A Tuscan Meal at Alla Vecchia Bettola (Florence, Italy)

Crossing the Arno river to the south side of Florence we discovered a whole new town where tourists were a rare sighting, locals roamed the streets and the real Florence came to life. I myself have been guilty of focusing most of my trips to Florence on the North side where most of the tourist destinations are located. This time, having already checked off all the major tourist  must-do’s including the Uffizzi and Duomo we were ready to see what more Florence had in store. The vast beautiful gardens of Giardino de Boboli and Bardini are a peaceful escape from the heat not to mention extremely beautiful. But as most of the nomad’s journeys, we were in search of a true tuscan meal. Walking around the gardens we eventually made our way to Alla Vechia Bettola, a cozy, home-style tuscan restaurant with a large local following.
22-P1030982We arrived quiet early in the evening. Unbeknownst to us, the restaurant was still closed and the staff were around a large table eating their dinner prior to opening. We walked in on them feasting away at the same delicious food that would later be served to us.  We apologized for the intrusion in the little Italian we had picked up through our journey and turned around and walked back outside. We sat waiting for them to open their doors. Embarrassed to be the first eager diners at the restaurant I pointed to my belly and attempted to explain that we were very hungry. Minutes later a gentle server came to welcome us in. The old tuscan man and wife team were there chatting away with every customer that walked in the door. Most diners appeared to be local regulars. 11-P1030949 The restaurant filled up within minutes making us thankful for having arrived early. We quickly ordered and were served with glasses of the house wine. I really wish I could have ordered everything off the menu as everything that came out of the kitchen looked divine. But sadly there is only so much a hungry duo can eat. 12-P1030950 15-P103095713-P1030953 14-P1030954We started off with a prosciutto and melon salad to start.   It was the real thing. Fresh pieces of lemon and local cured prosciutto. For our main entrees we ordered the cheese penne and macaroni with wild boar. Both dishes were absolutely amazing and the closest thing to real italian cooking that the two of us will ever get to. Our meal was so good that the Count considered ordering a second meal and when realizing that wasn’t a realistic option suggested we go back the next day before leaving Florence.

16-P1030961 18-P1030965 17-P1030963

I hesitate to recommend this restaurant only because it is so good and still remains out of most tourist’s reach. But if you are a big foodie like me and are trying to explore true tuscan dining, Alla Vecchia Bettola will not disappoint.




Continue Reading

Where to Eat a Florentine Steak in Florence (Italy)

Florence is a citywide outdoor museum which means tourists are aplenty. The large number of tourist means many mediocre restaurants exist where the waitstaff and kitchen staff are  mainly underpaid illegal immigrants and Italians are hard to come by. Food at these restaurants tend to be pre-made, frozen and generally quite bad. Unfortunately, after a long day of sightseeing it is hard to avoid these restaurants but here are a few pointers:  restaurants where the waiters stand outside waiving you in, restaurants with billboards and photos of the food, restaurants where no one speaks Italian. In the short time we spent in Florence I decided that our trip should include a trip to a Florentine steakhouse where we could experience a taste of a true  bistecca alla fiorentina. With recommendations from the wonderful concierge at the JK Place Firenze we walked around the corner to Buca Lapi.  The restaurant was literally around the corner from our hotel yet we ended up getting lost in the intertwining narrow streets, almost got run over my some motorbikes and finally ended up where we started and decided to use our very expensive GPS to lead us the 10 meter walk to the restaurant.

08-P103078003-P1030750 Buca Lapi is the oldest Florentine restaurant housed in Palazzo Antinori’s wine cellars underground with the dining room located in the actual cellar and covered wall to wall with old and new tourist advertisements. Our server was fluent in English and was very friendly and helpful with the menu. All other customers also happened to be english speaking tourists, making me doubt our choice. Yet, when I saw the steak being cut up for the table next to us, all second-guessing was laid to rest.  We ordered two pasta dishes to start including a spinach and ricotta gnocchi and a pappardelle with braised rabbit and porcini mushrooms. We were both filled by the end of our first plate and were ready to call it a night but we had already ordered the steak.  04-P1030751 Minutes later a man was cutting up a large piece of steak for us that really looked like it could have been  a large piece of a whole cow. It was huge. Did I mention that the Count does not like steak? He is just not a meat and potatoes kind of guy and likes his meal filled with different flavors and spices. Besides his dislike for meat he was not a big fan of the price tag on this piece of Florentine steak, which cost approximately 70 euros. 07-P1030759 06-P1030762We ordered the steak medium rare and were served a meat that was quite raw, bloody and juicy. Even though I am a lover of meat, it was even hard for me to swallow all that meat. When it was time for dessert, we had no room left and decided to finish off with the steak. We could only get through one quarter of the steak and the rest was wasted. What a true waste.
02-P1030745If you have a large budget and want to eat a good steak than I would recommend  Buca Lapi however, there are many cheaper and better places to eat good Italian food in Florence of which Buca Lapi is not.  The locals will not spend more than 20 euros on a good meal and that includes wine. We experienced this on another night when we found a local restaurant (see post) where the food was finger licking good, and our entire bill came to 30 euros. In fact, it was so good that the Count wanted to go back the next day for lunch before we took off to Tuscany.  If you do decide to go Buca Lapi definitely share the meals.


Continue Reading

Luxury at its finest at the Il Salviatino (Fiesole, Italy)

No matter how many times people advise you to not make a trip to Italy in the scorching heat of August where only tourists roam the streets, somehow you will make the same mistake over and over again. Simply because you are a tourist. We arrived in Florence on one of the hottest days in August, where the sun beamed down its rays with force and might resulting in empty streets. Even the tourists were hiding somewhere. We could not find them. Florence seemed like a deadtown. I was shocked. The Florence I am used to is busy with a certain enigmatic energy flowing through its history-ridden alleys. Our stay inside the town was short and sweet. The heat only allowed so many tour line ups. Luckily, I had predicted this heat and had booked us a mini-retreat in the nearby town of Fiesole at the world class resort of Il Salviatino where we could use the suns ray to our advantage.


Location: This ravishing  luxurious 15th century villa is set atop the lush hills of Fiesole overlooking Florence and the rolling Tuscan landscape. The green landscape automatically made it a few degrees cooler than Florence. It is only a short ride away from the center of Florence making it a great option for those wishing to tour Florence while getting a feel for Tuscan living.


Decor: The hotel boasts 19th-century frescoes, antique bath tubs and valuable artwork. The outdoor dining, Italian rose garden and fountains give it a serene and romantic atmosphere. On the eve of our arrival, a band arrived playing their instruments in the Italian garden where guests and locals drank wine and soaked in the beautiful energy of the moment. The villa itself is as breathtaking on the outside as it is on the inside making me wish that I could have had my dream wedding there in another lifetime. (See video: Jazz in the Gardens)



Rooms: The villa has 45 rooms including 22 private suites with stunning views. The rates typically include breakfast served in the gardens (in the summertime). Handmade authentic Tuscan linen,  selected artwork and the finest leathers all add to make each one of these suites and rooms a truly unique experience.  All rooms include complimentary wi-fi, rain showers, nespresso coffee machines, safes and complimentary water.


Spa: Spa Il Salviatino is operated by Florentine perfumier and cosmetologist Dr Vranjes. There are five treatment rooms set amid rolling Italian gardens, specializing in aromatherapeutic relaxation and anti-ageing treatments.


Dining: The villa has two separate restaurants, Le Serre, a more formal dining experience laid amidst a cozy room set with candlelit tables, or La Terrazza, where you can sit inside our outside.

  • The food was a modern take on traditional Tuscan cuisine. Favorites included the ricotta and spinach gnudi with sage butter. What was once a historic orchard has now been devoted to an organic vegetable gardenmaking the fruit and vegetable offerings as fresh as they can get.


Service: While all staff at Il Salviatino were courteous and extremely professional it was not the friendliest of hotels we stayed at. However, after having spent a short amount of time there I see that it is the guests manner that has perhaps  led to this. Staying at the Il Salviatino is not an everyday affair, only those with deep pockets can afford to spend more than a few nights there in the summertime. Unfortunately, sometimes guests with deep pockets have a sense of entitlement and speak down to guests. Some of which we witnessed at this hotel. The staff in return have a very withdrawn demeanor which can come across as borderline unfriendly.


Pool: Open between April and October, the terraced pool area has three heated, cascading infinity pools filled with salty mineral water, overlooking a green valley and surrounded by scented roses and lavender.


Amenities: Spa, gym, library, 12 acres of landscaped parkland, free WiFi throughout, free shuttle service to Florence. In rooms: flatscreen TV, Nespresso coffee machines, minibar with complimentary mineral water; iPod docks available on request. Every bathroom has LED-lit rain showers with seats, and some have a Jacuzzi or antique bath tub. All guests are assigned a dedicated ‘ambassador’ to look after them during their stay.


Address: Il Salviatino is located at Via del Salviatino, 12, Florence, Tuscany, 50137

Continue Reading

A Design Driven Boutique Hotel in the Heart of Florence (Italy)

There are many beauties to revel at in Florence and the hotel experience should be something that adds to the experience. On our latest trip to Florence we stayed at the JK Place Firenze– a centrally located hotel which oozes style, design and class.  The hotel is situated right on Piazza Santa Maria Novella, one of the many beautiful squares in Florence.



For convenience sake, the hotel is a 5 minute walk from the local train station in case you, like us, are arriving on the train from another Italian destination. The square has one of the most stunning Basilicas which can be seen from many of the rooms facing the square.


There are no signs at JK Firenze. It is discreet and unassuming and only those in the know will find their way inside. Once inside, guests are left with the impression of being in a home away from home. That is if your home is styled to the nines and is designed to perfection.




Guests are greeted at the door by the friendly doorman and walked through the hallway to the ‘front desk’. Except, the front desk is actually a one man desk located in the middle of the hotel surrounded by a dark wood library filled with books, videos and information pamphlets. Check in felt more like arriving at a friend’s home. An ice cold glass of lemonade was handed to us, a thoughtful touch, given that Florence in August is scorching hot.


The framed life drawings, sculptures, images and books remind us that we are in the center of the renaissance art world. At this point, we make our way through the hidden elevator up to our exclusive two-level suite with a view to die for.



Our room was so pleasant, welcoming and beautiful that we just melted into our bed and had to really push ourselves to leave. The first floor featured a beautiful working desk, leather couch and television. The stairs lead up to the second floor bedroom area, bathroom and closet.  The high painted ceilings, paneled walls and the modern pieces of furniture made this room one of the nicest during our European journey.



What made the room so special was the carefully selected furniture, design and view on to the square.



Continuing with the family-style approach, breakfast was served in a covered courtyard at a communal table encouraging all guests to interact with one another. A buffet filled with fresh fruits, cheese, bread and yogurt is at our disposal. The table is then used throughout the day to offer guests refreshments, cakes and fruits. The big hit was the ice cold watermelon which hit the spot after a long walk around town on a hot August day.


35-DSC_011210-DSC_0167 13-DSC_0163

Amenities include:

•             Fresh seasonal organic fruit basket in your room

•             complimentary mini bar (soft-drinks)

•             Daily newspaper

•             Buffet breakfast

•             Complimentary organic coffee and tea during the stay

•             Free Homemade finger food and cakes from J.K. Buffet

•             Free WI-FI internet access

•             Free access to the exclusive Olimpo SPA Steam Bath (located in via Tornabuoni, two  minutes walking)

•             Free access to Florence Fitness Gym (located in via dei Fossi, one minute walking),

•             Free entrance to all Fiesole museums

•             Cd\Dvds selection

JK Place Firenze is located at Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, 7 50123, Florence, Italy, +39 055 264 5181


Continue Reading