Why on earth did I think that Italy no longer held any secrets for me?… I came down with a bump when my beloved sister Victoria Trauttmansdorff made me discover a gem of a little Florentine restaurant situated within the lively Sant’Ambrogio market.
San Gimignano… A lovely Tuscan town famous for its 13 medieval “tower houses” – and which I invited you, in a previous article, to visit in the much quieter wintertime. But the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages”, as it is nicknamed, is also one of the best places in Italy to see… contemporary art!
Do you still remember the time when TripAdvisor and the like did not exist? When it was creatures of flesh and blood – and not applications and algorithms – who pointed and steered you, in a confidential tone, to a little-known gem of a restaurant, a picturesque back road or an unfrequented beauty spot?
Every time I travel between Florence and Lucca – I must have done it a hundred times, – I drive through the charming medieval town of Pistoia, famous throughout Europe for its impressive and well-organized plant nurseries. And every time, without fail, I make the same resolution: “Ok, next time, I will stop and visit one or two of these nurseries.”
A resolution which, as you may have guessed, I haven’t yet fulfilled. Well, not entirely fulfilled, I should say. For I finally did stop in Pistoia a few weeks ago, urged to do so by my friend Molly, who invited me to join her in the heart of the Tuscan city.
One of my favourite places in Florence is the Mercato Centrale, also known as the Mercato di San Lorenzo, the largest food market in town. A beautiful glass and cast-iron construction, it was designed over 140 years ago by Giovanni Mengoni, an architect who also built the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.