The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Italy: Florence Part II - our stay and eats at Giglio Bianco B&B

When I was organising where to stay during our trip to Italy, I noticed that B&Bs dominated the accommodations scene in Italy. I usually go for hotels because they are generally more affordable, available and accommodating to requests (so important when travelling with a young child), but then I suddenly recalled our lovely stay at a B&B in Okinawa, which had played a big part in making our trip a memorable one even though we were there for only one night. We really enjoyed the personal attention given to us, and it certainly didn't hurt that the co-owner of the inn was a chef who used to own a small restaurant bar. It was quite by accident that I stumbled upon Giglio Bianco B&B. I was looking at suggestions for Florence B&B accommodation on, and one review caught my (weary-from-travel-planning) eyes because the reviewer had written that it's "a must for food lovers". We travel for food, but food is not high on many travellers' list of priorities for accommodation (evident when you look at majority of the accommodation reviews on tripadvisor), so I was very happy to have come across a B&B that offered foodie delights as well as a nice accommodation.

The dining room at Giglio Bianco B&B, with beautiful antique furniture:

Giglio Bianco is located near the Boboli Gardens, which is an easy walking distance to Florence's tourist attractions but far enough from the noise of the touristy areas so that we could sleep peacefully at night. The B&B owners, Vary and Edo, are truly a delightful couple, and the term "vivacious" comes to mind when I think of them. Vary greeted us when we checked in, and she gave us a lot of helpful information on what to see, where to eat and how to beat the dreaded long queues into the popular galleries (she was briefly mentioned in my previous post). Edo is a friendly guy, who always responded to our requests with "No problem" and a generous smile. The B&B is tastefully decorated with antique furnishings, and there are only two guest rooms, which means you will have to book quite far ahead to get a room, especially during peak travel season. We were fortunate in that we were travellling to Florence in early April (shoulder season) and mid-week, so there was a room for us when I enquired with only a few weeks notice. Our room was spacious and clean, and we slept very well at night. The B&B is located on the second floor, which was a bit of a pain to get up and down with the toddler and the stroller, but that was a fact I already knew when I made the reservations and was willing to accept.

Delicious homemade sweet pastry with apple and raisin filling, piping hot and fresh out of the oven for breakfast:

The food was delicious. Breakfast was freshly cooked to order each morning - homemade sweet pastry, homemade yogurt, fresh juice and eggs as you like them. The cappuccino was also pretty good. Vary is a very good cook, and her passion for food really shows on her face and body language whenever she talks about cooking, sourcing ingredients and food in general. Edo was immaculate in serving the food, and I think that they make a great team together!

Close-up of my pastry pie:

Scrambled eggs with bacon and toast:

The great thing about Giglio Bianco B&B is the gourmet dinner. We chose to have Vary's cooking for dinner on our second night, because we had to be up early the next morning to catch the train to Venice. The dinner was so good, it was definitely worth the small amount of extra cost on top of our accommodation. Each dinner that Vary prepares are different every day, highly depending upon what is in season and her creativity. In the morning of our dinner, Vary had excitedly told us that she'd gone to the markets with her parents and had picked up some salsiccia and guineafowl, and her contagious enthusiasm got us excited pretty about dinner. We were looking forward to her dinner the whole day. Thank you to Chef Vary for taking the time from your busy schedule to give me more information on each of the courses, and also to Rob for helping me jog my memory on what each dishes were like.

Duo of appetisers:

First appetiser - buffalo mozzarella mousse with tomato sauce and grilled tomatoes, tossed with black salt and extra virgin olive oil. So smooth and creamy, yet not too rich or heavy; perfect for an appetiser course:

Second appetiser -
a) For the ball on the left, Chef Vary wrote "Salsiccia (sausage) e stracchino (soft fresh cheese produced in Lombardy, Nord Italy) ball with spices and sunflower seeds. This is a typical tuscan appetizer but served in different style." Wow. Excellent combination of texture and flavour in a little ball.
b) On the right is pecorino cheese with strawberry and aged balsamic. Cheese and fruit go well together, and strawberry and balsamic also pair well. This woman knows how to use ingredients well!

Onion soup with cinnamon ("an ancient tuscan recipe", wrote Vary) with puff pastry and bacon. It's a little like the French onion soup, except lighter:

A savoury soufflé with ricotta and guineafowl, served along with rucola, cherry tomatoes and balsamic. I thought this was a creative way to serve the main course, and from memory, the soufflé was perfectly light and fluffy, and guineafowl goes very nicely with cheese:

Home-made fresh pasta with tomatoes, pine nuts and parmigiano. You know, eating
homemade fresh pasta is almost like having an epiphany. You suddenly realise that most of the pasta that you've been eating were inferior, and you suddenly understand what the big deal surrounding pasta is all about. Okay, perhaps not quite like that, but this pasta was very delicious, good enough to convert any non-pasta lovers

Key lime cream with fresh strawberry. Vary revealed to us that her favourite dessert is key lime pie, and here she adapted a lighter version for the night's dessert. The cream was rich and sweet with a piquant tartness from the key lime, perfect for any sweet tooth:

Don't worry, our 2-year-old didn't go hungry. Zak got a generous serving of spinach penne simply tossed in olive oil and topped with grated parmigiano. Simple but perfect for the toddler, who dug into his bowl with great enthusiasm:

We had a great stay at Giglio Bianco with two charming hosts, and I echo that tripadvisor reviewer who wrote that this B&B is "a must for food lovers".

Giglio Bianco B&B
Via Romana, 28
50125 Firenze, Italy
Tel. +39 055225873

Stay tuned for more on our trip to Florence!

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