Jul 4, 2012
Hello readers, I hope you are all well. Its been a good month since I last posted a blog and that’s because I had to take a month off. I’ve explained more about this in another blog, its a cautionary tale of 21 century living, but first I want to share with you my blog on our trip to Florence. I actually wrote this pretty much as soon as I got back but life took a turn of events as it often does….I won’t bore you with it now but if you can imagine trying to form a coherent sentence yet managing only to break out in a dizzy sweat, swiftly followed by tears and a killer head ache, then that starts to explain my recent lack of writing activity (above and beyond 140 characters, natch).
Back to the Tuscan task at hand. It’s not every day you get to do something as exciting and memorable as going around Florence in a vintage Fiat 500, sampling as much food and wine as possible, and generally lolling around a pool. Yet when Fleur mentioned the trip I wasn’t 100% convinced. Crazy talk, maybe. But let me tell you, press trips are not always the flamboyant jolly that they appear on paper. From past experience it’s mainly cramming a lot into a little amount of time and they are seriously exhausting. The last one I went on was organised by so many different PR’s that I ran away for one afternoon just to have a few hours peace to myself. Anyone who knows me personally will attest that I am someone who needs my own space and minimal quantities of wine in consecutive days otherwise I am prone to tears. Yes I can be a total child when I feel overwhelmed, but I make no apologies for that.
I was, however, starting to feel severely under travelled and the promise of sun and few days with my bestie was just too good to refuse, and hey, if you go into something with no expectation you can only be pleasantly surprised. And I was. In fact the whole experience was a dream. A relaxed dream, full of lovely people, wine, technicolour cars, and best of all, kind hosts who allowed us to savour every moment without hurry.
So here is what it is all about: The Fiat 500 Touring Club is owned and run by Guiseppe and Andrea, an Italian and an Aussi respectively. This I tell you, is a killer combination of local knowledge and, friendly relaxed antipodean hospitality. We arrived in Florence to be warmly greeted by both of them, their bambina Nina and Andrea’s mother Julia. After a ‘proper’ coffee by the bus station we immediately embarked on a tour of the culinary and cultural delights of central Florence. This comes under their first sister company Florence Food and Wine. Florence seems to have more heritage than it knows what to do with (The whole city is a Unesco world heritage site) and dotted around the centre are many hidden gems that I very much doubt you would find on your own. We started at the San Lorenzo market and were ‘gamely’ pointed out the local delicacies of nerve ending and cows ovaries, and then expertly navigated to a cheese, cured meat and wine stall. As a long term resident of mainland Europe I do know how us Brits can be perceived, but we were greeted with warmth and genuine enthusiasm by the stall holders. I am also a frequent visitor to Italian markets with my mother who lives in Nice, and this was hands down the best one I have seen so far.
My fav part was what came next. A humble sandwich made my week. We discovered Procacci. They have been providing naughty fingers of delicate bread filled with cream cheese and truffle since 1885. This was washed down with a light prosecco. I kept on hiccouping little truffley burps as the day went on.
As much I prefer to lose myself in a city, it’s definitely preferable to have a local guide on hand to navigate through the tourist fluff and to find the real foodie gems.
We had an other treat in store when we arrived at our residence Villa Le Piazzole. The mural picture below is from their reception. Fleur and I occupied the entire top floor of this 15th Century Country house, with makes it’s own wine and olive oil. I felt like the moment we flung our shutters open we would awake to the sounds and sights of 500 years ago.
Day 2 was all about the cars. I must admit I had no idea what a vintage Fiat 500 looked like. Bad vintage lady. For the novice, they are teeny 60′s cars that come in bright colours that are ever so fun to dash around in, especially in cortege. Fleur gamely did the driving, which is handy seeing as I don’t drive. We did a lovely mix of city, countryside and something somewhere in the middle which was stopping at the foot of the San Minato church, which has the best views of Florence. Primarily I want to convey was how warm and relaxed the tours where. I often get the feelings that tours are just about joining up the dots but there was no rushing and lots of attention to detail.
On our last day we ventured out a little further into Chianti for further wine education. I am going to go more into this in my next blog which will also feature all the yummy food photos. I’ve put up some light hearted ones of our time there, and I highly recommend going over there for a dose of real summer, as the the flight from London to Pisa is so short and reasonable. With 3 tours to choose from this could be leisurely spread out over a week just as easily as over a weekend. Either way you will feel like a traveler, not a tourist.
We flew: Easy Jet from London to Pisa from £29.
We ate at: Il Latini, home of the 3 fingered Florentine steak.
Don’t miss: Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”), especially at sunset.
I drank wine during the day and didn’t fall over. This is how good the wine is (minimal sulfates).
We tried balsamic vinegar that was more expensive than pure Chanel perfume.
I ate chili-topped intestines and liked it.