While I'll try my best to keep it in check, I can't promise I won't severely overuse the word "favorite" in this post. And why is this? (That one's just for you, Beretta crew) It is because Florence is my favorite. It just was and it is and I suspect it may always be. From the moment we got off the train, I knew we'd landed someplace special...an idea that was confirmed on the way to the hotel when I saw the Florence Cathedral. Even after all the grandeur of Rome, this building blew me away (though again, you can't get a good sense of scale which is a bummer).
We also found what I'm pretty sure is/was a way to tie up your horse for the day but what I want to believe is a gigantic door knocker.
Our hotel, the NH Porta Rossa was (wait for it) my favorite of all the places we stayed. Somehow I managed to leave without snapping a single picture, but you can check out their gallery here- the way they combine classic and modern decor is genius.
We spent our first evening in Florence at Giglio Cooking School with the wonderful and talented Marcella. Since I come from a family that loves food- we grow it, we talk about it (a lot), we enjoy it- we were all particularly excited to take the class. Oh, what a night it turned out to be! Learning from Marcella was delightful. Her knowledge of food and technique was so impressive, and it was obvious off the bat that she had a wealth of experience as a chef and teacher.
Marcella provided great direction which made the hands on nature of the class fun instead of intimidating. We went through every step of the process...if there were almonds to mince, we minced them, when mussels needed cleaning, we cleaned them...none of those pre-chopped bowls of veggies you see on cooking shows. You left with the feeling that "I could actually make this"- cause you did actually make it!
One of the most incredible elements of the meal was how fresh all the ingredients were. The pears were picked that morning, the herbs cut right from her garden as we needed them and the seafood was some of the freshest I've ever enjoyed.
I'm gonna share the recipes we learned in upcoming Foodie Files which I'm so excited about. You can't believe how delicious they are!
We made a seafood risotto...
...lamb breaded in almonds and herbs (with the most incredible fresh beans)...
...and a tasty dessert I'll feature next week. You're just gonna have to check back in to see it (pretty tricky of me, huh?). We spent our second day in Florence touring beautiful Montepulciano through Italy and Wine. Our expert guide, Giovanni, kept us interested and entertained throughout all four hours in the car (two there, two back) and shared all kinds of great insights into the history of Tuscany and the regional wine trade. I'm sure the trip should've seemed long, but between Giovanni's tidbits and the lovely scenery it was actually really enjoyable.
Arriving at our first vineyard was like a dream. We toured the Boscarelli estate and learned all about the care and harvesting of their vines (all done by hand!) and development and production of their wines.
Next we headed to a glorious wine tasting. After seeing the artistry of their production, the depth and flavor of their wines came as no surprise.
Since- as previously discussed- my favorite Design Muse post of all time was our Table for Twelve Tuscan Night, you can imagine how thrilled I was to actually sit down for a meal in the heart of Tuscany. I know it sounds silly, but when I realized our party was somewhat reminiscent of the real deal it felt like a mini life victory.
After eating way too much, we jumped back in the car and headed to our second vineyard, Le Bèrne. Giovanni explained that Le Bèrne was more traditionally Tuscan than Boscarelli, offering wines like the region's famous Vin Santo.
We so enjoyed the Le Bèrne selections during our wine tasting...my brother and Dad especially were all but doing cartwheels (from excitement not volume consumed for the record, ha). Before we left we got another fun treat- a taste of homemade extra virgin olive oil, made from olives grown on the property we just toured. As someone who uses olive oil in essentially every dish, it was incredible to taste one this fresh!
We headed back to Florence with so many special memories....what a delightful, perfect day in paradise. As wonderful as the rest of the trip was, I have to say I was ready to leave Rome and I was ready to leave Venice...they were lovely and fun but we scheduled the exact right amount of time in each. I was sad, on the other hand, to leave Florence. There's a magic there and in the surrounding areas I won't soon forget. Oh, and one last thing! Best pizza of the trip: La Bussola. There are no words.