We’re almost ten days into our trip and on our way to Florence. Still rolling our “cinquecento,” we got an early start from Cortona so we could make a quick stop in Chianti. Radda to be exact. My in-laws stayed there some years back during what was one of the best trips of their lives, so of course we have to go.
It’s a gorgeous, quiet little town. We arrived just before lunch and walked around before the restaurants opened.
We had lunch at a place called Ristorante La botte di Bacco, which was perfectly situated to overlook the countryside and rolling hills. The woman who served us owned the place with her husband. She ran the dining room, while he cooked in the kitchen. She was extremely kind and very gracious. We enjoyed their homemade breadsticks, a couple glasses of white wine, an amazing carbonara, and some delicious whole fish. Photos only of the pasta, but take my word for it. The place is good.
Radda is about an hour away from Florence where we stopped near the airport to drop off our little Fiat. She sure was fun. *Word to the wise* As mentioned earlier in Cortona, road signs are not as prominent in foreign countries. We had to make a few loops until we found the car drop-off location, then needed to take a shuttle to the actual airport to catch a taxi to our Airbnb. We lucked out with our ballsy, lady taxi driver too. She was a bad ass. She drove through streets more crowded than I’ve ever seen like a…. well, bad ass. No f*cks giveth. All the while calmly giving us tips and recommendations on what to do and where to go.
Look at the cute entry to our Airbnb. It was a bit of a walk to the main parts of Florence, but next to the best coffee shop. We went there every morning during our stay. Owned by a very sweet Italian man who, oddly enough, used to live in Oregon. After living there for a few years he missed his country and culture too much and returned home. Pretty sure Michael now wants a $2,000 coffee maker because of the cappuccinos this man made us. Thanks a lot, guy.
It was a nice change of pace to stay in an apartment, but it’s almost comical how small everything truly is in Europe. Americans have a philosophy of “bigger is better,” which applies to homes, cars, kitchen appliances, and… other things. I don’t always agree, but one specific exception is showers. I’m 5′ 3″ on a good day and I could barely move in this shower. Poor Michael at 6′ 1″ had a hell of a time. But we were able to do laundry as planned and got another lesson in appreciating the comforts of home when I needed to hang dry everything next to a space heater. Show your electric powered dryers some love today.
Florence is amazing and incredibly beautiful. The travel websites will tell you that you don’t need more than two or three days there, but we stayed a total of three nights and wouldn’t have minded another. Nonetheless we walked and saw as much of the city as we could, which included the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, and the statue of David at the Accademia Gallery. As we did in Rome, book those tickets in advance and you’ll get to skip the long line!
MUST SEE! A viewpoint in Florence called the Piazzale Michelangelo where you can get a panoramic view of the entire city. The catch is that it’s a bit of a hike. Uphill. But worth it, I promise.
Food in Florence is great, of course. One notable restaurant is La Giostra. We had dinner here after a recommendation from my brother and sister-in-law. They visited Florence about 6-7 months earlier and raved about this place. Incredible dining area setting, great service, even better food, and an impressive wine list. It looks like this place is a not-so-well-kept secret as the owner has photos of himself all over the walls with celebrities, both national (I assume) and international.
Sadly we took no photos of the food, but I recommend one of the house dishes I had. A pear ravioli with a mixture of pecorino and mascarpone cheese. Sounds different, but so good. La Giostra is a foodie’s dream… the servers know their food and their wine. What more can you ask for.
Another popular spot we had to try was in the central market, or Mercato Centrale, called da Nerbone. Known for their porchetta sandwiches. The line was long and though the sandwich was good, I was a bigger fan of the soup. The ribollita – a tuscan vegetable and bread soup. We also tried the tripe dish… which further solidified that I do not like tripe =/
Maybe because it was the shortest leg of the trip, but Florence left us wanting more. Which is why we’ve already talked about going back! Whether that’s next year or five years from now, I can’t wait.
Our final stop is up next – – the idyllic Paris, France. Where I ate the best bread I’ve ever had and left with a brand new scar after a minor incident ending in a split elbow. More to come!