With our shins and calves aching after walking for miles, we prepared to do it again on Day 3 of our Girls Trip 2021. So much to see and do! Today’s adventure was a walking food tour booked through TripAdvisor. Our guide, Axel, met us on the steps of a church for our three-hour tour, and we were off to a caffeine stop at a lovely little café. No Starbucks here in Florence or Grande size coffees! The cafes serve espressos and tiny Americanos and cappuccinos. Most don’t have “takeaway” cups so expect to down it quickly at the café and get a quick caffeine jolt.
Our food tour stops after the café included Florence’s oldest market Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio which has been around since 1873. We wandered among the many butcher shops, cheese shops and food stalls where locals were buying their lunches. We bought coffee beans and hand cream at a little grocery stand-all made/grown in Florence and enjoyed tasting the “in season” fruit selection of peaches, plums, and grapes. Outside, there was a local market with clothes and household items. I got the first of many Italian pillow covers for a few euros. Great souvenir that doesn’t take up too much room in my luggage.
After the market, we walked to a tiny alleyway where we sat on the smallest of stools and sampled cheeses (not a big thing here other than parmigiana) and meats. Just when you think you can’t eat any more, you do. Now, to our credit, we did walk a lot! And the people watching was amazing. Across from our table was a small stall selling tripe (lining of an animal’s stomach) and wild boar (who roam the countryside and are hunted) panini sandwiches-both traditional Florence meats. No thank you!
The best taste of the day might have been at a bakery (of course) where the chocolate (big chunks) and cherry biscotti was to die for. My sister bought a big bag and has since ordered the biscotti shipped to her home in the US and also has learned to bake a similar version herself to feed her biscotti addiction. Yes, they were that good. Softer than the hard stuff we get in the US and bursting with flavor, they were baked in the little shop we visited. Ahhh the aromas of baking biscotti in Italy. Perfect.
Then, afternoon had arrived and it was time to bring on the vino! After touring the cellar of a wine store, we sampled the local white wine and had bread with truffle cream. Very tasty pairing indeed! The local balsamic vinegar is used on everything as is the olive oil.
As we walked over the Ponte Vecchio bridge, we learned an interesting history lesson from our guide: When the Germans were marching up through Italy, the General was told to blow up all the bridges in Florence to slow down their pursuers. Even he couldn’t bring himself to blow up the medievial Ponte Vecchio bridge. He blew up the rest of the bridges (which were rebuilt to look the same) and saved the Ponte Vecchio from destruction. Thank goodness for it is lovely to look at. Filled with gold shops and tourists, it’s not a place I would want to hang out but to photograph it with the reflection in the Arno river is lovely. To see the rowers out on the water with it in the background is stunning and iconic to Florence.
It was a hot day and the final stop on our tour was fortunately at a gelateria that makes its creamy sweetness locally as the line out the door would attest to it’s popularity. I had a 2 scoop cup topped off with a sweet wafer cookie-coffee and caramel crumble. Due to the heat, we ate quickly as it melted and bid adieu to Axel. You do tip the guides (euros only)-don’t forget!
Walking through a quiet side street off the beaten path, we saw a really well preserved “wine door” similar to what Stanley Tucci had featured on his Florence special. They used to pass wine through these doors to customers. We also saw some street art, which a local walking by who spoke English told us is against the law so you don’t see it widely across the city.
We headed home for showers, rest and a dinner with Gusta pizza leftovers, enjoyed in our private courtyard garden. Enjoy the journey!