Wednesday, October 26, 2016


We rode the train from Venice to Florence and already felt warmed by the vibe in the city the second we disembarked. The nicest elderly lady helped us figure out the transit to the apartment that we had rented in San Niccolo. We settled in, got some recommendations from our host, and wandered 5 minutes away to check out the Tower of San Niccolo.
Running on empty stomachs and evening approaching, we didn't have the energy to climb up and chose to seek out food instead. Priorities!
Our server told us about local street artist Clet Abraham and told us to look for his studio nearby.
Finally refuelled, we stopped in the cutest store ever to grab some fruit. Up until this point, which was our third day in Italy together, we had basically been surviving purely on carbs, prosciutto and wine. I have never been so happy to see a piece of fruit!

Happy with full bellies, we ambled up the winding roads past the tower and when we spun around near the top, we were wowed by this view. Not sure what we expected, but it was an amazing scene from Piazzale Michelangelo.
This is the wall outside of Clet Abraham's studio, but it was after hours and closed at this time.
We found a table outside to enjoy a few glasses of wine and prosecco at a little bar in San Niccolo, just steps from here. 

The next morning, we wandered over the river to the city centre of Florence. Being the types that book very last minute trips and do little to no research before arriving some place, we didn't know what we would encounter. I kind of like to travel this way. I mean, I don't want to miss those "must sees" but I really like to just see how the day unfolds on its own. First stop was Ponte Vecchio. I had heard of this place before (not sure how... probably a random trivia question) but had no idea that it was a bridge lined with several little jewellery shops!
Each little shop had windows full of shiny things and a stunning picture window at the back. The view from the outside of this bridge sure did not reveal that these little sparkling boutiques were hidden inside.
This was the simplest, best and most memorable meal we had in all of Italy. Yes, it is more carbs and prosciutto but every ingredient so fresh and delicious. I'm salivating just looking at this photo.
Grabbed the sandwich from these guys at Il Frattelini. My darling customer and now friend, who is a frequent traveller to Italy, recommended the place. You order at the counter of this hole in the wall and join the other patrons perched on the curb nearby. Everyone was enjoying their sandwiches and perhaps a beer or glass of wine. We chatted with some other imbibers and contemplated a second sandwich, but resisted! I wish the restaurant licensing and liquor laws were more lax here in Canada. Would love to be able to do this at home. It is such a pleasant experience and everyone is responsible. 
 The gothic exterior of the famous Il Duomo di Firenze or the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.
Next we visited the Uffizi. I had always heard of the Uffizi, especially being a former art student, and was pretty excited to finally be here! (Tip: It's best to pre-book your tickets if you don't have the time to endure the long line ups to most galleries and touristy spots. You can do this online or on location.)
We saw countless images of Madonna e Bambino. Being not the least bit religious, this imagery was not a high topic of interest for me, but I did love the amount of gold detail used in many of these works!
Walked down a long busy corridor where all the smaller rooms stem off of and caught a peek of this painting. I had seen Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus' so many times in print and on slides that it took my breath away to actually see the real thing. It was beautiful. Until some young lady next to me said, "Ugh, they're the worst" with so much attitude. She was referring to me and any of my fellow Asians taking photos, which incidentally, she and her three friends were also doing. So I turned to the four of them, fellow North Americans, and said, "Who's the worst???" They stared blankly at me and none of them said a word as they stood and took more photos. This has tainted my experience of viewing this masterful painting. Ugh indeed.
'Primavera' by Sandro Botticelli
Having overdosed on Madonna and Child images, I ogled the amazing frescoes on the ceilings. Unbelievable skill in achieving three-dimensionality. In many cases, it was hard to tell if it was actually an architectural part of the room, or if it was trompe l'oeil.
Caravaggio's 'Head of Medusa' was another highlight.

Found our way to our dinner reservation at Ristorante del Fagioli, a long running family operated restaurant.
We had to try the Steak Florentine. I mean we were in Florence! It looked more overwhelming when they brought out the raw steak for our inspection. The two of us polished it off, no probs!
After dinner we took the long way back to San Niccolo to walk off the big meal and passed by Ponte Vecchio again. It was a completely different scene, now emptied of the flood of tourists and little jewellery boƮtes literally shuttered. I wish I could have this set up for my booth when doing craft shows.

The next day we decided we couldn't come to Florence and not see David -- THE David. So after many distractions and detours, we found our way to the Gallerie dell'Accademia to scope him out. 
He was bigger than I expected. In all seriousness, I mean the Michelangelo masterpiece was much larger in scale than I had always imagined! Haha!
Stunning space with more amazing frescoes. Just amazing.

Wandered aimlessly after the gallery and made our way to the Santo Spirito area in hopes of finding a restaurant that wasn't a tourist trap with the exact same menu as they next 5 restos. One can only have so much mediocre food.
Three hours later and close to 10pm we found a spot! Delicious. Outside, the square was bustling with hip young locals. I'm officially old -- I just said "hip young locals!" Many groups of friends has grabbed pizzas from the nearby wood-fired oven pizzeria and gathered outside with a bottle of wine. If we hadn't just walked for forever, I would have happily done this! After dinner we joined the crowd that surrounded a few couples as they skillfully swing danced. Loved the energy here.

We both constantly admired the doors and ringer bells in Italy. On our last morning in Florence, we said goodbye to our home for the last few days and headed to the train station. Next location would be our chance for a little relaxation and some time away from the hustle bustle. On to Cinque Terre!

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