By Daniela Degrassi
Since traveling around the globe is still quite ill-judged, this Summer I had to cancel my usual trip to California and stay put in Italy. To support local economy, my friend and I decided to take a short vacation to Tuscany. What an effort, you must think 🙂 Yes, it’s a real luck to live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. While this winter Italy suffered a long and tedious lockdown, things have improved towards the summer, and visiting the land of the Renaissance was an obvious choice, for all it represented… A revival of the arts in the XV century, a return of life as we knew it for us, but just not quite… as masks and social distancing are still a must!
Join me in discovering the vegan side of Florence, where I hope you can plan a getaway or honeymoon very soon!
WHERE TO STAY
This trip was the perfect occasion to finally visit Locanda degli Aromi, a vegan bed and breakfast we featured on the blog last year. I was dreaming to stay at this locanda in the outskirts of Florence since I had interviewed its founder, Cinzia Re. It didn’t disappoint and it truly is a romantic spot for newlyweds. Imagine waking up and enjoying your breakfast in a peaceful garden overlooking the tuscan hills AND the city of Florence with the Brunelleschi Dome peaking in the distance. And not just any breakfast, a real vegan feast Cinzia spoils her guests with. Also a Chef, Cinzia offers cooking lessons to her guests, and upon request, she can treat you to a romantic dinner after a day strolling through shops and museums downtown.
During our stay, Cinzia jump started our day with her fluffy homemade muffins, pancakes and the delicious jams she makes from the fruit trees from her garden. After all, my friend and I needed all the energy we could use to stroll around Florence under the ‘boiling’ sun!
We also HAD to try Cinzia delicacies for dinner. While the meal is a surprise, Cinzia will double check with you if you have any allergies beforehand. I personally loved the surprise element… We watched the sun go down over Florence and sipped vegan wine with a 5 course meal!
Our dinner included delicious carrot and beet mousses, eggplant parmesan, gnocchi with walnuts and vegan gorgonzola, celery root stake (a real taste revelation!) with baked potatoes and salad. Cinzia served us panna cotta to gloriously close the meal, just sad I couldn’t take a decent picture of the dessert as by that time we finished our dinner, it was just too dark.
I truly enjoyed my stay at Locanda degli Aromi. Surrounded by olive trees and peaceful nature sounds, it’s only a 10/15 minutes drive from central Florence. Not to mention the iconic view of the city from the locanda front yard. I can’t wait to return with my boyfriend when he’ll be able to visit Europe, just to give the stay a real romantic vibe!
If you are not planning to rent a car and prefer to book your hotel in the city, you can stay at La Nuvola Sospesa a newly restored eco and vegan B&B, and if you fancy a luxury hotel, Velona’s Jungle is vegan friendly and located in central Florence.
WHERE TO EAT
So happy to see Florence becoming a very vegan friendly city! We stumbled into Universo Vegano while strolling the city. They offer light snacks, healthy drinks and full meals. I ordered the eggplant parmesan, which was delicious! Outdoor seating were well organized and it felt safe to eat while social distancing from the other tables.
With a tight schedule moving from one museum to the next, I had to improvise and veganize my meals wherever we decided to stop. Many cafes and restaurants in the downtown area offer delicious panini that you can customize. A schiacciata with grilled veggies and pici with truffles are a must try. You can always snack with an Italian gelato of course (the fruit flavors are usually vegan-friendly).
Here are more options for you I did not try out, but they have good reviews online:
Il Vegano Restaurant, Bistrò, Fast-Food and Art-Café entirely organic and vegan with 100% organic Italian products. A young and informal place where with little expense you can have breakfast, lunch, snack and aperitif, all strictly vegan and cruelty-free.
Ciro and Sons offering classic Tuscan cuisine plus vegan, vegetarian, lactose free pizza and gluten free options.
WHAT TO DO
Ok, it seems quite obvious! Museums, museums, museums. I personally never get tired to admire the Renaissance masterpieces from Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci or Sandro Botticelli, just to name a few. While museums have reopened in Florence, they allow a limited amount of visitors daily and tickets must be purchased in advance. While The Uffizi is the most renown, I also recommend Il Bargello which is the home of the most important sculptures of the Renaissance, like Donatello’s David. I loved visiting Casa Buonarroti, the home of Michelangelo; there you can admire many of his drawings and sketches along with two of his first works he sculpted when he was only a teenager.
A stroll through Ponte Vecchio is a must. The medieval stone closed bridge over the Arno River was once the home of butchers, tanners, and farmer shops. The new tenants are now mostly jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir sellers for your shopping needs. If you cross the other side of the Arno River, you can head to Palazzo Pitti to check out their latest exhibits and take a stroll at Boboli Gardens.
Make sure you wear comfortable shoes as you will walk and walk in Florence, from museums to churches, old palaces and street art, you’ll never experience a dull moment.
Before you leave the city, make a stop at Piazzale Michelangelo, a square with a panoramic view of Florence, rain or shine!
If you have more time to spend around the Chianti region, do visit Siena, Montepulciano, San Gimignano, Montalcino, Cortona and Pienza. These medieval towns are a sight for soar eyes and only around 60 to 90 min drive from Florence; ideal for a day trip. Vegan food options may be limited outside Florence, but for the friendly Italians may be easy to customize a vegan meal for you, don’t be shy to ask. And remember you can always sit at a Pizzeria and order pizza without cheese. Leave the ‘cheese’ for your camera smiles!
An incurable enthusiast and independent spirit since she could remember (her childhood heroines were Pippi Longstockings and Katharine Hepburn) Daniela Degrassi found her creative outlet as a lifestyle photographer, working mainly in Northern California. Currently splitting her time between SF Bay Area and her native Italy to continue to be her autistic sister’s primary caregiver. Vegan since 2014, she found a perfect way to carry her message of compassion while celebrating her love for the wedding industry launching The Kind Bride in February 2018.