What do people drink in Florence?

Coffee. I know nothing about coffee, so I’m going to skip that, even though everyone here, including Steve, drinks it in some form or fashion.

Hot Chocolate. The hot chocolate is the greatest thing I have ever found in a coffee cup. Have you ever made chocolate pudding from scratch on your stove? If, right after taking it off the heat, you poured it into a little cup and consumed it, you would have a pretty good facsimile of Italian hot chocolate. It’s thick and rich, you eat it with a demitasse spoon, and some cafes serve it with a side of fresh whipped cream and a little cookie. It’s life-changing, y’all.

Wine. As our friends and family know, Steve and I enjoy drinking wine, and as I think everyone knows, the Italians make it very well. Of course, people can and do fill entire books with info about Italian wines, so I’m going to keep it short. Our favorite move in a restaurant is to split a half liter of the house red wine. It’s always delicious, it’s just the right amount for two people and it typically costs from 7 to 10 euros. I love this country! I also enjoy white wine, and had never really found an Italian white that I liked. My favorite is an oaky, buttery California Chardonnay, like Toasted Head or Kendall Jackson for the random Tuesday night, or, when I want to take it up a notch, Rombauer or Mer Soleil or, when I really get to elevate my game, Aubert (usually thanks to our friends Howie and Stephanie). We went to a wine shop during our first week here, and the guy behind the counter explained that the Italians do not age white wine in oak barrels. Well, that explains a lot. He recommended an Italian white I had never heard of, Verdicchio, so I tried it and was delighted to find that I liked it. Steve has become a regular at this shop, and the guy knows to pull a bottle of Verdicchio, every time, “for your wife.” Did I mention that I love this country?

Aperol Spritz. I had thought this cocktail’s 15 minutes of fame were up, but that was only in America. You cannot pass a bar or restaurant here without seeing these pretty, orange aperitifs on every table. The spritz is made of Aperol, which is a form of Italian bitters, prosecco and soda water, and served in a wine glass on the rocks with an orange slice garnish. Evidently, it originated in Northern Italy in 1919, and it’s still going strong in these parts.

Limoncello. Some restaurants bring you a complementary shot of limoncello after your meal. It’s an Italian digestif made of lemon zest, simple syrup and a boatload of alcohol. To my admittedly unsophisticated eye and palate, it looks like anti-freeze and tastes like cleaning fluid. (Apologies to my friend, Michelle, who loves it.) I read that it’s 30% alcohol, which sounds about right.

Iced Tea. If only…