My last post was a quick break to tell you all about the MAC & Disney event, but now I’m back to the land of pizza, pasta and gelato through this post (not in real life I’m afraid) and bring you a guide for the beautiful city, Florence.
We hopped on a train from Lake Como to Florence, with a little stop over in Milan and spent 2.5 days walking around, exploring the city and comparing gelateria, as you do in Italy! We happened to be in Florence over Easter weekend and although the city was heaving with people, we still managed to tick most of the churches, bridges, statues etc from our list.
Like any city, the best thing to do is just to walk around and absorb the place, but obviously you should hit the main places on your list. The main things you don’t want to miss (and can’t miss, as they’re simply everywhere) are the beautiful white-washed historical buildings that take over the main piazza in Florence, including the main one, the Duomo.
Florence also houses the famous Michelangelo’s David statue in the Accademia Gallery, however as the queue was as long as the Amazon River, we decided to settle for the imitation David statue instead, in the Piazza Della Signoria. The piazza also has many other classical statues, which shamefully reminded me of how much of my Classics knowledge I’ve forgotten since my degree!
Other things to see are Basilica Santa Maria Novella, Ponte Vecchio bridge, Officina Profumo Farmaceutica (a 500 year old pharmacy that used to be run by monks!) and the Sant Ambrogia market.
See the best views of Florence
The most famous view point is at Piazzale Michelangelo and many people head there for sunset, which is exactly what we did. However we also stumbled across a lovely view from the Giardino Bardini Gardens, a much less well-known garden to the famous Boboli, but I would recommend Bardini for a quieter and more relaxed experience…plus check out the view!
I am an avid reader of The Londoner’s blog and in her Florence blog post, she made a big statement that a little family run restaurant, Cammillo, was the second best restaurant she had ever been to…so you can’t not try it, right? Initially my family weren’t too keen as the veggie options were limited, but after some persuading (and promising of gelato after) we booked a table for lunch. I ordered a simple spaghetti with garlic & tomato sauce (such a simple gal!) but, it was seriously perhaps the best spaghetti I have ever had! Make sure to book a table at Cammillo, as it gets booked up very quickly with locals and tourists.
The food in general was quite meat based, as Florence is in Tuscany, so if you’re a meat eater other must-go places are Il Latini & Café Gilli.
Have the best gelato
I don’t think you can get bad gelato in Florence but obviously I did my research beforehand and picked out some places I definitely wanted to try: Gelateria dei Neri (try the salted caramel), Vivoli and one that actually wasn’t on my list (going off the list? I’m wild!), Gelateria Santa Trinita (try the coconut), which in my opinion may have been the best one we had been to!
As it was Easter weekend, a lot of the shops and restaurants were sadly closed, but if you’re going to Florence, add Brac & La Cantinetta to your list, let me know what they’re like and make me jealous!
A couple of weeks ago, the most exciting email landed in my inbox. A blogger event to attend a MAC makeup master-class on the Disney West End actors from Aladdin & Lion King, followed by lunch and then the matinee performance of either Aladdin or Lion King – a Disney lover’s dream come true!
The morning started with the master-class, which was on the stage at the Prince Edward Theatre, where Aladdin is currently showing. It was an amazing ‘whole new world’ (hehe) experience to be backstage, see some of the props used in the musical and simply be on a real West End stage! We met the makeup artists who look after the actors who play Jasmine, the Genie, Rafiki and Nala and they talked us through how they capture the character’s look using MAC makeup, from a very pretty and glamourous Princess Jasmine look, to colourful Rafiki, who is the only actor not to wear a mask in the Lion King and Genie’s comical and almost cartoonish makeup.
Beside each of these actors, 4 senior MAC makeup artists demonstrated how to get these disney inspired looks but on a more wearable, everyday basis. We were gifted some of the MAC products used, so we could recreate the looks at home. My childhood goal was to be Princess Jasmine, so now that I know how to get her look, my dreams can come true…all that’s missing is a pet tiger! Following the master-class, we were treated to lunch at Polpo Ape & Bird, a lovely Venetian restaurant and had pizza and prosecco, then headed back to the theatre to watch Aladdin, but sitting on the other side of the stage this time! The performance was amazing; the sets, costumes and songs were incredible but what stood out to me the most was the Genie’s (Trevor Dion Nicholas) performance, who really captured the magic of Aladdin and also made it his own, rather than just copying the iconic Robin Williams’ performance (still makes me cry thinking about it!).
A huge, huge thank you to MAC Cosmetics, Aladdin London & Corner Shop PR for inviting me on what was a truly magical Disney day!
Image © Disney
Image © Disney
Our next stop after Zurich, was Lake Como, which is an hour away from Tirano, the small town where the Bernina Express terminates. We spent 3 days in Lake Como and although this was enough time to see the main villas and towns, I don’t think you can ever really have enough time in Lake Como – it’s just so beautiful.
The only way I can describe it is, what you imagine when you think of typical Italy; cute winding alleyways, small independent shops selling nic-nacs and locally made olive oil and balsamic vinegar (yes I did stock up!) and gelato stands on every corner, with the backdrop of a lake and mountains. Just unbelievable! It looked like a postcard or a movie set, so no wonder Hollywood stars like George Clooney love it so much.
The best way to see Lake Como, in my opinion, is simply to walk around, explore each town and what it has to offer. The towns are so different from each other, and each one has its own charm and characteristics. The must-sees are Bellagio, the most famous town, which was also my favourite; Tremezzo, where Villa Carlotta is, Menaggio and Varenna, the cutest little town where we stayed.
The villas are the main ‘things-to-see’ in Lake Como and each one, just like the towns are unique and have their own little charms. Villa Balbianello, probably the most famous villa is where Star Wars and James Bond: Casino Royale were filmed, Villa Carlotta is also one to visit, with a beautiful front gate and amazing gardens with bamboo fields, waterfalls etc and lastly Villa Melzi with has a gazebo with this view of the lake!
Every restaurant we stumbled across was amazing, I mean can you even get bad food in Italy?! A few musts are Risorante La Punta (Bellagio) – try the pesto pasta; the best gelato we had was at Gelateria del Borgo (Bellagio) – try the coconut and lemon flavours, and in Varenna, go to Ristorante La Vista (book ahead) and Bar II Molo.
I’ve seen a few places in Italy now, but Lake Como has to be one of my favourites. I hope to visit again soon, and explore the villas and gardens I didn’t get to see, eat at every out-door restaurant in the alleyways and enjoy gelatos, while watching the boats come and go on the lake-front. Can’t get any better than this!