It was only a matter of time that food would become a topic. As I have told most of the story about buying our house, I suspect food experiences will be a popular topic moving forward. I should mention that one of the reasons we selected Italy was because it offers so many places to explore within its own borders and most of Europe is within the range of your average Southwest flight. In my last post I explained about our daily shopping trips but I left out that we went to Florence for a 4 day for “vacation”.
I was tired of driving so we decided to take the train to Florence. Italy has a great train infrastructure which covers 10,500 miles throughout the country.
They make it very easy to buy tickets via numerous websites, we have used Trenitalia with ease. The trip from Aulla (our local station) to Florence took around 2 hours and was quite simple as the train dropped us smack dab in the city at the Firenze Santa Maria Novella station. One note, in Italy they say Firenze and Americans called it Florence so don’t expect to see any mention of Florence while in Italy. We stayed at Hotel Club Florence which is about 150 steps from the train station. Quick review of this hotel: very helpful and friendly staff with clean modern rooms at an affordable nightly prices ($80). We are quickly checked in and we spend the afternoon roaming around the city checking out the all historical buildings and a bit more shopping (sigh).
Depending on your source of information there are over 2,000 restaurants in Florence, so how are you supposed to figure out where to go. We use a bit of TripAdvisor ratings/reviews along with the places we thought looked nice and authentic from our daytime walking. Our favorite place in all of Florence is L’Osteria di Giovanni.
We went here twice and both times were awesome. There are always people milling around outside waiting for a table (they didn’t make reservations). If you have a reservation you are quickly escorted to one of the 3 dining rooms, handed menus and presented the same question always asked in Italy “acqua con gas o naturale?” L’Osteria di Giovanni is cozy and rustic in decor but this place is all about the food as they adhere to classic Tuscan style foods. A look at the menu presents many of the usual choices in this region: antipasto, pastas, steak and veal but everything is cooked to perfection, seasoned perfectly and makes you happy with your restaurant selection. I have to share that Giovanni is a rather short guy who is in constant motion managing this bustling business while stopping at various tables to greet new guests and shares stories with those he knows. His presence makes you feel like you are dining at his home and it really adds that special touch to the already delicious food. On our first visit we went ordered caprese salad, 2 pasta dishes, 2 meat dishes, the best lemon cake for dessert but then we spotted the bistecca florentina heading to another table and we knew we’d have to come back. If you have never had bistecca florentina think huge t-bone steak usually for 2-3 people that has been grilled over a wood fire finished with simple sea salt. My mouth is watering thinking about it and embarrassingly we couldn’t finish it on our second visit. This time we met Caterina, Giovanni’s daughter, who speaks perfect English and helped us properly order our steak. I don’t think you can order a bad meal here and my single suggestion would be to make sure sure you arrive hungry because you truly don’t want to waste a bite.
It is now our second full day in Florence and we spend the morning touring the magnificent Uffizi Gallery Museum. With a camera full of photos we agree it is time for lunch and we wander across the Ponte Veccio (Old Bridge) over the Arno River in search of food. As is the case in many touristy cities the restaurants with the worst food typically have the most attractive outdoor seating areas, don’t be tempted as you will likely be disappointed. It was a very warm day in the sun and we felt like we were melting. We sat down at this well shaded restaurant and then reminded ourselves that this was one of “those” places so we departed when the waiter went back inside. More wandering around and then we came upon Gusta Pizza. Aleth and I have no idea why this place rings a bell but we are in Florence so pizza sounds perfect for lunch. Now I don’t want to sound too much like a pizza snob here but Tony Gemignani is a personal friend and we frequent his restaurants (Tony’s and Capo’s) in San Francisco so we are very spoiled when it comes to eating great pizza. When we arrive at Gusta’s there is a line out the door and we considered moving on but decide if Italians are willing to wait for this pizza it has to be good. We get in line and cannot help to get hungrier as the smell of freshly cooked pizza fills the air. You order at the counter and there are only 7 pizzas to choose from and red or white wine. Next you pay the cashier and hope to find a seat in the packed little pizzeria (maybe 35 seats in total). We ask another couple if we can share their table as it seems everyone is doing this throughout Gusta. About 15 minutes later the expeditor yells out “Brendan” are there are our two fresh pizza pies. Yes, we each got one! I have a pepperoni pizza and Aleth goes a fresh tomato, arugula and burrata pizza (over there). Both pizzas are delicious and the Gusta house label red wine is the perfect match. Some fun conversation with our neighboring couple, we polish off both pizzas and exit to make room for the next group of people eyeing our table. I “borrowed” the video below from someone off the Internet of his trip to Gusta, apologies for the cursing but it really gives you a good sense of this wonderful place!
I previously told you to be careful of businesses closing in the middle of day and this guy’s frustration is the perfect illustration. After a nap we are back at Giovanni’s for the bistecca florentina and a conclusion to a full day.
It is our final day in Florence and we are ready for a change of pace so we decide to seek a restaurant that is a bit more contemporary. We got up early and just started roaming around the city before all the tourists swarm the landmarks. Hours of walking have passed and we happen upon Konnubio. The decor is spectacular as it expertly balances traditional rustic and modern elegance without being over the top. Kudos to the designer! They also don’t pack the place with tables on top of each other, so you can comfortably hold a conversation without others overhearing your secrets. Konnubio has thought out every aspect of your dining experience, including: glassware, silverware, unique plating techniques and the cocktail list. This place is an Instagrammer’s dream come true as everything looks like it was prepared for a photoshoot. The menu is a welcomed change of pace from the pizza/pasta found everywhere in Florence and when they offer similar dishes they are done with a unique twist and flare. We truly enjoyed everything about Konnubio and it was soon time to grab our bags at the hotel and catch our train back to Aulla. I personally recommend each and every place mentioned in this post and hope it inspires you to soon visit Florence because it is currently our favorite place in Italy. Ciao!