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Thursday, 3 April 2014

Cooking in Florence

One of the best things about traveling is meeting new people. Last Fall I was at the Italian consulate in Toronto waiting for my visa. While waiting I met a girl the same age as me who would soon be moving to Rome. We kept in touch and this past weekend met up in Florence for a weekend of touristy adventures, shopping and an exciting cooking class!
I am all for traveling on a budget. Finding the cheapest flight or train and sacrificing luxury for saving money is A-OK with me. Making sacrifices in certain areas of travel allows me to travel more frequently and spend my money on memorable and unique experiences. Because of this I usually opt for staying in hostels when traveling throughout Europe. They aren't always the cleanest or quietest, but as long as I feel safe and am in good location for a good price, they are what works best for me. In fact, this summer I will be spending a whole month traveling and staying in hostels! Check back to read my reviews on the good, and hopefully not too much of the bad and the ugly.

While in Florence we stayed at Plus Hostel. This is a hostel that offers a bit of something for all ages. Rooms with balconies, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, Turkish baths, a rooftop bar and tanning area, a disco/bar, a great buffet breakfast and many organized tours. This is definitely a hostel I would recommend to any travelers on a budget and I will certainly be staying with them again at their other locations throughout Europe.

We spent most of Saturday walking around Florence and soaking in the 25 degree temperature! Florence is a city with so much beauty. This was my second trip to Florence so instead of trying to jam in all of the sights I had seen on my previous trip five years ago, we instead took our time strolling the streets. We enjoyed lunch outside where I got my first little sunburn of the season and then spent the afternoon walking and shopping.

We had hoped to do a wine tour in the Tuscan countryside, but were too late trying to sign up, so instead, we participated in a cooking class with the Food and Wine Academy of Florence through Florencetown. This was roughly a three hour course which included making pizza from scratch, making chocolate gelato and drinking some local wine! Our chef, Giovanni taught us the importance of each step in making pizza dough. Boy, is it a lot of work! It requires a lot of muscle, time and love to make it just right. We were given tomato sauce, dry mozzarella, spicy salami, garlic olive oil, regular olive oil, and basil to choose from for our toppings. Giovanni encouraged us to make our pizzas original and unique. I decided to shape my dough into a heart and using little pieces of basil wrote 'Italy' (apparently this doesn't make for a very traditional looking Italian pizza). After putting it in the wooden oven I decided to name my pizza "Amore" and told Giovanni he should sell it in Florence as surely it would be a top seller! With Italian music playing, wine flowing and great company, another unique experience and memory has been gained.

After receiving our certificates for passing the course, we headed to the bar district. We grabbed some mojitos and sat outside meeting locals and tourists and talked about all the places we hope to travel to!

The next morning we took an hour long train ride to Pisa. This was my first time in Pisa and although it was a short stay, it was lovely. Despite the place crawling in tourists and despite only really seeing the main tourist sights, it was an enjoyable day and somewhere I imagine I will return to again while I am still living in Italy.

A sunny weekend in Tuscany came to an end, but it was hard to feel sad as so many more exciting adventures are ahead.

Next stop: Portugal!


  1. I am definitely showing my students this tomorrow! We were planning dream vacations and my example was to go to Italy to make pizzas and see the Leaning Tower of Pisa! You're living the dream :)