Tag Archives: Study Abroad

Florence, Italy : The Food

Florence, Italy :: The Food [ See the full guide to Florence, Italy here ]

I’m sure you already know this, but Italian food is kind of amazing. Lets just state the obvious. The elephant in the room. During my summer abroad, my roommates and I ate out for pretty much every meal. Yes, it was expensive, but we never actually had time to go to the grocery store & prepare our own meals. Thats the thing about studying abroad in the summertime: there is SO much to do and SO little time.

I think its also important to note that dining is almost a religious experience in Italy. Another European thing that they just get. I am all about the dining experience ( the atmosphere, the people, the drinks, and obviously the food ), so eating was pretty much my favorite part of the trip. Italians often eat slowly, drink for the added flavor ( literally NO ONE drinks to get drunk… its a dead giveaway that you’re American, by the way ), & grab a cappuccino or espresso at the end of meals. So, give that whole process a try… but a warning: the wine in Italy is stronger & SO good… so slow sippin’ is probably a good idea.

Heres a little list of some of my favorite food spots in Florence, along with various things you just have to try:

Cheese & Wine :: Food in Florence, Italy 1. One Word. Cheese : You can get a yum-o little cheese plate at pretty much any restaurant in Florence. I freaking love cheese ( << sounds so strange to say for some reason ). But, who doesn’t? The mozzarella in Florence is literally to-die-for, because its usually made fresh.. like everything else. We could really take a hint from the Italians: Fresh is the BEST. Usually, a cheese plate will include some sliced meats, fruits, & balsamic / honey as well. Too. Damn. Good.

Cappuccino :: Florence, Italy 2. Cappuccino : This little glass of goodness was my BEST friend in Florence. Cappuccino was always there for me: for dessert ( sooooo Italian of me ), during a rough morning, before class, etc. Florentines ( is that a word? ) know their cappuccino, & I honestly think you can get a good cup of this stuff basically anywhere. They even do it To-Go ( which they call “Take Away,” not to-go ). Most Italians will drink theirs at the cafe, because ( like I said before ) they savor the whole experience when it comes to food and drink. Drinking a cappuccino or espresso is not something they do on the go, its something they do in conjunction with conversation / relaxation. So, slow down for a sec, learn some italian words from a barista or the Italian sitting next to you, and enjoy your capp, k?

Mercato Centrale :: Florence, Italy

source: instagram

3. Mercato Centrale : I got reeeeeal lucky because this amazing market was quite literally 20 steps from my apartment in Florence. At the very bottom floor of the Mercato Centrale is a huge underground-looking market with fresh fruit, veggies, pastas, meats, and other foods ( some of them very, very strange ). There’s also a little espresso / cappuccino counter where you can get the cheapest capp in town. Its a giant market and is open until around 2, so go early in the day. On the top floor is a collection of cafes / bars / restaurants with an assortment of food & drinks. This part is open pretty much all day. There is also a little store for cooking ingredients / supplies & wine. And theres a kitchen for cooking classes ( sooooo nice ). My friends learned to make Gnocchi in the kitchen at the Mercate Centrale. It is near the main train station in Florence, and a very necessary stop on your foodie tour.

Gelato :: Florence, Italy 4. Gelato : Okay, this one is obvious. Florence has a gelato shop on every corner, pretty much. My favorite was Gelateria Edoardo near the Duomo.  A little tip I learned is to generally stay away from the gelato near the tourist hubs ( the Duomo, big piazzas, etc ) , but this place was an exception. Generally, the cafes near tourist areas will be more expensive and less authentic. You see that huge pile of colorful gelato staring at you from the window of that highly-trafficked, touristy cafe? Stay. away. The real deal stuff isn’t that huge or colorful. The size / color is a ploy to attract tourists ( mainly us Americans whom are entranced by the “bright & shiny” things of the world ). The good stuff, I learned, is at the places that have their gelato covered in metal lids. Its a must to find your fav gelato place & become a regular ( this goes for cafes too ). You’ll feel like a local.

Astor :: Food in Florence The Diner :: Food in Florence The Diner :: Food in Florence 5. Astor & The Diner : Are you craving the greasy-goodness of American food? Welp, these two places will provide just that. After being in Florence for awhile, I just really, really needed a hamburger. At Astor, you can get a burger, fries, and a beer for super, super cheap. At The Diner, you can get those things, as well as an American-Style breakfast and much more. If we are being really honest here, none of it is as good as the real thing, but its good enough ( not to mention familiar enough ) to get you through a home-sick, I-need-a-huge-plate-of-grease lull. ( Please ignore the photo quality, iPhones aren’t exactly the most professional… )

6. Da Pinocchio : Okay, so this restaurant was in the same building as my apartment, so we frequented it a lot. One grrreat thing about living in this area was we got to know the owners and workers at this little place. They offer a great student discount ( alongside most other restaurants in Florence ) & great service. I recommend getting the Ravioli with Spinach & Truffle and a glass of the House Red Wine. The truffle in Florence is life-changing and the ravioli here is incredible ( most places will have this dish, actually ). We developed an early loyalty to Da Pinocchio, so I had to mention it. My Gluten-Intolerance was out of control in Florence, but this amaaaazing ravioli was so, so worth it. & Free Wifi lolz.

7. Mimi & Coco : This restaurant was also right next to my apartment, so we frequented it as well. Again, the Spinach & Truffle Ravioli & House Wine is my recommendation here. We became friends with the people who worked at Mimi & Coco as well. I think this restaurant is a little more well-known than Da Pinocchio, but its about the same quality. I loved this place because they would stay open a little later than usual just to feed us after a night out… they never turned us away & we were pretty annoying soo….

Gusta Pizza :: Florence, Italy 7. Gusta Pizza : This one is a must-have. I repeat, A MUST have. It is on the more local-ridden side of the river & the pizza is possibly the best in the city. Its a Firenze classic for study-abroaders. It is on every list of Florence food suggestions, so I had to add it to this one. Theres a reason for that too…. Its unbelievable. I am a lover of really, really thin pizza with delicate, melt-in-your-mouth flavor. This is Gusta Pizza in a nutshell. My friends claim that the Pesto Pizza is the absolute best. It isn’t on the menu, but they know what you’re talking about when you ask for it. I stick with the classic cheese usually ( yeah, I know I’m boring ) & it was no upset.

8. Veggy : As a juice fanatic, I frequented Veggy for their green juice. Florence doesn’t have many vegetarian / juice places, so this is a little gem. It may seem a little expensive, but I didn’t think it was too bad in comparison to most Juice places in the United States. They have all kinds of juices, salads and wraps. Its a nice light option in comparison to most of the other restaurants in Florence. AND the juice is HUGE ( major plus considering my juicing addiction ).

9. Fruit Stands : Another light, detox option is going to a fruit stand. There a couple strewn about Florence. The one I frequented was near the Duomo ( or I went into the Mercato Centrale ), but you can probably find another one close to your area if thats inconvenient. I luuuurve my fruit, so these little stands were heaven on wheels  ( or pegs or whatever ). Also, the fruit is pretty cheap. Overall a good choice for a little detoxifying snack.

10. Ristorante Messicano Tijuana : Are you a Texan or just overall badass who needs Mexican food to live? Well, heres your place. I didn’t get to try it, unfortunately, but my roommates ( who know their mex food ) said it was really good. Obviously, in Texas, we eat a lot of Tex-Mex, but this is real, quality, straight-up Mexican food. The exception is that they have queso, which I’m fairly certain is a Tex-mex thing. But seriously, they have queso, so you have to go this one.

11. Pino’s Sandwiches : This is another one I didn’t get the chance to try, but my roommates who stayed a little longer than me loved it ( as did most people I have talked to about food in Florence ). Its a classic little sandwich shop that is fairly infamous for their yum-o sammies. Its a quick & easy place to stop by if you have a busy day. Or if you don’t. Whatever.

So, I’m not really sure why my lists always end at super random and awkward numbers… it is a painful thing for the perfectionist side of me to look at. Stay tuned for some more Florence tips & helpful info !! Also, don’t forget to check out the entire guide to Firenze here!

Now, its your turn. What is your favorite Florence, Italy food spot? What did I miss?

[ PS ]



Weekend in Cinque Terre, Italy

Vernazza, Cinque Terre Cinque Terre. Wowzas my friends. Cinque Terre is a collection of five villages on the eastern coast of Italy. It has definitely been my favorite part of my voyage to Italy thus far. The people were incredible, friendly, and extremely proud of their native villages. It has a much safer and much more communal feel than Florence and Rome, if that is what you prefer. Luckily, we got to spend the 4th of July here… and surprisingly, most people didn’t look at us like we were ignorant/idiotic Americans as we sported our USA swizzag through the streets/on the beach. We took the train from Florence to the villages. Each of the five villages has a small station, so the train provided a very quick method of transportation between villages, as well. Here’s a lil’ list of weekend highlights for y’all:

Vernazza Apartment, Cinque Terre, Italy 1. Our apartment: I was able to find a pretty insane apartment in the village of Vernazza for a bargain on Booking.com [exact apartment found here]. This location in the village gave us an incred view of the ocean AND the village. Also, it was very close to the square, which is treated as the center of Vernazza. Really, anywhere you stay there is convenient.. its pretty small.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre Vernazza, Cinque Terre 2. Sunset Cruisin’: This was the first thing we did in Cinque Terre. We literally walked from the train station [in Monterosso] to Angelo’s Boat Tours for our sunset cruise. I liked this option because it allowed for a private tour on a smaller boat, so it was a calm and relaxing ending to a day spent on trains/in train stations. AKA: the last thing I wanted to do after being surrounded by disgusto, germy trains and the chaos that is the Italian rail system all day is be in the middle of yet another mass of strangers. Not calming.

Sunset Boat Tour, Cinque Terre, Italy

Sunset Boat Tour, Cinque Terre, Italy At the beginning of our journey, we were served aparitivo [salumi, cheese, focaccia, and prosecco.. aka Italian champagne] and we got to jam our own tunes over the speaks on the boat. PRETTY fun if ya ask me. PS: got this badazz Kimono/coverup from PUBLIK, naturally. 

Sunset Boat Tour, Cinque Terre, Italy IMG_5562 Sunset Boat Tour, Cinque Terre, Italy THEN, we stopped at a dinner place [din is included in the price] with a set menu, so we were able to eat the best that the restaurant had to offer. They really like to show off their culture [i.e. food, drink, music, art, etc], so you can assume that when they suggest something in that realm, its ballin. As the sun set, we continued our cruise around the villages [sounds like something from a Nicolas Sparks novel.. but I couldn’t think of a way to make that less romantic/cheesy sounding.. so plz excuse]. They were even kind enough to drop us off in our own village, rather than at the boat’s docking point. These folks really go out of their way to make you a happy camper.

Sunset Boat Tour, Cinque Terre, Italy 3. The People: Seriously, though. The people here almost out-shined the friendly folks of small-town Texas.. Almost. Like I said before, they want you to go home with only wonderful stories, because they need excellent recommendations [more visitors] to keep their economy healthy. We met new friends almost instantly, as we were lost on the way to our apartment [typ], and were directed to go to a bar called Burgus in the main piazza [square].. and it became my favorite night-spot. If you want to meet some of the badass village inhabitants, make this your go-to for nightlife. Its really small and cozy, and the bartenders will usually give you cheap drinks or just flat-out give you them for free [if you’re like us, and really try to involve yourself with the lives of the villagers]. My fav people were: The Boss & Uncle Jack.. yes those are their names. And obviously all the cute italian boys. Keep your eyes open.

Hiking Trail, Vernazza, Cinque Terre 4. Hiking: Besides the train, you can get to each village via hiking trails in the mountains. We woke up a leetle early on the 4th of July to get in a quick hike before we headed to the beach. We took the trail from Veranzza to Corniglia, which was no joke. The majority of the hike was up-hill/steep, so consider it your workout for the day. Or for the week. Its also pretty easy to get distracted from hiking the ass-building trails/stairs by the view of the ocean and the little vineyards.

Corniglia, Cinque Terre Corniglia, Cinque Terre Corniglia, Cinque Terre It took us about an hour to get to Corniglia, where we stopped at Caffe Matteo for a snack and cappuccino.. and wine. Again, the staff was beyond amazing. Our waitress even gave us a discount.. probably because we were so happy and interested to be there. Bottom line: don’t be a sour-puss and you’ll have so much more extra cashmoney to spend in the little jewelry shops. We didn’t get the chance to hike to the other villages [though we did go via train], but I’m sure I will be back here at some point. Worth it.

Caffe Matteo: Corniglia, Cinque Terre 5. The Seafood: Considering the villages are coastal, one could guess that this seafood is no-nonsense fresh/absolutely the most wonderful feesh you’ll ever have. My favorite place was Taverna Del Capitano because a 4-course meal with wine costs around 25 euros, which is an incredible deal considering the portion size and the variety. Again, our waiter, David, became one of our many friends… blah blah blah.

Taverna Del Capitano, Cinque Terre, Italy 6. Obviously, The Beach: This one is a no-brainer. As you could probably tell from previous pics, the beach in Cinque Terre is unreal. We spent the rest of Independence Day on the beach with personal wine bottles, because, why not? The next day, we rented beach chairs on a private beach (with wifi, strangely) and relaxed by the water. all. day. Livin’ the life. Another perk was the handcrafted-by-God staff of lifeguards that we considered fake-drowning for. Lucky for us, we got invited to an Italian disco on the beach that night by one of them [Matteo, whom we saw actually save someone from drowning… omigod]. The best part of Cinque Terre is becoming so involved in local events/ talking to local people. So forget about how awkward you are / how much you can’t speak Italian and just TRY to communicate with the people who live there. It is so so worth it.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy There were so many more perfect little scenes that pictures just could not capture. Cinque Terre is probably the most beautiful place I have seen in Europe thus far, and its hard to believe that another place could come close in comparison. Luckily for me, I have so much more traveling/discovering to do this summer, so it may just happen. Who knows.

Where’s your favorite Cinque Terre hidden gem? Lemme know dolls.

[ PS ]