We’ve just come back from a wonderful long weekend in Florence – a city which truly has my heart. We arrived on Thursday evening and stayed at the absolutely stunning Four Seasons. The trip was a birthday present from my husband. It’s beginning to become a bit of a tradition as last year he took me to Berlin.
That night we went off to dinner at Buca Lapi (buca literally means ‘hole’ and it refers to basement restaurants). For once we were quite organised in terms of booking restaurants in advance. Even though there are thousands of places to eat, we didn’t want to waste time walking around trying to figure out where to eat when there is so much to see and do.
Buca Lapi has been a restaurant since 1880, can you believe that? It’s so quirky – all the walls and ceilings are decorated with old posters from around the world and people have left their mark on everything – even the lamps! So of course we had to leave our mark too. In terms of food we had a typical Tuscan mixed starter and then a classic Fiorentina for our mains, which is a T-bone steak. They don’t ask you how you’d like it cooked by the way – it comes as they believe it should be served (which is pretty rare).
The next day we spent the morning exploring the famous Duomo Group. Tickets cost €15 and last for 24 hours from when you first validate them. I could not get over how huge it is! We’d seen it first at night on our way to dinner and I was honestly in awe.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great. It had rained overnight and was quite overcast. I would love to see the Duomo in the sunlight! We started with the Baptistry, then the Duomo itself and just before lunch we climbed up to the dome. There are over 400 steps and it’s really challenging as it’s very narrow and steep in places. Put it this way – it’s a very good workout! And just when you think you are about to collapse from exhaustion, you reach the top and all the effort was so worth it for the breathtaking panoramic views over Florence.
We decided to leave climbing up the tower, which also has over 400 steps, for the next day (although it was pouring with rain and we couldn’t be bothered to stand in the queue, so we didn’t actually end up going).
After exploring the Duomo we headed to the Mercato Centrale, which is the covered central market situated around the corner from the Basilica di San Lorenzo and is about a 10 to 15 minute walk from the Duomo. There are some outside stalls selling mainly leather goods (Florence is famous for it’s leather) and we each bought a belt – mine was a souvenir but my husband’s was a necessity! When you enter the market on the ground floor you will find traditional market stalls with fruit, vegetables, meat etc. It’s very old school and you can tell some of the stalls have been in families for generations.
On the top floor you will find a very modern food court filled with lots of food stalls and wine bars and there’s even a cooking school. We chose to eat at Tosca, which has a counter where you can watch the chefs at work. We started with bruschetta and mixed salumi and a bottle of prosecco. I then had the tagliatelle with ragu sauce and my husband had spaghetti with broccoli and pecorino. The food was really good and there was a great atmosphere.
After a hearty lunch, the weather seemed to clear up a bit so we thought it would be probably the best opportunity (as rain was expected all weekend) to see the famous Ponte Vecchio so we took a walk to the river. It took about 15 minutes or so from the market. Ponte Vecchio literally translates as ‘old bridge’ and old it is! The bridge apparently first appears in a document as far back as 996. It was then destroyed in a flood in 1117 and rebuilt in 1345. There are jewellery shops that line the bridge that have been there for generations. Before that it was butchers. It reminded me a bit of Rialto in Venice.
The view from either side of the bridge itself is just gorgeous. And we even had a bit of blue sky!
That evening we had dinner at Buca Mario, which like Buca Lapi is a basement restaurant and has been around since 1886. It was a bit touristy though and quite old school but the food and service was good.
Day two in Florence coming soon!