Florence in a day? why not make Gelato!
When I think of Florence I immediately think of beauty and mystery. Florence is steeped in history with a magnificent elegance and splendour. From quirky backstreets with graffiti walls to the magnificent Santa Maria del Fiore the Duomo of Florence. We enjoyed two tours whilst we were in Florence kindly organised by Livitaly . Our first was a private food tour and gelato making class which took us across the city with many sights to see. Who would of thought you could do Gelato making in Florence as well as take in all of the beautiful sights. Florence was our second full day of sightseeing whilst we were staying in Tuscany at Country Relais Le Capanne it was jam-packed.
The weather was not on our side but not even the rain could stop us! it was so pretty.
Getting to Florence?
Beware if you are travelling in to florence yourself by car as Florence is a limited traffic zone ( Zona a Traffico limitato ). Since Florence is a UNESCO heritage area you need a permit to enter and without one you will get fined. Believe me! We visited Florence a few years back and returned home to be followed 3 months later by a ticket. So make sure you either park outside of this area or use a garage that covers your permit and notifies the authorities. We parked in Garage Bargello which does just this and is so close to the Center. For more information you can check out the zone map and more places to park here.
After parking in the prepaid garage Bargello we took a short walk up to the Piazza Della Signoria square to meet our guide Rafaela from livitaly. We were greeted with with hugs and Italian kisses and a small remote audio guide and earpiece. Livitaly do not usually use ear pieces as they like to keep their groups small and intimate but we were an unusually large blogging group. This was brilliant for us as it meant we could meander along behind the tour guide taking in the sights along the way with no fear of losing her.
Piazza Della signoria is a square in front of the palazzo Vecchio. The palazzo Vecchio ( old palace ) is the town hall of the city and it pretty impressive. This square has played an important part in history over the years being the epicentre and meeting place of many Florentines. In the summer the tables and chairs spill out in to the area and it is a constant buzz of people.
Ponte Vecchio bridge and the mysterious Vasari corridor
Rafaela certainly knew her stuff and pointed out along the way many pieces of history. We headed straight off towards the Ponte Vecchio bridge which is part of the Vasari Corridor. The Vasari corridor runs along the top of the bridge and was built in 5 months by order of the Duke Cosimo l de Medici. The Vasari corridor is an enclosed passage way that connects the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo pitta. It is a mystery in itself, a kilometre long corridor that takes you to the other side of the Arno river. The main function for the passageway was so the the Medicis could pass freely and safely from their home in palazzo pitti to the seat of the government in the Palazzo Vecchio unnoticed.
The entrance to the corridor is in the Uffizi Gallery behind a large door, you would not know it was there. our guide pointed out parts of the corridor on our route high above the buildings.
Florences oldest bridge
In later years the windows in the central part of the corridor above the bridge were made bigger to show the stunning view over the river. This bridge was the only bridge not destroyed in the Second World War as Hitler ordered it not to be. Whilst on the bridge we marvelled at the beautiful jewellery stores that once used to be the butcher shops.
Off the beaten track in Oltrarno
Our next stop was over the bridge to the area of Oltrarno a district off of the beaten track where you will find a more contemporary side of Florence. Filled with artisan shops, markets and a maze of narrow streets.
The whole time we were enthralled in a story of life as it were and as it is now. The smell of the food emanating from the buildings as people were cooking their sunday dinner was mouthwatering. Rafaela bought up things that you would never of noticed wandering through on your own. The whole time my camera was firmly glued to my eye as to not miss one thing and as our guide chatted away in my earpiece I felt like I was in my own world.
Organic food market in Piazza S Spirito
We covered so much and we had not even hit the market or the gelato making! Our next stop was the Organic food market. The market in Piazza S Spirito is held on the 3rd Sunday of the month and sells organic goods. All of the locals come to buy their wares, fruit, cheeses and even wild chicory can be purchased here. Wild chicory being much stronger in flavour.
On the square sits the Basilica di Santo Spirito one of the oldest churches in the area. Basilica di Santo Spirito is Built on a design by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1444. The Basilica was the last masterpiece by this architect.
We watched a man sitting weaving straw, Rafaela explained that straw making was one of the most traditional crafts in Florence.
Mixing in with the locals
After the market tour we had a well deserved coffee break in a little cafe on the square. We mixed in with the locals with Rafaela and we were greeted introduced like old friends. Feeling refreshed and a tad drier from the rain out next stop was off to Gelato making in florence.
Gelato making in Florence
Who would of thought that you could make your own gelato in Italy. As if tasting it in the heart of Florence is not enough sharing the process of making it is awesome.
First stop was a visit to the gelateria Pechè no! for a look at their tasty gelato. Established in 1939 Perchè no! has become one of Florence’s most famous refreshment spots. All of their gelato is naturally made ever day.
We were hosted by the owner of Perchè no! Ciro Cammilli who was passionate about his gelato. Ciro guided us through gelato making from the history to the process of making the modern day gelato. Sorbet originally was Honey, fresh fruit and snow now it’s made with sugar. The air produced in the machine it gives the perception of being frozen. There are no eggs in gelato and all of the ingredients are fresh. In the summer they make Watermelon fruit slushes and Strawberry and chocolate mousse.
We had a hands on experience adding the ingredients and watching it turn in the gelato machine. A simple Banana sorbet made from banana sugar and water, which was delicious.
Pechè No! had so many different ideas they decided to do classes to educate on the making of gelato. We got to try different flavours including Ciros favourite pistachio ( although chocolate is next on his list)
All of the ingredients are the finest they can find even the rose flavouring comes from one type of rose in labouherye France. The ideas are innovative and inspiring proven by the quirky aperitif we were served.
Tomato gelato! Tomato sorbet served on bread with a drizzle of olive oil, and of course a glass of prosecco on the side.
Finishing off the morning tour Rafealo pointed us in the direction of a great little pizzeria. Where we grabbed a quick lunch before our next tour in the afternoon.
We only had one day to visit Florence so with the experienced tour guides from Livitaly tours we achieved so much! Livitaly are a family owned business who pride themselves in loving and living italy. With tours all over Italy from Ferrari experiences, food tours and full city day tours you can be sure to find something that suits your needs.
We had the most amazing day in florence with livitaly! thank you for being our guide for the day.
See my tour of Michelangelo’s David here