Updated: Sep 6, 2019
Arrivederci Roma we are headed for the city of Florence by train. We upgraded our seats to premium and are nestled in comfort for the 1.5 hr. train trip. We sit next to a lovely couple from California and chat about our lives and travel experiences.
Buono sera from the city of Firenze!
See map: Florence
One of my favorite things about overseas travel is that it connects you to complete strangers by that one common thread of being abroad. Somehow this allows us to feel more open and free to chat and share. I have met so many interesting people along our journey thus far and it has been such a pleasure to pass the time chatting.
We pull into the train station and immediatly find a corner in the station to bring up maps on the phone and plan our navigation to the hotel.
Tip: It is well worth the money to buy a travel plan through your mobile carrier. It is so disorienting to arrive in a new city with no idea where you really are.
I recommend buy at least one plan that will give you unlimited data and then the other phone can carry a block plan, which allows you to use certain minutes with voice and limited texts. WiFi is available at most hotels free of charge so any email, Facebook or video chatting can be done when you are in your hotel. The cost is roughtly $10.00 per day for the extended plan and $40.00 for 1 month on the limited plan.
Having these in place will help you find your way to sites, restaurants and most importantly back to your hotel.
After walking about 15 minutes over bumpy cobbled streets with 4 cases, yes I said 4, we finally find the salvation of our hotel. Yes, Michael did agree with me that we should have taken a taxi.
We splurged a bit for Firenze.... Air conditioning, rooftop terrace and bar, win win!! We have a large room with a table for me to do my blog. I am really loving life right now.
Our room is slightly delayed so we head to the rooftop bar and take in the view overlooking the city.
Simply put, breathtaking! We can see the main duomo from the terrace followed by the hillside dotted with Tuscan Cypress trees. Really it looks like a painting. A nice cooling breeze and we sit in reverence of our good forturne.
Our hotel is Hotel Kraft. The service impeccable. All of the staff are very helpful while friendly and professional. Did I mention it has a rooftop pool above the bar? Mind Blowing!!
After settling into the room and freshing up it is time to explore. We ask the front desk where to go and he gives us a detailed map of the city center.
We also call our friend Tina, a Firenze resident, to set up a dinner visit for the following day. Tina gives us a great recommendation for dinner at a restaurant loved by the locals, Alla Vecchia Bettola and we quickly call for an early dinner spot. Note: Restaurants in Italy typically open at 7:00 pm for dinner. Most popular dinner hours are 9:00 to 11:00. We arrange for 7:30 pm and begin our stroll.
Florence is a beautiful city. It is cleaner, smaller and less chaotic than Rome. Rome is an amazing must see city but it does overwhelm with size and people. Florence is like the younger version of Rome with a different emphasis. Rome is incredible ancient history and Florence is the beautiful Renaissance. Two completely different cities. If you ask a Roman which is better they will undoubtedly say Roma of course. Ask the same question of a Florentine they will arguably say Firenze. So apples to oranges, go ahead and see both you will not regret it.
We go out and begin the adventure, stopping along the way to pop in and out of some shops. We find many tourist shops but sprinkled in between we find some real gems. Leather is everywhere, I mean literally everywhere. The cost and quality vary greatly so be sure to touch the products and look at the stitching, construction and quality of dying.
You can find "cheap" leather goods here, but they look cheap and mass produced. Treat yourself to a quality leather for the longevity. For me it is the handbags, I do love a beautiful handbag. For Michael it's all about the shoes. I am secretly trying to persuade him to invest in a good leather carry-on case. No luck as of yet!
We continue to our destintion and open the door of Alla Vecchia Bettola to discover the staff in the middle of their evening meal. Such a delight to see the entire staff eating and laughing together. We seat ourselves at one of the outdoor tables and wait for service to begin. Note: Dining in Italy is not about speed. It's about relaxing and enjoying the experience, "piano piano." Shortly the waiter arrives to show us to our table. We begin to see a steady procession of diners pour in. Relieved we have reservations I sit back and enjoy the show. This is obviously a very popular restaurant with the locals. We see several lucky tourists join the que at well.
We are placed at a long table for six with us at the street side and another American couple at the sidewalk side. There are two seats between us and we visit while we wait to order. The menu is 100% Italian so I pull out my google translate and try and figure out the menu. Our waiter is the owner of the restaurant and he quickly comes over to translate our options.
Wine is the first order of the evening and extra large botttle is brought to our table. The waiter informs us that the cost is 4 euro for all you can drink casa de vino. What a bargain, you just have to love this culture. Any place where wine is cheaper than water works for me.
Next we order a nice Primo of pasta alla funghi or pasta and mushrooms. Not sure how this will come but I am up for the surprise. We are sharing the pasta as the Secondo will be the real prize. The pasta is a thin spaghetti with wild mushrooms, olive oil and a light dusting of parmigiana cheese. Pinch me, I am so happy!
Next we order Secondo.
Michael is salivating at the prospect of Bistecca alla Fiorentina, or steak florentine. A beautifully aged, cut and grilled T-bone steak. He has been reading about this steak for months and it has grown into a myth by this point. So to confirm the existence, he is taking one for the team! Thanks Michael!!
This steak is massive and sold by the gram. The smallest size is 800g which translate to almost 2lbs. Hope your hungry! Can you say slab of meat? Wow this thing is huge. I watch as Michaels eyes bulge from their socket with sheer anticipation. He can hardly wait for the steak to hit the table. With fork and knife in hand he slices into the center of the steak, butter consistancy. He takes the first bite with gusto and a smile emerges from ear to ear. I take that as a good sign. I really don't hear much from him for the next bit as he works his way through the hunk of meat. Ever so often he reaches over for piece of broccoli.
I order the grilled pork chop, which is just that a 1lb. pork chop grilled with salt, pepper and a lemon wedge. The pork chop was juicy in the center and crisp on the outside. Fantastic!
We throw in a vegetable to keep some fiber going, sauteed broccoli with garlic and chili flakes. Simple and delicious.
At this point the restaurant is full with a line of hopeful diners forming a que along the side of the restaurant. A local florentine couple are seated next to us. They are very friendly and speak very little english. We chat using the interrnational language of hand gestering, broken Italian and Google Translate.The entire table is engaged in chatter and we share food, laughs and bits and pieces of our lives.
We are beyond full. We can't possibly eat dessert. Then we are encouraged by our new italian friends to try the apple tort. It is special made by the waiter's "Mama." Dolci? Where are we going to put it? OK, order it up and top it with gelato please.
The tort is light, not sweet and tasting of mele or apples. The gelato adds the sweetness and a nice creamy sauce to dip the tort in.
We finish with the local digestive Vino Santo, brought to us by the waiter at no charge.
We say our goodbyes with smiles, handshakes and well wishes. Time for a walk back to the hotel. Hopefully we will work off some of this meat!