Italian Festivals: Festa della Rificolona

festa_della_rificolanaWho doesn’t love a local festival inspired by dowdy farmers, reenacted for hundreds of years by a procession of lanterns (that end the evening in flames) and children with spitball assault rifles. Answer: no one. Do I have your attention?
Welcome to the (seemingly innocent and wholesome) Festa dell Rificolona! To the uneducated eye, it is a perfectly quaint event involving one contingent of children processing with lit lanterns while another (perhaps slightly more unusual) contingent uses long pipes and putty to shoot spitballs at the passing paper targets. Everyone involved seems perfectly happy with the situation, so you assume it’s all part of the fun. It is. And it is fun, if a bit of an odd way to honor the eve of the birth of the Virgin Mary.
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Novità: One of the Best Study Spots in Florence

All things new.
They may not be new to Florence, but they’re news to me.

This past month we made a big decision and a big move out of the city center. We’re really only a 15-minute bike ride from Arno so it is hardly “far,” but it feels like a whole new city. While leaving the overcrowded centro has had a slew of advantages, it has also taken some adjusting. We’re so used to the luxury of having a place close-by to go when tired of wondering the city or after a three hour Uffizi tour. My latest goal, therefore, has been to find new and wonderful places closer to the city center to spend my free hours studying, reading or just relaxing. This post is dedicated to my favorite of these recent discoveries, Caffè Letterario. As with most items in this blog series, it has been around for ages and has just taken me ages to find. And as per usual, I wish I had found it so much sooner!

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Florence’s best kept secret and the city’s best restaurants

If I had a euro for every time someone asked me “what is your favorite restaurant in Italy?” or “where was the best meal you ever had,” I would be a wealthy woman and probably have purchased my own villa by now. Fortunately, my answer to all of these questions is the same – Davide’s. Now, for those of you who have had the pleasure of eating at Davide’s in Florence, Italy you know what I am talking about. You would also know that Davide’s is not the name of an actual place; it is instead wherever Davide Sama (restaurant owner extraordinaire) happens to be on any given night. Impressively, he owns and manages many restaurants in Florence…4 and counting. They are not chain restaurants. While the menus and ambiance at each are similar (i.e. friendly, cozy, welcoming, and always beyond satisfying), they are unique and serve a variety of different delicious Tuscan specialties. Chances are you will not find these establishments listed in your Rick Steves’ or Lets Go! guides. Trust me, this is a good thing. Correction: this is a great thing.

These places (listed below) are generally unassuming smaller restaurants, outside of the Florence city center (where restaurants are filled with over-priced and underwhelming tourist menus) and filled with happy locals (see map below). Continue reading…

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Best Vintage Shopping in Florence

Note: post updated June, 2013
When I first arrived in Florence there were not many vintage stores around. Three or four (that had a mix of handmade, vintage, and antiques) were holding down the fort of vintage clothing shopping in Florence, so to speak. But with the constant influx of tourists, many of whom seem to be in search of it, the vintage world has really taken off. In this blog I will share some of my favorite vintage shopping gems with you for your next trip. I’ve included a map below with their locations and basic info (click the pin for address, hours etc!).
Now please keep in mind that vintage is a volatile market and I’ve had to update this blog to make some changes to the locations I previously had listed (many of which have moved or are gone). For example, one store in particular I had hoped to add closed in the middle of writing this, so bare with me. If something isn’t where I say it is, chances are it has either moved, closed, or the owner has just gone to grab a coffee. I’ll try and keep this as up to date as possible and perhaps refrain from those locations that seem a bit suspect. If you find something new or find that the below information has since changed, let me know in the comments! Enjoy!
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Tuscany Bike Tour: Put The Fun Between Your Legs!

When people ask me for travel tips or recommendations for fun things to do in Florence one of the first activities that comes to mind is the Tuscany Wine and Bike Tour. Of course some other, more obvious, sites come to mind as well. However, the Tuscany Wine and Bike Tour has proven to be one of few SURE THINGS when it comes to the satisfaction and enjoyment of countless friends, family members, and students I have recommended it to.

Two happy customers about to hit the road

Anyone, regardless of age, athletic ability or inability, interest or disinterest in wine can appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of such a tour. A few years ago, I moved from Florence back to the U.S. unsure if or when I would return. I had a long check list of things to do and see before my departure. I spent hours planning where I would spend my last dinner, what I would order, what my final gelato flavor would be, and which route I would take for my last Florentine walk. With one day left to enjoy in Italy there was clearly only way to spend it – with my closest friends on the Tuscany Wine and Bike Tour. Here is why… Continue reading…

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