Whenever we travel on holiday for extended periods of time, itâ€™s always nice to hook up with locals or family friends who are from the foreign city you are visiting. I am not that social in that I like our time exploring independently, and donâ€™t need constant fussing by â€œtour guidesâ€, yet I feel you gain so much more when you have interested locals to help you out. I was reminded to get in touch with acquaintances from two decades back that I had met in New York and who lived on the â€œoutskirtsâ€ of Florence. A few emails and calls and we had reconnected after many, many years. We told them of our plans for a week long stay and asked for their advice on restaurants and shops in town. They graciously invited us to dinner, and to my delight, instead of a restaurant, they wanted us to have dinner at their home. Again, experiencing a meal in oneâ€™s home in a foreign city is so much more interesting, intimate and satisfying than searching out the hottest restaurant in town. So we were truly excited to join A & C and their 3 kids for dinner late in our stay in Florence.
We had detailed taxi instructions that took us on a winding route out of the city, headed to the Northeast. Our cab driver was new and did not inspire confidence but thankfully all the cabs have these satellite guidance systems and we finally found ourselves outside a large gate, at dusk, on a street that appeared to be in the middle of nowhereâ€¦ But the familiar face of an old friend appeared and let us into their front gate and we stared at the faÃ§ade of a wonderful villa as you would see in the quintessential movie on Italyâ€¦but the best was yet to come. We went through the house and into the backyard and lo and behold, before us in the valley, was the most spectacular, stunning, gasp-inspiring view of the city of Florence. With the famous towers across the town rising into the sky and the domes of the Duomo and other spectacular architectural gems clearly visible, you just had to take a second, third and twelfth look. I didnâ€™t bring a camera because I thought it would be rude to snap shots of a family meal at home, and totally regretted it because I didnâ€™t capture the single best and utterly iconic view of Florence I will ever see. The photo above is of some similar though less populated hills outside San Gemignano. I canâ€™t imagine having a cocktail each evening watching the sun go down with that spectacular a view just beyond my lawn and olive and peach treesâ€¦
We were in the hill town of Settignano, just 15 minutes from our hotel in town. The small town traces its roots back to Julius Caesar and one of his army men who the town was eventually named after. They have a website here. Turns out that the villa we were visiting sat on land once owned by the family of the sculptor Michelangelo (yes, THE Michelangelo) and his descendants still lived next door! Gosh, that was just too much history to absorb in a span of 15 minutes. Just that morning we were showing The Kid Michelangeloâ€™s famous â€œDavidâ€ and that night we were dining on land his family once owned. Awesome. No history class can compare with the real thing. The meal itself was excellent but certainly overshadowed by the view. We had a great seafood pasta, a wonderful salad and a selection of 6-8 different flavors of gelato from the best provedore in the little town square. Some sparkling wine accompanied the meal. The company was gracious, their kids amused our kid for several hours and we had an absolutely memorable visit/evening. Many, many thanks to A & C and family for a memorable dinner and one of the most stunning and picturesque view of Florence we shall ever see!