Travel | Cooking, Art + Wine – Florence, Italy

When choosing a honeymoon destination last year, my husband and I decided that we wanted to go in a different direction than most which is your typical tropical vacation. Not knocking it at all – if anyone loves relaxing by the ocean with their toes in the sand, it’s us. However, we wanted to go somewhere ridiculously enchanting. Somewhere lively with incredible food and a unique atmosphere. In other words, we wanted an adventure. I like to consider myself pretty worldly – I’m open to any experience and am more than willing to try anything at least once. Sean is even more worldly – he’s been to many different places and felt that I needed to experience Europe. He had been to London before and although he was open to visiting again, I wanted us to go somewhere that we would both be experiencing for the first time. After all, a honeymoon is a very special thing two people share – right?

We had originally decided on Paris and a few stops in Italy and we had 10 days allocated for our honeymoon (including travel). But after doing quite a bit of research, we discovered that it would require more traveling than what we had initially anticipated. We didn’t mind moving from city to city, however, we wanted to at least have a few days in each place so we could actually take it all in and enjoy. I mean really…I didn’t want to live out of my suitcase the entire trip. We agreed that we should make Paris it’s own vacation as there is a lot to see and do there and we decided to zero in on Italy…check! Now the next tough decision to make – where do we go? After all, Italy is rather large and there are so many beautiful places to visit. How could we possibly narrow it down? We decided the fairest way to figure this out was to each choose a city that we had been dying to go to and then a third city that we could both agree on. Now, when I say it was really difficult to make this choice – I mean that with the utmost sincerity. I have a hard enough time picking out what I’m going to wear each day much less, choosing an international destination.

Finally we hammered it down – we would start north and move our way down south. First stop: Florence (my choice), second stop: Rome (Sean’s choice) and third stop: The Amalfi Coast (our choice).

I wanted to visit Florence because I am an art nut. Not to mention we both love love love (did I mention love?) food and wine. We decided to throw in Tuscany into the mix as it’s always been on the top of my bucket list.

After several plane rides – we arrived on Wednesday, October 23rd just a few days after our wedding (October 19th – best. day. ever.). We took a bus from the Florence airport to a stop near our hotel. We lugged our suitcases for a few blocks (aye yi yi). But wow…what a culture shock. I could barely focus on walking because all I wanted to do was look around and take in all of the hustle and bustle of the city. So many beautiful people, so much architecture, so many little street cafes, gelaterias, boutiques…you name it. After settling into our hotel, we decided to start exploring immediately.

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{ We went to a little street cafe and shared a bottle of delicious red wine. NOM! }

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{ Happy hubby }

After enjoying some vino and fresh pasta, we called it a night because we were exhausted from traveling (dang time zone change) and had a very busy itinerary the following day. We booked a really incredible day that included a cooking class followed by a wine tasting in Tuscany which entailed getting picked up by a private van from the cooking school and transferred to wine country. I had done a substantial amount of research to find the perfect excursion and had decided on the cooking class/wine tasting combination with an organization called Vanarium. We were able to choose a menu from an assortment that Vanarium provided and decided on the seafood option. 

The following morning we woke up very early to meet our chef at a local market. Her name was Ingrid and she was just the sweetest woman with a wealth of knowledge. Originally from Switzerland, she moved to Italy and met her husband, an Italian man who was actually our wine tour guide. He would be picking us up later that day. Ingrid took us around the local market that was never really visited by tourists as it was off the beaten path. It was such an experience to be immersed in the day-to-day life of a local.

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{ Fresh fruit from the local market. }

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{ Forget grocery stores, fresh vegetables and fruit at the local market is the place to go. }

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{ Our chef, Ingrid, picking out our seafood from the local fish market. }

After we gathered all of our fresh ingredients, Ingrid took us to the local cooking school where we would be preparing our decadent four course meal.

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{ Our menu for the day – mussel balls, a cuttlefish soup, black ink risotto and cuttlefish and a panna cotta with chocolate sauce. }

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{ Prep station and a little table where we dined after we cooked our meal. }

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{ Fresh, traditional, Tuscan bread – it was delicious and crusty but had no salt in it because you salt the olive oil that you dip it in. }

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{ Sean cooking up a storm – Ingrid taught him well. }

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{ Oh ya know, just stirring some risotto! }

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{ Finished product #1 | Mussel Balls }

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{ Finished product #2 | English Pea Soup with Cuttlefish }

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{ Finished product #3 | Black Ink Risotto with Cuttlefish }

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{ Finished product #4 | Panna Cotta with Chocolate Sauce }

What an experience! I truly learned so much from Ingrid and the food was absolutely incredible. Everything was so fresh and tasty. I definitely learned how labor intensive a four course meal was but was excited to find out how easy homemade panna cotta is! I was super intimidated but it turned out remarkably.

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{ Cheers to our first homemade meal as husband + wife. }

After our extremely filling meal, our wine tour guide picked us up in a private van. He told us about a part of Florence that you could look out from a very high point and see the entire city. He asked us if we wanted to check it out before we drove 40 minutes to Tuscany and of course, we were ecstatic and accepted his offer.

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{ NO words. Completely in awe over this view. }

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{ It was even more incredible in person. }

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{ At the lookout point was an exact replica of Michelangelo’s Statue of David – apparently this was where the original was located before being moved to the Accademia Gallery. It was replaced with this one. }

After our pit stop, we drove through beautiful hillsides to get to our final destination. Our first stop was Casaloste in Chianti Classico. We tried several different wines, learned about them and the entire wine making process as well as the vineyard’s history.

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{ This view: ridiculously amazing. }

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{ Tuscany is truly a dream. }

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{ Grapes growing in the vineyard. }

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{ Delicious wine tasting at Casaloste. }

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{ A few of the different wines we tasted. }

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{ Learning about all of the different wines Casaloste cultivates. }

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{ The hubby enjoying some vino with our new Canadian friends we made in the background. }

After Casaloste, our guide drove us to another winery and vineyard called Montagliari.

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{ Outside of Montagliari. )

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{ Beautiful weather, beautiful place. }

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( Sean exploring the winery. }

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{ The beautiful outdoor area where you enjoy the wine + view. }

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{ Newlyweds }

After we left Montagliari, our guide drove us to a little part of town in Tuscany that was truly a hidden gem. It was an area that was transformed into little apartments. It was indescribable and the views were surreal.

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*Le sigh*. What magical places Florence and Tuscany were. The views…magnificent. The people…warm and friendly. The food and wine…rich and delectable. If I could have a second home anywhere, it would be between here and the Amalfi Coast. I could not imagine being anywhere as naturally serene and interesting as this. Perfection. It was a wonderful adventure but it was time for the next leg of our trip: Rome. So for now, arrivederci, Florence and Tuscany! I’ll be writing about our travels to Rome next. Ciao!

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