After a couple beautiful days spent along the water, we headed inland to Florence and quickly felt right at home. While it is probably blaspheme to say this, Florence felt a lot like Boston to us: beautiful old buildings, a river running through it, and big enough to constantly have something to do yet small enough to walk from one end to another. We started to get used to the Italian eating schedule at our first two stops, but in Florence we really got used to a light breakfast, sandwich for lunch, appetizer (or gelato. . .) at 5 pm, then a full dinner around 8 or 9 pm. And while we did have an excellent meal in Florence, the true highlight was the wine – it is Tuscany after all 😉
Our wine tour was through a wine school, so we began at the school itself to learn how to properly taste wine as well as what to look for on a wine label to know you are getting a top-quality Italian wine (specifically a Chianti or a Chianti Classico). After our short lesson (and a glass of wine at 9:30 am. . .do as the Italians do I guess), we headed out to the Chianti Classico Region to taste wine from 3 small wineries.
The first winery we visited Fattoria Montecchio, where they not only make wine but also honey, olive oil, and pottery.
At each winery we visited we were given a glass of Chianti Classico, a glass of Chianti Classico Reserve, and a Super Tuscan along with bread and olive oil made at each of the wineries. In case you are wondering, Chianti Classico is a region in Italy not the grape used to make the wine. Think of it like Champagne- in order to be a Chianti Classico the wine has to be produced in that specific area and following a very strict set of guidelines. So what is the grape? In order to be a Chianti Classico wine, it must contain at least 80% Sangiovese grapes.
At the final stop (Casa Emma Winery) we were given a homemade lunch, including their homemade olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip homemade bread in, local meats, and homemade pasta. Unfortunately I was a few glasses in at this point, so we only remembered to take a picture of the oil and vinegar but not the rest of the food 🙁
Okay, so back to food. Our favorite meal in Florence was at Osteria del Porcellino. After so much salty, savory dishes we were craving something a little more refreshing so we started with their Melon and Feta appetizer. The melon was nice and juicy, while the feta was more like the traditional softer feta (rather than those harder, crumbly kinds you often get at the grocery store).
For our second course we split gnocchi that was tossed in a simple tomato sauce. It was perfect! The gnocchi were pillowy and not at all dense and the tomato sauce was nice and light yet full of rich tomato flavor (not at all sugary or salty).
By this point I was craving chicken so I ordered Dijon Chicken. I was unsure what I would end up getting, but it ended up tasting very good and hit the spot! The chicken was nice and moist and tossed in a dijon mustard, olive oil sauce – something I had never thought about doing but I surprisingly really liked it.
Bry ordered a Steak Fillet served with a 3 Pepper Sauce. Again, the dish was quite simple, but everything was executed well: the stake was a perfect medium-rare and the sauce was not overly peppery.
Instead of dessert we each ordered a cappuccino, which our waiter brought over along with complementary limoncello.
Our final lunch in Florence was spent in the train station. I ordered an unexciting veggie sandwich on whole grain bread, but Bry ordered us an arancini to share. Arancini is a classic Italian street food that is essentially a deep fried rice ball filled with various fillings. In this case, ours had meat, peas, and carrots – it tasted a lot like a Chinese egg roll.
Only one more Italian city to go! Up next: Rome.
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