Florence, Italy: How I Toured Like a Tourist
It was November and I was on the last leg of my 20-day solo-backpacking trip. I had five days left in Florence, Italy and enough euros to make it rain. I wanted to get the most out of my experience by both seeing how the locals live and experiencing many ‘firsts’ as a tourist.
I knew I wanted my days to be structured, yet flexible. As a result, I enrolled in a handful of tours that were primitive in nature, but magical in spirit. One of the perks of travelling solo is that you don’t have anyone to answer to, so my mentality while in Florence was to do exactly what I wanted, when I wanted.
A few weeks before my trip, I was introduced to the blog Girl in Florence. Upon this discovery, my only qualm was I didn’t have more time to look into all of Georgette’s recommendations. Thanks to this blog, I discovered the Curious Appetite and met Coral, a vibrant woman who spearheads boutique food and wine pairing tours in Florence.
The tour took us off the beaten path of the main roads and, as we walked from one venue to the next, it truly felt like the dynamic experience was catered for us and only us.
The evening of the tour, I arrived a few minutes early and instantly knew the stunning brunette in the black and white polkadot dress was Coral. She was speaking to the waiter while moving her hands in a rhythm that closely mimicked an orchestra conductor. I was instantly drawn to her energy and felt confident the tour would be a Grade A experience.
The agenda for the night was three pit stops with curated food and drink pairings, plus the added bonus of meeting the on-site sommeliers and mixologists. We were an intimate group of six who, after several cocktails and warm conversation, developed a feel-good camaraderie. The tour took us off the beaten path of the main roads and, as we walked from one venue to the next, it truly felt like the dynamic experience was catered for us and only us.
The night commenced with bubbly prosecco and warm crostini topped with a tomato spread and melted artisan cheese and ended with the most remarkable handcrafted cocktails to ever pass my lips. When I close my eyes, I still remember the ambience of each restaurant, and the smell and taste of the food and drinks we had.
By the end of the night, my taste buds were still tingling and my heart was filled with gratitude for the evening I had with my new group of friends. We bid adieu and each walked off in our respective directions: I, along the Arno River and into the light of the moon.
The next morning, I woke bright and early and set off for my Italian cooking class with Chef Giulio. After meeting at the ItalyXP storefront we walked to the Central Market, the one market I regrettably didn’t have time to explore days earlier. Nonetheless, I made it there. It was just after 10 a.m. and Chef Giulio poured vino into our glasses and offered us platters of cheese drizzled with truffle oil and marmalade and crostini with liver pate and olive spread. This was the breakfast of champions, Italian style.
My favourite part of the class was making pasta fresca, fresh pasta from scratch made with only an egg and flour. As I kneaded the dough, I remember thinking, if only my family could see me! I was in Italy making authentic dishes with my own two hands. The sense of accomplishment I felt as we plated our dishes and sat down as a group to enjoy our labour of love was none short of remarkable and rightfully so.
Needless to say, after devouring a massive bowl of pasta with a savoury meat sauce and a few tablespoons of parmigiano reggiano, bruschetta, tiramisu, and enough vino to bath a small child, I can now soberly reflect and admit that I was not in the ideal state to go on an electric bike tour.
Yes, I had already signed up and prepaid for the bike tour. I would have loved to let my stomach rest and my head clear from the vino fog, but there was no time. I had 30 minutes to get to the next meeting point. How hard could it be, right? Wrong. Stupidly wrong.
The tours and the jam-packed itineraries gave my trip structure while still allowing me breathing room for the spontaneous adventures I’ve grown to expect on my trips.
If not for my new American friend Jenny, I wholeheartedly believe I would have crashed or would still be atop the hill that is Piazzale Michelangelo. The panoramic view was breathtaking, but I was terrified to fly down the hill we had just raced up. Apparently, I was the only one who didn’t get the ‘hang’ of it. I did not adjust well to the lack of control I felt and am pretty sure I developed early stages of carpal tunnel from having clenched my brakes the entire ride.
Let’s just say you won’t find me on an electric bike anytime soon—I’m still traumatized. Aside from the dramatic bike experience, the tours and the jam-packed itineraries gave my trip structure while still allowing me breathing room for the spontaneous adventures I’ve grown to expect on my trips. It was the best of both worlds. But for my next trip, you won’t find me on an electric bike tour—I’ll meet you at the top!
Florence, Italy: How I Toured Like a Tourist