Visiting Florence with the Locals
Florence is a city that I swear is magical. From the moment I arrive in Florence, I turn into a huge history nerd. I feel the need to quote Dante at every turn or to spend hours wandering the halls at the Uffizi Gallery looking at some of the most famous pieces of art in the world. Walking up to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, the main church in Florence, takes my breath away. Seriously, ask my friend and she’ll tell you that I made her sit there at two in the morning with me just to look at the church.
My recent trip to Florence gave me the opportunity to have a new experience. My travel companion and I are lucky enough to have visited it before and so we have already checked most of the boxes on the “must see and do” list. This mean that we could experience the city on a different level than the typical tourist does and there were some amazing perks!
One of the best things we got to participate in was made available to us by a guy we had met randomly on a train in November, which is a story in itself. Anyway, this Florence local orchestrated an incredible wine tasting complete with four different kinds of Tuscan wine, various salamis, a pasta dish, and a dessert for only 25 euro! I couldn’t believe the deal and jumped at the chance. The venue was an amazing place called Enoteca Pozzo Divino on Via Ghibellina where the proprietor is a jolly, fun-loving Italian man named Pino.
Now I know I said that we intended to do things that most tourists don’t, and yet a wine tasting might be the most obvious thing to do while on vacation in Tuscany. However, this event was like a mini history lesson! Not only did I learn why Chianti Classico’s symbol is a black rooster, I also learned why it’s so important in Italy to look someone in their eyes as you are clinking your glasses together and drinking immediately after. The meaning, of course, is a simple reassurance that, no, you did not poison their wine and you can look them in the eye and drink from your own glass to show you trust them. Hopefully in this day and age, it is practiced solely for tradition’s sake!
Another great experience we had was making two new Italian friends while at dinner. We went to a restaurant called Grillo, which was right in Piazza di Santa Maria Novella and to our delight ended up with a super cute waiter, Marco. We got to talking and after he brought us two glasses of dessert wine on the house, I got up the nerve to ask him if he would like to join us for a night out after he finished working. He agreed and we exchanged numbers. It’s awesome to go out with the locals because they are a fountain of knowledge on all the best places.
We ended up going to an artisanal beer bar simply named Firenze Birra. The beer was delicious and the conversation was great; not only was Marco good looking, he was also thoughtful and funny. Eventually he walked us back to our hostel and we added each other as friends on Facebook. Strangely enough, the next day I opened Facebook and had a message from Marco asking if I happened to live on a certain street in Milan. After googling myself to make sure that that information was not common knowledge, my curiosity was piqued as to how he could possibly know my street. What an amazing coincidence to find out that the roommate he lives with now in Florence used to live in the room I now occupy here in Milan! It’s a small world after all, even when you’re half a world away from everyone you know!