When you get a chance to go to Florence, go to Florence. For about 3 hours, then leave again.
This was pretty much our experience of it.
It’s happening all over Italy…historic cities filled with so much beauty, so much amazing food, so many wondrous monuments to the genius of the architects and visionaries of centuries gone by.
And they’re all fucked.
Marble piazzas have become amusement parks, ancient alleyways packed with laminated tourist menus and everybody selling the same reheated lasagne. You can almost learn everything you need to know about these cities from the hundreds of umbrella-wielding tour guides that push past you, each one followed by twenty five sunburnt tourists in straw hats and back packs.
I know that I’m a tourist. I’m not trying to push any sort of hashtag-I’m-a-real-traveller vibe, but Florence, for us at least, was ruined.
We got the train in from our apartment in Empoli (more about that later) and headed into the centre. Our itinerary was simple – briefly look at a few cool buildings, eat some gelato, and grab a sandwich. But not just any sandwich. I’d heard rumours of a food truck serving what seemed to be the quintessential sandwich of Tuscany – the panino con lampredotto. It’s a crusty white roll smeared with zingy salsa verde, spicy chilli paste, and the slowly braised fourth stomach of an adult cow. And we found it. And it was delicious. Juicy, soft, incredibly rich but balanced by the 2 sauces that cut through the fattiness. Ally even enjoyed her bite. It’s so good that I finish mine in about 2 minutes and order another one – and that’s when I learnt about my own tolerance for offal…I can only eat it when I’m hungry. It’s too rich for when I’m full. Half of my second sandwich goes in the bin and we search for some gelato….there’s always room for gelato.
And especially in Florence – I’m pretty sure it was invented here. Ally goes for her usual combo of something chocolatey and something nutty, and I opt for a palate-cleansing lemon and strawberry. The lack of eggs and use of milk in gelato really makes the flavours so much more intense than ice cream back home, and topping it off with an espresso, we feel amazing again.
Walking through the streets, it’s truly a beautiful place. It feels old, heavy, slightly sunburnt…almost how you feel it would have felt a few hundred years ago (if it wasn’t for the hundreds of men trying to thrust fake Gucci bags into your hands every few minutes).
We do stop for a quick honeymoon moment and go shoe shopping in Florence’s leather district, feel cool for a few minutes and get out of there back to the peace, quiet and authenticity of Empoli.