Honeymoon Diary Part II: Florence

This is the second installment in a tripartite series on my Italian honeymoon. Be sure to read the first part here. 

After 5 days in Rome, you’re overcome with an itch to leave it in search of new horizons. We took the Trenitalia destined for Florence, or Firenze as it is called in Italian, and arrived in an hour and half. Florence is a far cry from the large scales of Rome—it is a relatively small city dotted with churches, museums, centuries-old bridges, and outdoor markets. The influence of the Renaissance era is immediately perceptible, and this is where Michelangelo was raised and where his tomb lies. Two days in Florence should suffice.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Piazza del Duomo will sweep you off your feet with its sheer magnitude. Inside it are many chapels, and you can access a Gothic bell tower from outside. Of note is the boardwalk along the Arno River (Fiume Arno), where musicians play instruments to passersby and kiosks sell everything from artwork to leather goods.

Firenze specializes in the Florentine T-bone steak, or bistecca alla fiorentina, a succulent cut of meat usually paired with roasted rosemary potatoes. The soup of the region, ribollita, is similar in taste to our vegetable stew in Lebanon but incorporates bread crumbs and black cabbage for a heartier fix. Lampredotto carts sell street food, particularly tripe sandwiches. These are a must if you can stomach offal (pun intended). Wash it down with cantuccini, or almond biscuits similar to biscotti, which dip nicely in sweet dessert wine, vin santo.

Here are my picks for delicious and reasonably-priced Florentine cuisine:
  1. Trattoria Guelfa (Via Guelfa, 103) has an unbeatable 25 three-course menu featuring all the Florentine favorites: ribollita, bistecca, and cantuccini, together with a bottle of still or fizzy water and espresso. Their pastas are also impressive—we sampled penne with pesto and rigatoni in a Chianti sauce. The restaurant’s atmosphere is cozy, service unmatched, and food generous and flavorful.                                        
  2. Visit the lampredotto cart in Mercato Nuovo, tucked behind an outdoor marketplace. Order a trippa panino for €3.50Then head to Gelateria Perche No just a few blocks away for one of Florence’s oldest (est. 1939) artisanal gelato bars which uses only natural ingredients.                                                                                                 
  3. Another honorable gelateria is dei Neri (Via dei Neri, 9/11), an ice cream parlor offering a myriad of flavors and cup/cone sizes starting at €1.80.                               
  4. Check out Eataly in Piazza del Mercato Centrale for a miniature version of Rome’s outlet. There are perhaps a dozen kitchens and food stations here, and you’ll not want to overlook the salumeria. Try the pink-hued cold cut on display (a plate goes for €8), which takes on the texture of smoked salmon but is in fact beef. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is all it requires.
Let the photos do the convincing:

Trattoria Guelfa: Bistecca alla fiorentina

Trattoria Guelfa: Ribollita (apologies for the photo quality; the restaurant lighting was very dim)

Penne with pesto--notice it's not swimming in sauce. Italian pasta dishes never do.

Rigatoni in a Chianti meat sauce

Cantuccini dipped in sweet wine

A slice of tiramisu
I've had cannoli in Little Italy, Boston, and they pale hopelessly next to the real deal

Tripe being boiled to stuff in sandwiches (at a lampredotto cart)

Eataly: slightly roast beef


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