While browsing my pictures folder, I bumped into the photos from our trip to Florence last summer, which I had completely forgotten about. Although we were there for only a couple of days, we managed to see a lot, eat (mostly) Italian pastries and gelatos, and take quite a lot of pictures.
People who know me know that I am a serial city lover. I fall in love with any city that has a bit of culture and plenty of good things to eat. So, of course, I fell in love with Florence on my first visit – anybody would – but the difference between me and most people is that I immediately want to move in and spend the rest of my life there. If Z hadn’t insisted on sticking with the plan to move to Mallorca, I would probably have started to look for an apartment in Florence.
I’m not the type that falls for looks, but, in Florence’s case, her beauty completely swept me off my feet, even before I had eaten a gelato or that pistachio pastry (which I wasn’t supposed to eat, but kept telling myself, “Fuck health and fuck my allergies, you only live once.”) Walking around that outdoor museum of a city felt as if I was diving through a magnificent coral reef of spectacular architecture, sculptures and sweets shops. I think I had more sugar than my kids. For breakfast I had an insanely delicious and crunchy filo dough pastry with pistachio or vanilla cream; for lunch, a big, fat meringue; for snack, a divine gelato; and then, for dinner, some plain yet gratifying biscotti.
Although we thoroughly enjoyed the city, we were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t find an authentic, family-owned restaurant, the kind where they cook their great-great-grandma’s secret ravioli recipe. It would have been helpful to have a local friend. Anyone from Florence – or anywhere else in Italy, for that matter – want to be my friend?
We did have dinner at two Tripadvisor-highly-rated restaurants, but they weren’t as extraordinary as a thousand reviewers raved – probably tourists with low standards. The fresh pasta in Israel was better, but, as we say in Hebrew, “Al ta’am vere’ach en ma le’eetvakech” – there’s no point arguing about taste and smell. So I don’t have any restaurants to recommend in Florence, but I can tell you about a great gelateria and sandwicheria.
During our short stay we tasted nearly thirty flavors of gelato at more than ten different establishments. At most of them, the gelato was either too sweet, too creamy, or both, but at one place it was PERFECT! A little shop called Bellamia.
I don’t know if the graceful older woman behind the counter was Bella Mia (I didn’t ask because I know exactly ten words in Italian, ciao, grazie, and gelato among them,) but, whoever she was, God bless her and her sense of taste. “Mama mia, Bellamia! Where did you learn to make such a divine gelato?” The gelato there was light and creamy in a way that is gentle on your tongue (unlike the ones that are heavy and bind your tongue to the roof of your mouth), mildly sweet, and with seasonal flavors that reminded me how, once upon a time, all fruit was organic, local and flavorful. Bellamia was definitely the highlight of our stay.
Another place that left me with a yearning to go back to Florence was a popular, tiny sandwicheria that my aunt Shuli had raved about for years: All’Antico Vinaio. As much as I love good food, I don’t do long lines. I’m an Israeli, and Israelis don’t wait in line, even for the best food in the world. But on this day – the boys needed to rest their feet, the lovely, warm sun was shining, and the faces of the people eating their sandwiches looked so happy – I didn’t mind waiting with the other forty people in the queue.
Z thought it was worth the wait, because he was hungry and the sandwich was good and cheap, but he didn’t think it was such an amazing sandwich. He claimed he’s had better. But, for the boys and me, on that summer day, on beautiful Via Dei Neri in Firenze, that freshly baked focaccia, spread with artisan artichoke paste, fresh Italian mozzarella, fresh rucola and real tomatoes, was the best sandwich in the world. When the sandwich was finally in my hands, I was too hungry/excited to take pictures of it (My mouth is watering just thinking about it.)
If you have a three-hour layover in Florence, I highly recommend hopping on a train to the city, even if just for a sandwich and gelato. And If you know any great places for our next trip to Florence, please share them in the comments so everyone can see.