I just returned from my first trip to Florence two days ago, and while still jet-lagged, I’m able to recount a very beautiful, food and wine-filled experience. I tasted so much Sangiovese that I uttered a phrase I have never before heard myself say, “I don’t want any red wine with dinner.” I ate gnocchi and homemade pasta until I looked and menus and had a hard time finding a type of pasta I hadn’t yet had on the trip. I even visited my first castle and climbed Medieval towers in San Gimingiano. My only disappointment was when I attempted to procure a scoop from a famous gelateria near Ponte Vecchio, only to discover that violet gelato is only served in the summertime.
When I travel, I typically enjoy planning where I will be for the day, but choosing on the fly where I will eat and what I will drink. This time was no exception. I arrived in Florence armed with many recommendations from friends, but I wandered the streets, looking in windows and at menus until I found just the right spot for a meal. I wasn’t disappointed. On Valentine’s Day, I happened upon a place called Trattoria Armando, and I chatted the with granddaughter of Armando, while sipping Berlucchi Franciacorta and twirling homemade tagliatelle with wild boar sauce. It turns out he was a lover of opera and everyone who came to Florence to play would come to Armando’s afterwards for his pasta. It’s the equivalent of Joe Allen’s here in the city. I’ve never felt so close to New York being so far away. It gave me a sense that people really are united in arts and culture; I love that.
I also toured the secret passages of the Palazzo Vecchio and traipsed the courtyard of the Uffizi museum before running off with a Medici descendant to visit his family’s castle. My friend Bernardo Guicciardini Calamai is the nephew of Ferdinando Guicciardini, a famous winemaking family in Chianti. The Poppiano Castle has been making wine since 1199 and it has copies of books dating back a thousand years before that. When I visited, the historical society was coming to rearrange the books. Yes, the family not only lives in a castle, there is a registered historical library next to the living room.
Touring the property, I imagined the history of the courtyard, who had lived there, what they talked about, what they ate and drank and what sort of company they kept. Climbing the towers reminded me of how this very castle helped to defend the region from the invading town of Siena. We all made lunch together in the kitchen (yes, I made lunch with a Count and Countess, what an experience). We sat down to lunch, enjoyed several bottles of Poppiano wine and finished with Vin Santo and contucci, or almond biscotti. I drank so much Vin Santo on this trip that my friends began to call me Principesa di Vin Santa.
While there wasn’t one mind-blowing wine that I can easily name, this was definitely a mind-blowing experience. It was a whirlwind trip, but I loved every minute of it, and as a whole I don’t think I could have asked for a better vacation.