Wednesday, January 29, 2020

An Italian Road Trip: Part II

The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano
Hello there! We're back to Italy today (not literally, sadly - although I am having pizza for dinner tonight so that's something) for Part II of our Road Trip. You can catch Part I, which covers Lake Garda and Verona, here if you missed it. I had a really bad allergic reaction in Florence so that's why there are so few photos of me, rather than me just being deliberately mysterious.

The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano
When I last left you we were in Verona, so we started our day with breakfast on the balcony, said our goodbyes and headed to the train station. The first thing I'll note is that not a single bus or train we took in Italy was on time so, if you're still standing on the platform half an hour after your train's official departure time starting to do a little worried sweat, fear not. The thing that might make you sweat, however, is that there's feck all space for luggage (or at least there was on ours anyway) - we ended up standing with our cases in the space between doors along with six other stressed tourists and their luggage so bear that in mind. We took the direct train from Verona to Florence which was a speedy 1.5 hours and cost around 40epp. We'd booked into Hotel David which I was SO excited for after reading the reviews and it did not disappoint. It was so well located (about a 20-30 minute walk along the river from the centre of town, which works well when you're trying to burn off the 17 pasta dishes you've eaten that week), the room was beautiful (and very spacious), complete with a complimentary minibar (well, the beer, soft drinks, nuts and crisps inside are complimentary, you might get into a bit of trouble if you try to take the actual minibar) and the staff were all so incredibly lovely and helpful. I'll also pop below some other notes I'd written in my diary, verbatim, about the hotel:
- 'Only hotel so far to have a recycling bin in the room, hurrah!' 
- 'Lush big four poster bed (did not anticipate the intense climb to get on it)' 
- 'Breakfast included in room rate, so (that's right, I'd underlined it. Twice) good for gluten free' 
- 'Daily happy hour with complimentary wine and beer' (we stayed out exploring too long on both days to make it back for happy hour but it sounded like a really lovely way to unwind after a day and to socialise with other guests) 
- If you don't want to walk into town there's a regular bus from right outside the hotel which'll take you in for 1.50e

Another note I'd written in my diary was '20k steps each day, baby! My knees are quivering' - queue a definite eye roll from my diary - so comfy shoes are a must for Florence. We started our first day at Starbene Senza Glutine Bakery, a totally gluten free bakery where I decided it was necessary to sample not one, not two, but five things in one sitting. There are lots of options available, both savoury and sweet, as well as pre-packaged pasta and bread so it's a great place to eat if you're coeliac and want to be completely safe. We then walked for five/ten minutes more and came face to face with one of the most beautiful buildings we'd seen so far; 'what is this miraculous place!' we cried. A quick google and two red faces later and we'd realised it was, in fact, the Duomo. Rob was pretty hungry by this point so we stopped at Panini Toscani which was soon dubbed 'the best panini of his life'. The man who worked in there was fantastically animated and talked us through - while encouraging us to try - four cheeses and four meats. From these you choose your favourite to go on one of the many breads on offer, add your toppings, find out which wine to pair and hey presto. We sat at one of their tables at the foot of the Duomo while I people-watched and tried to avoid making eye contact with Rob while he googly-eyed his sandwich. From there we headed to Grom - it will soon become apparent that this was a day reserved almost exclusively for eating -  which is completely gluten free, so it was my turn to googly-eye my cookie dough and biscotti ice cream (fellow GFers will know how rare it is to be able to eat those two flavours so it was a truly special moment between me and that cone). And then, the heavens opened. In hindsight, it was very possibly God 's way of saying 'STOP EATING'. There was thunder, immense lightning and rain like I've never seen it before - and that's coming from someone who lives in Glasgow - so that's the story behind the photo below of the soaking wet birkenstocks. After we'd dried off at the hotel - where I did, yes, eat some more. What's a girl supposed to do with a complimentary minibar? - and the rain had stopped, we walked back into town for dinner at Ciro and Sons which I LOVED. It was still a balmy 28 degrees so we sat outside and enjoyed some gluten free pizza (Rob had a 'normal' pasta - they do both), washed down with a gluten free peroni and did some people watching. Florence felt a bit calmer in the evening compared to during the day so I actually preferred walking round at this time of night and taking it all in.

The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano
The next day - I'm so sorry, this is going to be a belter of a blog post - we were up bright and early for a vespa tour with Walkabout Tours, which was a highlight of the trip for both of us. It's incredibly freeing scooting around Italy on a vespa in the sun pretending to be Lizzie Mcguire (last part optional but encouraged). The trip started at a church built all the way back in 1018 - which I still can't get my head around - where, due to it being higher up, you get a beautiful view of Florence and the walls that used to surround it. We then looped through the Tuscan hills - at this point I was concentrating very hard on pretending I was in Letters to Juliet, searching for Lorenzo - stopping off at vineyards along the way to learn about olive and wine production. The last stop of the day way the most spectacular - an outdoor lunchtime feast of pasta and antipasti at a house in the countryside looking over another vineyard. They were brilliant with allergies/intolerances/vegan etc - just let them know in advance!

 We finished up mid-afternoon so walked back into the centre of Florence, passing a photobooth in the street along the way where we took some very unattractive photos that highlight just how hot it was outside, towards the Duomo where we'd booked in to climb Brunelleschi's Dome. They only let a certain number of people do this a day so I'd absolutely advise booking it online in advance! The inside of the Dome was painted by Vasari - and then Zuccari following his death - showing depictions of Hell and is very, very impressive. We spent a long time staring at it saying '...how?' on loop. Following that, we climbed to the top of the Duomo and back down again only to decide our knees hadn't had quite enough, and so climbed up the 414 steps of Giotto's bell tower (a note in my diary dramatically reads, 'at one point I thought my legs may never work again'). If you're strapped for time - or if your legs aren't up for that level of abuse - and you can only do one, I'd say climb the bell tower; as well as 360 views of the city you get a beautiful view of the Duomo. Both are brilliant though so you can't lose! Whilst we're on the subject of breathtaking art, we also went to see the Statue of David, which made me do a breathy 'oh... wow' when we first turned the corner and saw it. We grew up with a bust of David in our bathroom - who I turned away whenever I showered, he'd been through enough - but I wasn't expecting him to be quite so big in real life. To think of Michaelangelo sculpting something of that detail from one piece of marble completely and utterly boggles my mind (and really makes me curse my unskilled hands). A diary entry from this day reads 'saw some funny statues and paintings of old babies' which I think is a similar to the type of cultured entry Michaelangelo would have made so at least there's that. That night we had dinner at La Giostra - the old carousel from the piazza was apparently once stored here, hence the name - which had been recommended by a few people and was great! It feels a bit like a cave with the entire ceiling being covered in fairy lights and is always busy (make sure to book), with complimentary fizz being offered to those in the queue for a table, so its got a fantastic atmosphere.

The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The Little Magpie Italian Road Trip Guide to Florence and Pitigliano The next morning we checked out of Hotel David and said a sad goodbye to Florence. Now... the next part of our trip is where it all went a bit wrong - basically Rob only had a paper copy of his driver's license which they wouldn't accept so we were unable to rent a car. We were torn between scrapping the next part of our trip, which was in deep in the Tuscan countryside, and going straight to Rome or going ahead with the original plan and taking public transport. We went for the latter and, as it turns out, it wasn't our brightest move - we managed, by both hook and crook, to make it the hotel (in triple the time it would have taken to drive may I add) but ended up a bit stranded when we actually got there as there was no public transport at all. I won't go it the whole sorry story in detail because you'll laugh at us, but I wanted to write about where we stayed as it was so lovely. Just remember - only visit by car. It was located just outside of Pitigliano, which is a truly spectacular place to drive up to; it's carved out of volcanic stone and looks like it should be a world heritage site (see a wee snap of it here). We stayed at Llocanda Ilune, a farmhouse in the countryside owned by Giovanni and Susanna, who own and live in the property with their 11 adorable cats and who couldn't have been more welcoming. There's a huge back garden, complete with sun loungers and an outdoor shower where you can relax throughout the day, and the farmhouse is also conveniently located next to both Pitigliano and the hot springs as well as some nearby hikes. It's such a peaceful and tranquil place to escape to; it sits deep in the countryside beside a big vineyard and the only sound you can hear throughout the day (apart from the cats purring for cuddles) is the occasional cricket. Susanna home-makes breakfast for the guests in the morning and Rob still talks about her bread to this day - she makes it fresh with olives grown on the property and all I'll say is that if Rob looks at me with even 50% of the love he looked at that bread with on our wedding day I'll be a happy woman. There's cakes, coffee (also dubbed 'the best coffee of the trip'), cheese, meats, fresh juice... I couldn't eat too much because I hadn't mentioned my allergies (under-prepared eugene strikes again) but, from everything I've heard, I think I can guarantee that Susanna'a breakfast will be the highlight of your trip. I did read that if you email in advance, and if Susanna feels up to it, that she can make dinner for you to enjoy alfresco in the evenings. The next morning we had a wee hour to explore Pitigliano - which I'd love to go back to, it feels completely unchanged by time and very, very traditional - before we headed, via planes, trains, automobiles and several breakdowns, to Rome. We had but 10 short hours in Rome so we checked into Hotel Golden (a wee family run hotel which is very well located and very reasonably priced too) and had dinner at La Soffita Renovatia, which I previously dubbed top 3 gluten free pizzas I've ever had and have been desperate to go back to ever since my last visit. I'm glad to say it was just as wonderful as I'd remembered. If you're off to Rome and are looking for a more in-depth guide, you can read my full post juuust here!


Right, I'm going to stop there before I give myself Carpal Tunnel. I hope you enjoyed that - my next post on Italy (that's right, there's more to come) will be on Ischia and will be coming at you very soon!

Amy 

3 comments:

Tanya said...

Lovely post!

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the gold lipstick said...

Looks like a great trip!

Mireia from TGL
https://thegoldlipstick.com/

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