Five Days in Florence with Terrance

in Italy

I always suspected that I  would love Italy and my suspicions were overwhelmingly validated by my visit to Florence. Having a good ear and excellent hand and shoulder expressions, I’d been developing my Italian skills in preparation for an eventual visit.

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Join us in 2017

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We (Clinton and Donna Grande) had a terrific time with Terrance, Monika, Mary and Donna Piccolo on our Florence adventure: wonderful food, spectacular wines and very agreeable companionship.  We hope to join you on another excursion in the future. Anno prossimo! 

Terrance, thanks again for a wonderful adventure in Florence.
Clint & Donna Kemp, Lancaster, PA
Florence took me by surprise again this my third visit.  Venturing around corners to see sites off the beaten tourist path, we found markets chalk full of beautiful leather goods for which Florence is known, table linens and an abundance of succulent fruits and vegetables, a palette of colours delighting the eye.
 
Florence was the epi-centre of the Renaissance movement as witnessed by it architecture and paintings.  Walking down via dei Calzaiuoli, our delightful guide, Antonella, pointed out the shields of the once prominent families of Florence, incorporated into the architecture as reminders of her glorious past.
 
The highlight for me was returning to the Tuscan countryside for a wonderful lunch and wine tasting at Frattoria di Monte Maggo.  A typical winery in the heart of Chianti country.  
And what would a summary of a trip to Florence be without praise of the wonderful food!  Dishes prepared to perfection, mouth watering and presented with great flare.  And the freshest mozzarella cheese I have ever tasted. And did I mention my love of limoncello!
 
Terrance, a bigger than life personality and lover of life, who surprised us daily with his command of the Italian language, put together a wonderful four-day tour enjoyed by his enrapt audience.  And this note would be incomplete if I did not mention our delightful accommodation at the Hotel Celli.  A boutique hotel chalk full of wonderful charm.  I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone visiting Florence.

Donna Rivers, Toronto, Canada

I always suspected that I  would love Italy and my suspicions were overwhelmingly validated by my visit to Florence. Having a good ear and excellent hand and shoulder expressions, I’d been developing my Italian skills in preparation for an eventual visit.

Stops in CinqueTerra and Portofino during a Riviera cruise two years ago supplied the initial taste. A Sicily cruise, capped by lunch in Naples last year, and I was ready-all I needed was a pretext, and when I met Francesco Cavallo at the Caves Saint Gilles in Paris, I had it.

I was nibbling tapas and drinking rioja with M and KVM when, over my shoulder, I heard Italian being spoken. A nod of the head, ciao, and we were talking. A swap of business cards revealed him to be the owner of the Hotel Cellai, a small property, in his family’s hands  since 1881.

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Alessandra & Shona

After checking out the property on line, a tour quickly materialized in  my brain, and Five Days in Florence with Terrance was born. I didn’t want to propose the standard Renaissance art program, with guided tours of the Uffizzi and Academia, but rather a fun, food & wine-fueled five days, with friends. Shona of Francesca’s staff, was an invaluable co-conspirator in dreaming up the itinerary. Considering that we never met, she completely understand my desires, made impeccable restaurants choices, and paired us with the extraordinary guide, Antonella, who imbued us with her passion for Florence.

Donna and Mary from Toronto had been visiting Paris and shared a plane with me and M for the short flight to Florence. A twenty minute cab ride to the center of town and we were ready to check into our home for the next five days.

Francesco is a designer, who specializes in hotel interiors, and our room reflected his elegant and appropriate taste. The bathroom dwarfs my Paris apartment. The canopied bed suggested sweet dreams.

Alessandro, the house pianist, had been booked  to accompany me on a few of my Tony Bennett favorites while we all sipped welcoming wine. An audience of six, including Donna and Clint from Lancaster, PA, plus Francesco, was not big enough for my ego, so after leading a spirited rendition of O Canada with twenty north of the border guests who had gathered in the lobby, I insisted they be a few minutes late for dinner and join us.

I concluded the brief, impromptu concert with the Neapolitain classic, MalaFemena and now had a Pavarotti-like appetite for dinner.We downed the final drops of wine and headed for Le Fonticine.

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Angelo greeted us, escorted us to our table and introduced our waiter, ‘Super’ Mario, who filled our wine glasses with Chianti.If you were in San Francisco in the 1980s you may remember him from the North Beach Restaurant.

This was the first of the gigantic meals that were typical of our visit. Platters of antipasti, chicken liver crostini,  pasta and Tuscan steak with rosemary potatoes covered with mesclun.

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Portions were copious, the dining rooms were packed, and camaraderie reigned.

Day 2

We had a busy day ahead, so a big collazione (breakfast,) was required. And, at the Cellai, the complimentary breakfast provides enough calories to get you through a day.

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At 10AM we met our guide, the extraordinary Antonella, who brings a passion for her native Florence that is infectious. Fluent in French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and English she doles out information with wit, charm and warmth that make you feel as if you’ve known her all of your life.

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Our route included Brunelleschi’s Dome, described in minute detail in Ross King’s book and the Baptistry with its carved doors.

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A refreshment stop at the Caffé Concerto Paszowski at the Piazza della Republic preceded a walk-by of the Uffizzi Gallery and a crossing of the  Ponte Vecchio and its jewelry stores. Donna couldn’t resist and did preliminary negotiation that was successfully concluded a few days later.

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Time for lunch at the local favorite, Trattoria Cammillo, a family affair since 1945. Chianti all around and a generous platter of antipasti and starters: crostini alla florentina, formato di verdure, insilata di pinoli, rucola e parmigiana and Ribollita all contain con l’olio di nostra produzione.

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Main courses were wafer thin veal scallopine with lemon, Ceciata di maile ( a hearty stew of pork, chickpeas and spinach) and chicken curry over rice with mango chutney.By now we felt like family, and sharing was rampant-I will limit future tours to a max of 8 guests to sustain this feeling of camaraderie.

Dessert was a featherweight tiramisu of persimmons-deliciozo!

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No meal in Florence is complete without grappa, and this one was superb.

I couldn’t leave without swapping baci (kisses) with Chiara Massiero, the third generation of her family to oversee Cammillo’s.

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A hike to the the Piazza Michelangelo with its panoramic view of the city and back to the Cellai for a siesta before another meal.

Day 3

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A short walk to the grand central market San Lorenzo was highlighted by the discovery of lampredeta and an exceptional, slightly salty,  mozzarella di buffala, topped with tomatoes, anchovies and the usual assortment of pastas, seasonal vegetables and fruit, and the famous local extra virgin olive oils.

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A visit to the second story ‘food court’ was en0ugh to convince me to make it a stop on next year’s program,

But on to pranzo (lunch) at the nearby ZàZà, a local institution. It was the amiable Clint’s birthday and I happily surprised him with a bottle of prosecco that we shared in friendly celebration.

From the numerous menu items some of our favourite starters were an individual cauldron of minestrone and pappardelle in a ragu of wild boar.Eggplant parmigiana and osso bucco were the main course winners. A tasty tiramisu and home made cantucci (biscotti) with vino santo capped another festive meal.

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Don’t ask me how but were able to soldier on to a thankfully, comparatively light, elegant dinner at Harry’s Bar.

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We began with what else, but the cocktail invented at Harry’s Bar, the Bellini. Our starter was yellow pumpkin parmigiana with cream cheese-earthy and delicioso!

 

Our waiter opened a bottle of Argentiera Villa Donoratico that was so good we stayed with it throughout the meal.

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The pasta course was baked fettuccine with prosciutto and parmesano followed by a crunchy suckling pig with dried fruit sauce. The image says it all. 

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Desert was a the classic cream-filled crepes flambé with Grand Marnier. And, of course, grappa with mignardises.

Day 4

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Antonella and our driver arrived in an eight passenger mini-van and it was off to the Tuscan hills. Our first stop was the village of Greve in Chianti with its market and the famous butcher, Antica Macelleria Falorni.

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 After sampling a wide range of salami that served as an intro to Tuscan meats we headed into the hills to sample the wines of Fattoria di Monte Maggio with its view of the surrounding hills.

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If you can't join me but woud like me to plan your Festa di Firenze please contat me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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