Finally a day that didn’t require a ridiculously early start. I had a mid morning train ticket to Florence which gave me time for a final look at Bologna before leaving. I would have loved an extra day to have a better look at the city, but a packed itinerary involves compromise. There was a little time before leaving to wander around the historic centre again and find some breakfast. But all too soon I was saying goodbye to my excellent apartment and heading to the train station.
Arrival in Florence was before noon, it is a quick 35 minute train ride. Walking out of the train station and getting a glimpse of the Duomo in the distance was exciting. I had been there four years ago and was very happy to be back. Last time I stayed right by the Duomo and was completely captivated by that beautiful building, so seeing it again brought back amazing memories. I was in a happy place. This time my accommodation was across the river in San Frediano. I hadn’t explored much on that side of the river last time so was looking forward to seeing new neighborhoods.
My apartment was quirky. I felt a little like Harry Potter because the door to the apartment was quite literally under the stairs. It was a below ground cave-like apartment with a small window at street level. Perfectly comfortable for my four nights in Florence.
My plan for this day was to wander and relax until a food tour later in the evening. I first headed to Piazza Santo Spirito, then past the Palazzo Pitti and down to the river. After some lunch of tourist pizza I headed up to Piazzale Michelangelo to take some photos of the city and walked back to my apartment along the Arno and back through Santo Spirito after quickly checking out the Ponte Vecchio. This side of the city, while still very toursity in parts was not as hectic as I remembered the area around the Duomo. And there weren’t many people at all around San Frediano. Mostly locals doing their thing.
Early evening, again in Piazza Santo Spirito, I met our guide and the rest of the small group for a walking food tour of Florence. It was the Florence Sunset Food Tour from Eating Italy Food Tours. And it was excellent. I chose this tour over many others for one main reason. I really wanted to try Florentine steak and it is something that you really can’t do as a solo traveller, well not one with a normal appetite anyway!
Our guide was a very exuberant and chatty Egyptian-Florentine guy who loved his city and loved his food. The group was made up mostly of Americans and Australians of various ages, but similarly alike in our desire to learn more about Florentine food.
The tour started with a little history of the area and then we moved onto a deli with a very enthusiastic and proud owner where we were able to try some salamis and pecorino cheese. The deli had a long history and like most places we visited on the food tour was somewhere I probably wouldn’t have gone into on my own, I would have been intimidated by the broad selection of meats and cheeses. Getting more confidence in trying different foods and visiting different businesses was something I hoped to achieve this trip through doing food tours. The meats and cheeses were delicious. Wild boar salami and truffle pecorino the highlights.
From there we went to a tiny little bar to learn how to make Negronis and Americanos and then relax with the aperitif of our choice to enjoy a traditional aperitivo.
We visited another small venue, I’m not sure whether to call some of these places bars or restaurants or cafes or something else, and they have their Italian names of course, but it was a small place that served drinks and snacks. At this venue we had some house wine and a couple of snacks, the most interesting one was lardo, essentially cured fat. Surprisingly delicious. At the next venue we tried a couple of dishes, one a bread stew type dish and another was tripe, which we were told after we had tasted it! I’ll be honest and say I didn’t mind the taste but the texture of the larger piece of tripe I couldn’t handle. We had a more full bodied wine with these snacks.
Our main stop and the highlight of the evening was at a trattoria where we not only got to eat Florentine steak but we got to see the chef butcher the meat and cook it. Our group shared a couple of steaks, a few people balked at how rare it was, which simply meant more for me 😀 Again we had wine and there were lovely side dishes.
Finally we returned to Piazza Santo Spirito where the tour had begun and finished with biscotti and a sweet desert wine on the steps of the Basilica.
It was the first time I had done a walking food tour like this and I was really impressed. It was such a fun night and the food and drink were plentiful. I felt like I already knew so much more about Florence than I had learned in my entire previous stay. I was really pleased that we didn’t do the pizza/pasta/gelato type foods that are everywhere for tourists. I felt I had an improved understanding of some of the food history and conventions of the city. And it helped influence my food choices from then on.
The night ended with some bar hopping in Oltrarno with another of the tour guests and a friend of hers. Something I’d probably not have done alone and enjoyed immensely. A great way to start my visit to Florence.