Days 11/12/13 – Florence

Florence has been an excellent foodie stop on our Italy tour – but a little bit behind on my blogs so trying to round up the last three days all at once 😬 The food here is so delicious but also so cheap!

During our wine tour on day 11 we were taken to ‘Cantinetta Del Nonno’, a little restaurant serving no nonsense traditional florentine cuisine. We walked past the kitchen on the way in, with only two Italian women in – one running around doing all the cooking, and the other washing up after her. In Italy this is usually a good sign you’re going to get some great food, and they didn’t disappoint! We tasted a selection of antipasti dishes: tomato bruschetta, pecorino & vegetable tart, crostini with beef & liver ragu and aubergine parmigiana. They were all beautifully made – really simple, fresh and packed full of flavour. They offered a great selection of primi (pastas and soups) including the classic Pappa al pomodoro (thick fresh tomato soup made with bread) and fresh egg tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms.

After a morning wine tasting , lunch with wine and an afternoon wine tasting (with grappa😭😭), we were pretty much stuffed and definitely needed a wine break so had a siesta. We went out for a late dinner in a osteria tucked away in the corner of the bustling piazza santo spirito. The dining room was typically Italian; a little stuffy and chaotic with lots of waiters running around carrying huge plates. We had rigatoni with fresh tomato, basil & grated ricotta, spaghetti alla olio e pepperoncino (garlic, olive oil & chilli), and courgette risotto with big chunks of Parmesan. They were all lovely, rustic and clearly homemade, but the biggest first courses I’ve ever seen – not ideal after the day we’d had.

On day 12 we explored the streets and shops of Florence, picking up a delicious focaccia stuffed full of freshly sliced prosciutto, torn buffalo mozzarella, tomato, rocket and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil 😍.

We’d heard a lot about the monks of Florence who perform gregorian chants in the San Miniato al Monte basilica – one of the most magnificent churches in the whole of Italy so decided to give it a visit. We left it to Bekki to research and made it to the church for 5:30pm. Long story short, we didn’t see any chanting and somehow ended up with front row seats for the entirety of a Catholic Mass service 🍷⛪️. We eventually left to watch the gorgeous sun set over Florence with peroni and prosecco from the steps of the Piazzale Michelangelo.

We headed down to the San Niccolò area for dinner at Hostaria Del Bricco. The restaurant was so typical of an Italian trattoria – handwritten (and very poorly translated) menus, tablecloths, jugs of house wine, son running front of house and ‘mamma’ in the kitchen. We had an incredible meal and it was such great value. We had no idea what we were going to get for our mains – I went for the mysterious ‘pork in oven’. It turns out it was fillet of pork, oven roasted and served with Tuscan beans, all seasoned with a gorgeous olive oil and plenty of salt and black pepper. We also tried the homemade potato gnocchi al pesto, which was beautifully light – not at all like the big stoggy ones you get in the UK. We had two beef dishes, one simply slow cooked until tender in pepper and red wine and the other a well seasoned medium rare steak, sliced and served with rocket and pancetta. The sides were to die for as well. The house wine was really tasty, not surprising as the owner is a sommelier. The homemade tiramisu and creme caramel were great too. I’d definitely recommend this place to anyone visiting Florence if you want some traditional Tuscan cooking!

We’d had a lot of traditional food in Florence and wanted to try something different on day 13. We went for a light lunch in the fusion bar of an art hotel. It was a little pricey but just what we needed. The bruschetta was really unique consisting of thin shards of a bread cracker (similar consistency to a papadum), scattered with fresh halved tomatoes, concentrated baby plum tomatoes, plenty of basil leaves and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. A lovely modern take on a classic dish. The club sandwich with soy marinated chicken and pumpkin ravioli were both delicious too.

For our last evening meal in Florence we of course had to have the famous Bistecca all Fiorentina. We had been saving it for the last night to research where to have it, and eventually settled on the Ristorante all Griglia. It was absolutely phenomenal – 1.7kg (60oz) of local Chianina T bone steak, grilled over a wood flame until it was perfectly medium rare and hand carved in front of us at the table. I can’t even describe how amazing this steak is, you have to try it for yourself. The fat crisps up over the flames and resembles crackling but the flavour is just unbelievable. Apparently they don’t clear the table unless you eat the best bit straight off the bone too. The Ruffino Chianti Classico was perfect as well, with just the right amount acidity for the richness of the beef. The desserts of tiramisu, fresh ricotta cheesecake and the crème brûlée were wonderful and hand finished at the table.

After dinner we went for some cocktails in a cool little mixologist bar called ‘mayday club’, tucked away in the back streets of Florence near the famous Ponte Vecchio. We were convinced our luck with restaurants and bars had run out but we were so wrong – definitely a hidden gem! If you go try the mojito with lychee. Great place to go if you want a proper cocktail without paying for the ridiculously priced ones in the centre. They come with all the freshly made salted popcorn you can eat too!

Gutted to be leaving Florence and the Tuscan cuisine behind, except for the bread – they don’t put salt in Tuscan bread 🤔. However I’m super excited to move on the Bologna, the home of all things rich, fatty & indulgent and commonly regarded as the culinary capital of Italy! 🇮🇹🍴

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