In Florence, 17th-century Bardini Villa and its accompanying gardens occupy a prized hillside location just south of the Arno River.
In addition to olive and fruit trees, the grounds are also home to La Leggenda dei Frati, a one-star Michelin restaurant, and several museums.
Following an incredible dining experience at VUN Andrea Aprea in Milan, I was excited to see what was in store for me in the Tuscan capital.
I'd last visited Florence 20 years earlier, as a newly-minted college graduate on his first backpacking trip.
As much as I enjoyed that experience, I never imagined my next visit would be as a professional travel and food writer on his way to hike the Via Francigena pilgrimage trail and attend an Adventure Travel World Summit.
La Leggenda dei Frati is a short, albeit uphill 10-minute walk from the Ponte Vecchio.
It was 7:30 pm on a Sunday evening in October and I felt like I had the streets to myself. I was greeted at the door just as the restaurant opened for the night.
My first impressions were positive. White walls, paintings, and tablecloths created an elegant atmosphere in the dining room.
Since learning about aperitivo in Milan, I ordered my first Aperol Spritz (Aperol, Prosecco, soda water, caramelized orange).
I liked it much more than the other traditional aperitivo cocktails - Negroni and Negroni Sbagliato, which use Campari.
There were two tasting menu options, "Per Noi Classici" for €105 ($119) and "Gran Menu dei Frati" for €130 ($147).
Normally, I'd choose the larger option as I feel the added courses are almost always a good value, however, I hadn't slept well the night before, so I chose the 5-course option.
It turned out to be just the right amount of food — credit to Chefs Filippo Saporito and Ombretta Giovannini for elevating traditional Tuscan cuisine with their creative interpretations.
My favorite courses were the beautifully presented chicken liver terrine with salad, the beef tartare with fennel ice cream (a novel combination), and the red onion tortello with carbonara sauce and Pecorino cheese.
My least favorite course was the yellow dessert. It looked nice, but the crispy polenta wasn't particularly flavorful.
Thankfully, there was a chocolate truffle with honey and balsamic filling that came with my espresso to satisfy my sweet tooth.
The total bill, including bread, cocktail, tasting menu, water, and coffee came to €134 ($152).
Scroll down to see the surprise that awaited me after dinner.
These photos were from the 5-course tasting menu on October 7, 2018.
After paying my bill, I asked the waiter if I could see the view of Florence from the roof, which was one of the reasons I chose to dine at La Leggenda dei Frati.
What I didn't expect, before we got up there, was a private tour of a small museum on an upper level of the building.
The whole experience from the historic grounds, to the attentive service, and delicious food left me fully satisfied I'd spent my money well.
It was my best meal in Florence and one of the best from my month in Italy.
See also: Lunch at an Organic Farm in Tuscany
Need to Know
La Leggenda dei Frati
- Address: c/o Villa Bardini, Costa San Giorgio 6a, 50125 Florence
- Hours: lunch 12:30-2 pm Wednesday to Sunday, dinner 7:30-10 pm Tuesday to Sunday
- Dress: None, other than you're asked to avoid shorts and slippers
- To view current menus and make reservations, visit the website