As Europe begins to open up after a difficult Spring, we checked in with Florentine winemaker Bibi Graetz, whose winery, set in the foothills of Florence, looks out over this magical city. Born and raised in the city and being the closest winery to Florence, we thought who best to ask for their top tips when visiting the cultural and culinary sites, as well as the surrounding vineyards. He paints a vivid picture of this enchanting city.
Whilst for some of us, a trip to Italy still seems far away, this postcard from Florence provides us all with inspiration for our future adventures.
As a wine lover and epicurean, how would you best spend 24 hours in Florence?
I’m a great epicurean or as we say here in Italy I’m completely into “dolce vita”. Florence has so much to give that after one life spent here I’m still surprised and astonished by the beauty you can find behind every corner. I love to have an early morning walk along the Arno river, there is a very easy path that follows the two banks. Walking from bridge Santo Spirito to San Niccolò bridge and back when the city wakes up gives me cheerfulness and the good mood to start the day. A good espresso in one of the many caffetterie on the way and life smiles! If the day is not too hot I’ll probably climb the hill of Michelangelo from the San Niccolo gate and enjoy the best view of the city from Piazzale Michelangelo and the church of San Miniato.
At this point I’ll probably descend from “via dell’erta canina” for a sandwich and a glass of wine at “Fratellini”, one of the oldest and most traditional kiosks of the city! Ill end the day resting in Boboli garden, the Medici private backyard of Palazzo Pitti before heading to “Santino” for a classic aperitivo in the smallest and cutest bar of the city.
What are your top drinking spots in the city?
When it comes to wine Florence has a lot to offer. The best places to enjoy a class of wine will be the Sesto, terrace bar of the Excelsior Hotel or the rooftop bar of Hotel Lucchesi, both with an amazing view and great wine lists. But my favourite place is Aurora, our new winery in Fiesole, with an amazing terrace overlooking the city of Florence, Chianti and the hills that frames the city.
What is your favourite neighbourhood restaurant in the city?
I love the traditional restaurant Cammillo, it is one of the oldest Trattoria of the city, still managed by the same family. It is chaotic but the atmosphere is warm and the menu rich of traditional dishes hard to find elsewhere.
What is your favourite dish they serve?
Trippa alla Fiorentina, amazing!
What are the culinary specialities of Florence and the surrounding area?
Florence has a very rich cuisine, starting from aged salami, cheeses and charcuterie like finocchiona (made by the leftover of the pigs), but also pasta and soups like Ribollita (winter black cabbage and bread soup) Pappa al pomodoro (summer tomato and bread soup) or Tagliatelle that could be served with Cinghiale (wild boar) Lepre (hare) but the king of our cuisine is the Bistecca Fiorentina, a 2 kg steak served rare to medium-rare and made of Chianina beef. But don’t forget desserts like “Zuppa Inglese” or Cantucci and Vinsanto, the best way to end a heavy meal!
If budget was not an issue where is the finest place to dine in Florence?
Easy to answer: Enoteca Pinchiorri *** Michelin, amazing food and probably the best wine list in the world. I’m very linked to this restaurant, it was my very first client in the world and for a few years Pinchiorri got all my production of Colore purchasing until the last drop of the wine!
Florence has some world-class cultural sites. What is your favourite place to visit?
My top three are: the Uffizi museum, you can’t leave Florence without a view of Venere and Primavera of Botticelli (and a good coffee on the rooftop bar of the museum), Santa Maria del Fiore (the duomo) with the adventurous walk to the top of the church and last but not least a visit to Fiesole village with its beautiful monastery.
Is there an off the radar place in Florence that visitors should not miss?
Florence can be very touristic and loud during high season but there are some places a bit off the radar like the “Giardino delle Rose” (the roses garden) beautiful in spring with hundreds of different roses or when open the Forte Belvedere with the Garden of Villa Bardini.
Florence is closely situated to the world class wine regions of Tuscany – Where are the best places to visit for scenery and to discover the wine country?
I will base myself on the hills overlooking the city, Fiesole can be the perfect base to visit the city and get out of the crowd when necessary. And from there move to Chianti Classico, Panzano in Chianti and Castellina are two lovely villages 30-40 mins away. If the plan is to visit
Bolgheri or Montalcino better to base yourself on the coast or Siena.
Where is the best place to enjoy your wines in Florence?
I’m proud to say that our wines are considered the “local wines” in Florence, my winery is the closest winery to the city and I have been privileged for this reason, I’m the Florentine winemaker and my wines are very easy to find in most of the places in Florence. I get the occasion to toast to all our friends that I am sure I will be able to meet here again soon with a good glass of wine.