We’re staying at the Hotel Alessandra in Florence near the Arno River and just a block from the Ponte Vecchio. It’s a great location in the historic center and walking distance to everything. Of course everything in Florence is within walking distance! This is the second time I’ve enjoyed this family run hotel and once again, they were fantastic.
Like many family run hotels it occupies a couple of floors in a historic building and you do have to climb about 1 1/2 floors where a tiny elevator can take you the rest of the way up.
The hotel offers breakfast with fantastic coffee, pastries, cereal, yogurt, fruit along with cheese and meat trays. A typical European breakfast and a great start to the full day ahead.
We began our stay with a short stroll toward Plazza della Signoria (the piazza housing the Palazzo Vecchio) through the Loggia full of market stalls (mostly leather goods, purses, etc) where you have to rub the boars snout for luck. Piazza della Signoria, a few blocks south of the Duomo, is one of my favorite piazzas. Housing the Palazzo where Michelangelo’s David originally stood, the Loggia dei Lanzi is full of amazing sculpture and a fantastic Neptune fountain.
We also discovered we were in town for a marathon and soon runners where swarming the piazza. What an amazing location for a marathon! However, we soon found navigating a historic city center while a race is on brings its own challenges. Luckily our next stop was the Uffizi Gallery and we simply skirted the edge of the runners to reach the museum.
The best way to tour the Uffizi is to make a reservation ahead of time. It will cost a few euros more but you won’t stand in ticket lines. After picking up our tickets we were soon enjoying the masterpieces of the gallery.
To help navigate the art we essentially followed the Rick Steves’ self guided Uffizi Gallery Tour and soon found ourselves in the Botticelli Room. Two renounced works, Allegory of Spring and Birth of Venus are housed in the Uffizi and draw respectful crowds.
There’s quite a bit of restoration/renovation occurring so many rooms were closed but we spent several enjoyable hours. By the time we exited the gallery the marathon was in full force which meant crossing the flow was a challenge.
A weekend olive oil & cheese market had sprung up in the Piazza della Repubblica and we darted between gaps in the race to explore the market. This time of year you’ll find weekend olive oil markets as it’s early press time. Vendors provide taste samples and it’s shocking the spectrum of flavors you’ll encounter with olive oil. We didn’t linger but continued north toward one of my favorite restaurants Za-Za Trattoria near the Central Market.
A trip to Florence wouldn’t be complete without a meal at Za-Za but beware of imitators! A few restaurants nearby have incorporated Za-Za into their names. We’ve decided to explore foods on mom’s bucket list so lardo was on order! We shared an appetizer of lardo on toasted bread, Italian cheese & honey then a course of black truffle pasta carbonara . . .oh yeah, it’s also truffle season!
For some reason I keep on forgetting to take food photos (there are some coming, but we just keep on diving in before capturing a photographic moment). Lardo while sounding less than appetizing is delicious. Thinly sliced, highly flavored lard served atop garlic rubbed toasted bread. Pure porky goodness.
From lunch we strolled back toward the hotel where we enjoyed a bit of time on the rooftop terrace with some wine before taking a bit of a break. Have to rest up for our big bistecca dinner!
Our hotel recommended L’Osteria Di Giovanni and kindly called in a reservation. The service at our hotel is wonderful and their recommendation was superb! So, what is bistecca? While this photo wasn’t taken at Giovanni it does showcase the Italian t-bone in all it’s beefy splendor.
The steak is hugely sold by they kilo and served on the very rare side. Perfect for sharing and absolutely delicious. We ordered the smallest available, which is still a bit over 2 lbs and feasted! Steak, fried artichokes, amazing roast potatoes and a fantastic Brunello.
The service at L’Osteria Di Giovanni was absolutely wonderful. Attentive but unhurried. We lingered for hours over our incredible meal finished with complimentary biscotti & Vin Santo. I would highly recommend this restaurant. The owner even presented us each with a bottle of their own olive oil. Lovely. Luckily we had a few blocks to stroll off some of our delicious meal before calling it a night.
What a fantastic day in Florence! Olive oil, Renaissance masterpieces, truffles, gracious hospitality and of course beef!