I’m finally catching my breath after an amazing trip to Italy. Worth and I went to Rome, Tuscany and Florence and saw so many beautiful places. We ate, we drank, we walked, we ate again, we drank again….you get the idea. I want to share some of my favorite spots that we discovered along with some knowledge that I picked up along the way.
We stayed at the Hotel de Russie which has a gorgeous garden where you can have cocktails and food. The rooms were very nice and the location was perfect. Some of our favorite meals here were had at Pier Luigi and Antica Pesa.
Getting out of the city and driving into the Tuscan countryside was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, Worth and I had both had a martini mixed with a little wine so we weren’t feeling our best….but once we arrived to Gattavecchi Winery for lunch, we got our second wind. They served a traditional Tuscan meal of meats and cheeses, bolognese with homemade pasta, and lamb. Their sangiovese blends were unforgettable, which is why we bought several bottles to take with us!
Once we arrived at Il Borro, which is outside of Arezzo, we knew that we were in for something special. The property was once owned by the Medici Family, then the Savoia family, and now the Ferragamo family (yes as in the shoes). The property is stunning and has been carefully renovated so that all of the amenities are over the top, but you still feel the rustic charm of Tuscany. Our room was nestled in a little medieval village where they had a jewelry shop and a cobbler shop where you could have Ferragamo shoes made.
We enjoyed a wine tasting and over the top lunch at Antinori Winery. This is the home of Tignanello which is one of our favorite wines that we have ever tasted. It was really interesting to learn about the rigorous certifications that Italian wineries go through to ensure grape quality. If you are in Italy, drinking red wine, and notice a black rooster on the bottle, rest assured you are drinking very good red wine. The rooster means the wine is Chianti Classico. Another thing to look for is “DOCG” (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) on the label. DOCG means that bottle of wine was made under the strictest regulations and the geographic authenticity of the grapes is guaranteed. You can learn more in these articles from TheKitchn and from VinePair. Long story short….lot’s of restrictions on the grapes + grapes that are grown nearby + wines that don’t require chemicals/additives = zero hangover.
I took a cooking class at Il Borro where we started out at the local market – which was SO NEAT to see. In Italy, they dont use the massive white and yellow onions like we do. They use springs onions which are like green onions with the small white bulb onion on the end – thats what they use as a white onion (see upper right). Seeing the large basket of zucchini flowers immediately drew me in, so we made ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers, bolognese with homemade tagliatelle, and simple roasted chicken. Those recipes are coming soon.
Another thing that caught my eye in the market were the 2 massive tanks of table wine!
Our favorite dinner spot in Tuscany was Luna Nel Pozz0. The food was some of the best I’ve ever had, and there was a large party seated next to us, which included a dinner guest that decided to start DJ-ing in the middle of the restaurant. The next thing I knew, we were all up on our feet dancing and meeting new friends! SO much fun.
On our way from Tuscany to Florence, we stopped at The Mall, which is a massive yet pretty outlet mall. Unless you are DYING to get a decent looking Prada bag at 30% off….I wouldn’t recommend it. The lines to pay were 2+hours long. I was ready to get to Florence, so we zipped through, saw some good stuff, but I didn’t have the patience to wait in the line. Also, once in Florence, there are so many wonderful leather products and apparently there is a high end discount spot called The Space where you can get the same prices on labels like Prada, Gucci, etc.
In Florence, we stayed at JK Place which was also fantastic. The location couldn’t have been better, the views were awesome and rooms were very chic. Florence might have been my favorite spot as we had ZERO plans. We walked around for hours, well at least until Worth rolled his ankle on the cobblestone streets and needed some seated breaks….TIP – if you have bad ankles, bring a brace to Florence or at least very supportive shoes! No flip flops or sandals! We ate some of the BEST food we had during our trip in Florence.
The highlight of it all? Sostanza. They only accept cash, and it has the hole-in-the wall vibe where you know the food is going to be amazing. Their butter chicken is one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. They bring it out in a cast iron skillet with butter sauce for days….I soaked up every drop of the sauce. I was basically eating a butter soup once the chicken was gone.
Another must is Il Profeta – get the John Travolta pasta, and if this guy is your waiter (he was wonderful!) don’t feel too special if he wants a picture like this with you….He literally does it with every customer!
My last absolute must is sunset dinner at Villa San Michelle – the views are unbelievable. I could have sat on the balcony for hours sipping on a glass of rose. It was perfect.
To end my love letter to Italy….Here are some of our favorite wines that we drank over the course of our trip…along with ALL of the homemade pasta that was worth every bite.