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111 days, 11 countries, 1 family: This Family Took An Incredible 111-Day Road Trip From India To France

How Not to Eat in Florence, Italy

Posted By Travel Secrets Editor Shubhra Krishan

As someone who believes in stumbling upon great places, I decided to ditch the guide books/blogs/local advice, and plunged straight into Florence.

Big mistake.

Stepping out of the magnificent Santa Maria Novella Railway Station…

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I wended my way through the crowded streets of the city…

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asking for directions to  The Gallery Hotel Art

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Along the way, hunger pangs hit. Hard. And since I was in Italy, the fragrance of herbs and the aroma of baked bread was everywhere. Honestly, I could hardly wait to drop my bags at the hotel and get back on the streets for a bite.

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Strung along a pipe-thin lane, I spotted a string of eateries that promised big meals at incredible deals. Smiling restaurant staff stood outside their outlets, handing out colourful pamphlets that promised a free drink with pizza and seemingly endless menus.

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Photo: thepodanys.blogspot.com Used here for representational purposes only

 

I succumbed.

And regretted it minutes later. The pizza was cold and leathery, with about 3 olives that tasted as if they had been glued atop the bread a month ago. Sure, it cost me “just 4 euros” for pizza and coke, but I would rather have spent a few bucks more to get a better bite.

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I am sure the giant plastic chef standing outside the restaurant, holding that huge menu card, giggled a little when I walked in.

Moral of the story: do your research when you are going to Florence. Read helpful advice such as this. And this.

Bon Appetit!

 

Point me to Sicily’s most exciting cities.

Tough one, considering how vast and wonderful Sicily is. Laid-back and lush, this is a land that enjoys the best of earth and sea.

Team TS was there last week, so we do know the right places for you to explore in Sicily.

The queen of the region is Palermo, a gorgeous city that offers everything that a good city should: lots of shopping, serious history, and abundant nature just a heartbeat away. Our first impression when we hit Palermo was one of pure surprise. Here is where the rural-at-heart Sicily suddenly turns glam girl, and seduces you with street style and nightlife that can compete with the best of Europe.

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Just a few minutes away from the city, you stumble upon scenes like this! Postcard views, daring your fingers to stop clicking:

 

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Our wonderful and well-informed guide Andrea Calabrese of Mosaica Travel, himself a Palermo man, told us how the people of Palermo like to spend their entire day by the sea, enjoying the delicious Mediterranean weather and home-cooked lunch. Sure enough, we saw scores of happy families dotted across the golden sands, taking their fill of the stunning land they inhabit. Only a sprinkling of these were tourists, which in our book makes a place even more charming.

After all that driving, we were hungry, and the good Andrea knew just the place to take us to. The heart of the city, where locals sat enjoying street food.

The words stop in my mouth when I try to describe those flavours. Being vegetarian, I tried potato and chickpea-based snacks, named Cazilli and Panelle respectively.

 

The potato fritter is light and fluffy, and the chickpea pancakes are soft and pillowy. They are gently salted and absolutely divine. For meat lovers, of course, this is paradise. You MUST read this blog entry before going to Palermo; it will tell you all you need to know about the street food of this wondrous city.

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Time to let you into another secret here: do not miss walking down the open farmers’ markets in Palermo: they house some of the freshest and most prized herbs and spices, and you won’t find those friendly prices anywhere else in Italy!

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Then there is Catania, sitting under the moody Etna. While the volcano fumes, the city rocks. The nightlife here is high-octane, and during daytime, you can drive up to Etna where the landscape is dramatic and sobering.

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And Taormina, a short drive up from Catania, will charm you with its winding lanes and vibrant shopping. It’s the quintessential European town, best explored on foot. It is ridiculously easy to fall in love with the delicately named Taormina, which drapes itself sinuously up on the Tauro mountain. The climate is beautifully balmy, and the views of the sea are exceptional.  Taormina lies on a terrace, with a view of the ancient Amphitheater against a backdrop of citrus groves with Mount Etna close by and the Ionian Sea beyond.

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We have so much more to tell you about Sicily’s secrets. Watch this space!

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