There are a lot of different tours in Florence, Italy. But do you know what the best kinds are? The ones where you can eat the respective works of art.
If the first thing you’re thinking is, “There’s a Tuscan food tasting tour on a segway?” We’re thought twins! I was all over researching padding for my video camera when the staff clarified that while they do ALSO offer segway city tours (& bike tours!), the Florence Food Tour is on foot (’cause you know wine is the most important Italian food group).
This was my first ever food tour. And while I was definitely more excited about it that a regular tour, I imagined I’d be brought to good places I had already been to taste good food I had already tried. (I mean, I’ve been in Florence four years and my main hobbies are eating and drinking.) But that was just my I’ve-been-here-longer-than-you-snobbery getting the best of me, and I was put in my place by Federica, our Florentine guide, who introduced me to some top secret places and foods even *I* had never had the pleasure of meeting. 🙂
The tour started at 9:30 and our group was a cool, eight people deep (not a herd). I’ve been on tours with “groups” of 30 to ONE HUNDRED, where I felt like I was marching in some sort of embarrassing parade. But the Florence Food Tour has a 10 person maximum, making it popular with close groups of friends and students whose families are here for a visit. (Take your parents on this tour; you will be their favorite kid.)
And, since ALL their guides are Italian, you feel like you’re just hanging out with you’re cool, local friend who’s showing you their favorite places in Florence. You know how they chose the five stops on the tour? They asked the guides where the best coffee, food, wine, and gelato they ever had in Florence was and made them into an itinerary. So simple but so smart, right?
We started off our day like true Italians, with some espresso. Federica walked us into an adorable coffee shop, packed with locals, and we were immediately whisked away to our VIP table in the back where the owner acted as our personal waiter. He showed us how to brew espresso at home, told us unbelievable coffee stories that had us literally crying (with laughter, with laughter), let us taste the difference between Arabica and Robusta espresso roasts (Robusta all the way!), and had us try a raw coffee bean (nature’s caffeine pill).
We were awake! And we were off strolling though historic piazzas to stop #2: an elegant vintage cafe, on Florence’s fanciest street, for some truffle sandwiches. These decadent Tuscan delights aren’t chocolates, but underground tubers packing a super-rich, nutty punch. If you’re like, “…tubers?” Federica told us that people pay €100,000 (!!!) for big truffles, because they taste that. good. Did the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth truffle spread we tried live up to the hype? Just look at our faces:
Now it was time for Federica’s favorite enoteca, and we wove our way through Florence’s famous leather stalls to find this local wine and typical Tuscan products shop.
Somewhere among floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall wine bottles, we sat at a table where the owner (and sommelier) began to open a few and teach us how to best admire, smell, taste, and enjoy them (we were REALLY good at that last one). But it didn’t end with the wine. Next came the wine pairings. A crisp white from the sea with salty prosciutto and fennel salami. Classic chianti with pecorino sheep’s cheese.
And then we all had a moment.
One of the cheeses was topped with a tangy-sweet yellow pepper jam. Progressively smaller and smaller bites were taken to make the experience last. We didn’t dare to chew but let each morsel melt on the tip of our tongues. But, alas! There was eventually no more. WHAT WERE WE GOING TO DO NOW? Get one to take home with us, and some others wrapped up for friends that we’re definitely not just going to keep for ourselves and eat in one sitting straight out of the jar with a spoon, that’s what.
The next stop brought us straight into the heart and soul of the city: The San Lorenzo Market. We tried more wine, olive oil, prosciutto, fresh-baked bread, soul-warming Tuscan soup, almond biscotti cookies, and the best balsamic vinegar this life has thrown my way. It had been aged in the barrel more than 25 years (that’s before you were born) and cost a whopping 89 euros for a perfume-sized bottle.
They definitely don’t skimp on quality on this tour, and the same goes for portions. If you like something, you’re encouraged to go back for seconds, thirds…
…sevenths. (Oh, I went there.)
We had all eaten our fill and refined our taste in three hours of palatable bliss. But we had one last stop to conquer: the off-the-beaten-path gelateria with homemade flavors. Whether it’s pistachio, dark chocolate, yogurt and honey or cherries and cream, every Italian food story ends in gelato.
I would highly recommend this tour to anyone coming to Italy who appreciates good food (which is hopefully everyone coming to Italy), but ESPECIALLY to those of you staying for an extended period of time. It’s like an essential introduction-to-Italy course that will teach you better than settling for overpriced tourist food from the start. Delicious is for amateurs. You, my friends, deserve delizioso.
The Florence Food Tour
Price: 59€ per Adult | from 6 to 12 years old 15% OFF | under 5 years old FREE
Approximately 3 1/2 hours long
Maximum group size: 10 people
Tour operates from Tuesday to Saturday at 9:30am
Meeting point: close to Piazza Signoria