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Florence: A delectable balance of adventure and serenity

  • August 8, 2019
  • By Karen
Florence: A delectable balance of adventure and serenity

During our whirlwind trip to Italy, my sister-in-law Linda and I arrived at the Florence train station in the late afternoon. Across the street, after a few lefts and rights, we found our home for the next 5 days: the hotel Sina Villa Medici Autograph Collection, a refurbished 19th-century palazzo.  

The Sina Villa Medici Autograph Collection is located just a smidge west of the city center. I appreciated it being a little bit removed as it was more peaceful, complete with a serene pool and a garden.  It was a great place to relax, have lunch and enjoy Linda’s favourite, a spritz. The Sina Villa Medici is an oasis, a great escape in the city.

Of course, it was very tastefully decorated. I absolutely loved the gorgeous flower display at the entrance.  

Our room was large, clean and bright!  We enjoyed a view overlooking the city.  On our floor was a balcony where you could sit, have a drink and take in more views, including ones of the Duomo.

Each morning we had a breakfast buffet that you could either enjoy sitting inside or outside.  Linda and I liked sitting outside, as the breakfast area is nestled right beside the pool and the garden space.  It had white table cloths– and I really appreciate crisp white table cloths. One minor quibble: the buffet breakfast is the same every day. Even though the variety is vast, I would have liked a bit of a switch up with the protein.  An omelet station or a “how would you like your eggs today” station.

And here’s a slightly more serious quibble with the Sina Villa Medici…

If you didn’t know this already about me, now you know: I am a question asker. I like clarification.  And there were moments with the concierge staff when I felt that my questions were dealt with briskly and abruptly.  This frustrated me, so I spoke with the front desk manager, which in turn led to the general manager greeting me upon my arrival back to the hotel in the afternoon.  I just didn’t feel like a valued guest. After all, the concierge staff are the gateway to the city you are exploring. They leave a major impression.  

Now, onto more positive experiences…

On our first night in Florence, we had dinner at the hotel.  We had the 4-course tasting menu and a beautiful bottle of Chianti Reserva.

Overall, we had fantastic food while in Florence. A few highlights were La Bottega Buon Del Caffe and Caffe dell’Oro

La Bottega Buon Del Caffe is a one-star Michelin restaurant. Our experience there was divine. 

Caffe dell’Oro is part of the Lugarno Collection of hotels and villas.  This restaurant is a Michelin Plate recommended restaurant. This means it has “fresh ingredients, capably prepared: simply a good meal.” And I wholeheartedly agree.  It’s located adjacent to the scenic River Arno, with a view of the Ponte Vecchio. We had a window table, so we people watched, inside and out. How fun! The atmosphere at Caffe dell’Oro was elegant but not stuffy.  We started with bubbles because that’s how we roll. The service was fun and interactive.  

We shared an appetizer of smooth and creamy burrata cheese, fresh grape tomatoes, and prosciutto slices.  For our mains, we both had pasta. Linda had pasta in “cacciucco” sauce, otherwise known as fish stew; a Tuscan special, with squid ink and roasted gurnard and oregano.  I enjoyed handmade tortellini combined with ragout and thyme olive oil. We ended with dessert: coffee, tiramisu and fruit with sorbet. Let’s not forget the wine – it was a 2012 Chianti Classico and it did not disappoint! I kissed the bottle.

I like to wander when I travel. I am not a huge history buff or a stand-in-liner (especially when the temperatures are high).  When I do take a tour, I like it to be short and in a small group; I start feeling overwhelmed if it gets too long. Plus- holy- the amount of information to be had is insane.  One thing Linda and I both wanted to see was David or as a local said to me “the Dave.” And “the Dave” was amazing! Linda booked us into a 45-minute tour and it was perfect for me!

In Florence, leather is everywhere.  I swear every second store is a leather store. Then there was the leather marketplace.  It was located right beside the Mercado Centrale. Linda was looking for purses to take home to her dinner club friends.  She did a bit of bartering and she came out with the same style in different colors for all of her friends. I picked up two leather wrap-around belts. One in white and one in black – they reminded me of the 80’s.

We were in the Mercado a few times, where the vibes are lovely, and each time I had fun conversations with the vendors. This is where the locals sell their food products, which range from seafood and meats to veggies and cheeses.  We had coffee, ate some parma and pea stuffed arancini, tasted olives, and then bought the olives.  Obviously, it was all so tasty. We ate fresh Bolognese pasta and sandwiches and bought parma, truffle cheese, and yet more olives to bring home. We couldn’t resist all the delicious-ness.

Gelato, as we all know, is abundant throughout Italy.  This was my first time being truly excited about this creamy silky delight of a dessert.  My favourite is vanilla. I had it three times while in Florence and enjoyed it 100% each time.

After five days in Florence, a car service picked Linda and I up and took us about 40 minutes south into the hills in the Chianti region. This was where we yoga’d in a wine cellar with The Mobile Mat for the following seven days.

When we arrived at the Agriturismo Mezzano, a 16th century stone farmhouse, Diana of The Mobile Mat met us with her enthusiastic smile and big, big hugs.  I took a deep breath as this was the start of a week of relaxation; yoga plus napping, pool time, reading (When the Crawdads Sing), and eating!

Fortunately, the weather was gorgeous!

The agenda that Diana had prepared was a loose one, and she encouraged each of us to do what we pleased.  We had a few set activities during the week: an afternoon in Florence, an afternoon at a local winery, and a visit to the local community of Greve.  Yoga happened in the morning and late afternoon, right before dinner.

Connecting with people at The Mobile Mat event is something that makes my heart sing loudly.  Sharing was a big part of this week. Sharing ideas and stories with these ladies had a big impact on my time there.  It was heartfelt.

I enjoyed the non-structure. Diana balanced the week with fun and relaxation and I appreciated this.

Our meals were in the archway that attaches the large farmhouse to a smaller structure with two more apartments for guests. There was one long table where food was served family-style. The food was plentiful and the variety was abundant.

The grounds were filled with olive trees and raw natural surroundings.  The sunrises and sunsets were absolutely amazing. I had to pinch myself. 

All in all, having this adventure with Linda was just fabulous. I am grateful for this experience. Travel like this just never gets old. 


By Karen, August 8, 2019
  • 2
Sunchokes, 3 ways!
Red Velvet Brownies
  • Tony Hazelden
    August 9, 2019

    Fantastic Karen- the food, the hotel and the people- all good. One day I’m going too!

  • Karen Ann Davidson
    August 9, 2019

    Was so great! And yes go and enjoy all that Italy has to offer!

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