We have a lot to be thankful for this year. In addition to our beautiful new addition, this year has been great for a host of different reasons. We feel blessed to live a life that brings us so much happiness. Tomorrow we're celebrating with friends here in Florence, so rest assured we'll be partaking in the traditional holiday gluttony.

Wishing you a delicious, fun and relaxing Thanksgiving!

Favorite Places in Florence: Il Barone


Last week when my parents were in town we took them to one of our favorite neighborhood spots: Il Barone. It's a great restaurant that never disappoints -- whether we go for a quick lunch or a longer dinner. In fact, Il Barone is where we had an amazing Thanksgiving Dinner last year. The prices are fair and the food is typically Tuscan.

The lunch deals last week were out of this world...bowls of ribollita and plates of grilled veggies with brie for just three euro a piece. Sometimes I think we get spoiled by these neighborhood spots that don't overcharge like those in the center. Especially when it comes to lunch, it's easy to eat great and cheap at places like Il Barone.

So, if you find yourself in the Porta Romana neighborhood be sure to check this place out: Il Barone, Via Romana 123r.

3 Spots for Gelato in Florence, Italy


Following up on last week's lunch picks post, here are three of our picks for gelato in Florence. Much like last week's post, we also want to reiterate that we don't claim these are the "best" in the city...just places we love to go when we're in the neighborhood!

  1. Gelateria della Passera, Piazza della Passera 15 - Small shop, small selection but always AMAZING. This is hands down our favorite in the city. The flavors are seasonal and always fresh. Rob's favorite is caffe, which tends to be available year round, and my favorite is pomegranate -- which will be back in season oh-so-soon! As someone that doesn't drink/consume milk, I also love their daily "senza latte" gelato menu. This piazza also has a few fantastic dining options and is a wonderful place to people watch, so be sure to stop by for those other reasons, too!
  2. Gelateria la Carraia, Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25/r - This is a favorite among a lot of Italians that we know and we agree that the gelato is absolutely delicious! This place gets packed on hot summer nights, but is worth waiting in line for. All of the gelato (including fruit flavors) tends to be creamy, so those with dairy sensitivities, be warned! Much like our first pick, this gelateria tends toward more seasonal flavors.
  3. Gelateria Santa Trinia, Piazza Frescobaldi, 11-12/r - This shop is dangerously close to our top pick, so we don't go often, but when we do it's always delicious. This gelateria is great because they have a lot of fun with their creations and often experiment with combos and flavors you wouldn't normally expect to see in ice cream, be brave and try a unique flavor when you go.

One thing these three gelaterie have in common is that their prices are fair. A small gelato will run you from 1.50-2euro at each shop...about a euro cheaper than most spots in the city center.

5 Picks for Lunch in Florence, Italy

48f54d3ded7e45bca17f5524e4e71517_7 Lately we've seen an influx in emails from the blog asking about a variety of different topics. It's become nearly impossible for us to respond to most emails that come in -- between work, life and prepping for baby, our time is stretched pretty thin. What we are trying to do is pay attention to questions that come up over and over again, and start creating blog posts with answers to these frequently asked questions.

Without further ado, this first post covers 5 places we recommend for lunch in Florence. We get lots of emails asking for recommendations and it's about time we shared some of our faves. This isn't a "best" list -- just simply five places we enjoy going every now and again for a good meal!

  1. Caffe Petrarca, Piazzale della Porta Romana 6R - This great cafe is right on the circle in Porta Romana. The food is simple, but good. Go early -- they often run out of the daily specials by 1:30/2pm. This is a great spot to eat before hopping on the 12 bus up to Piazzale Michelangelo. The stop is right outside of the cafe's front door.
  2. Gustapanino, Via de' Michelozzi 13r - Piazza Santo Spirito is one of our favorite spots in the city and Gusta is our go-to choice for a quick, yummy panino. They just added outdoor seating, too, making this a great spot for people watching. There is a lot of hype around the gusta restaurants, which may deter some folks, but we think the panini are really good!
  3. Osteria Buongustai, Via dei Cerchi, 15r - If you find yourself near Piazza della Signoria during lunchtime, this is one of our favorite spots. Tiny and low-frills, but always delicious. We *highly* suggest ordering from the daily specials menu only -- we've never been disappointed by what's fresh that day. One more tip: not the best place to eat in the heat of the summer...the small size means it gets and stays hot in there.
  4. La Cantinetta di Dante e Beatrice, via del Corso 27/r - We've written about this spot before, but it's worth repeating. In the city center near the Duomo, it can be impossible to find a well-priced meal. At Dante e Beatrice, you'll find good quality, good service and fair prices. Again, daily specials are always our favorites!
  5. Osteria Il Desco, Via delle Terme, 23/Rย - This amazing spot is just a few blocks from the Ponte Vecchio, but it might as well be miles away...rarely do tourists venture down this side street. Il Desco has some of the best lunch deals we've found and the daily specials are always out of this world. Occassionally, the specials have a fusion feel to them and you'll find dishes you can't get anywhere else in the city.

When people email asking for lunch recommendations, they also usually want us to recommend our favorite dishes at certain spots. Here's the thing: that's impossible. At all of our favorite restaurants we always order from the daily special menus...which, as you might have guessed, are always changing based on what's fresh and in season. Sure, you can dig through most menus and find insalata caprese in the winter or papa al pomodoro in the heat of summer, but eating what's in season will always have you walking away happy.


A Day in Le Cinque Terre

My mom was in town last week to visit and help us set up the new kid's room, so while she was in Italy, we decided to show her an area of Italy she hadn't seen yet - Le Cinque Terre.

I'm not a local, nor am I a Cinque Terre expert. But we do know locals and experts in the area, so we jumped at the chance to be shown around these great villages by a local guide. Our guide for this trip was Kate Little-Paradiso. We met Kate through Megan - of Bella Vita Italia fame - and I can't recommend her highly enough. She was a fantastic guide and made the day a truly memorable experience for my mom and me.

The day started in Monterosso, the most northern of the five villages of the Cinque Terre. Right away I started asking about the history and mom started taking pictures. That more or less describes how the rest of the day progressed. I asked (probably random) history questions and mom more or less filled her memory card.

After Monterosso we went to Vernazza. Both towns were recently severely damaged by flooding, but both were recovering nicely. While Monterosso is nearly back to normal, Vernazza lags behind just a bit; however, both communities are up-and-running for the summer season and well worth visiting. From Vernazza we traveled to Riomaggiore, where we ate bruschetta with anchovies and pasta al pesto in the Genovese style. Both are regional specialities and if you find yourself in Le Cinque Terre, you should try them, they are fantastic.

After lunch we began the hiking part of our day. The Cinque Terre has many seaside and mountain trails that feature better-than-postcard views of the sea and towns. My favorite hike was a 2-hour path from Volastra to Corniglia. The path takes you through terraced mountain vineyards and a bit of forrest. Though a bit strenuous and not for anyone subject to vertigo, it may just be one of those one-in-a-lifetime experiences for anyone not from the region.

Kate's tour had us travel by train, bus and boat. For my money, the best views of the villages are from out at sea and high above in the terraced vineyards. While we were there, mom and I took as much in as we could - the sights the tastes and the village architecture were all unique and enjoyable - but it wasn't until we were on the train at the end of the day that we realized how well everything had gone. What I mean is, Kate had planned the whole day around Trenitalia's bizarre schedules, ferry times and bus departures. Even when we wanted to change things in the middle of the day she still knew how to maximize our time in the area.

So, I want to highly recommend Kate as a guide and Megan as a trip consultant. Our day couldn't have gone any better!