So after a couple of stressful and not particularly fun days in Bologna we set off on our merry way to Florence, to stay this time, not to change trains.
We had managed to secure ourselves a particularly good deal on an apartment in Florence (€300 for 7 nights!) so decided to stay for a week and travel out to sample the Tuscan delights from there.
Now Tuscany has a lot of hype, as does Florence itself, so Mr and I were a little apprehensive about what we would think of it as we are are not always of the same opinion as the masses when it comes to what makes a place great, ie: Bologna & Cinque Terre.
But the hype was justified. Florence is a beautiful city, the Duomo is spectacular, the buildings beautiful, the stunning piazza’s, the Tuscan hills in the distance, Roberto Cavalli’s café, Gucci, Prada, Fendi, oh my! Lovely.
What was not lovely, was the sheer amount of people, it was so busy. Like Oxford Street in December, everywhere, all day, everyday! And it was hot! No rain here. Over 30 degrees everyday and with that amount of people (in your way), the close proximity of all the buildings, the heat from the buses and mopeds whizzing by and no air-con in our apartment it made for a very warm week indeed.
But despite the heat, the people and the prices (€6 for an espresso in some places, Mr Cavalli! I think not!), we had a great week there, it helped to be able to do it a bit at a time so as not to get too stressed with the crowds and the soaring temperatures.
We crossed the famous ponte vecchio, strolled along the river Arno, stood and gazed across the magnificent squares and watched the stylish Florentines go about their daily business over espresso in cool café’s (not for €6 a pop though, €2 is more the top of our price range), we went on a tour and visited a Chianti winery and drove through the jaw droppingly, stunning Tuscan hills, stopped by a medieval hilltop town in the countryside, we put our culture heads on and visited the Uffizi Gallery to see Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ and ‘Primavera’, went to the Gallery Academia home to Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and sampled the local Bistecca a la Fiorentina (a 3 finger thick piece of Tuscan beef, a T bone steak), which was followed by a rather tiddly affair in a bar with some Aussies and a Scot we had got chatting to, they just happened to be crewing one of the yachts we had seen in Genova, small world. Try an espresso martini if you get the chance, espresso, Baileys, Kahlua and Absolute Vanilla vodka, yum, yum!
I then finished the week with a cooking class, we visited the central market to taste and learn all about balsamic vinegars (3 years old to 30 years old, amazing tastes and amazing prices, €88 for the 30 yr. old! Was truly different though), tasted some olive oils and some other bits including Florentine salt with black truffle (I purchased some of this, it smells divine), bought our ingredients then went to the kitchen with (18 Americans and me) with our chef, Giovanni and his assistant to make our lunch which consisted of freshly baked bruschetta topped with tomatoes, aubergine caprese (grilled slices of aubergine with tomato, mozzarella and basil sandwiched in between), we then made parpadelle pasta by hand, a tomato, basil and meat ragu and the finished off with our own individually made tiramisu, accompanied by Italian opera in the background and couple of glasses of Tuscany’s finest red! It all tasted amazing! Cannot wait to make it all again!
So all in all it was a fabulous week, much more the Italy we love and I can say that Tuscany definitely deserves all the attention that it gets!
(scheduled post's arrived weds 22nd)