To Italy With Love..Mark's Travel Challenge
A wonderful visit to Florence and nearby wineries in San Gimignano, Tuscany. Famous Florentine women. La cucina da Italia. Hotel Aprile, a great place to stay. The marvellous St. Maria Novella Farmacia and where to eat.
- Travelling on Alitalia to Firenze
- The Hotel Aprile
- Around the Neighborhood
- Trattoria al Trebbio..a great place to eat
- Illustrious Florentine Women
- More Italian Women of Note
- Two Wonderful Wineries
- Ending Note:
Travelling on Alitalia to Firenze
Recently I was fortunate to journey to Florence, a Renaissance jewel. I caught an Alitalia flight from Birmingham airport that is most convenient for short journeys between the UK and European continent. Flying via Milan, I found the seating aboard this Italian airline very comfortable and enjoyed being bussed to and from the plane. The seats are of grey leather and, although an airbus, quite roomy and spotless unlike so many other airlines I have flown on.
The Hotel Aprile
The Hotel Aprile was my place of abode for four deliciously comfy nights. This ancient Palazzo dal Borgo, formerly a 15th century Medici Palazzo, has been lovingly converted into a charming hotel with every comfort and excellent service. Their delightful courtyard garden where breakfast and afternoon drinks are served in the spring and summer is a green and verdant spot situated within sight of the Church of Santa Maria Novella and the bustling streets of this Renaissance city.
The bedrooms are furnished differently and all with private bathrooms which have been beautifully fitted. For families, there is a full size suite with two bedrooms.
You will find many surprises as you wander through the hallways and passages, 16th century paintings, alcoves with Florentine Renaissance antiques, original frescoes on walls and faded oriental carpets. Sandra Costantini, a delightful lady, looks after guests’ needs at the front desk and is well informed on where to go and what to see in Florence. In fact all the staff are worthy of praise. There is a lovely little bar and lounge where espresso can be sipped and local wines imbibed. Hotel Aprile is situated on Via della Scala, very close to the station and many great trattorias and shops.
Around the Neighborhood
Situated on Via della Scala, Hotel Aprile is very close to the station and many great trattorias and shops. Be sure to visit the St. Maria Novella Farmacia just down the street a bit, a place of wonder and incredible beauty and body care lotions and creams.
I recommend a visit to the Mercato Centrale which is just a 10-minute walk away. Here fresh cheeses, vegetables, fruits, pastas, meats, fish and grains are brought in from the surrounding countryside every day and a more enticing array will be hard to find anywhere. And do stop by to enjoy an espresso or caffe latte at Bar Bellini inside the market that since 1898 has been run by the Bellini family. Anna and Piero carry on the fine tradition.
Trattoria al Trebbio..a great place to eat
A small trattoria by the hotel was recommended and it was great. In fact, I ate there two of the four nights I was in Florence. Called Trattoria al Trebbio, it is located on Via dei Banchi near the Piazza della Santa Novella. There you can feast on authentic cucina italiana, not the so called sophisticated American version so many Italian restaurants here now offer. The bread is dense, unsalted, and quite delicious. There is no fancy olive, tomato or whatever else is found in bread stateside. Choices of paste but sauced very lightly and not overly large portions (I had to send mine back because of the size of it and when asking why, they told me because I was from America where enormous portions were served which is quite true but not to my liking)
On my second visit, they served me a normal sized spaghetti alla asparagi! A roasted veal main dish was served in an aromatic sauce with a side dish of sautéed spinach. I also ordered a house made dessert that was Pane Cotta with a chocolate sauce, sinfully delicious. A half bottle of local Chianti and espresso rounded out a superb repast. T
Illustrious Florentine Women
There is so much to look at in Florence. The architecture, paintings, statues and the little shops where wonderful breads, cheeses, wines and varied salame and prosciutto are on display.
But little known are some of the illustrious women in Tuscany. Bianca Cappello was the most intriguing figure in the chronicles of the Florentine Renaissance. She was an extremely beautiful woman who has always been surrounded by an aura of mystery. She lived in her luxurious house in Via Maggio and a plaque on the palace façade recalls its illustrious inhabitant. In 1579, she became the Grand Duchess of Francesco Medici 1 and took up residence in the north wing of the Pitti Palace
More Italian Women of Note
Caterina de’Pazzi lived in Florence in the mid 1500s. In 1582, she entered the Carmelite Order at the monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Borgo San Frediano and tried to encourage the reform of the religious society of her time. She died in 1607, was beatified in 1626 and canonized in 1669. She was proclaimed a Saint by Pope Clement 1X. A cycle of frescoes celebrating Caterina were carried out by Florentine painter Giovanni da San Giovanni inside the Palazza Rospigliosi Pallavicini in Via del Duca in 1633 and in the Pitti Palazzo.
Two Wonderful Wineries
Being so close to San Gimignano, I spent one morning as the guest of Pierluigi Giachi, the owner of the Tenuta Torciano estate. He drove me through the winding hills and most explicitly described the soil that he emphatically told me was the only difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico wine. Everything else he said is marketing, marketing, marketing!
I tasted many of his wines and was pleased to find out that not only does Lionstone import them to the USA but Keith Johnsen, a charming chap, specializes in the Torciano Super Tuscan.
I also was honored to be the guest of the La Spinosa Accademia della Zafferano Farm Park in Barberino Val D’Elsa. The winemaker, Danilo Presezzi, and Gianfranco Ossola showed me the vines that had been planted at various times, and I tasted the different organic wines which they produce.
La Spinosa is also a farm holiday center offering quality biological produce, traditional Mediterranean and fresh local products. There is a swimming pool, archery area, tennis and volleyball court, gym, playground, and mountain bike routes all in the silence, colors, fragrance, and great tradition of the Chianti-- a very special place to spend your next vacation
I went to ask the apothecary at St. Maria Novella’s for a love potion but instead I found frescoes which filled me with love.