Via LIRQ or FLR
***This summer was full of travel and exploring new places in Europe. Typically, the Aviation Estates travel articles are a guide to vacation destinations in the USA yet this summer I decided to share insights on travel in Europe and the industry surrounding Aviation in Serbia, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. My journey in Italy is chronicled below. You will find an additional three articles for the other countries in the travel/blog section of the site.***
If you are anything like me, you like to travel off the beaten path and away from the masses. In Italy this can be a little challenging during the summer months. Therefore, I wanted to share my insights on how to explore the beautiful city of Florence, Italy during high season.
TRAVEL IN ITALY:
It has been 15 years since I last stepped foot in Italy as I had the incredible opportunity of studying abroad through the Drake University program in 2004. It is now June 2019 and upon arriving into Venice I was whisked via Taxi to the Venezia Mestre train station where I purchased my ticket via the train kiosk. This experience was less than ideal as I did not realize that the machines only take debit cards because they require a pin. Good to know if you have a tight connection or even better if you have time buy your ticket online ahead of time as it will save you time and money. I also did not realize it was fashion week in Milan during my travel dates and thus my train was sold out except for first class. As a side note, I originally was scheduled to fly into Rome the day prior but decided I needed one more day in Serbia since I was having such a wonderful time. My last minute change altered all of my plans so I had to adjust all my plans upon arriving in Italy. Once aboard the Italo train it was a very pleasant ride for the next two hours as there was free wifi and light refreshments.
Upon arriving at Santa Maria Novella train station memories started flooding back from my four month stay in 2004. The biggest difference over the last 15 years, the amount of people in the city. Coming from Serbia it was almost culture shock at how many people were out and about even in the 95+ degree weather. As I started my walk from the train station to my Airbnb I could not help but once again notice the stunningly beautiful architecture. Photography is my hobby and thus as I traversed the streets all I could think about was going out to explore with my camera.
My wonderful Airbnb host met me for check-in and after three flights of stairs I was in awe of how cool the loft I had booked was as the owners had reimagined the studio and created loft bedroom with incredible natural light and views of the leather market and Mercato Central. After taking a moment to settle in my Airbnb felt like home. The icing on the cake was that my favorite restaurant in Italy, Trattoria Zaza, was right next door, the Mercato Centrale just a 2 minute walk, and the Duomo a 10-15 minute walk. I am proud to say that even in the hot temperatures I walked almost everywhere including to Piazza Michaelangelo and the Abbey of San Miniato al Monte. The trick to walking everywhere and not feeling like you are in a maze of tourists is to take the path less traveled by selecting an alternate route leading to your destination.
My first day in Florence(Firenze) was really a half day as I arrived in the afternoon. After getting settled I headed down to have an early dinner at Trattoria Zaza. Their rigatoni alla sorentina and aperol spritz did not disappoint. Since I last visited, Zaza has grow four times in size and I was so happy to see that my favorite restaurant is thriving as many of the other establishments I enjoyed had come and gone over the last 15 years. After dinner, I headed out with my camera to walk the cobblestone streets and chase the beautiful magic hour light. The city still was buzzing with people but as the sun started to set I was granted a little reprieve while I visited the Duomo and Mercato Central to purchase a bottle of vino. The Mercato Centrale has changed quite a bit as the top floor is now a high end eatery much like Eataly in New York City. In the center of the eatery there are community tables,TV’s at the sports bar, and free wifi. After my long travel day I headed back to my beautiful Airbnb for a nightcap and a good nights sleep.
The next morning, I awoke excited to trek up to Piazza Michelangelo and San Miniato al Monte. The day prior I had learned the key to avoiding tourists is to walk alternate roads to your destination and to eat lunch late or dinner early. With this notion in mind I decided to take my time getting ready as the loft bedroom had an incredible skylight that allowed you to lay in bed and watch the clouds float by. It reminded me of being up amongst the clouds in my 150. The way the space was designed there was a glass panel in the floor of the loft which was the ceiling of the shower. Thus, the natural light from above filtered through the bathroom. To say it was easy to relax in this space was an understatement. After my leisurely morning I headed down to grab coffee and a pastry across the street. At about 2:30 PM I started my walk to San Minato. I thought it would be fun to see if I could remember how to get there without Google maps as it was a walk I had done many times before. This ended up being a great adventure as I walked through Piazza Santa Croce and along the Arno River where I crossed at Ponte Alle Grazie. From this bridge there is a great view looking back at the Ponte Vecchio. From there I wandered the streets and noted which way people were headed as I knew the general direction to Piazza Michelangelo but not the exact streets. Since I opted to cross at Alle Grazie I was able to walk the path less traveled to the steps that lead up to the piazza. On my way I decided it was time for a late lunch and happened upon Café Zoe. This was a great find as they had an outdoor patio on a tree lined street which created much needed shade. I ordered a glass of vermentino and the most delicious burrata linguine with fresh tomato sauce. As I enjoyed my lunch I reflected on what my life had been like as a student studying abroad compared to 2019. I can honestly say that I had no idea where life would take me or that I would be the founder of a company and a pilot. I was not introduced to the incredible world of flying small aircraft until my 30’s which then lead to the creation of Aviation Estates. To blend all of my passions(flying, travel, real estate) into one business model was a dream come true and also the reason that I was back in Europe for a few weeks this summer. AE focuses on the pilot lifestyle which if you know any pilots travel is something most of them love even if they have to fly commercial. Alright, back to my journey…as I took the stairs up to San MinatoI definitely felt the burn as this is not a walk for the faint of heart especially with the high temps. That said, it is one of the most peaceful places in Florence and one that select tourists know about so worth the hike. However, you can take a taxi or bus if you prefer. Many people visit the Monestary but completely miss the beautiful cemetery that sits just behind. The inside of the monastery is stunning and the steps offer a great vantage point for photographs of the city. In my opinion, the cemetery offers an erie sense of calm and peace as you walk through and take in the familial history and beautiful architecture of the mausoleums. It feels as if you have stepped back in time. When I studied abroad the pinhole photography class I enrolled in took a field trip to the cemetery which is how I fell in love with this particular place in Florence. Next, I headed down the hill to watch the sunset from Piazza Michelangelo. This area at sunset may be one of the biggest tourist attractions even in 95+ degree heat. I luckily found reprieve in the form of the terrace at La Loggia which is a hotel bar that sits just above the piazza. A nice cool glass of vermentino, live steel drums, and antipasti plate and I was set for sunset. I enjoyed the view so much I stayed for a couple hours as the music and views could not be beat.
The next day I woke up quite excited as I had booked a half day pasta making class through Airbnb experiences. After a quick espresso I made my way to Piazza St Ambrogio to meet our hosts for the day. One by one the other participants arrived making us a group of 15 including the chefs Max, Luka, and Dilk. The first stop was the market to select the ingredients we would need for linguini with pesto sauce, lemon ricotta ravioli with fresh tomato sauce, and gnocchi with parmesan cream sauce. The Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio was so colorful and bustling with people as it offered outdoor and indoor shopping. From there we took the bus to a villa in the hills of Firenze where we would have the most magnificent view for the rest of our afternoon class. As we arrived we were served wine and appetizers as the chefs explained what we would be making and how the afternoon would flow. After we washed our hands, we were shown to our stations to start making the dough for ravioli and tagliatelle. After realizing how much kneading is done to pasta dough I have a new appreciation for Italian chefs. Once the dough had been kneaded to the right consistency, we let it rest for 30 minutes and moved on to making the gnocchi which was far easier than I had imagined. We all had a wonderful time shaping the gnocchi and ravioli as well as rolling out the dough and using machines to cut the tagliatelle. Once finished with the dough we had a bit more wine as the chefs finished preparing the sauces. We then sat down for an incredible meal. The comradery at the table and conversation flowed easily as we enjoyed the afternoon. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend this experience as it is one of my favorites I have had while traveling.
Upon leaving the incredible villa myself and a couple others decided to head back up to the Monastery at San Minato and tour the mausoleums. There was a heatwave that was passing through Italy that day and so we didn’t last too long but had a nice time sharing the experiences that we have had while on our travels.
Next on my list was La Loggia as I had enjoyed it so much the day prior plus it was the perfect stop before starting my 1.5 mile walk home. Once again, the sunset and atmosphere did not disappoint. Today it was less crowded than the day prior and there was a wedding reception in the restaurant portion of the terrace which made for great people watching. As a solo traveler meeting new people and studying the interactions of different cultures is one of my favorite learning experiences. It becomes easier to reflect on your life as you reflect on the experiences and interactions that shape you as a person.
As this was my last evening in Firenze I decided to head to La Giostra for dinner as I had many great memories with friends and family enjoying the antipasti platters that change with the seasons and the pear and pecorino ravioli. As I enter the restaurant I was greeted quickly and shown to my table for one. Just after a glass of champagne was delivered on the house I was greeted by a woman who said she overheard I was by myself and asked if I would like to join her family for dinner. After taking a moment to process this kind gesture with a smile I answered with yes and joined a table of 6 for what would be an incredible experience. The family had three children and her father was also traveling with them. After a lovely dinner conversation we decided to stay in touch as they reside in California. To say the least, this gesture of kindness was the perfect way to end my time in Firenze.
The next day after a quick lunch at my favorite pizza place I headed via tram to the Airport. Interestingly, our flight ended up being delayed to due lightning in the vicinity of the airport. I patted myself on the back when they announced this as I had checked the foreflight app and decided that had to be the cause. Once flights resumed boarding I was off to Amsterdam for the final leg of my European adventure.
LINKS FOR ITALY:
- Trattoria Zaza - https://www.trattoriazaza.it/english-menu/
- Airbnb - https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2552554?source_impression_id=p3_1566002708_z35OmlQa656CDe2G
- La Giostra - https://www.ristorantelagiostra.com/en/
- La Loggia - https://loggiapiazzalemichelangelo.com/
- Piazza Michelangelo - https://www.visitflorence.com/florence-monuments/piazzale-michelangelo.html
- Duomo - https://www.visitflorence.com/florence-churches/duomo.html
- Piazza Santa Croce - https://www.visitflorence.com/florence-churches/santa-croce.html
- Abby San Minato & Monestary - http://www.museumsinflorence.com/musei/san_miniato.html
- Pasta Making Class -Cuocoadomicilio - https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/686
- Coffee - https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187895-d11931964-Reviews-Coffee_Kitchen-Florence_Tuscany.html
- Mercato Centrale - https://www.mercatocentrale.com/florence/
- Café Zoe - https://www.facebook.com/zoebarfirenze/
- La Bussola(Pizza)- https://www.labussolafirenze.com/
- Sant’Ambrogio Market - http://www.mercatosantambrogio.it/
AVIATION IN ITALY:
Italy is a wonderful place to visit but not the most conducive to being a GA pilot. As the links below show it is quite cost prohibitive to fly. According to the AOPA article, “Diamond DA40 flights over Rome were 335 euros for an hour of flying, or approximately $446…Fuel is also more expensive: 100LL runs $15.97 per gallon because of taxes.” That said, Lake Como Flying Club is the oldest seaplane operator and flight school in the world and in my opinion would be one of the most incredible to get your seaplane rating. In addition, the only aircraft that can
- Great AOPA Article On Flight Training In Italy: https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2013/february/21/rome-by-air
- Florence Peretola Airport – General Aviation: https://www.toscana-aeroporti.com/en/home/business/general-aviation.html
- Airports In Italy: https://skyvector.com/airports/Italy
- Firenze Chart: https://skyvector.com/?ll=43.809953,11.2051&chart=301&zoom=3
- AOPA Italia: https://www.aopa.it/default1.asp
- Lake Como Aero Club: https://www.aeroclubcomo.com/
- Aero Club Italia: http://www.aeci.it/
- Aero Club Milano: https://www.aeroclubmilano.it/
- Aero club Catania: https://www.aeroclubcatania.com/en/
- Aviation Safety Italy/USA: https://www.faa.gov/aircraft/air_cert/international/bilateral_agreements/baa_basa_listing/media/ItalyIPA.pdf
- AOPA Italy: https://www.aopa.it/default1.asp