Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Florence is a magical place. I had spent some time there before but when I went back this last time I felt like I was at home. This past weekend I went back to Florence with Peter, a newbie to the city and had the pleasure of showing him around and introducing him to the wonders and twists of the Florentine alleyways. The best thing about this city is that every part of it is a museum simply because the achitecture of the city is still rooted in its rennaissance past. Each corner and alleyway is an introduction to some other beautiful cityscape or historic building. Florence is the explorers dream. Peter and I decided to take this as a solo trip seeing as the rest of the group had made their own plans or had made no plans to stay in Colorno. So Pete and I decided to revisit one of my most treasured places in Italy. Florence is definitely over-run with Americans, ,myself unfortunately being one of them, however, I am certain that Pete and I behaved ourselves in a manner fitting of respectful and knowledgeable tourists. We are in fact living in this country nad therefore respectful of its cultural nuances.
We started our day on Friday, missing school to get to Florence early in the day, early enough to check into our hotel and get the lay of the land. We did a quick tour of the central part of the city, I showed him where the leather markets were and where the Mercato Centrale would be tomorrow morning during opening hours. We decided to go to sushi for our first lunch in Florence and although it sounds sacreligious is was just what we wanted. No offense to anyone but we were both sick of Italian food and were in dire need of some sushi in our lives, so we indulged. After sushi we went once again through the leather markets until we were exhausted and went back to the hotel for a well-deserved siesta nap. After our nap we went in search of a traditional Tuscan trattoria for dinner and that was precisely what we found, this place was small, friendly and had big portions of traditional tustan fair that would satisfy any appetite. We ordered a mixed crostini plate that included my personal favorite, the chicken liver pate crostini. We then shared a plate of papardelle and boar ragout. From there we moved on to the secondi which were incredible. Peter got traditional Osso Bucco and I ordered a veal bistecca all fiorentina. Both dishes were rustic and simple but bursting with flavor. After dinner we called it a night, both of us had become exhausted after our large meal and decided to hit the sack. After all, we had a lot of exploring to do in the morning.Morning came too quickly but we were up and out of the hotel in record speed. The first stop on our adventure was the Mercato Centrale, the biggest food market in Tuscany. This place is humongous, and filled with a hundred food vendors selling everything from fish and meat to pastries, bread, pasta, oils and vinegars, dried fruit, fresh fruit, salumi, wine, and spices.
It is definitely worth visiting if you find yourself in Florence. One of the hidden treasures of the Mercato is this sandwich place, it is the only vendor in the building that actually sells prepared food and there is usually a line. They have been around since the 1700's and sell the best roasted and broiled meat sandwiches ever! I insisted that Pete and I each get one for breakfast and he didn't quite understand why until he saw the guy slicing paper thin strips of fatty, juicy hot beef onto a crispy roll and then smothering it with harissa and a "salsa verde" that I still can't figure out. For whatever reason these ingredients come together to make the best sandwich I've ever had, seriously, and I'm from New York.
After the Mercato we switched into shopping mode and trolled the leather markets that Florence is so famous for. The streets smelled lovely as the wafting smell of leather filled every corner. Peter bought a leather jacket, of course, and I made off with a gorgeous leather purse. After shopping we went to see the Duomo and spent quite a while taking pictures and marveling at the architecture. Next on our list of things to do was to go and see The David. Peter had never been to a museum before and this was a really good one. After seeing David it was lunch time, and once again we indulged our love of Asian food with some of the best Chinese I have ever had outside of the U.S. I have to admit that after such a large lunch we were tempted to go back to the hotel and sleep it off, however we trucked on and we went to see the Ponte Vecchio and marvel at all the gorgeous jewelry store window displays.
After we had walked up and down the bridge we went to the Uffizzi Gallery to see some more priceless works of art. The Birth of Venus always takes my breath away and I could've stayed in there for hours, unfortunately the museum was closing and we had to leave after about an hour and a half. It was for the best though because we planned to go out that night.
After a quick shower and change we were out on the town for a long night of dancing at a discoteque. By morning the weather had turned and we left Florence in a cold rainy mess. It was sad to leave, I don't know when I will find myself back there again nor do I know when I will have a chance to have a weekend away from work again now that my career is starting, but it was a great time nonetheless.