Our Tasty Tuscany Food Tour with Tuscan Wine Tours

My husband and I did this Tasty Tuscany food (and wine) tour in October 2014, while on our Maltese-Italian honeymoon. We had been looking for something to splurge on during our trip, but wanted to find something interesting and exclusive to spend our money on – no run-of-the-mill bus tour would do. I’m so glad we found this tour by Tuscan Wine Tours, because it was one of our favorite days of the trip, all thanks to our guide Caterina, the fabulous company, and amazing destinations and local producers we met throughout our memorable day in Tuscany.

Our small group of 8 were all couples, all happened to be from the states, and were all really cool, like-minded and adventurous travelers. I was a bit hesitant to book the tour since it was a bit pricey at 300 Euros per person, but as we met in the Piazza Giuseppe Poggi that morning, all my anxiety melted away as we boarded the comfortable minivan with our cheerful co-adventurers and met Caterina, our tourguide/driver extraordinaire.

Caterina was a fantastic guide, who educated us on the wines and foods of Tuscany between our various stops on the tour. We were really excited because it turned out that our tour was the last of its kind before the itinerary was modified to make different stops.

The Stops

Stop #1 – Fresh Pasta Maker

Our first stop was at a fresh pasta maker.


This spot was no joke. It reminded me of some of the shops in Mendoza, Argentina that the Italian-Argentine families run, who churn out fresh pasta daily to buy by weight and prepare at home.


After a brief lesson on what the different types of pasta are called and which ones were “native” to Tuscany (pici!), we were whisked into the back of the shop – to the kitchen, to see the pasta making in action. Continue reading

Alla Vecchia Bettola (Florence, Italy)

Our Florence hotel concierge  (Cosimo at Villa Tolomei) recommended Alla Vecchia Bettola for dinner one chilly, late October night during our honeymoon and it was just what we were looking for.  The name itself means “The Old Tavern”, and it definitely has an old, rustic feel to it.

It’s not romantic by any means, with its communal tables, frantic energy and bright lights, but the food here was excellent and the unlimited red table wine was a fantastic deal (4 euros per person?). This is truly a place where locals eat, but there are travelers here, too.

Be prepared to exercise your Italian food vocabulary muscles or to ask a lot of questions of the waitstaff when trying to figure out what you want to eat. Some are very familiar, and some are extremely foreign (even to me, who grew up eating Italian food and going to Italian restaurants since before I could even speak).  We asked for a few explanations of some of the dishes, and the waiters, while somewhat rushing through responses, were as helpful as they could be in helping us craft an Florentine dinner of epic proportions. Continue reading

Ora D’Aria – Michelin star dining in Florence

My husband and I went to Ora D’Aria on our honeymoon in October and we were really looking forward to our meal there based on reading about the chef and the place in general. However, we were a little disappointed with our meal and I think that, for the money, we had better meals elsewhere at a better price.



We did the Tuscan autumn tasting menu and each course was good, but not great.


I think the amuse bouche was actually tastier than the actual courses, which was really unfortunate because I think it set us up for disappointment.  It consisted of a pint-sized portion of steak tartare with caviar and truffle oil, tempura fresh cherry tomato and prosciutto “sandwich”. Continue reading

Salumeria Verdi aka Pino’s Sandwiches (Florence, Italy)

I was really wary of Salumeria Verdi, aka Pino’s Sandwiches in Florence, Italy, based on all of the great reviews on TripAdvisor. “Oh, it’s going to be a bunch of American students and full of tourists,” I thought. “There’s going to be a line out the door and we’ll need to wait forever.”

Well, maybe that’s not all WRONG (the place quickly filled up with American students living abroad and their visiting families), but with one of these sandwiches in front of you and a cold glass of beer in your hand, those thoughts float into the salami-scented vapor and you are in food heaven. It’s no wonder this place has been around since 1900. Yes, 115 years. Pino’s been in charge for more than 20 of those.

Side rant: In Italian, the word for a singular sandwich is “panino”. Plural, it is “panini”. Don’t use the term “paninis.” Ever.

Pino himself greeted us as we came in and we hit it at JUST the right time, so there was no line out the door and there were plenty of tables to sit at. It must have been early in the scheme of lunch things because I was practically salivating all day, thinking about going here. Continue reading

Get Your Sleep On – Villa Tolomei Hotel & Resort (Florence, Italy)

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t really like Florence. It’s not my favorite Italian city, by far. I didn’t like it before my husband and I stayed at Villa Tolomei and I still don’t really like it after. But I can’t wait to go back to Villa Tolomei Hotel & Resort… so that probably says more about this hotel than I ever could articulate in a detailed review.
Villa Tolomei - Driveway
The driveway of the villa, looking out from the front door.

All dramatics aside, this hotel is the real deal. We’ve spent nights in various “luxury properties” on several continents and this place just has that “it” factor that some properties try to achieve, but never really do. It’s fancy enough, but the design is so subtly brilliant in mixing the classic, restored villa with the modern world in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard or going to be outdated in a decade. It’s just effortlessly cool, but Continue reading