I’m a newbie to food walking tours and fresh off the heels of the Barcelona food tour, I was excited to experience Florence’s food tour offerings with Walks of Italy as a way to orient myself to the city. Having a small food tour allows you time to quiz the guide as well as the other guests as to what they love best in the city and then go eat! It’s best to schedule a food tour the first few days in a new city to give yourself time to then indulge for the rest of the trip.
Meeting the guide, Ismael, our small group of 12 was given an overview of the 3.5 hour tour – wine, markets and gelato and I was glad I didn’t eat a big breakfast this time. Ismael would pepper in the history of Florence, the neighborhood we were walking through as well as the buildings when he wasn’t talking about the foods. This was a good mix of food and history as we walked from each stop.
Our first stop would be an Enoteca, which is a wine shop that also sells crostini and small appetizers with your glass (or bottle) of wine. As it was just before 10 a.m. (or 5 o’clock somewhere), my day drinking began at the small shop set up for our private visit. The table was set for our group with plates of crostini ready for us. To appreciate the flavors of the crostini, the bread is unsalted and today our options included zucchini with mushrooms, figatelli (chicken liver with capers, anchovy, onion, butter apple and lemon juice) and olive oil.
The shop was so tempting as I was not only surrounded by a vast variety of Tuscan wines but also the vats of “fill your own bottle” (thankfully, I don’t live in Florence as I’d be recycling my wine bottle many times over). We would be able to fill our glasses as little or as much (or again) as we wanted for our tasting. We all listened to the history of the wine region (Florence is a province of Tuscany one of twenty three regions) learning that a Classico Chianti must follow the rules and have an official label on it otherwise it can’t be called “Classico”.
We tasted a few of my favorites – Montipulciano and Chianti. With tasting notes on the wine in between the group chat and getting to know everyone (I spoke to couples from Australia, the Netherlands and New York as well as a few solo travelers) was a fun way to start the day.
As with any group and wine, it was hard to leave our happy place to move onward. We ended on a sweet note of with a glass of Vinsanto (Tuscan dessert wine) and cantucci (aka biscotti, crunchy Italian cookies).
***Note that there is a restroom so use it before you leave as the market restroom has a fee***
The Florence Market
Visiting the market, we started outside perusing the produce tables for local fruits and vegetables. For me, there’s always a new fruit or vegetable that I discover in the colorful array on offer.
Walking into the market we walked to our first stop for a plethora of meats (hams, salami and boar) and aged cheeses (pecorino and parmesan) as well as olives (I skipped these as I’m not an olive fan). The very charismatic owner (also a personality with a book for sale of course) kept passing unending plates of samples over the counter. He was also a happy ham to pose for all photos. I did not request “lactose free” cheese ahead of time but the guide was great to tell me if cow or sheep based cheese. We spent about an hour at this stand eating and learning about each sample.
For many on the tour, this was their first food tour and they were surprised by how much food was sampled. It is surprising that one bite of this, that and the other quickly fills you up. And then you’re told it’s “time for lunch” and there is more to sample.
Florence Market Lunch
Moving onward we had our “lunch” stop with soup, salad, pasta and a side of wine. Our group split into two cozy booths and we shared the food plates. This popular lunch spot has both a takeaway counter as well as service tables and was packed with many locals enjoying lunch. Because it was busy, we got the quick overview and ate. Nothing earth shattering at this stop (I’d been in Italy for over two weeks eating a lot of pasta) but it was good to talk (and sit) with others over more wine.
There’s Always Room for Gelato
So for dessert we of course had to have Italian gelato. We would leave the market to our final stop. Our timing would be perfect as we got to visit the laboratory (kitchen) to see the gelato being made. Today it would be the most popular (and most expensive to make) Pistachio. The shop is run by a husband/wife team and is award winning. With our group snug in the kitchen, we watched the gelato being made, mixed and put in the freezer.
The small batch process is a labor of love – they don’t make buckets of gelato at a time, each tin you see on display was made separately. Once we left the gelato laboratory, we then got to pick out our flavor combinations for our cones or cups. This was the hardest decision of the day – only two flavors from the many award winning options.
Lucky for me, the featured flavor, the chocolate raspberry was a clear winner. The dark chocolate combined with the raspberry just needed a glass of wine as it was that decadent. If you’ve even eaten a chocolate lava cake, one that the waiter fills with hot raspberry puree then this gelato was the frozen equivalent. Pure chocolate heaven in gelato form. To offset the rich dessert, my second flavor was crème (since vanilla is not a popular flavor, cream or crème is a close flavor).
With our gelato dessert done, it was time to say goodbye to the group and walk the long way back to the hotel for my food coma nap. The Florence food tour with Walks of Italy was a great orientation to the Tuscan foods and wine.
The Walks of Italy Florence Food Tour is a 3.5 hour experience that costs €64 and needs to be booked in advance due to the small groups. I was a guest of Walks of Italy for this tour, as always the opinion is mine.