Why Manifattura Is The Best Cocktail Bar In Florence

I can’t wait to get back to Florence. I think about it all the time.

If we are cleared to travel later this summer and my Glam Italia Tours are able to go, the first stop is Florence. I always arrive a couple of days before my first tour group, to get the final touches ready and to make sure I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed when the ladies arrive.

So I’ve been thinking about the evening I arrive back in Florence and what I want to do first.

APERITIVO TIME

My favorite time of day in Italy is aperitivo time, that glorious spell between late afternoon and evening when everyone congregates for an after-work or pre-dinner drink with snacks. This glorious combination of drink, snack and human interaction feels like the glue that holds everything together.

When you watch Italians doing aperitivo the first thing you notice is the interaction. No one is scanning the bar to see if there’s someone better to chat up, they’re not buried in their phones, instead they make eye contact, engage one another, participate in life. It’s just fantastic.

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I have my favorite places to enjoy an aperitivo in Florence. Sometimes I want a drink with a sunset view of the Arno. Sometimes I want a glass of wine from a boutique winery. Sometimes I want a spritz Campari looking out over the Duomo. Once in a while I want a cocktail, and when I do there is only one place I want to go.

MANIFATTURA

Manifattura is an incredibly chic, old school yet modern cocktail bar.

These days wherever you are in the world cocktail bars seem to be the same. They either go for a faux international theme or a faux American theme. It’s all very homogenized, you could be anywhere – there’s nothing about the experience that specifically dictates which country you are in. You could be in Boise or you could be in Berlin.

Florence, like any city suffering from mass tourism, has lost some of its bar integrity, some of the national identity given away to tourist demand for Long Island Ice Tea.

When I’m traveling I crave authentic experiences specific to the place I’m in, which is no doubt why I love Manifattura.

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MADE IN FLORENCE

The décor is modern Italian meets 50’s retro bar. The bartenders wear crisp white shirts, the waiters wear suits. The drinks are old school, classic cocktails, all ingredients are strictly Italian. The underlying message here is Made In Italy. (Hence the name) It is fabulous.

The brainchild of co-owner Fabiano Buffolino, Manifattura is a celebration of Italy’s legacy of alcoholic drinks. Don’t expect to see bottles of Jack Daniels or Grey Goose on the shelves, every bottle is an Italian made product. Every drink is a classic Italian. And every drink is under 10 euros.

The bartenders and waiters are all extremely knowledgeable and will expertly guide you through ordering something specific to your taste as well as which foods to pair with it. Manifattura is not just a cocktail bar, it is an experience.

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The drinks are named for famous Italians

A relative newcomer to the scene Manifattura only opened in 2017, but Fabiano has been mixing high end drinks in Florence for years. His pedigree drew the attention of major publications around the world, all of whom have written rave reviews.

For local Florentines it is a connection to their heritage. For travelers looking for a window into Italian drink culture and craving a non-tourist, totally authentic experience, you cannot get better than this!

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Manifattura is located at Piazza di San Pacrazio, 1. This is about 5 minutes walk from Piazza Santa Maria Novella heading toward the river

Why You Need To Visit The Fantastic Palace of Caserta

Did you know that the largest royal palace in the world sits just 37 kilometres outside Naples? 

The magnificent Caserta Palace

In January 1752 Charles VII of Bourbon, King of Naples and Sicily, 
began construction on the largest palace in all of Europe, a palace to rival the beauty of Paris’ magnificent Versailles, and the Schonbrun palace in Vienna. 
Charles VII never ended up living at Caserta, instead he abdicated the throne in 1759 and became the king of Spain. His third son, Ferdinand IV became king of Naples and Sicily, and lived at Caserta. In 1768 Ferdinand married Maria Carolina of Austria, who had grown up in the Schonbrun Palace, and who’s sister Marie Antoinette would marry Louis XVI of France two years later and move to Versailles, the very palace that Caserta was designed to beat.
Makes your head spin, non?

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The Palace of Caserta is massive. It has more than 1200 rooms, stands 42 meters (45 yards) high and 250 meters (273 yards) long, taking up 44,000 square meters. In 1997 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site

The fountains at the top of the palace gardens at Caserta

The gardens are 3.5 kilometers long, with a central waterway and 6 fountains, surrounded by a tree filled park. 

Statues enjoy a break from the sun, tucked away in the shade of the trees. Others line the walkways and the bridges.

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Statues on the bridge in the palace gardens

You can rent bikes to ride around the gardens, take a horse and carriage or just walk.

Horse and carriage, bicycle or just walk. The gardens are lovely.

The palace and the grounds are nothing short of spectacular.
No matter how prepared you think you are, once you walk onto the palace grounds the sheer size of Caserta is staggering.  
In it’s day it must have been magnificent.

There are lots of tree shaded areas to wander through or sit with a good book

Oddly, hardly anyone bothers to come to Caserta. You would think the largest royal palace in all of Europe would get great tourist traffic, but Caserta gets around 500, 000 visitors per year compared to Versailles 5 million.

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Unfortunately Caserta is sorely lacking in funds and as such is a little run down. The palace has been used as a training facility for the Italian Air Force, which along with the Carabinieri still has offices there. Movies including Star Wars, Mission Impossible and Angels and Demons have shot here. Palace security is apparently lacking, and despite the Air Force and the Carabinieri both being in residence there have been problems with theft, most notably recently $100, 000 worth of copper being stolen from a lightening conductor on the roof.

The grand staircases leading to the royal apartments


Because hardly anyone bothers to go visit Caserta it also feels like your best kept secret. 
Other than my friends who live in the area I don’t even know one person who has been there before.

If you are in the Amalfi Coast/Naples area Caserta is well worth a visit. The train station is right outside the palace, so you don’t need to rent a car.

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The Best Ways To Learn Italian At Home For Cheap

How is your quarantine coming along? Are you getting bored with Netflix yet? This might be the perfect time to learn a new language. We have endless free time and most of us are looking for something to occupy our minds. Plenty of us are out of work and can’t spend the money on expensive lessons, but if you are interested in learning Italian I have some great options for you.

Capri June 2018 Glam Italia Tour

When I started learning Italian I couldn’t afford to take classes. I was a single parent, working 7 days per week to keep a roof over our heads and there wasn’t any spare money, let alone spare money to spend on myself to take classes. Also I didn’t have time to commute across town to physically go to classes. But I really, really wanted to learn the language, so I had to get creative.

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3 Ways To Learn Italian While We Are On Quarantine.

If you are planning a trip to Italy at some time in the future you might enjoy using some of this down time to learn some Italian. Now that I’m no longer flying to Italy next month I decided to use this time to improve my language skills, so this weekend I pulled out my Italian text books and am committing to spending a half hour per day learning Italian. (No matter how good you are at a language there is always room for improvement)

Marina Grande, Capri

1. Listen

When I started learning Italian there really weren’t podcasts like there are now. I did manage to find a couple of lightweight, fun podcast-like audio programs on iTunes that I would listen to on my commute. There are some great podcasts to help you learn Italian available now. Although they aren’t enough by themselves they are still really helpful!

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 At home I played Radio Italia on my computer while I was working or writing my blog posts. Listening to easy voices talking about music and ordering coffee (rather than politics or anything heavy) got me used to the sing-song sounds of the language and the rhythms of conversation. Most of the time I had no idea what they were talking about, but as I started learning the language it started making sense.

2. Use Books

The cheapest way for me to start really learning the language was to buy some inexpensive workbooks and see A) if I could do it and B) if I was really interested in pursuing it or if it was just a phase I was going through.

Barron's Italian Now! Text book
Italian Now! is a great place to start

I bought three Italian text books that became the backbone of me learning the language. Italian Now, Italian Verb Drills and Italian Grammar Drills. These were fantastic. I would always have one of them with me and work away on it during downtime on photoshoots, at my son’s music lessons, or anytime I had a free moment. The books are full of exercises and have a marking key in the back of the book, so you can check on your progress each day.

Nanni Tate Italian Verb Drills
Italian Verb Drills is the best book I’ve found for learning and practicing Italian verbs

I advise starting with Italian Now and Italian Verb Drills.  Italian Now is a good all round beginner book and gives you some structure to follow.

Italian Verb Drills in my opinion is an essential book for anyone learning the language. Italian is a very verb driven language, so it is important to learn the main verbs and how to conjugate them. The exercises in this book are very repetitive but you’ll find that in no time your brain just automatically conjugates the verbs without you even thinking about it.

Italian Grammar Drills is also really helpful and is full of exercises to do to get you in the habit of using good grammar. In my opinion as a traveler it doesn’t really matter if your grammar isn’t so good. No one is expecting you to speak grammatically perfect Italian on your vacation. If you have a decent understanding of verbs and know some vocabulary you will do just fine, but if you can start learning grammar from the beginning it will become automatic and is so much easier than trying to add it in later.

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Multi Media

Once I realized that I was going to see this learning Italian thing through and not give up after a couple of weeks, I saved up and bought Rosetta Stone Italian. Initially I just bought the first level, but later bought the entire set.

Rosetta Stone Italian Level 1-5
Rosetta Stone Italian

I’ve done languages my whole life and I really think this is the best system I have ever seen or used. Rosetta makes your brain learn the language the same way a baby or a child learns. Most language programs have you learning by translation, memorizing vocabulary and translating from your language into the new language. This is a really difficult way of learning as you are perpetually translating, so in real life situations you are a couple of seconds behind as your brain moves words from English over to Italian.

Rosetta Stone screenshot

Instead of translating, Rosetta teaches your brain to recognize pictures and identify them in the new language. You see a picture of a house and your brain immediately says Casa rather than house = casa. In each learning block they teach you visually then give you an audio section where you keep repeating the words in that lesson until your pronunciation is correct. Then it takes you into reading and writing the words and phrases.

It’s the same way you learn your own language growing up. You go at your own pace, so there’s no pressure, and the program keeps giving you tests along the way so everything stays current in your brain.

It’s easy to see why international businesses and government agencies like the CIA use Rosetta Stone to teach their people languages. I’m a huge fan!

Rosetta Stone teaches lots of different languages, so if you want to learn French or German or Spanish or any other language during this quarantine break, you really can take your pick.

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