In Italy, there is no shortage of good places to eat, especially if you are a pasta fiend like I am. Collectively over the course of my traveling life, I have spent eight days in Italy and eaten countless delectable pasta dishes. However I do have a favorite, which wins by a mile. When delicious food, perfect weather, wonderful wine, stunning views, and top notch service came together one night in Florence, it was a meal that I will never forget.
Chris and I arrived in Florence by train in the early afternoon and decided to walk from the station to our hotel, which wasn’t one of our proudest moments. The walk was longer than we had estimated and the sidewalks were narrow and bumpy, not to mention it was almost 90 degrees outside. When we finally made it, we were tired and famished, but we didn’t have long to rest. We were only going to be in town for about 24 hours, so tonight was the only chance to see the sunset from Piazza Michelangelo. We gathered our strength and began what we thought was the walk up the hill to the piazza. I had read that the climb was steep, but our route seemed much gentler. We seemed to be winding our way through a residential area and taking nearly three times as long as it was supposed to take. The sun was starting to sink now, and I was wondering if we should just turn around, when we went around one last curve, and there it was. One of the most beautiful views I had ever seen.
There were tons of people too, but it hardly mattered. Everyone had their attention turned to the sun, setting off to the side with the city waiting right below. We went to a few different spots to get different angles of photos, and before we knew it the sun was all but gone. It was only then that I was reminded of how tired and hungry I was from all of our walking. There was a restaurant just behind where we were standing. It had been crowded when we first arrived, but many people were leaving now that darkness was falling. Usually we like to check out a menu and see about prices before we take a seat somewhere, but tonight we just sat without a second thought. One of the kindest waiters I have ever met in my whole life came over to take our order. We told him our taste preferences and he helped us pick out a bottle of wine. Before our food even showed up, this dinner was amazing. The view of the Duomo all lit up against the purple twilight was just spectacular, and the wine our waiter helped us choose was absolutely delicious. When the food did come, it only got better as the penne arrabiata that I ordered was the best I had ever had. The menu was a bit small, but since we both loved what we ordered it didn’t really matter.
We still had about a glass of wine left in the bottle when we finished dinner, and our waiter suggested that we share a dish of gelato. By the time our dessert came, it was completely dark out, except for the gorgeous flood of light that enhanced the Duomo and other beautiful buildings. Once we were finished what became one of the most leisurely dinners we had on the entire trip, we paid our bill and said ciao to our wonderful new friend. He told us his name and it saddens me that I have since forgotten it, because his jovial attitude and contagious laughter were huge parts of what made this dinner so pleasant.
It was pretty late by this point, so a lot of people were headed back down the hill in the direction of the city. I was skeptical about taking the same way we had come up because I just knew there had to be a shorter way. Well, when we decided to follow the crowd we found the answer. We had missed the entrance to the steeper but much shorter route and added at least 45 minutes onto the travel time! At any rate, we got back to our lovely hotel rather quickly, confident that we had the best start possible to our short time in Florence. So if you ever find yourself at the Piazza Michelangelo around sunset, grab a table at Vip’s. You’ll be glad you did.