Tag Archives: italy

The Italian Life

By the time you read this, I’ll be on my way to Scotland. On Friday evening, I’ll be switching the dancing shoes for my walking boots in an attempt to complete the Three Peaks Challenge (yup, 3 mountains in 24 hours). We’re raising money for the absolutely incredible children’s charity, Julia’s House. If you remember reading my post on their fairytale event last year, you’ll already know my admiration for this amazing charity. Our team of 8 not so keen trekkers have raised over £3000 so far and the donations are still pouring in.

I’m eternally grateful for all the encouragement and well wishes we have received and hope to do everyone proud! Wish me luck!

Anyway back to Florence, Italians love 3 things in life; wine, food and coffee.

Lucky for me, I also love all three of them. Call me the honorary Italian.

From fine leathers and fabrics to colourful arrays of fruit and veg, the Italians do nothing by half’s. Wandering  through the outskirts of Florence, you find an abundance of locals living their day to day lives. Commuters in beautiful suits and ladies who lunch in small coffee shops with their handbag dogs fill this pretty streets.

This is Italy.

Oh and last but not least, the creme de la creme of Italy, Gelato. Delicious, creamy ice-cream in a huge array of flavours.

I’m a coffee and caramel kinda girl, always.

Once we’d thoroughly sizzled ourselves in the sun and tried to mingle with the locals, we headed back to the Villa for afternoon wine.

I’d picked out my favourite Rose and perched on one of the window seats in the garden.

A few minutes later I was summoned to a game of tennis.

Which soon turned into an England vs New Zealand vs Italy sports tournament. Italy won.

After all our energy was zapped, we lit the BBQ.

Meanwhile, the boys had other ideas.

Antonio prepared a traditional Italian BBQ. Herb crusted chicken, local sausages, pork and a balsamic salad.

Oh and cheese.

Under a tree arch in the sunset, we sat around the table and ate and drank the world away.

I love the Italian life.

Chianti Florence, Wine County

We’d make a pact before Italy that we would try and live like the locals. This of course involes drinking too much wine and eating too much steak every single day of the week, but we wouldn’t let that bother us.

Antonio, the wonderfully kind owner of our B&B, offered us a trip to Chianti with his family. It seemed too good to be true and before we knew it we were graciously bundled in the back of his BMW and off for a day of fine Italian wine and it’s sister from another mr, the Florentine Steak. He’d told us a well guarded secret, that this is where we would find the best steak in Florence. Obviously we couldn’t say no to that.

We hit the road early in the afternoon bopping along to some old school euro-pop.

Through the rows and rows of vineyards and deep into the countryside, Badia a Passignano appears through the trees in all it’s medieval beauty. Located in the Chianti Classico region, it is a hotspot for the rich and famous.

The town looked castle-like from a far but as we pulled into the narrow roads that weaved through the small town, it was as much of a village as that of a Cornish one. Like eager (and thirsty) countrymen, we parked up and headed straight for our restaurant.

Of course, Antiono had reserved the top table at our beautiful restaurant, Ristorol’Antica Scuderia. With the clientele of mega-rich Russians and the America Dreamers, it oozed glamour from the moment we walked in. The views of the green vineyards were magnificent. Rolling Italian countryside and the most perfect glass of Prosecco on arrival. We were sold on the Italian life.

While we were jaw-dropping at the view (and the menu), Antionio had been ordering our food with the chef. The language barrier got the best of us and we waited in anticipation for round one.

And wow! Burrata (a traditional national cheese) and shavings of local truffles.

I’ll give you a minute…

Scott had the most amazing hand made al dente pasta I’d ever tasted.

And in preparation for our next course, a glass of one of the finest Chianti Classico’s money can buy.

We drank and chatted away over our wine, cheese and pasta.

And then it arrived. The most beautiful looking steak I’d ever seen. Juicy, pink, peppered and large, it was a steak made in meaty dreams.

Antonio had ordered truffles on eggs, apparently the finest way to enjoy truffles.

Almost everything we’d eaten had grown or been reared in this very region. The salad had been picked and prepared that morning, the cheese is made just down the road and the truffles were picked in the local oak forrest.

Apparently the phrase for orgasmically good food in Italian is “Diaaaaaaaaaaa”. Scott was taught the Italian way!

Finally we squeezed in some cheesecake and then got down to the dirty stuff.

Enough where that came from.

Inside, the restaurant was covered in fine wines. Antonio pointed out some of the most exquisite in their selection with one mega-rich placing an order for almost £5000 worth in front of us.

Sadly we had to leave our little green paradise, suitably full and just a little bit tipsy.

With the wind blowing in my hair, we meandered our way through the streets of Florence and just for a minute I was in the scene of The Italian Job.

 

Florence, A Day in the City

When life gets tough, sometimes it’s easiest to run. Escape normal life as you know it, ignite your senses and find you again. Oh boy, life’s been running at one thousand miles per hour lately and I knew the only way to slow everything down was to get away.

A miserable Thursday evening and a few glass of wine later, our flights were booked to Italy.

Since my incredible trip to Venice late last year, I’ve been dreaming of days spent galivanting around Italy in the summer sun wearing floaty dresses with a large cone of gelato in hand. It seemed the perfect location for our getaway and so, a week later, we arrived in beautiful Florence.

Florence is the queen bee of Tuscany. Soaked in architecture, gelato bars and plenty of tourists, its a rabbit run for keen little explorers…

With just 3 days in the city, we wanted a mix of culture and relaxation. Our amazing B&B (more on that later) was just a short walk from the city centre and voila, we’d arrive at our first stop of the day, The Duamo. A magnificent cathedral which dominates the Florence skyline.

Early morning is the best time to beat the tourist and the inevitable cue’s, but perhaps miss the buffet breakfast for this one! 427 steep steps and lots of passing traffic up the narrow tower, what is revealed once you reach the top is unbelievable.

From the sky Florence is even more magical. What is great about conquering the Duamo first is that you get a feel for the size of the city. You get your bearings. You can map the major attractions (Scott likes to close his eyes and imagine he’s accessing the Google Map which he calls his brain, geek) making navigating amongst the tourists that little bit easier.

I’d thrown on my new floaty Zara dress (yes, those dreams again) and H&M fedora to keep me nice and cool.

Back in the streets we stumbled across the first of many street artists. Taking the name “street artists” to the extreme, they use the pavements as frames, set out their money pots and begin their masterpieces.

We navigated our way through the picture perfect streets until we reached the infamous Ponte Vecchio bridge crossing the Arno River.

It’s as much of a tourist attraction as the rest of Florence so we waded our way through the crowds, pasts the numerous Gold shops on the way to find some peace and quite.

From the other side of the river, life is much slower. Locals meander around with their handbag dogs and the smell of coffee drifts through the streets from the tiny cafe’s nestled within.

Our next tourist stop, Piazzale Michelangelo.

Undeniably, the best views in the city.

I had my handy tour guide on hand at all times. You know, got to join in with this tourist thing sometimes!

We’re not really ones for museums of renaissance art we don’t really understand. We had other ideas to escape the heat…

Ice cold beers.

We spent the rest of the afternoon hopping from one cafe to the next, drinking ice cold beers all the whole way home. But all this sight seeing is pretty hungry work…

One thing I’ d been told we must not miss, and in my opinion something that blows all the other sights out of the water, Bistecca alla fiorentina (that iss Florentine Steak to you and me). The ultimate delicasy of Florence, a very rare and very large serving of thick cut T-Bone steak served with a glass of Chianti Classico at my favourite resturant in Florence, Ristorante Alborada.

The most perfect end to a day in the city.