Tag Archives: May 2017

Ten things to do in Florence for under €10

Before travelling to Italy, people often warned me about how expensive it is. They prepared me to be spending ludicrous amounts of money at every turn, that money would just flow from my bank account. These people are not wrong, but they aren’t entirely right either. No matter where you go in Italy, you can find inexpensive things to do. Take Florence for example, here are ten things to do in Florence for under €10:

1. Free walking tour!

One of the first things I like to do in a new city is a free walking tour. There are many tour companies that all host amazing tours (Sandeman’s is often the company I choose), but in Florence we went with Florence Free Tour (their website). The tour guide is often in love with the city— that’s why they became a tour guide— and know so many little details about the place. Wear good walking shoes and bring water. You’ll spend a few hours on your feet! It is called a free walking tour, but the guide works on a tip basis, so you pay what you think the tour was worth!

Cost: €5-€10

2. Bardini Giardini

The line to get to the top of the Duomo was enough to deter us, but when we caught wind it was €15 to climb to the top*, we lost interest entirely. So, we went to the Bardini Giardini instead. It lies on the south side of the river, and has only been open to the public for a few years. The gardens are beautiful, and what’s more, you will find a panoramic view of Florence, including the Duomo. Wander through the rose bushes, nap in the shade of a tree, and enjoy some grass— there isn’t much of it in the city centre.

Cost: €7.50.

*€15 gets you a ticket to the top of both the Duomo and the tower, but you can’t buy just one or the other, you have to buy the bundle.


3. Eat some street food!

If you like people-watching and a cheap dinner, Via dei Neri in the city centre is the place to do it. Locals and tourists alike gather on this street to buy food and  then enjoy it, while sitting on the sidewalk. The people-watching is amazing, and this street is the home of La Fettunta, maker of the best sandwich I have ever eaten (so good, I wrote a whole story about it! You can read it here). So grab your libation of choice and have a seat on the street!

Cost: Free

Cost if you buy a sandwich at La Fettunta: €5


4. Walk down the river and have a beer at Il Tempio

The river in Florence is lovely. With picturesque bridges and beautiful buildings lining the streets, it makes for a lovely walk. A little ways out of the city centre, 20 pleasant minutes walking east along the river, you will find Il Tempio. This little bar sits on the edge of the river, with tables and chairs set up under the trees. It’s pop-up feel gives this bar a hip vibe. Live music plays on the weekends (and maybe more often? I didn’t go on a weekday), people gather to have a beer and watch the street lights reflect off the river.

Cost: ~€3 for a 750ml beer.

5. Mercato Centrale

Another cheap place to eat is Mercato Centrale. The food prices here range, so keep your eye out for the cheap stuff. We had the most delicious pizza for €8! You can also bring your own €3 bottle of wine from the supermarket, and ask one of the vendors for wine glasses.

Cost: Ranges between €5-€20

6. Drink a beer on the steps of a friggin’ old building, and people watch!

I am from Canada where drinking in public is not as widely accepted as it is in Italy. I think people sometimes forget that— you can drink in public here! Now, you can’t get drunk in public here, be civil about it, but a glass of wine, or a cheeky beer is not a crime. Florence is chalk full of beautiful, old buildings. Find one with some steps, or a bench across the street, and crack open a cold one!

Cost: €3 for a beer from the supermarket!

7. Eat Gelato.

Duh. Gelato is the perfect snack for any time of day (there was a day in Italy in which gelato was the first thing I ate)! There are SO many Gelaterias sprinkled through the city centre, you won’t have a hard time finding a cone. Remember though, gelato is meant to be served ice cold, so if in the display case the gelato is mounded up in great big heaps it’s not going to be as good! (you can read more about why). Best gelato I had? A cone of dulce de leche and Straciatella at Venchi, mostly because of the chocolate melted into the bottom of the cone!

Cost: €2

Cost if you go to Venchi and have them put chocolate in the bottom of the cone: €3.50


8. Visit the Duomo

While it costs €15 to go to the top of the Duomo, it costs nothing to go inside and check the ceiling. There may be a line, but it is only there to organize the people, and it is fairly fast moving. The inside of the building, while not nearly as ornate as the outside, is stunning. The frescoes on the ceiling are divine (literally) and the stained glass windows are gorgeous. Definitely worth a wander through.

Cost: Free!

9. Have an Aperol spritz somewhere, but don’t pay more than €4…

Before dinner, Italians partake in an apertivo. Apertivo is usually an alcoholic beverage of some sort, typically an Aperol spritz, and a snack. Aperol is a bitter liquor, but when mixed with Prosecco and splashed with orange, it’s a lovely, light fizzy drink, perfect for 5pm. In the city centre, we were shocked to find Aperol spritz for €9. When you see Aperol spritz for €9 keep walking. As you move away from the Duomo, the prices drop. We wandered closer to the Galleria Dell Academia and found a place just across the street from it pouring these orange lovelies for €4 each. That meant we could have four for almost the same price as two at the other place!

Cost: €4


10. See David!

I’m just going to say it: Michelangelo was one crazy Italian. He was a genius, a jack of all  trades, and a master of all trades. He was a true Renaissance man. When in Florence, I implore you to see Michelangelo’s David. I am no art buff, but this thing is breathtaking and totally worth seeing. The line up to get inside can be overwhelming, but we went at about 5 and it was much shorter than earlier in the day. We stood in line for about 15 minutes. The last entrance into the museum is at 6, and they close at 6:30, so we had ample time to check the art.

Cost: €12. Ok, this one isn’t under €10, but for a little extra, you can see a little extra… if you know what I mean.

Enjoy Florence! For more travel tips about countries all over the world, head here!

FullSizeRender 5

In Florence, Eating the Best. Sandwich. Ever.

Michael googled a great place to eat for dinner this evening: La Fettunta. We slowly made our way over to the street. People sat on the sidewalks, curbs, and doorsteps that lined the street on the way to the restaurat. We found our place and were given a table. The man who seated us told us that sandwiches were served outside. Ok? We took our seat and began looking at the menu. It was so hot in that room. I thought maybe it was because we just walked here, but no. I looked past Michael at a woman sitting at a nearby table, and she wiped sweat from the side of her face. I said to Michael, “that woman just wiped sweat from the side of her face. Let’s get out of here.” He agreed. We told the man we wanted sandwiches and he pointed next door.


We walked into the next door place, still La Fettunta, and I was quite pleased to see the big slab of porchetta in the display case. Delish! A very Italian man, wearing a black leather jacket (that’s how you tell), sat on the stoop of the shop, eating the most amazing looking sandwich I’ve ever seen, and drinking an ice cold Coca Cola out of a glass bottle. He looked like a Coca Cola commercial. He made that Cola look so damn refreshing. And I wanted that sandwich.

I asked him what he was eating, and with his mouthful he laughed and yelled Italian to the woman working. She came over and began speaking English to us. She explained how it worked—choose bread, meat, cheese, vegetables, and sauce… wait a minute. SAUCE?! Please tell me this is real. We haven’t had mayo or aioli or any kind of sauce on a sandwich since Canada. Oh my gosh. I didn’t realize how much I missed sauce until I felt the familiar ‘about to happy cry’ lump in my throat as I read the list of available sauces: garlic, Gorgonzola truffle, sun dried tomato, truffle cream. Holy shit. Pinch me. I pointed at the man sitting on the stoop, drinking his Coca Cola in slow motion, “what’s that?” Pizza bread, porchetta, garlic sauce, melted cheese, fresh tomato. “I’ll have exactly that.” She laughed. Michael ordered sausage, with fresh tomato, melted cheese, and the Gorgonzola and truffle sauce.

We took our seats on the curb outside the shop, and began. This is absolutely, without a doubt, one of the top 5 meals we have had in Italy so far. Maybe even top 3. Maybe even number 1. This sandwich changed my life tonight. Michael just laughed at my totally genuine reaction to the sauce.

We sat on the sidewalk, feet in the street, eating our FUCKING UNBELIEVABLE sandwiches, drinking our Birra Morretti (my new favourite Italian beer), and chatting. It’s absolutely amazing that we don’t run out of stuff to talk about. Best sandwich ever. Best evening ever.


The Perfect Bicycling Day in Tuscany

May 18, 2017

You know, we’re not ‘cyclists’ by any means, we’re just going on a really uncomfortably long bicycle ride through the rolling hills of Tuscany: Siena to Montalcino to Pienza, and back. That’s why we don’t use the word ‘cycling’, and instead, we say ‘bicycling’. It’s different. Cycling is with Lycra and teeny tiny thin tires. Bicycling is with Lululemon outfits and batteries to help us get up hills. I can’t imagine this bicycle ride without this electric bike. We were going uphill at 20km/hr!


We bicycled and bicycled. Today felt like a total breeze compared to yesterday. Knowing we were only going 30km today (as opposed to yesterday’s 50!) made everything feel just a little easier. We arrived at San Quirico d’Orcia and decided that this would be our place for lunch. We pulled up to the old town wall, where we saw an unassuming stone staircase leading up to one of the turrets. We parked our bikes, locked ‘em up, and brought our picnic lunch up to the top. There, we sat and ate our €15 lunch with our €1million view. The prosciutto, the pecorino, the fresh bread. The orange, the banana. Oh my gosh, it all tasted so much better sitting on top of a fortress wall, looking out over ALL OF TUSCANY! Everyday is an adventure. And every meal can be five star.

Photo by @mikeyquicky

We stopped again when we arrived in Bagno Vignoni, with hopes of finding a hot spring to swim in! This place is known for its huge Roman bath, and all the blogs and reviews celebrated the free hot springs open to tourists! We bicycled up the long, windy hill, and arrived at the top, only to find that no, in fact, there is no swimming allowed in the bath. If we couldn’t partake in any free hot springs, we would have expensive gelato instead! I had stracciatella, a sweet milk-based gelato with chocolate pieces swirled into it. Oh boy, I do love some gelato.


We left Bagno Vignoni and after a breezy bicycle uphill (thanks electric bike!) arrived in Pienza. We found our AirBnB quite quickly, as it is right on the edge of the old town and the old town of Pienza is teeny tiny. This evening, we decided we would have a picnic for dinner. We went across the street to a market and bought some meat, cheese, the most beautiful tomato you’ve ever seen, and some antipasto. We asked the man at the market if they sold porchetta, a pork dish Pienza is famous for, and he laughed, “no, we do not have enough room.” Huh? He told us where we could buy some in the old town.

We found the place and when we went inside, the salty smell of cured meat filled our noses. There, behind the display glass, was an entire pig, roasted, cured, salted, and cut in half. Ohhhhhh, that’s why he didn’t have enough room at the last place, because porchetta is an ENTIRE PIG! We ordered our porchetta and the old Italian lady working behind the counter hand sliced three beautiful pieces.

FullSizeRender 9

We had the most perfect picnic ever this evening. The tomato, the cheese, the meats, the antipasto, the wine, the view! Oh, the view. I may have a sore butt from bicycling, but I have a glowing heart. I’m truly having the time of my life.


One night in Rome, Italy

May 3, 2017

Our first evening in Rome! We left Canada at 12 noon, May 2nd and after hours and hours of planing, training, and automobiling, arrived in Rome at 11am on May 3rd. It was now 10 pm, and we were so very tired. But also, so very hungry. Michael Googled highly rated yet inexpensive food places nearby and one, Trattoria Pizzeria Vecchia Roma, caught our eye. We quickly found the place. When we walked in, we joined the crowd of people waiting… no… desperately hoping for a table. The restaurant was totally packed! With Italians! We knew we were in the right place. The man who appeared to be hosting came to the crowd on the stairs and said “only reservations!” Bummer! The crowd thinned, and almost everyone left, except for two women, who were taken by the host to their reserved table. Michael and I stood on the stairs, alone. A waiter looked over at us. He smiled and I smiled back. He motioned for us to come sit in his section. Life lesson: With a bit of persistence and some friendly eye contact, you really do just get what you want.


Our table was crammed between a huge table of ten, and a display case of various meats and cheeses. We ordered our €3.50 half litre of red wine (!) and settled in. Our waiter was wonderful! He brought us a few paper-thin slices of delicious prosciutto from the display case to try – for free! I love free food! We ordered two types of bruschetta – mushroom and olive – to share, a plate of gnocchi, and a plate of spaghetti puttanesca. Today, I learned that bruschetta does not necessarily mean tomatoes on toast. We ordered the mushroom and olive, thinking they would be mixed with tomatoes and garlic, like the bruschetta we are used to at home. In fact, our bruschetta was not what we were expecting. No tomatoes at all, just one with olive tapenade, and the other with a mushroom paste. Oh man, they were delicious! Ditto the pasta. The puttanesca was al dente, and super garlicky, and the gnocchi was cheesy and perfect.

Michael went to the washroom and our waiter came back to clear our plates. I thanked him profusely for his kind service and the prosciutto at the beginning of our meal. He said he was so happy we could join him this evening. I asked his name: Fabrizio. Of course it is. The most Italian name I can possibly imagine. Michael returned and Fabrizio brought us two tastes of limoncello- a lemony liquor made in Italy. Oh boy, it was strong!

It was late, and we were one of the few tables left in the restaurant. We thanked Fabrizio again. What a perfect first evening in Italy! We wandered back to our hotel and were instantly asleep.