Posts filed under italy

My Florence: Ditta Artigianale

Most people dream of foamy cappuccinos and strong cups of espresso served by brisk waiters in sharp suits when they imagine lingering in a cafe in Italy. Most of the stereotypical daydreams also come accompanied by a Puccini soundtrack... or, at least, they do for me.

While I spend a lot of my time in coffee shops, I had always enjoyed that Italy seemed immune to the hipster coffee scene. (In the same way that I really enjoy not being able to use my phone on a flight.) In Italy, coffee should be served standing at the bar or seated with great people watching in a cafe... and not in a modern setting with cool light fixture and bearded patrons with Apple products.

So when my friend, Grant, recommended that we go try Ditta Artigianale in Florence.... well, I wasn't so sure. Somehow the thought of a hip coffee shop in Italy seemed wrong. But Tyler loves "good coffee," and I wanted to see the Pitti Palace so we compromised and crossed the Ponte Vecchio.


DITTA ARTIGIANALE OLTRARNO

This coffee shop on Via Dello Sprone is of the three Ditta Artigianale locations in the city. This local chain has various locations around the city, but if you're looking for a place to stay for a while- this is the one you want to go to.

The coffee is great. The classic latte is perfectly made- thanks to incredible high quality milk. (Good dairy makes everything better, doesn't it?) They shop also has fresh cold-press juices that are served in kitschy mason jar glasses, but taste fantastic. 

If you're feeling hungry- you have a range of food to choose from. Whether it's something small like a pastry or cookie or something a bit more substantial like a homemade croque monsieur or salad- they've got good options that not only sound cool, but they taste great, too.

With cosy nooks for work or chatting, an upstairs for hiding out, and a patio out back for some sunshine while your kids march around like tiny clowns- this is a perfect place to waste an afternoon.... or just for grabbing a great coffee to go on your way to the Boboli Gardens. 

DITTA ARTIGIANALE | Via dei Neri, 32/R, 50122 Firenze, Italy | Open 8AM-10PM


Looking for more great places in Florence? Check out my guide here and my Italy posts here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 6, 2017 and filed under eat, drink, italy, life, travel.

Tuscany Day Trip: Montepulciano

I convinced Tyler and our friends, Geraldine and Grant, to go to Montepulciano for the day while we were lounging around the villa one day. I had gone years ago and was itching to show them what a cute town it was. After they relented to my less-than-subtle nudges, we hopped in the car and drove an hour and a half. When we got there, I soon realized- I had actually been to Montelcino and had never been to Montepulciano before. Oops.

The good news for all of us was that this town was WAY better than I had expected to show them. Lucky for them (and me!), we got to spend a wonderful day exploring this charming town once run by the Medici family and still known today for its world class wines.

Plus, rolling the word "Montepulciano" off your tongue is one of the funnest things ever said.


MONTEPULCIANO

 

GETTING THERE

To drive from Florence (which is the best way, since it's really complex to reach otherwise), you'll take an easy 90 drive south, past Siena. Park in one of the paid lots and wander in through one of the various city gates. We parked in lot #1 and it was a great starting point.

You can walk straight from the parking lot and into town. From there, it was a windy and colorful stroll up through into the city center. Along the way, expect fruit stalls, tiny artists' shops and touristy stops full of leather purses and ceramic goodies.

 

WHAT TO DO

This isn't going to be a day-trip that has a big bullet-point list that comes with it. Your main objectives for the day are to relax, catch some great views from the endless alleyways and vistas, and eat/drink well along the way.

You can make it up to the Piazza Grande (admittedly, a tiresome endeavor with a baby stroller) and enjoy the piazza life from there. Grab a cup of (delicious artisan!) gelato from the tiny cafe right in the square for a real treat. Or if you're feeling more energetic, you cna pay €4 to climb up to the top of the Terrazza del Palazzo Comunale for sweeping views of the Tuscan hills surrounding you.

 

WHAT TO EAT

If wine is your game, then you've got countless vineyards surrounding the town you can visit as this is the home of the famous vino nobile. The larger vineyards offer amazing lunches in gorgeous settings... along with pricetags that pair well with such an opulent experience. Some of the most famous vineyards in the Montepulciano area are Avignonesi and Contucci Cantine.

 

 

Tuscany is a great place to take day trips- really for any type of traveler. If you're young and looking to explore- these small, friendly towns are nearly fail proof adventures. If you're a couple looking for some romantic spots and lonely cafes, these towns offer it. If you're a family craving some culture, but feel exhausted by big cities- small towns like Montepulciano are a great middle ground. (Plus so many of the streets are pedestrian only, you don't have to worry about cars. Let those kids run free!)

 


 

Find more of my Italy posts here and my series on Tuscan day trips here.

 



 

*images original to aspiring kennedy by grant schol

 

Posted on September 27, 2016 and filed under day trips, italy, travel.

Under The Tuscan Sun... and Just By The Olive Trees

When I was 19, I spent a semester in Italy. Just outside of Florence on a hillside of a sleepy suburb in a 15th century villa. In this villa, we had class, we had little Italian women cook for us and we stayed up way too long every night. I'm not sure anyone can spend three months at that villa and not have those moments stay with them forever. There really is something magical about "the villa," and I am so glad that I got to share it with my family this summer.

While we were there, my friend Grant snapped some pictures of us around the house. He, literally, took out his camera and starting clicking away after breakfast one day. (And from the lack of Tyler and/or group photos, you'll see that it was so casual that he went in to change out the laundry about two minutes into taking pictures and we had given up by the time he had come back out.)

I have to say, I love them. Not just because I can now appreciate the gift of having us all four in the same photo... but especially so because they're a reminder of a normal day that made up this gorgeous holiday.

There are so many memories that I have from the villa- visiting with my family in high school, arriving with my best friend and a huge suitcase to live out of for the spring whilst in college, saying goodnight to friends in the driveway during the summers in college, eating lunch with Tyler as newlyweds in the dining room, laughing on the terrace with Oxford friends after graduation, and now... well, with my sweet babies toddling around the yard.

 

I love Florence and the lifelong friends that we have there... and, well, now I have some pictures to add to the others we already love from this same special place.

 



 

*images by Grant Schol

 

Posted on September 9, 2016 and filed under italy, kids, life, photography.

Florence | La Menagere

 

Once upon a time, I was a camp counselor and had a hilarious camper named Grant. We would sit in the craft shed- me, a fresh college graduate, and him, a quick-witted 14 year-old, laughing and talking throughout afternoon in the Arkansas heat. Fast-forward 10 years. Grant has recently moved to Florence and works as a colleague of mine in our Florence program.

While we are here this summer, we get to see Grant everyday and he has been giving us a fresh look at a city we love so much. We get great facts along our walks through the city, funny translations of Italian and, most importantly, the great new spots to go to when in Florence.

La Menagere is a place that Grant picked out for us to try long before our arrival. When we ventured into town one day, the mood felt right and we scurried over that way. Walking up to it, I knew that- 100% sure- this was a place I would love. (I am pretty sure that you will, too!)

 

LA MENAGERE

 

When you first walk in, you're going to notice the amazing design of this space. The interiors are very cool- almost as if built as a set for a Nancy Meyers movie.

 

 

Then, you'll notice the chic army of waiters quietly scurrying around the restaurant. From their denim aprons to their perfecty-groomed facial hair, they somehow match the setting as if an interior designer worked them into her plans.

 

 

Now, for the important part: the food.  Expect traditional items with a twist for the menu. We started with the Insalata Caprese- hot & cold. It consisted of a tomato soup with basil croutons and an island of mozzerella ice cream. It was a fun version of something that I've had a hundred times before... but in a way that didn't feel sacreligious.

 

 

For the mains, we all tried something different. Toasted gnocchis, cocoa raviolis and a candied lemon and poppyseed risotto with salty cheese. The combinations were unlikely, but the execution was perfect.

 

We made it a real party and brought our friends, Mat & Kelsey + their kids. I wouldn't say this restaurant is best enjoyed with kids, but I will say they did an awesome job taking care of ours. They had high chairs and offered to make simple options for them that weren't listed on the menu. Plus, there is a lot of space to walk around and explore while you wait for food without feeling like everyone is staring at you.

 

 

Put La Menagere on your list for your trip to Florence. Whether you are stopping by to pick up a small item from their cool boutique, a coffee from their bistro or a formal lunch- this is a great stop for any foodies & design-hounds headed to Italy.

 

LA MENAGERE | Via de'Ginori 8r. Florence, 50123. +39.055.0750.600. Open daily from 07:00am - 02:00am. 

 



 

*images by Grant Schol

 

Posted on August 22, 2016 and filed under eat, italy, travel.

Tuscany Day Trip: San Gimignano

 

Image my surprise when I woke up this morning and came to finish this post... but realized that I had actually posted it live yesterday half finished. Oops! Well, the notes are now removed and the actual links and comments are available now.

 

The last time we spent August in Tuscany was our first summer living abroad- nearly five years ago! That summer, Tyler & I spent our days here bumping around the hillside roads in a beatup FIAT Panda and loved to venture out into all the small villages and towns nearby that we could get to in the day.

Not only did I make this video of our trips (that I watch on bad days far more than I'm proud to admit), but I also started a little blogging series on Tuscany Day Trips. Since I won't be making a video this time around, I thought the least that I could do is continue my day trip series.

 


 

SAN GIMIGNANO

If you're staying in or around Florence, San Gimignano is an easy place to go for a day trip. You can either venture out to this small medeival town through a bust tour that leaves from Florence, like this one or drive yourself in a rent car. The drive from Florence is just about an hour.

I'd go early in the day, as parking is limited and the sooner you get there- the less time you'll spend going up and down the roads around the town in search of a spot to park. (We went at lunch time and it took forever!)

Regardless of the limited parking and the hot sunny August weather, we had a marvelous day. This charming town is the perfect mix of Italian culture, history and ease put into one spot. It's location between Florence and Siena make it an easy destination regardless of where you are staying. So whether you spend the day exploring some of the 14 medieval tours that are still standing or simply wandering from eatery to eatery to find the best scenic views- you'll be inevitably charmed by San Gimignano.

 

 

EAT

RICCAPIZZA | Since it took so long to find a parking spot, by the time we reached San Gimignano, the natives were fairly restless. We decided to forgo the trauma that would come from us all enduring a long lunch somewhere and, instead, jumped in the quick-moving queue at PizzaRicco and grabbed a giant box of pizza for lunch.

GELATERIA DONDOLI | This gelateria, convienently placed in Piazza della Cisterna, is a famous stop for most tourists to pass through San Gimignano. With creative flavors like olive and champelmo (champagne and pink grapefuit) make it more than your normal ice cream stop. It's definitely worth waiting in the quick-moving line to try a cone for yourself.

TRATTORIA CHIRIBIRI | If you're looking for perfect Tuscan dishes- think big plates of Tuscan meats and cheeses, white beans cooked for hours in a stew-like tomato base and thick bowls of riboliita- all in an atmosphere that fits the 14th century village surroundings, look no further. This place won't disappoint.

 

DO

PIAZZA DELLA CISTERNO | This main square in the town is named after the well (or "cistern") that sits in the middle. You'll find this is the main deposit of visitors from the town that have entered through the main city entrance, Porta San Giovanni. From Piazza della Cisterna, you'll be at a major axis point for reaching the rest of the city.

*    *    *

Has anyone stayed in San Gimignano? Would love to hear some recommendations for great places to spend the night there to get the full experience.... after all the tourists like us have left for the day!

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on August 16, 2016 and filed under day trips, italy, travel.