Florence was great. What is really funny is that I actually had a little trouble adjusting when we first got there…I suddenly felt as if I was in a huge city and my nerves were quickly rattled. I was completely on edge. I blame the Cinque Terre. I think I had been taken to such a nice level of calm relaxation I was not quite prepared for noise again. For some reason this did not happen to me in Venice, but that was such a quick whirlwind that was shocking in other, different ways, perhaps I was too distracted…perhaps it was the lack of cars in Venice (it certainly was not the lack of people).
Anyway, when we first arrived in Florence we set out on foot to find our hotel (all the while I’m jumping out of my skin any time a car speeds past or someone yells) and there has been another hotel mix-up, but this time it was our fault. It’s really not easy to keep track of which day it is, and when you’ll be where, especially after spending a few days in complete relaxation (in fact, we stayed an extra night in the Cinque Terre because we didn’t want to leave). So, somehow we arrived a day earlier than we had told the hotel owner. Seems like it would have been later, right? No…earlier…we counted wrong. No big deal, though, as we were confirmed for the next two nights at that place, and the hotel next door had a room for us the first night.
On our first night in Florence we had dinner in this little hole-in-the-wall spot — Trattoria Sostanza. Oh my. It was fabulous. We shared the bisteca fiorentina and tortellini (stuffed with ham) with meat sauce. We also had an artichoke pie — pretty much artichokes in egg with lots of butter, oil, and garlic (I think). The steak was juicy — fantastic flavor. And the meat sauce on the tortellini was rich, full of depth. So delicious. This definitely helps calm my nerves.
The next day, a Sunday, we poked around town. We crossed the Arno on the Ponte Vecchio and up to the Oltrarno neighborhood where we walked through beautiful gardens above town and found magnificent views in the Piazzale Michelangialo.
The next morning we went up to the top of the Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori) — beautiful. The mural on the ceiling was fascinating and the views from the rooftop were breathtaking.
That night we had dinner at a place called Bibo…really, nothing to write home about. So I won’t. I don’t even remember what I ate. The next morning we wandered through the Mercato Centrale. I am in heaven here. I make a mental note to return to rent an apartment next time we stay in Florence so we can shop here and do our own cooking. Here are a few shots from the market.
Okay, that was more than a few. But I was in heaven! You would take a lot of pictures too.
We ate lunch afterwards at this wonderful place and I did not write down the name. How could I have done that?! I do know what we ate, however. We started with buffalo mozzarella as an appetizer. I had pasta with tomatoes and basil and Chris had the Florentine crepes (filled with ricotta and spinach). We shared a carafe of the house white wine. After a nice nap back at the room, we had a quick dinner at a wine bar and then went to an organ and oboe concert at a church not too far from the Duomo. We had seen fliers posted for it that morning and we thought it would be great to hear Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in a church in Italy…it was really cool.
The next day we went to the Bargello then walked south of the river to another fabulous restaurant – Alla Vecchia Bettola. We started with paté on crostini and a couple of different varieties of meats and funghi. I had the special pasta of the house — penne with vodka, tomato, and red chile. It was delicious (and now something I love to make at home). Chris had risotto with gorgonzola and some type of squash…perhaps acorn? We also had a carafe of the house white wine. Delicious. After lunch we walked over to a local park and sat on a bench and dozed off occasionally while watching a few little kids play soccer for over an hour. It was a gorgeous day and the kids were so cute. A lovely afternoon.
Once we roused ourselves from the park bench we walked around some more, ending up at the Accademia. David is a perfect, beautiful masterpiece. Later that we night we caught a train to Rome.