Rain drops spalshed onto the train window and chased each other to the ground as we pulled into Santa Maria Nouvella Station in Firenze (Florence). Little did we know as we waved goodbye to the sunny, hot day in the fashionista capital, Milano, that we would be greeted with a thunder storm and pelting rain when we arrived in Florence. Even better our apartment was around a twenty minute walk from the station. Sighing, Craig took out our umbrella and we set off in the rain. Let me just add, that walking with luggage in the rain – sharing an umbrella is not an easy feat.
Despite the weather, it was fantastic to be back in Florence. The urban sprawl and concrete jungle of Milan, was replaced with a maze of beautiful stone hewn buildings and cobbled streets. Even in the rain, Florence holds magic qualities. We arrived at our apartment (near the Ponte Vecchio) only a little damp and met our host Paolo.
The apartment itself is in a renovated Nunnery known as Casa Santa Caterina. The high ceilings and beautiful wrought iron gate in the entrance hall, makes you feel like you have stepped back a few hundred years. I had stumbled upon it, via Tripadvisor last year (when we came to Florence and got engaged), and had loved it, so we were back.
Once the rain had subsided we decided to walk up the hill to the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. It is a beautiful white marble church on top of one of the hills above Florence. It is an 20 – 30 minute uphill walk from the Ponte Vecchio and for those who would like to break up the journey, there is the Giardino delle Rose (a stunning Rose Garden) and the infamous Piazza Michaelangelo, where a replica of the statue of David stands surveying Florence and the Tuscan hills. The view from this Piazza has graced many facebook photos and postcards over the years, and you cannot help but be enamoured with the view and take out your camera when you see it.
But once you are at the top, the view is literally breathtaking. You will fall in love. The blue sky and rivers contrast with the terracotta orange buildings that create a stunning skyline.
I could’ve sat there for hours and hours, just enjoying basking in the glow of the beautiful city. However we were on a mission, and our mission was to find the restaurant where we had had the best meal in Italy. The mouthwatering traditional Florentina (T-Bone steak), fried pasta balls with mozarella and proscuitto, and slow cooked eggplant in a parmigano and sweet tomato sauce. My mouth watered just thinking about it.
Food in Florence is an experience, you have to take your time and savour every delicious bite. I had been hanging out for this meal ever since we decided to take our trip. So we went home slipped into some dressy clothes and headed to Ristorante Pizzeria Il Teatro.
Dinner in Italy is typically eaten from 7 – 7.30pm and most restaurants will continue to serve well past 11pm. If you are going to Il Teatro, I suggest you arrive early, we arrived early at 7pm to a quarter filled restaurant and by the time we left at 9.45pm the restaurant was full to bursting and people were waiting outside for a table.
Once you taste the food, you can see why people are willing to wait.
The restaurant is family run, and you can tell that the food is made with a healthy dose of Italian love. We decided to try the degustation menu, it contained all the foods we had tried last time and a few extras. For five courses, water and a bottle of wine at 30Euro per person, including service, you better be hungry, because this is the best and least expensive meals you will eat in Florence.
We began with a glass of Chianti Classico, the eggplant and fried pasta. To be honest after that I was pretty full, but there were still another three courses to go. We were treated to ravioli with ricotta infused with black truffles, then Florentina (T-bone Steak) which was served the traditional way – red in the middle and deliciously coated in salt and olive oil. The sides it came with (roast potatoes and white cannelini beans) were left wholly untouched as we struggled to finish the steak.
At that point we had been there for around an hour and a half and wishing we’d worn looser clothing. But there was still dessert and cafe (coffee) to come. As we sat waiting, I took a moment to glance around the room. The majority of it was filled with American tourists, the Italian families sit in a side room or outside, I guess hoping to ignore the tourists.
We swallowed deeply as the plates arrived carrying a chocolate case with a custard filling topped with fresh bananas and strawberries and lovingly drizzled with chocolate sauce. They looked delicious, however as I am allergic to chocolate (a tragedy, right?) Craig had to take on both. He did this after protesting that he would be unable to eat another thing. As you can see from the photo, he did pretty well for someone so full.
We finished our meal, wholly satisfied. The walk home helped, and we fell into bed totally exhausted and happy. We had to get a good sleep to help burn through some of our evening’s meal and to make room for a Food tour of the San Lorenzo market the next day.
Ginga musings complete, now to sleep