Last week, Meg and I stacked our Instagram with photos and quips from our 2014 Italian vacation, the Friendsgiving edition. While social media may have led you to believe that all we did was hunt for beautiful panoramas and rustic color-washed walls (you wouldn’t be entirely wrong), we were also lucky enough to take part in Florence’s very first Live It Local!, generously hosted by our friends at Palazzo Belfiore. When we were planning our trip to Florence, we discussed with Francesca and Federico of Palazzo Belfiore the idea of a small gathering that might bring together a few fellow Florence bloggers. Palazzo Belfiore took the idea 1,000 steps further and dreamt up an evening that brought together people across all facets of the community, showcasing the treasures of artisan Florence within the walls of their stunning 14th-century palazzo. In one beautifully packaged evening, Live it Local! expressed what we at FFF have spent years trying to articulate–don’t just visit Florence, live it.
Since we couldn’t pack you all into our suitcases and bring you with us to Florence, we are bringing the evening to you. Meet the artists, chefs, musicians, and faces of Live it Local! through the beautiful photographs of Lorenzo Fanti (@lollofanti).
Francesca and Federico, held true to Palazzo Belfiore tradition and made guests feel at home by welcoming them with a bubbling glass of Banfi sparkling wine. Guests flocked to try local Tuscan specialties provided by the neighborhood trattorie La Toscanella, Il Magazzino and Trattoria 4 Leoni.
New and old friends shared warm welcomes over food, fizzy drinks, and frescos. There was even a harpist! Chiara Trallori filled the palazzo with her beautiful renditions of modern songs and classical favorites.
With tummies full and friends in tow, guests explored the palazzo. Each apartment offered a different opportunity to sample food, wine, arts and the traditions of the Oltrarno in Florence.
Kitchen Chez Nou demonstrated how they make their handmade pasta. Samples followed!
The Guicciardini Strozzi family shared 1,000 years of family history in the wine business along with personalized tastings. With glass in hand, guests browsed a selection of books illustrating the history and traditions of Florence provided by the Giunti Librerie.
With the walls of Palazzo Belfiore decorated in original frescos, it would simply be amiss to not recognize the ancient Florentine art form. Artist Hector Ramsey provided fresco workshops and demonstrations in Palazzo Belfiore’s most decorative apartment, The Clarice.
Oro Nero offered something sweet in the next apartment, sampling their unique tea flavors and Domori chocolates. (I may have visited this apartment more than once.)
Botanical artist Andi Nufer allowed us all to be artists for the evening, trying our own hand painting with egg tempura.
By the fourth floor, local yogis from It’s Yoga were ready to help us relax….like really relax.
The final friendly face of our tour through Palazzo Belfiore was that of local artist and resident calligrapher, Betty Soldi. Betty’s ever upbeat attitude encouraged us through some clumsy attempts to match her elegant handwriting. Meg and I opted to buy out her store the next day at &Co. instead of bringing our fumbled attempts home. (As connoisseurs of “free” we decided it was time for a little splurge).
To Live it Local! outside of the Palazzo, Molly McIlwrath of Context Travel took guests on neighborhood tours, showcasing local artists and exploring the deep history and traditions of the area.
While we simply adored an evening learning about, taking part in, sampling and truly living the local cultural heritage of Florence, we have to admit that the best part of the night was spending time with old friends and making new ones. We finally connected in person with fellow bloggers in Florence who we’ve had the pleasure to get to know digitally. We eagerly popped on our art history hats to discuss the renovation of the Pazzi Chapel with the ladies of The Florentine. We even chatted with the owner of our favorite trattoria in Florence, complimenting him on creating a cheesecake that taught us how to love.
The evening, which perfectly encapsulated the local culture that Florentines passionately protect and we passionately love, provided much for us to be thankful for this Friendsgiving. Although we wish we could have brought each and every one of you with us, we hope that, as the evening did for us, Live it Local! will serve as a reminder to not just visit Florence, but live it, no matter how long or short your stay. Not sure how to break away from the guidebook? Start by introducing yourselves to these artisans, trattorie, or Federico and Francesca at Palazzo Belfiore themselves (they are seriously some of the friendliest people we’ve ever met). Yes, purchasing an authentic Tuscan meal or an original work of art may not be free. However, avoiding the tourist traps of Florence (we’ve all been there) will not only save you money but leave you with experiences that are simply invaluable.
Grazie mille Francesa, Federico, Anne, Lorenzo and our many friends who contributed their time, talents or simply their presence at Live it Local! Alla prossima!