Every day I get to travel the world through Instagram. For sport, I try to guess the destination before reading the hashtags and comments. The quality of photos is just stunning and if you didn’t have wanderlust before opening Instagram you are sure to catch it quickly. On my travel sabbatical, Instagram would prove beneficial during my trip – I would meet Shannon in Paris and Elena would get me a table in Florence.
With one food tour in Florence and a Fiat 500 tour, I had time to wander the city center and see that there were so many restaurant options it was confusing as to which one was best. It was on my Florence photos that Elena “Chaser of Dreams at Live Do Grow”, commented that I had to visit Osteria dei Pazzi (they don’t have a website). It was on the corner of Via dei Lavatoi 1/3 r near Santa Croce.
I found the restaurant near the Basilica of Santa Croce, the starting point of the Walks of Italy food tour. Entering the restaurant at 7 p.m., I was happy to see a few empty tables. The owner approached and told me that the tables were reserved and he had no seats unfortunately. I said “ok, thanks, Elena had told me that I had to try the restaurant during my visit”. All of a sudden this big smile formed on his face and he said “Elena, wait a minute this lady is almost done”. Laughing, I said “ok” and when the older American woman walked by she said “it’s really good, enjoy”.
The restaurant was filled with large Italian families, small groups and couples in the small restaurant. It was simply decorated and you could feel the warmth because the food was the star as it should be. With high ceilings, the restaurant felt bigger than it was. With a couple on the other side of me separated by a pillar, I felt fine dining solo. People were sharing food, wine, laughter all around me.
I tried to spy what everyone was eating but kept it simple with the special menu of three courses – pasta, entrée and dessert with a glass of wine (extra). I would choose gnocchi bolognese, chicken entrée and a chocolate dessert (yes, I know that’s a lot of food but have you had any luck telling an Italian chef or owner you only want a dish of pasta? I haven’t!). The owner brought me a complimentary bruschetta (after I had consumed much of the bread basket) and I showed him my Instagram interaction with Elena (I felt I had to prove that I knew her or everyone is going to say “Elena sent me”).
The service was a bit slow, the Italian style, so you can savor each course which, after nearly a month in Italy, I learned to adapt. I also needed the time to space out my meal because as much as it’s hard to say I only want a plate of pasta, it’s almost worse to not finish the dish as you will get “that look” and often asked why you didn’t finish the dish. Saying “too many carbs” or “I’m going to explode” doesn’t quite translate in Italian. I felt like I was insulting everyone involved and that’s pressure! So I did my best to eat as much as I could knowing that I was going to Venice the next day and hopefully would be able to walk or row some of the calories off (who am I kidding? realistically, I’d need to swim back to the U.S. if I hoped to work off a fraction of the calories consumed on this sabbatical).
The gnocchi was fantastic and a massive portion. I was commenting back and forth with Elena on Instagram during my meal which helped me not finish all of the food without “the look or inquisition”. The chicken was covered in a brown gravy and came with a side of greens (yes, the healthy stuff I tend to leave on the plate), while it doesn’t photo well, it was delicious. My chocolate dessert was rich and I consumed it so quickly with my second glass of red wine that I neglected to take a photo.
When I told a friend that Instagram got me a table they had no idea that connecting with good people on social media really does enhance your travels. The more I travel, the more I am enriched by the travel folks I’ve met, followed or shared a drink with as they introduce me to their cities, through food, wine, experiences – all of which I would have overlooked staying near the tourist center. If you follow me on Instagram, I’m always happy to share and comment too to pay it forward.
On your next visit to Florence, do try to visit Osteria dei Pazzi for a meal, although make a reservation first unless you know already know (and follow) Elena and can share her greetings via Instagram like I did to the owner. Be prepared to eat and leave enough time to walk and enjoy the sunset to end your day in Florence.