We left Venice and headed to the train station where we would board a train to go south to Florence (Firenze).
Train travel is the way to go when you travel in Europe. It takes all the thought out of traveling aside from the terrifying few minutes before you board your train because the Italians/Europeans have a tendency to provide you with your platform location literally a few minutes before you leave. On top of that, they can be mislabeled, but if you manage to jump through those first few hurdles and actually board the train, you then get to experience a wonderful part of European travel.
There’s plenty of room on the trains and on top of that you get a little desk that allows you to have a little time to yourself while you travel through the European countryside. Which leads us to our first rule!
When in Europe, try and take a train. You’ll get to see the beautiful countryside of whatever country you are visiting. If you are visiting Italy, you’ll be in for a real treat.
We arrived in Florence and our hotel was conveniently located only 5 minutes away from the train station. Normally you’d think ugh, right next to the train station, but in Florence that means you’re literally in this beautiful square that looks like it came right out of a painting. We stayed right in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, which is where the aforementioned Santa Maria Novella church is located.
Let me preface this Florence portion by saying that I consulted with a blogger friend of mine, Renee Beck, about Florence. Why? She had recently visited and she had glowing reviews. You can read her super informative guide here.
Which leads me to our next travel rule!
If you know someone who has visited the city you plan on visiting, consult with them and see if they have any tips. It makes your trip way less stressful!
With her advice ringing in the back of my head I was ready and excited to take on Florence.
My first thoughts of Florence were that it was in stark contrast to Venice, but not necessarily in a bad way. Both cities have a unique charm to them, the great thing is that both are relatively smaller in scale in comparison to a city like Rome. Florence has an amazing charm and a magnetic feel that draws you in. Even though Venice was beautiful, somehow Florence was just as breathtaking with it’s magnificent skyline that blows your mind that some of these structures were built hundreds of years ago.
We arrived in the later afternoon after all was said and done from checking into our hotel, and we both looked at each other with dread. We had missed lunch time. Being in Florence (which is known for its amazing food) and not being able to eat lunch was a very upsetting concept for our first few hours in the city. It was like visiting a chocolate factory and then being told you’re not allowed to eat chocolate. As we roamed the busy street and had people on Vespas zoom by us, sitting on the corner of the street sat this tiny cafe. Desperate for any sort of sustenance we walked in assuming we wouldn’t be able to get anything decent. We could not have been more wrong, the cafe went by the name of A Casa Ca.Fe.
We sat down and perused the menu, at first we were sort of underwhelmed so we ordered a bunch of things thinking it wouldn’t be that much food. Big mistake. Well not so much mistake because if you haven’t already guessed it, the food was amazing. But it was a big eating endeavor that I gladly took on upon myself and that my Italian waitress couldn’t help but remark that I was a silly (let’s say what we’re all thinking, fat) American who ate way too much. Whatever lady! I need to eat! With each subsequent dish that came out we were blown away by the quality of the food. We started with a meat & cheese platter, let me just say that Italy is the place to go to experience this at its highest form. The various meats and cheeses do a salty savory dance in your mouth (is that a good thing actually? Am I having a stroke from all the fat I’ve consumed?).
Our mistake really was ordering everything at once, so we thought we’d be getting small sizes of everything. FALSO!
Everything was gigantic, delicious, and best of all CHEAP! So our logical progression from eating a meat and cheese platter was having a “big toast.” So I think this was the fault of my Italian hosts and some funny translations. I have no clue what a “big toast” is but I knew what this was, it was a big ham and cheese panino (not panini!). You really can’t screw this up and being in the land of meat and cheese, they really hit a home run.
So you’re probably thinking to yourself, okay great now they’ll probably order something light with some vegetables and call it a day. FALSO! We went straight for the carbs by ordering a lasagna al forno. Now let me just wax poetically about this lasagna, first like a fiery lover whose passion could never be quenched it pretty much burned my mouth off because I was so hungry and excited I couldn’t wait to eat it. The lasagnas overall in Florence were to die for, it was literally perfection. The noodles were prepared perfectly and the sauce was a perfect blend of tomato, beef, and cheese. This was may be one of the best things I ate in all of Italy and it cost me a whopping 6 or 7 euros (I can’t remember the exact cost).
Okay so we committed carbecide and meatecide (are either of those words even?), now you’re definitely thinking now they’re going to eat something healthy. WRONG AGAIN!
We finished up our meal with just a light airy…sack of bread. And a prosciutto porcini mushroom panino which was incredible. Porcini mushrooms are everywhere in Italy (at least on their menus) and you basically can’t go wrong by ordering something with them when dining out.
So after all this I was expecting to see a whopping bill, instead I saw a bill that was so reasonable it made me fall in love with this restaurant even more. This was the best meal I had in Florence, it was also my first meal in Florence so that probably has something to do with it. But this small little cafe welcomed us with open arms and fed my fat ass until I was on the verge of having the meat sweats (which means they did a good job).
This whole experience leads us to our next and final rule of this part.
When it Italy, never underestimate the small cafes or restaurants.
I learned my lesson.
Next time we’ll continue our journey through Florence.