ No!
We’re talking about a gelato place that has been around since 1938 using the freshest ingredients, so they know gelato. We try at least six different flavors and I will say the gelato is quite good. But it doesn’t quite live up to the dream.
|gelato in Siena|
I learn something very important on the tour. It is uncool to drink cappucino at any time other than breakfast. Real Italians drink espresso in the afternoon. From this point onward, I am an afternoon espresso drinker, like it or not. It’s a good thing espresso cups are small.
I have really been looking forward to dinner at Osteria Personale. It’s been described as having “beautiful presentations of local cuisine” and Elizabeth Minchella has commented on my inquiry on Chowhound that it is one of her favorite new places in Florence. We arrive at 8:30 pm, which is a stretch for us tired tourists. I love the decor but there is absolutely no one else in the entire restaurant. Awkward. Fortunately, the restaurant begins to fill as time goes on. This is definitely a don’t miss if you are in Florence. We have a tasting which includes five dishes and a dessert.
|Osteria Personale breast duck carpaccio with grilled radicchio, pomegranate emulsion and smoked ricotta cheese cream|
|Osteria Personale: olive oil mashed potatoes with goat cheese and scalded vegetables|
|Osteria Personale “naked” ricotta and sheep milk cheese ravioli with porcini mushrooms, calomint and redcurrant|
|Osteria Personale dessert (I forget what this is)|
Florence is a bad influence on me. I alternate between completely wanting to indulge myself with shopping and high-fat foods, and trying to show some restraint. Which do you think wins? I am on vacation after all.
Trattoria Garga,Via del Moro 48, 50123 Florence, Italy
‘ino,7r via de’ Georgofili, Florence, Italy
Trattoria Baldovino, Via di San Giuseppe, 22 50122 Florence, Italy
Florence for Foodies, Florence food tour
Osteria Personale, Borgo San Frediano 167 / r 50124 Florence, Italy