Since moving back to Louisiana a couple of years ago, major traveling has been put on hold. There was that week in New York, a couple of short weekends in Austin, an overnight stint in New Orleans and a good amount of back-and-forth jaunts to visit Nana. Traveling isn’t a priority for me right now. But that doesn’t mean I can’t go on an exotic voyage here and again via the pages of a juicy novel, an intriguing foreign film or in this case around the winding streets of Florence in The Cognoscenti’s Guide to Florence: Shop and Eat like a Florentine, released this month.
Written by graphic designer Louise Fili & Tuscan resident and travel aficionado Lise Apatoff, this book is the second by the co-authors of Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best. (that sounds like a fun read!) The guide is small enough to fit inside your blazer pocket, and each chapter includes a map of one of eight neighborhood walks, a stunning selection of deliciously exclusive shops and caffés – some run by the same families for generations, others offering fresh interpretations of traditional techniques – and contact info, hours of operation and if credit cards are accepted, or not.
After a brief practical info intro including the history of confusing addresses plus a little shopping etiquette, the guide leads into a dreamy array of photos and info on some of the most beautiful places where you can shop and eat like a Florentine. In the Centro Storico, run, don’t walk! to Passamaneria Valmar, before the sole seamstress, there for years, retires from making classic tablecloths, pillows and more from antique fabrics. Who wouldn’t want a one-of-a-kind negligée created by the hands of an 89-year-old artisan at Laura Nutini? Or what about custom shoes at Saskia, vintage finds at Il Cancello or an essence created for Caterina de’ Medici in the 1500s found at Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, all in the hood of Santa Maria Novella? You can also find slippers for the bambino at Tip Tap, calligraphy pens at Scriptorium, exquisite plants at the former convent, I Fiori della Signorai al Portico, plus bookstores, flea markets and shops for wigs, instruments, stationary, jazz music and kitchen supplies. Oh my! Then there are the food vendors you need to visit, selling pastries, olive oil, wines and salumi. And if it’s all too much, along the way, you can always take a breather and savor a glass of wine, a scoop of gelato or a plate of porchetta in one of the cleverly listed caffés, or maybe even pause for pasta in the Gucci Museum.
I’m not an app person. I don’t have an iPhone. There is a very traditional, slightly rebellious side to me. In fact, I miss the days of landlines and those oh-so-hopeful blinking answering machine lights. So in this way-too-accessible day and age where we have everything at our fingertips, and must give in to Facebook and Twitter and blogs (yup, this one included), there is something very sexy about finding a small guidebook that offers all the perfect little spots, whisking us away to another world of sumptuous fabrics, foods and tradition.
Yes, this guide increases my desire for travel. Yes, I want to visit all of these delectable places, to live like a Florentine, to EAT like a Florentine. And if I was able, this is the guidebook I’d pack in my pocket. For now, I’ll just have to live vicariously through you. Buon viaggio!