Our Italian Honeymoon: Florence

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh Florence. Now this is what Rome was supposed to be! The beautiful architecture, and the pace - romantic, less chaotic, ancient and full of intrigue. It was welcoming above all. I did not immediately feel the same sense of apprehension that Rome inspired. As soon as we settled in to our truly great, and uber funky, hotel find in Room Mate Luca, we knew that our stay would be something special.

All of our friends who had visited the great city of Florence (or Firenze, as the locals would say) sang its praises and said without a doubt that we simply MUST go see this city. Actually we had no firm plans to stop there at all. It was a fluke of my scheduling mishap. I had booked our flat in Moneglia one day later than I had thought, so we had an extra night to fill. Well, Florence was on the way, so why not.

I knew very little about the place. I had seen the Borgias, I knew there was a Duomo of some kind, and that the steak was supposed to be out of this world. Once we got settled in to our funk-a-riffic digs, we set out to see what all the fuss was about. In about 5 blocks, I knew what so many were talking about. WOW! That is one beautiful Duomo! It is massive and it really does take your breath away. The amazing detail that went in to it is awe inspiring. The way the light hits it at dawn and dusk is simply magical. And at night it is lit up and looms over the main center of town. Where everything is happening.

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There are several upscale places to shop for fine leather goods as well as your cheapo knock off souvenir shops. And fortunately for me (and them) there are far fewer annoying iphone “selfie” peddlers. Just across from the Duomo, we had our first taste ofhappiness, Florence style. At a great little trattoria called Sasso di Dante, where I had an incredibly rich chicken liver bruschetta. We sat down in view of the great structure, had some lovely red wine, incredibly tasty nosh, and were serenaded by an authentic Italian accordion player. Aaaaaaaaahhhhh Florence, you do weave your spell….

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Next up, a visit to the bell tower at the Duomo. 443 or so steps to the top. I recommend you do it at sunset. You will have an amazing 365 degree view, you will work off lunch and work up an appetite for the amazing dinner to come, plus, your ass will be quarter-bouncing firm by the time you are done.

Since we only had one night to get acquainted with the gorgeous city, there were only 2 things I knew we had to do, and both involved food. The first was to have an authentic Florentine steak. Originally to be had at Mario’s, but that was to have to wait, as they only opened for lunch. Our new hotel friends at Luca recommended a place that was open that night called Donnini’s. Oh dear gawd, I cannot recommend this place highly enough! Perfectly situated on a grand piazza with open air seating and a lovely view of a working and very lit up carousel. Which, of course, we rode on. Derr…

Now, that steak was a thing of beauty. I dare say it was truly the best steak I have ever tasted. At the very least it is in the top three. On par with the Kobe Beef I had in Kobe, Japan and the bone in ribeye at Wolfgang Puck’s Lupo in Vegas. But, now that I consider it, I do have to walk the Florentine steak to the front of the line, as Puck’s steak did have a sauce on it, and the Kobe steak was sliced and diced by a great chef. This steak was primal, simple, perfect. Just a big ass T-bone (well Porterhouse really) as big as my head, seared to perfection, seasoned and served with just salt and pepper and a little grilled potatoes on the side. No filler, no showy glamour, no glitz. Just the ne plus ultra. My king of steak.

I’m not forgetting about Mario’s though. We were able to visit for lunch just before we left. And oh what a lunch. This tiny bistro just off a main piazza around a hidden corner is an icon. I had no idea. We went in, gave our names and waited outside like everyone else. While we waited the line got longer and longer. We had arrived at just the right time. Once our name was called, we were ushered to wedge in, joining another coupleat a tiny table, while rubbing elbows with another table of four mere inches away. Boy, do they pack you in! Our newfound table mates were just finishing up their repast and said nary a word to us until they got up and said “Ciao” in their best German accented Italian. Shortly thereafter we were joined by a lovely young couple from Iowa on their Honeymoon as well. Small world.

We chatted away as we were given our liter of house red wine (just for Kim and I), and John and Helena were given theirs. I think that set us back a total of 14 Euros, about $20. Always order the house wine when traveling in Italy. Just sayin. The next thing to plop down was a perfectly cooked osso buco for Kim and a braised rabbit in a (paprika?) sauce that was divine. I was told to try the Florentine steak at Mario’s but for lunch it was just a tad to heavy for me. Guess I’ll just have to come back….. Oh wait, WE ARE!!!!

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Now that we have been introduced to this incredible place, we have decided to make another stop for 2 days on our way back to Rome for our final Italian Honeymoon goodbyes. A visit to the Uffizi Gallery will be attempted and a sunset at Ponte Vecchio has been recommended as well. So, Mario’s will get another chance to wow us as I am sure it will. There most definitely will be at least one more Florentine steak in my near future, though I’m aiming for at least two.