Even after twelve years I am still stunned by the Florentine beauty. Luckily you never get used to it. Another thing that I really like about the city, since I’m a wine lover, is that all roads from Florence lead to a winery. Take a road you don’t know and you can be sure that at the end of the day you’ll be sipping wine somewhere in the countryside. So I guess calling Florence a wine capital isn’t exaggerated.
A two-layered city
Florence is invaded by millions of tourists every year. After living in Florence for a while you realize that the city has two layers. The first layer is the tourist path in the city centre where the big brands, famous museums and not so genuine restaurants fight for the foreigners’ attention.
The second layer is where all the Florentines go, “off the beaten track”. Not always easy to find for someone that only visits the city for a couple of nights.
When it comes to wine there are many interesting places to go to in Florence. If you’re only interested in drinking “any kind of wine” you should stop reading now. But if you’re interested in places where you can learn more about the Tuscan wine culture and where highly skilled staff will guide you through a tasting, please keep on reading.
The good wine bars
For example the, small wine bar La Volpe e l’Uva that is a stone’s throw away from Ponte Vecchio, the world famous bridge. La Volpe e l’Uva is without a doubt one of the best wine bars in Florence.
Sit outside in the small piazza or inside at the bar and taste genuine wines from small, high quality wineries. The wines come from different parts of Italy and it is possible to taste a range of different styles. No question will be too difficult to answer for the person serving you. Don’t forget to try the excellent cheeses or salami from both Italy and from France.
Don’t swim, drink wine!
Another place that is one of the Florentines new favourite spots is Rari Nantes. A restaurant and a bar with a great view over the Arno River. A place that has not yet been discovered by the tourists.
Rari Nantes is actually a swimming club, still active with a small pool next to the river where young (and less young) Florentines go for a swim. It was also the spot where in the past you could dive into the Arno River. Something that isn’t possible anymore. Except if you’re a Pantegana, one of the big rats that are the only ones swimming in the river today.
A year ago a small group of young men and women took over the restaurant and the bar at Rari Nantes. They have done great job changing the old & tired into new & fresh. The location is perfect, 20 minutes’ walk from the centre. Close but still too far for the tourist crowds. The food is excellent value (medium price level) and the wine list is an interesting selection of “ethical” wines. You will only find small organic wineries that respect nature. Many of the wines are very keenly priced.
Fill her up please!
If you rent an apartment in Florence or if you want to “do as the Florentines do” you should go to a small wine shop where they sell vino sfuso. Vino sfuso is table wine sold directly from the tank or from the barrel. For example the small shop La Sosta dei Papi close to the small food market Mercato di Sant Ambrogio (also worth a visit). Bring your own bottle and choose the wine you want and fill up your bottle directly from the tank.
Fun, simple and cheap.
In the countryside
You can take any road from Florence and you will end up in a winery. The most beautiful road is the SS222, also called La Chiantigiana that goes from Florence to Siena through the Chianti Classico region. The landscape you see from the window is so very Tuscan. Rolling hills, cypresses and olive trees and typical Tuscan stone houses.
You will see innumerable signs for wineries. There are more than 300 only in the small Chianti Classico region. At the bigger wineries you can stop for a tour and a tasting without appointment. At smaller wineries you normally need to call in advance.
Always ask: What’s your specialty?
Stop along your way in one (or a few) of the small medieval villages in the Chianti region. They all end with “in Chianti”: Greve in Chianti, Panzano in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti etc.
Try a gelato or go to the local butcher shop and ask “what’s your specialty?” Always ask! Because Tuscany is full of butchers and each has a speciality. Even in a village with only two inhabitants there will be four butcher shops. Like the super-butcher Dario Cecchini in Panzano in Chianti that serves a wonderful Bistecca alla Fiorentina, the typical T-bone steak from Florence.
La Bistecca is a “must eat” when you’re in Florence. Sit down at one of the big tables in his restaurant and listen to ACDC that he always plays in the butcher shop.
Don’t be surprised if you end up sipping wine at the end of the day when you’re in Florence. You always have a good excuse: “I only do as the Florentines do!”
La Volpe e l’Uva
Indirizzo: Piazza dei Rossi, 1,Florence. Tel.055 239 8132
Rari Nantes – Ristoro sull’acqua
Lungarno Ferrucci 24, Florence, Tel. 055 680 596
La Sosta dei Papi
Alla Sosta dei Papi – Via Borgo la Croce, 81r, Florence, tel. 055.2341174
Solo Ciccia, Butcher Dario Cecchini
Via Chiantigiana, 5 50022 Panzano In Chianti Firenze
Read more about wine and food in Tuscany.
You can find a long photo essay with pictures from Florence here.
Information about the wineries in the Chianti Classico region: www.chianticlassico.com.
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