September 20, 2018 - Florence and surroundings, Historical landmarks, Culture, Food and wine
One of Tuscany's most prominent cities, Florence straddles the Arno river with grace and certainly has an illustrious past. Its supremacy in the Italian Renaissance makes the centuries drop away on a visit to its historic centre, but this city is not only to be seen through the lens of a guidebook. Set out with a good pair of walking shoes and perhaps an appetite to some of these options.
1. Eat in the Mercato Centrale at San Lorenzo
Not far from the Santa Maria Novella train station, the San Lorenzo’s covered central market has long been the place for serious cooks to find the best ingredients – meats, cheese, wines, produce all laid out in gorgeous array and aroma. Now, overhead, is a food court with bars, stalls and gourmet restaurants. When excellent fixings are so close to hand, how can it not be delicious. In this building, erected in 1874, there is even a cooking school for visitors who would like to learn to make it like the Florentines. For further information on how the San Lorenzo market is organized or find out more about the Lorenzo de Medici cooking school.
2. Stroke the wild boar's nose at the market
It’s a strong-willed tourist that doesn’t stop at the covered marketplace in Piazza del Mercato Nuovo in the heart of Florence at least once. The lure of leather goods, silk scarves, and Florentine souvenirs just around the corner of the large Piazza della Signoria persuades many. But just as often they stop for a quick luck-enticing rub of the snout of the wild boar Il Porcellino - so often that its polished bronze nose gleams golden. Give him a rub or visit the original in the Uffizi Museum, where NO rubbing is allowed.
3. Stroll Fiesole and its Renaissance gardens
For centuries the well-to-do have retired to their Fiesole villas high over Florence. Just as Boccaccio’s youth sat in lush gardens telling tales that filled the Decameron, with a bus ride and a comfortable pair of shoes you, too, can linger in famed gardens. Head to: Villa Medici, designed by Michelozzo in the 15thcent. for Cosimo de’ Medici or Villa I Tatti, famed residence of Bernard Berenson, both with gardens created by English architect Cecil Pinsent. Please note that you must request a visit prior to arriving. Villa Medici OR Villa I Tatti
4. Hunt the perfect gelato
Every Italian ice cream shop or ‘gelateria’ will boast its homemade version is the best in the world. With a plastic spoon and healthy appetite you can sample these contenders and support your Florentine favourite: Vivoli (Via Isole delle Stinche 7), Carabè (Via Ricasoli 60r), Perchè No (Via dei Tavolini 19r). Gelato has less fat and few egg yolks than most commercial ice creams, hence most Italians regard it as a healthy treat – Excuse enough for you?
5. Paint ceramics in Montelupo
Many visitors to Tuscany take back a brightly painted piece of ceramics – why not try your hand at producing one of your own? Montelupo Fiorentino, a village on the outskirts of Florence has been an important center of ceramics since the Middle Ages thanks to the quality and quantity of clay in the area. The Montelupo ‘Scuola di Ceramica’ offers courses of varying lengths to those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty in the name of art. If you are interested in bringing back your own hand-painted plate check out this ceramic decorating class tour.