I want to start this post by saying that I was shocked by how much I absolutely loved Florence. To be honest, out of our three Italy destinations, Florence was the one I was least excited about visiting. However, the charming city completely surpassed all expectations I had and I would go back in a heartbeat.
We took the train from Rome to Florence on Sunday morning and transportation was a breeze. The train was very clean, comfortable and fast - totally different from the experience I typically have when I train from Baltimore to NYC for work.
When we arrived, we checked into yet another Airbnb with an incredible view of the Duomo. Again, our Airbnb was centrally located and we were able to walk pretty much everywhere with the exception of our two activities that were located about 15 minutes outside Florence in the Tuscan countryside.
Similar to Rome, we planned two activities so that we could have enough time to really immerse ourselves in the city life but make sure to check some of the Florence must-do's off of our list.
Our first full day in Florence was Monday, and Nick booked a winery tour for us through a local company called Grape Tours. The tour was led by a master sommelier and we were bussed up into the Tuscan country side early that morning for a day of wine tasting! We made three stops, and learned about the wine-making process and all that goes into producing Chianti Classico - not to be confused with Chianti, which is pretty popular in the US. Chianti Classico is considered to be a bit more refined and higher end wine than Chianti because it’s produced from grapes harvested in the best vineyards of the region. Our tour was extremely informative and ended with an authentic Tuscan lunch at our final stop where we had a "light" lunch of bruschetta, pasta, more bread and cheese and biscotti. I can't recommend doing a tour like this enough because we learned SO much but also got to see what Italy is really all about - the wine! ;)
I booked us a pizza and gelato cooking class for Tuesday through Walkabout Tours. Similar to the winery tour, we took a bus up to a farmhouse in the Tuscan hills where we were greeted by Chris, our gelato chef. Despite the rain it was absolutely gorgeous up in the hills and we spent over four hours learning how to make gelato and pizza - and then got to enjoy them. Both Nick and I learned a lot about the science behind gelato making AND the secret to perfect pizza making. It is safe to say American ice cream and pizza don't hold a candle to the homemade meal we made. The class was so fun and our chefs were hysterical - pizza chef Luca had me laughing so hard I was almost crying and I am now his #1 Instagram follower.
Obviously Florence is famous for its leather. Before we even got to Italy, I told Nick I wanted to buy a real leather jacket while in Italy but once we got there it was SO overwhelming. Walking through the city on our first day, I was very overwhelmed and slightly confused because it seemed like every leather shop we walked by had the exact same thing - I couldn't really see anything different or unique. Turns out that's because a lot of those places buy from wholesalers, and more often than not are jackets not even made in Florence.
We had friends who happend to be in Florence at the same time as us and after doing extensive research, they found Benheart, so we went after they raved about their experience there. After spending time with Ben in his store, I totally get it. We got to meet Ben, who is a very well-known designer and owner of 11 leather stores around the world, and he brought out many custom-made jackets for me to try on until I found one that I absolutely loved. And, he was not pushy at all, which was honestly a nice change from some other vendors and merchants we had met. Ben has an incredible story and was so humble and amazing to talk to. Not only did he pick out the most beautiful leather jacket, but he gave me these beautiful leather sandals that I was eyeing up for free with the purchase of my jacket, and also gave Nick and I personalized leather bracelets that I now call our friendship bracelets. :) I love the fact that I have a truly unique, custom jacket and know that it was made in Florence by one of the coolest people I have ever met. If you are even in the market for a leather jacket, Benheart is THE place. Bonus: he also might put you on his Instagram.
Food & Drinks
Another Italian city, another smoothie place to check out! Shake Cafe is the healthy spot of my dreams. Not only did their menu feature amazing smoothie and acai bowl combinations, they served all kinds of healthy coffee drinks and breakfast/lunch options. I loved their homemade granola (full of hazelnuts) and got one every day we were in Florence along with an iced coconut milk latte.
One of my best friends recommended Trattoria ZaZa to me and we had dinner there not once, but twice because it was so good! The wine was great, the bread was amazing and the best dish of the meal was the Tuscan vegetable soup. Nick and I went back the second night solely for the soup which says a lot for an Italian restaurant!
Nick's coworker and her husband happened to be in Florence at the same time, so we met up with them for dinner and drinks. They had gone to a speakeasy the night before and suggested going after dinner, so we walked throughout the city until we ended up at a very unassuming building, covered in picture frames. Once we knocked, one of the frames slid open and we were brought inside and downstairs to a reservation-only space. It was so different and they had a very unique drink menu full of crazy combinations that just worked. I ordered a tequila-based drink that tasted very much like a margarita and loved it. It's not easy to find Rasputin but SO worth it.
I'm already trying to think of ways to get back to Florence. It totally stole my heart and I would go back tomorrow if I could.