Today’s Italian adventure finally covered all of the key ingredients- family, fun, pasta, pizza, and gelato (2x). It was a day of too much eating but hey, what else are we supposed to do.
Also, a huge shout out to Tim S., our beloved Team Starwood/Marriott friend (and avid reader) for providing two extremely solid recommendations for us today!
After checking out of the B&B around 10:30 in the AM we boarded up the Meyer/Hokin van and made the 75 minute journey to Florence. Even though we’d done this same drive just 2 days earlier, the scenery still proved to be beautiful. We arrived at the hotels and dropped the luggage off and made our way to check-in (luckily all three of us were able to check-in early). The parental units were staying a few minutes down the road from us so Debbie and I made the brief 7-minute walk with the luggage to the SPG property area of Florence. Everyone has a view of the Arno river – something like this below (from the parent’s rooms).
After getting situated, we all met at our hotel and made the walk to the Duomo to find some lunch along the way. It was getting late and overwhelmed with choice, found a restaurant situated off of a square close to the Duomo for lunch – a feast filled with 3 pastas, 2 pizzas, and a salad to kick off the Florentine adventure. Some were worried that we’d ordered too much food yet there was nothing left on the plate by the time they were cleared. We continued to make our way on foot to the Duomo, planning to go in but only to discover that the line was wrapped all the way around the building and we’d try again tomorrow to return. We made our way across the famous bridge (Ponte Vecchio) and got a few daytime (and nightime) photos with the group.
Our first actual sight-seeing adventure was the Boboli gardens. Having not seen them last time I was here (or even heard of them for that matter), we decided to adventure over to explore on recommendation of Tim. It was a pretty windy/overcast day but even with the weather, the gardens were beautiful. The complex was rather large and hilly and we spent about 2 hours making our way around the area. We saw many statues (and of course the mother’s wanted to take a Twins photo), a porcelain museum with items going back for up to 2000 years, the house of lemons (and some Meyer lemons), and so much more along the journey (you can click on any of the photos to make them bigger since the website kind of force crops them).
After the gardens, Tim had suggested a visit to an authentic souvenir workshop of Guiliano Ricchi. Even with the name and the Google Maps location, this place proved nearly impossible to find but it was definitely worth the journey. We essentially walked into an apartment complex and Guiliano, with limited English, brought us into his house, into his basement, to show us the workshop where he hand-made many gold and silver items from hand.
We saw the presses, the molds, and watched with amazement as he showed off some of the items he made. There was every combination of table accessories to jewelry pendants and so much more- Debbie and I ended up buying some napkin rings and a letter opener and my mom bought a salt/pepper accessory that is bound to just be decorative but still looked very nice. Tim was definitely 2 for 2 today so we might adventure over to his dinner recommendation (should it fit into the schedule) and will definitely have to continue to follow along in Rome!
After the store, we made our way back to the hotel (maybe stopping for a small gelato snack along the way) before getting ready for dinner. When we got back to the room, we were surprised to find not that the hotel had given us a bottle of sparkling wine (really milking the honeymoon thing) but that it was the sparkling that we had at our wedding (complete chance, but cool nonetheless). We brought the bottle to the other hotel and finished it off before dinner.
For me, dinner was the real highlight of the day. Seven years ago on my trip to Florence, one of the girls in our friend group had been to this restaurant before and while expensive for a group of 22 year olds, was certainly worth every penny (Euro). I’ve been to the sister location in DC on many occasions and have been counting down the days until I could return to Florence.
The evening did not disappoint (aside from a brief delay in getting our table and some slow service). We sat down and 5/6 of the table decided to follow along with the self-recommendation of following the sampler platters offered by the restaurant (my mom had been here before and didn’t want to eat their specialty again).
As we crushed a few bottles of house wine, we enjoyed a salad sampler platter, some prosciutto (kosher) and burrata, a pasta sampler platter, and a filet sampler platter before making our way for gelato (maybe for the second time today) since we were already full enough.
Since this is my favorite place ever, some details on the food: (1) salad sampler platter- greek salad, caprese salad, and melon salad; (2) pasta sampler- truffle ravioli, pumpkin bow-tie pasta, spinach pesto penne, eggplant rigatoni, and some sort of tomato/rosemary fusilini; (3) steak sampler- 3 mini filets consisting of a blueberry reduction, a balsamic reduction, and then a sirloin with some Parmesan cheese on top of a piece of focaccia bread.
Post dinner, as we walked towards the hotel and gelato, we walked by the famous Florence pig that you’re supposed to touch for good luck and took a few photos of the folks doing that as well as the night sky.
All in all, a very solid day here in Florence and looking forward to whatever tomorrow may hold- our last full day as the six of us before 2 peel off and the other four continue on for 2 more nights together.