Trying to find good food in Florence is fairly simple and luckily our hotel was located next to a plethora of spots that were out of this world. So it was fairly convenient to stuff my face.
After our “lunch” we walked around Florence and tried to adhere to one of our major rules of Italian travel which was, to visit the touristy spots later in the afternoon.
We immediately hit the Ponte Vecchio which is a very old, yet famous bridge that attracts scores of tourists looking to get a great picture. You pretty much can’t traverse Florence and not see this thing. It’s a magnet for couples taking pictures either on it or with it in the background. The bridge itself spans the Arno River at the narrowest point. The bridge is centuries old and has always been a hot spot for merchants and tourists alike. During World War II, the Ponte Vecchio was one of the only surviving Italian bridges that remained following the Nazi retreat.
On the way back from the Ponte Vecchio to the Uffizi we stopped in so many fun shops that Mrs. Unmanly Chef wanted to take a peek at. At one point, I conversed only in Italiano with an old lady in her paper shop, I slipped her an extra couple of euros and she was over the moon. At no point did she think I was a non-Italiano so that was cool.
Which leads us to our first rule of this part:
When traveling in a foreign country at least try to speak the language, if you fall on your face the worst that will happen is the person will laugh at you. (Which for some of you actually might be really horrifying).
As we arrived at the Uffizi, you’re in awe of the structure itself, but overall it’s kind of a meh experience. Let me preface this by saying I am as ignorant and stupid as there is when it comes to art. So as a non-art person the pictures are amazing, breathtaking, and not worth spending all my time looking at. It’s just a plain fact. The various pictures are amazing and if you love art, this is a must see, but overall you’re better off just walking through taking a look and moving on to bigger and better things.
All my idiot strolling worked up quite the appetite, and that meant gelato! Luckily in Florence there are so many fabulous options for gelato that you can’t go wrong. If you are near the Uffizi, visit Carapina this tiny little place offers up delicious authentic Italian flavors at cheap prices. It was awesome.
Florence is chock full of vendors everywhere, some legal and some not, especially by the Uffizi. The legal ones have stands while the illegal ones typically set up right on the middle of the street. How do I know this? Because as soon as the police walked nearby many of those selling on the street folded up their shop and booked it. The great thing about these vendors (the legal ones) is that you can haggle with them, in America haggling is not typically condoned or something you do. But depending on your vendor in Italy, you can haggle. We were able to buy great soccer jerseys at cheap prices due to Mrs. Unmanly Chef’s great haggling skills. Which leads me to our next rule:
When in Italy, if you can, HAGGLE!
With our stomachs growling from all the walking and haggling, we stumbled upon quite possibly our best dining experience in Italy. Cicalone.
This restaurant was perfection, it’s this small charming restaurant manned by two waitresses who make you feel right at home. Our waitress was so nice and she even humored me as I tried to order in Italian. When you can find a gem like this, embrace the occasion and savor the moment because they are few and far between when you travel.
We started with a caprese that was delicious, the fresh mozzarella and tomatoes were so much better than anything we could get back home. The difference is really the cheese and the lack of trying to overdo the dish. They just allow the ingredients to breath on their own.
From there we ventured into the land of ossobuco and gnocchi. The ossobuco was slightly undercooked so it didn’t necessarily fall of the bone like you’d want but the gnocchi made up for it. The tender little balls of love were covered in a magical cheese sauce that made every bite heavenly.
The absolute star of the show though, was the cacio pepe. Cacio pepe is literally a cheese & pepper dish and it’s the best. It’s a traditional Roman dish that when done well rivals any other Italian food for supremacy. At Cicalone the house made spaghetti is ridiculously good and the cheese was the perfect blend of romano and Parmesan. By the time we were done we had filled our stomachs with tons of pasta, we then fell asleep into pasta stupor only to awaken to the desire for more bread and cheese based dishes. I.e. Pizza!
The Next day we started our search for great pizza. I had the inside scoop from a blogger friend of mine on where to find a delicious pie, she mentioned Gusta Pizza but she was unable to go due to it being packed. I then did some more research and confirmed what my friend had already told me. So we made our way to the pizza shop, which is a tiny hole in the wall that can only seat a few people. We got there early so we were able to find somewhere to sit while we stuffed our faces with pizza perfection.
An added bonus to our pizza adventure was that a random lady from Minnesota just sat right next to us at our table to eat her pizza. In Europe, often times there isn’t enough places to sit, so people will just ask if they can join you. It was so fun to talk to another American while we were so far away from home. The pizza itself was divine, the sauce was a mild tomato sauce tossed with fresh mozzarella and calabrese pepperoni.
This pizza journey leads me to my final rule of the post:
Looking for great pizza in Italy is always worth it.