I decided to break this trip up into two posts because I’m way behind on my blogs, and also because I read recently that the attention span of humans has now been surpassed by the attention span of goldfish and I’m pretty certain a goldfish couldn’t have made it much longer on my last post.
After leaving the beauty of the Amalfi coast, we took a train from Naples to the heat of Florence. Naples was just as I remembered it – a dirty city where I felt that everyone was trying to rob me. We ventured from the train station to look for something to eat and then decided we were probably better off just staying in the safety of the station. The train ride to Florence was pretty uneventful, we passed through the countryside and I was searching for Castiglion Fiorentino the whole time.
Florence is a city that both Tyler and I had been to previously, but after leaving this time we both decided it’s in our top 3 favorite cities that we have ever been to. I also decided that I am going to name my future cat after one of my favorite cities and singers (currently listening to Dog Days Are Over). I love the architecture, I love the smaller city feel, and I especially love the food and wine. If you are new to my blog, you may not yet know that our favorite way to experience a new city is by eating and drinking our way through it. Florence was no exception.
Upon our arrival we lugged our bags from the train station to our hotel located near the Duomo. And then we lugged our bags up the 100 steps to actually get into our hotel. I’ll just say the luggage situation in the Italian heat was probably the worst part of the whole trip. Once we were situated and I had the comfort of knowing I wouldn’t have to lug my bags for three whole days, we hit the town.
Since it had been a while (7 years for me, 15ish years for Tyler), we went to see some of the standard attractions, the Ponte Vecchio, the fake David, the Church of Santa Croce, the Duomo, and the gelato. Some friends had recommended Zaza’s for dinner, and we had a great meal there where Tyler got the steak Florentine and I think it was about 5kg!
One of the things I was most excited about on this leg of the trip was our day tour of Chianti vineyards in Tuscany. We had a semi-private tour with just one other couple and our driver/guide. Our first stop was Ruffino, a large winery where we had our first glass of wine at about 10am. Our guide was an experienced sommelier who taught us how to taste the Chiantis using all of our senses. Although I had previously been to Napa, he definitely taught me the appropriate way to taste. We tried about 5 wines here and the pours were generous. Anyway, we ended up buying a few bottles to ship home. And we weren’t just drunk when we bought them because we tried one the other night and it was spectacular.
After leaving Ruffino, we headed through the Tuscan countryside and stopped in the small city of Montefioralle to take some pictures. Also someone famous lived here, but I did not do my travel journal for this part of the trip so my memory has escaped me. [Editor’s note: Tyler informed me that the famous person was in fact Amerigo Vespucci – the man that America is named after.] Cute city though.
Our next stop was Brogiono Maurizio, a very small family owned winery that only produces about 5,000-10,000 bottles a year. The visit basically took place in the winemaker’s home. He showed us the grapes and olives and explained the wine and olive oil making processes. Then his wife made us a most delicious lunch of meats and cheeses and pastas and a fabulous dessert. We also sampled a few more wines and bought some olive oil. I really enjoyed the experience of meeting a winemaker who was so passionate and had a quaint production.
The last stop of the trip was at San Michele a Torri. This was a bigger production facility and we once again learned about the winemaking process. We even got to see the huge wine barrels that Chianti is known for being produced in. However, I think we were all kind of over it at this point because although the wine was good, it wasn’t a very memorable experience to me. After a long day of wine tasting, we went to dinner and were so out of it. That is until they gave Tyler an unlimited bottle of grappa for only EUR 5. Then we perked up. We ended up checking out a speakeasy type of bar called the Vanilla Club afterwards which was pretty cool. It reminded me of a Patterson House type of place. The owner might have been in the mafia though, and told us stories of his struggles of growing up in Italy. We ended the night by trying to spot all of the Ninja Turtles in the Uffizi. Still not sure where Rafael was.
I may have lied in my earlier statement, the thing I was the most excited about for in Florence was probably the visit to my old study abroad town of Castiglion Fiorentino. Seven years ago I spent a summer in Tuscany to study international business and eat lots of gnocchi. Ever since, I have wanted to revisit my old stomping grounds and I was really excited for Tyler to join. The morning started out pretty badly with transportation issues and I wasn’t even sure if we were going to make it there, but Tyler is a great husband and made sure that it happened, even if it wasn’t how we originally planned.
I think it might have been the hottest day of the trip that we decided to visit the town on the hill. It was probably 95* when we got dropped off at the train station in the bottom of the town. I had forgotten how long of a hike it was to get to the top, but we made it. Just in time for siesta which is Italian naptime and everything is closed. We didn’t let that bother us too much and found a place to eat lunch. I showed Tyler around the city and remembered more about it than I thought I would! Unfortunately, the school was not in session, so I couldn’t get into the Santa Chiara to see if it was still how I remembered, but we did hit up one of the best local haunts, the Garden Bar. In fact, it’s so popular that all of my Facebook friends who have studied abroad in C.F. wanted to know if we made it there. We did and it was great. I’ve always had something pulling me back to the city where I fell in love with traveling, and now I can say that since I made it back with Tyler I somehow feel complete.
On our way back to Florence, we connected with friends who we knew through EY Nashville who happened to be staying in Florence for the night. We met up to watch the sunset on the Piazzale Michelangelo. It was pretty crowded, but we still were able to see it well. We had probably the best dinner in Florence with the couple and then headed back to the same bar that we had been to the previous night because we liked it so much. We bar hopped a little longer before calling it a night.
I wish our time in Florence/Tuscany had been longer because there is still so much I wanted to see and do, but I guess there’s always next time!