Our third stop on the Eurotrip was Santa Margherita Ligure. This was a destination Katy had been to before but to which I had never been. We transferred to Santa Margherita by train, purchasing our tickets through self-service kiosk at the main train station in Florence (S.M.N.). This actually proved to be a fairly easy way to travel, even though we had to transfer twice. The total cost for the tickets was around 40 Euro apiece, which is much cheaper than any other alternative to get from Florence to the Northern Italian coast.
Here are a few of our favorite spots:
- Hike to San Fruttuoso (& Giorgio Restaurant!):This was easily one of our most memorable outdoor activities of the trip! All in, it’s somewhere around a 4 mile hike, that we were very much excited to do, because the promise at the end of it was an Aperol Spritz and some of the finest white sardines you’ll ever eat at this small local restaurant in the town of San Fruttuoso. The hike had a fair amount of elevation, and some stunning views along the way:
- Portofino: a great destination in its own right; Portofino is the lap of luxury when it comes to fancy Northwestern Italian Coastal Getaways. It’s a pretty fun town with lots of (somewhat overpriced, as expected) dining and shopping options. We saw several massive yachts, including one worth several hundred million dollars – Zeus:
- Capo Nord: this was a fairly upscale dining spot literally right on the Mediterranean Ocean. One of the coolest places we’ve ever dined outdoors, I could actually stick my foot in the sea from our table. This was the view from our table:
- (The Train to) Punta Chiappa: this is a very cool little spot a few miles away from where we stayed. We could have hiked to it, but we had been fairly active for a few days before so we opted to take the train. It cost us around a couple Euro, and was super fast and easy. Plus – an added bonus – train station views (and beers!):
The hotel we stayed at in Santa Margherita was Blu di Te House. It was boutiquey and chic, and we very much enjoyed the accommodation as well as the price (it was about middle of the road – not too expensive, but definitely not a hostel). As to be expected, the common area amenities, snacks, apertifs, and breakfast (buffet style, included in the rate), were all outstanding. Here is a picture of the lobby to give a frame of reference for how warm and friendly the room (and the staff!) was:
Til Next Time,
Our second stop on the Eurotrip was Florence. What an incredible place! We ended up taking a train from Zurich to Florence, and couldn’t have been happier with that decision. Our hotel (the Marriott) in Zurich was within walking distance of Zurich Main Station and the Airbnb we stayed at in Florence was around a 15 minute walk from S.M.N. (Santa Maria Novella), the main station in Florence. That turned into a bit of a hassle on the way out of Florence, though, as we had a
(always reliable, super helpful) Samsonite spinner wheel break off right as we started the walk to the station. That area of Florence is much too congested during the morning rush to try and bail out for an Uber (would have added 30 minutes easily), so yours truly got to carry the bag 🙁
Some of our favorite spots in Florence:
- Centrale Market: a great market on the Northwest side of Florence proper. Many shops on the lower level, including places to find great cheeses, wines, and produce. The upper level is a recent addition and includes a food-court-style setup with dozens of vendors who all serve separate fare (anything from pastas to prosciuttos to sandwiches to dumplings, and many others in-between). There are also beer/wine service folks who will help you get a drink once you’re settled at a table.
- Casa del Garga: an absolutely outstanding off-the-beaten-path restaurant near our Airbnb. We had one of our best meals of the trip at this spot, which was recommended both by our Airbnb host (as a great local spot within a couple blocks) as well as one of our wine tour guides in Tuscany (who used to live in the area when she was studying for her Sommolier exam).
- 4 Leoni: tremendous spot on the South side of the river, which we found through a quick google search for “Bolognese” (one of my vices) while we were spending a leisurely cafternoon shopping on the more “locals” side of town. The lasagna is out-of-this-world, and the special ravioli/tortellini with pear is excellent as well. Here is the lasagna:
- The Duomo: one of the more famous spots in Florence. Insider tip: book your tickets in advance (and select a tour time and print this confirmation). Skipping the line will guarantee you a spot, as well as save you hours in line as the flood of tourists for this site is constant. The hike to the top can be a bit cramped, with many small stairwells and several spiral staircases. The total hike to the top is approximalye 25 minutes in length, with an initial (interior) observation deck around 15 minutes in. Once you continue onward and reach the top, the 360-degree views of Florence are unmatched (making the climb totally worth it). One of the many, expansive views from the observation deck atop the Duomo:
- Academy Art Gallery: the location of Michaelangelo’s famous David sculpture, along with several of his other “unfinished” works. The statue itself is incredibly large – much bigger than one might think based on photos alone.
- Piazzale Michaelangelo: a common terrace on the south side of the river, with scenic views of the city. Free to go, and several bars/shops around to stop for a breather if the hike up the hill (~15-20 minutes) has you a bit winded.
- Garga: one of the best hidden gems in Florence. We had what may quite possibly be the best, most unexpected bolognese of our lives here. Just take a look for yourself; you can almost smell it off the screen:
For lodging, we ended up in an Airbnb on the Northwest side of the main town center. It ended up being great, and gave us some good separation from the much more touristy areas down by all of the historic sites that Florence has to offer. We ended up finding some gems and hole in the wall restaurants off the beaten path, which was an added bonus.
Til Next Time,