With months of quarantine under our belt, we are left with an intense yarning for a break from monotony; looking forward to our next escape. No matter how gloomy the world feels right now, we are keeping hopeful that our lives will take a turn for the better before we know it.
With that in mind, we will not only resume our regular scheduled programming but will also make room and appreciate all the things we’ve put on hold: like spending time with loved ones; getting ready for a fabulous party and of course, traveling and rediscovering the ways of life. In the meantime, while we wait for all of that to come, we wanted to transport you back to the sweet moments of a last years’ trip to Italy and the places that left their mark on us, all worthy of your very own bucket list for that next escape.
We started out in Florence, Tuscany.
A tourist trap, nonetheless, Florence remains a true gem with its rich history and life oozing from every piazza. Florence is known for its art, as well as being the cradle of the Renaissance with famous former residents such as Michelangelo, Dante and Da Vinci. There was almost no time for us to explore all its beauty so of course, we had to focus on its most famous sites such as the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo.
Despite the heat we spent our days walking around, exploring and stopping for the occasional gelato.
Of course, we also had to do some shopping! You can find all big brands around Via de’Tornabuoni but, if like us, you are after something more special, we recommend paying a visit to one of the vintage stores along the way as well as the AquaFlor Firenze legendary perfumery for your very own unique scent.
Walking around is definitely the way to go about so wear something comfortable, we recommend the Otto sandals in black semi patent and black linen and a Billy to store all essentials like a mask and hand sanitizer!
Wine & Dine
Restaurant options in Florence felt limitless. We were keen to avoid all the tourist traps and wanted something a little more local – off the travel guides. Our first night we went to what a friend recommended as the place with the best steak or “tagliata di manzo” he could ever have; and it didn’t disappoint. Located right off Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, the family-owned Ristorante Buca Mario has been serving guests since 1886; which in the light of the age of everything else in the city isn’t actually as ancient as it sounds. Nevertheless, the recipes and know-how passed from generation to generation, left us in awe. We tried the taglierini pasta with butter and truffles and of course, shared the Bistecca all Florentina with a big bottle of local Chianti red wine, leaving room for the three desserts that followed (for a table of two). The restaurant doesn’t call for anything too formal so if we were you, we’d pick Desiree in sky blue lizard embossed leather, match it with a Mini Rachel in the same colour, a flowy white dress and some dangly silver jewellery.
On another night while we were strolling around the slightly less popular South side of the city, we stumbled across Il Santo Bevitore and were drawn in by the sight of packed tables with what seemed more like locals, rather than tourists. We were told we had to wait for a table but happily, we could do so in the old wine cellar of the restaurant, turned into a separate wine and gastronomic bar. The place was truly tiny and while there was nowhere to leave your glass, let alone sit, we were lured in by the smell of the pecorino and pancetta crostini prepared behind the bar. Each small dish came with a wine pairing suggestion but, if you know your stuff, you can take your pick from the extensive list of wines by the glass and bottle. Back to the main restaurant. Il Santo Bevitore offers fresh, local ingredients prepared in homely way, calling on the region’s rich culinary history. The food is amazing but definitely make sure to leave room for the best part: dessert! In our opinion, the lavender crème brûlée was totally worth the calories!
Of course, we also had to pay a visit to the famous Mercato Centrale market! The vendors on the 1st floor which sell the best local ingredients, signature to Tuscan cuisine, only made us wish we could live close by and do our Sunday grocery shopping there, picking from fresh fish to a huge selection of salumi, cheese and of course, wine. After exploring, we went upstairs to the restaurant court for some pizza and fresh burrata; super simple and delicious. For dessert we had some Cantuccini with almonds, pistachio and dark chocolate. They were so good that we ended up buying a kilo each to bring with us back home!
Belmond Villa San Michele
After exploring the city, we travelled an hour to the Belmond Villa San Michele, nestled in the Fiesole hills, overlooking the entire region. The former medieval monastery, now transformed into a 5-star luxury boutique hotel, took our breath away. We spent the two days we stayed there lounging by the pool under the heat of the Tuscan sun, slightly sheltered by the surrounding olive trees, soaking the views and enjoying an occasional “pisolino” (nap)! The hotel’s La Loggia Restaurant promised and delivered on an amazing experience: the menu is seasonal, and the ingredients are all locally sourced, prepared by young Executive Chef Alessando Cozzolino. After dinner we’d move to the garden for dessert and Limoncello over crushed ice. Of course, dinner called for a more dressed-up look, so opt for a bright print slip dressed, paired with a Juju in brown suede and a Mini bag to match your dress and keep things stylish.
Capri, Bay of Naples
After Florence we knew we wanted to see a bit of sea as well. Although it’s hard to go wrong with a vacation anywhere in Italy, Capri in particular made our list for its embodiment of the concept “dolce far niente”. Popular since Roman times, (but heavily popularized by pictures of Jackie O and Brigitte Bardot strolling the narrow lanes in the in the 1960s) this island captivates visitors with nothing other than sheer beauty.
We took a train down from Florence to Naples and then a high-speed boat transfer the hotel had arranged for us. By the time we arrived, it was about 8pm and the sun was just setting, so the view was breath-taking. There’s a list of fabulous hotels on BY FAR’s radar, and we hate to call favourites, but if we had to narrow it down there’s not a doubt in our minds that we’d pick the J.K. Place or the Capri Palace. For this particular trip we stayed at the former.
J.K. Place directly overlooks the water, a short walk from the Marina Grande, just far enough from all the tourist crowds. Its design takes inspiration form the surrounding scenery, colours of the coastline and a touch of all- American Ralph Lauren. While we love its style, this hotel wins us over with its service, amazing food and great cocktails!
The breath-taking scenery and captivating energy to the people and places on the island seemed like something out of a wanderlust fever dream. On one of the days we rented a boat for the day and went around the island to discover secret sea caves, tiny scraps of secluded beaches and rock stacks, eroded by the relentless blue waves. We docked just by the Faraglioni formations and had an antipasti lunch on the boat, followed by an afternoon swim in the deep blue waters.
For dinner we got dressed up and went over to Mammà, sitting by the terrace over the Bay of Naples. The one-Michelin star Chef Gennaro Esposito bases his unique style of cooking on traditional dishes, local fish and seafood. Finger-licking good! After dinner we went for a stroll through the town and did a bit of shopping. If you’re after something local, stop by the Sea Gull where you’ll find one-of-a kind ceramics, hand-painted in the colours of the island. For the perfect evening in Capri, grab a Rachel in solar croco embossed leather and a white summer sandal, like the Kersti or Erin sandals in white nappa leather.
Off the beaten track, for our second evening, we visited Ristorante il Geranio that serves the lobster linguine of a lifetime with an added bonus of a view, overlooking the Faraglioni! But if you’re in the mood for some people watching, we would recommend what feels like Hollywood’s favourite restaurant in the area: Aurora. The food is beyond great and the wine list is even better!
Dolce Far Niente
Back to what we came for. They say one of the best things to do in Capri is to do nothing and just absorb the beauty. Before leaving, on our last day, we were tired of exploring and just wanted to lay in the sun, so we grabbed a sunbed in the most beloved waterside spot in Capri – La Fontelina Beach Club. Clear blue waters, white wine and some fresh pasta for lunch were the recipe for our perfect day!
When it was time to go, we were sad to leave, left only with a ton of pictures, the shopping we somehow squeezed in our suitcase, and the hope of returning soon!