Florence, Italy

Sure, Rome has the Colosseum, the Trevi fountain, the Roman Forum. Sure it's a bustling city. Sure it's got more tourists than I've ever seen in my life. But in all honestly, Florence was my favorite.

I know this post is a little late, but better late than never, right? And Italy was so amazing that it deserves to be written about in full detail. We arrived in Florence via train on Brynn's 22nd birthday, excited for a day of shopping and sightseeing. Her parents were beyond generous, providing us with a fabulous luxury hotel room overlooking the river, which made our trip that much better (especially after our Paris hostel fiasco). After getting situated, we had an amazing lunch outside the beautiful Florence Cathedral at a restaurant called Boccadama. My truffle rigatoni was phenomenal, Brynn and Mara tried prosciutto and melon for the first time, and the pigeons trapped in our plastic outdoor dining tent made for some great lunchtime entertainment.

We did some boutique shopping, ate gelato, shopped around, taking in the sights of the city as we wandered cobblestone alleyways. I was actually really disappointed in the Italian gelato. What can I say, I expected more! In Spain I ate gelato every single night, I couldn't get enough. It had a creamier texture and was far more popular in Spain, at least that's what I recall. Anyway, the big story of the day was Brynn's birthday dinner.

For dinner a friend recommended a certain restaurant that apparently "made them cry, it was so good." The restaurant, La Giostra, was everything we hoped it would be and so much more. The second we sat down, a waiter served us complimentary champagne in tall flutes and minutes later a complimentary appetizer platter showed up as well, complete with marinated eggplant, stuffed zucchini, bruschetta, and foie gras.  This restaurant made me really love Florence. The celebrity diners covering the walls sort of threw me off at first, but the fact that I couldn't read a single word in the all-Italian menu was reassuring. For dinner Brynn splurged on a beef carpaccio appetizer followed by the restaurant's popular pasta dish, pear pecorino ravioli. I opted for homemade tagliatelle pasta with chanterelle mushrooms (see below) while Mara and Leni broke my restaurant code (never order the same thing as someone else) and both got good ol' spaghetti arrabiata. The food, the cozy atmosphere, the twinkling Christmas lights on the ceiling, and the wine-induced haze made it the perfect dinner. If you're ever in Florence, definitely try La Giostra.

The rest of Florence can be summed up as follows: My epic quest for rice balls (also known as arancini), market shopping for colorful pashminas, massive mosquito bites, a visit to Museo Academia Florencia, the Statue of David, and last but not least the Pizzale Michaelanglo. Oh and quick trip to Pisa--Leaning Tower, you know the drill. Italy was amazing and I look forward to visiting again someday. There's so much of the country that I have yet to see and so much Italian food I have yet to eat. Looking forward to it!