Saturday, November 7, 2009

Florence Travel Notes

I left the farm a few days early to see Florence on my way out. Best decision ever.

The highlights:
1. First night was super rainy. Soggy feet didn't make for the best tourist experience, but Florence looks beautiful damp.

Had scoops of pistachio and nutella gelato. Why not dessert first? Then lasagna and half a bottle of chianti for dinner.

Explored the statues around the Uffizi gallery and Duomo. I must have walked by that cathedral a dozen times during my stay, but I was hit with an unexpected awe each time. It's gorgeous. I remember studying it in high school, but you just can't come close to appreciating this one without seeing it in person.

2. Went for a dip in the indoor pool and a sweat in the sauna and steam room plus a 1 euro glass of wine in the hostel. Weirdest hostel. Such extravagant amenities, right? Check out Plus Hostel if you're ever in the area or Venice, Rome and Prague too.

3. Second day started out with breakfast in bed of bread, chestnut butter, plum jam (all from my former home on the farm). Roamed the Academia Gallery where Michelangelo's David is. Incredible exhibit "Perfection in Form" with side by side comparisons of Robert Mapplethorpe's work with the master's. He worked a lot with the first female body building champion Lisa Lyons back in the 80s. It was funny seeing parents' reactions to all these giant photos of naked men next to the Renaissance statues. I guess I could see why they'd be shocked by all the bare ass, but shouldn't the 3D version be worse?

4. Lunch at a little restaurant that's just a window off a side street between the Duomo and Uffizi Gallery called I Fratellini. Famous for tasty, simple 2.5 euro sandwiches. Had a roasted ham sandwich (prosciutto arrosto) with truffle cream (crema tartufata). Mmmmmm.

5. Walked through the Ponte Vechio across the Arno river to see the Pitti Palace and then basically got lost in some parks and a residential area for about 2 hours. It was a good kind of lost though as it was still daylight, and Florence always has something pretty to look at.

6. Walked up a little climb to the Piazza Michelangelo to have a romantic dinner of 2 euro pizza and watch the sun set on Firenze. Lovely panoramic view of the whole city and all the sights I didn't have time to see up close. Full moon and the city street lamps cast a beautiful reflection on the river Arno. Molto bella! I'll have to return one day.

7. Went for a coffee, hot chocolate and some pastries with a new single serving friend from the hostel. The hot cocoa was like liquid pudding.

8. Back to the hostel to watch a random fireworks show from the rooftop terrace. Another day, another bottle of wine. It's almost as cheap as water here, so it seems like the frugal thing to do. Aaahhh, Firenze.

9. Day three consisted mostly of absorbing some of the best art in the world at the Uffizi Gallery...or at least many of my favorites. There were a lot of the big name masters and paintings, but my favorites were the Caravaggios they had and Boticelli's Annunciation.

I hijacked a few tours and learned some fun new things. For instance, did you know that in addition to the renaissance women's desire to look pale (to avoid looking like poor, sunbathed farmers...much as I do now), they also shaved or plucked their hairlines to enlarge their foreheads? It was supposed to make them look smarter.

I was so overwhelmed, I had to break the museum up into two trips in one day -- about a total of 6 or 7 hours.

10. Lunch again at I Fratellini with the hostel bud. Arugula and pecorini tartufo sandwich and a goat cheese,
fennel, salami.

11. Lots of walking around in more rain. More cheap pizza for dinner. More wine...

12. Best gelato I've encountered so far at Festival of Gelato. I think they have over 70 kinds! I went with rose and chocolate with chili pepper.

13. Caught the midnight train to Milan, which really meant to Pisa, then Genova and then Milan by 9 a.m. the next morning. I'll do anything to save 20 euros on a hostel these days.

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