Four Days in Florence
Our arrival in Florence was met with red carpets. Days before we arrived, rumors of The David’s arrival had begun to swirl. “He’s alive,” they said. “The perfect man, he’s visiting the old city to stare his statue face to face, abs to abs, for the first time…. Quick, reserve your space along the parade route for this historic occasion!”
In truth, none of this happened. (EDITOR’S NOTE: There was no way this joke wasn’t happening. You knew it. I knew it. I’m sorry.) Instead, we arrived in the city that is famous for, among other things, Michelangelo’s statue with which I share my name, on a modest regional train from Lucca.
I think you’d agree that my first version would have been much more interesting.
This was the first major Italian city on our itinerary (pipe down, Pisa). In addition to its promise of phenomenal food and wine, Florence is best known for being the birthplace of the Renaissance. As fate would have it, Dan Brown’s latest book, Inferno (once again featuring the photographic-memoried Robert Langdon), was just released and takes place primarily in Florence, giving insight to some of the cooler unknown aspects of the city. Luckily for Noelle, I also possess the same vast amount of knowledge on the art and history of Florence as the book’s hero, so she was in good hands as we roamed the streets. (EDITOR’S NOTE: This doesn’t even warrant a written rebut. You all know.)
We acclimated ourselves by doing what we had in every other place we had gone so far – hit the streets and wander aimlessly. Some healthy snacks A bag of potato chips and a glass bottle of wine later, we’d crossed the Arno river to take in a view of Ponte Vecchio downstream, people-watched on Palazzo Pitti and strolled by the Uffizi, Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza del Duomo. Between the famous sights, we fit in time for our first (of dozens) Italian gelato. I found constantly asking to stop for it with each café we passed as the key to wearing Noelle down. (EDITOR’S NOTE: He’s like a child. I knew he’d sugar crash and need a nap. It was self-preservation.)
One Florentine custom we’re huge fans of is the “apertivo.” What’s apertivo, you ask? Swap drinks for food with this happy hour where entry to the buffet spread is a single drink. In our case, two gin martinis meant more pastas, salad and focaccia than we could eat. Despite providing small plates to discourage you from overdoing it, Noelle and I didn’t fall for the trick, having no problem going up for seconds and thirds (… and fourths, in my case). (EDITOR’S NOTE: WE’RE AMERICAN. WE KNOW HOW TO WORK A BUFFET.) Another bonus was the friendly couple from New Zealand seated next to us, who by the end of the meal were extending offers to host us when we make our way New Zealand early next year.
As part of our strategy during this year of travel, we try to stay away from paying admission for various attractions when we can. As such, we opted to skip the Boboli Gardens and the Accademia Gallery, but caved to the Trip Advisor reviewers (they’re everywhere) and decided to check out the Uffizi Gallery, immediately prompting a realization that we’re not exactly what you’d call art people. As we strolled through the galleries our conversations went something like this:
- Dave: Check out that painting.
- Noelle: What is it?
- Dave: No clue, I was hoping you’d know.
- Noelle: Just look interested, make a knowing “hmmm” noise and keep moving.
- Dave: Where’s the bathroom in this place?
As we continued walking through the museum, Noelle rarely complained about how much we paid to get in, never obsessing about what else we could have spent that money on. (EDITOR’S NOTE: 6 GELATO! 4 BOTTLES OF WINE! 3 WEDGES OF CHEESE! A TANDEM BIKE RIDE THROUGH THE CITY! A ROMANTIC PICNIC IN BOBOLI GARDENS!) She really did a good job at moving past the cost of admission for our brief walkthrough. Again, can’t reiterate enough how well she really just let it go.
But alas, all was not lost. Despite feeling a bit underwhelmed by our uninformed trip to the Uffizi (in fairness, a guide, and/or any knowledge about art would likely very much affect the success of a visit), one positive was that the Uffizi’s exit spits you out about a half block away from a place called the Prosciutteria, which is exactly what it sounds like. So. Much. Prosciutto. A wooden board of cheese and meats later, and all was right with the world. And upon leaving, we noticed a huge line for a local sandwich joint across the street, so naturally we went back there for dinner. So what was our big takeaway from our enlightening trip to one of the finest art museums in the world? It’s located next to two phenomenal sandwich and meat shops. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Trip Advisor THAT.)
Florence also brought our first on-the-road “Date Night.” Since we started dating, Noelle and I pick one night a month we trade off planning a surprise date night. Luckily for me, May was her turn. And she nailed it. After enjoying some wine while watching the sunset over the city’s skyline from Piazzale Michelangelo,
we headed to La Giostra – a cozy, hidden little Italian (duh) restaurant that you could easily walk right by without noticing – where we had one of our best meals of the trip so far. They had brie-filled ravioli… which is one of those things that you don’t realize you’re obsessed with until you actually taste it. Nom. Nom. Nom.
Just before leaving, we squeezed in a fun stop at the San Lorenzo Market, buying some meats and cheeses, and tasting various olives and biscotti. We also finally jumped at the chance ran out of excuses not to give one of the foods Florentines are famous for a try – lampredotto. Which is cow stomach. We ate a cow stomach sandwich. Seriously. It actually was not nearly as bad as it sounds, but not something I’ll be racing back to anytime soon (EDITOR’ NOTE: Like, ever).
And with that, we made our way through the rain back to our
limo to take us through the masses of adorers regional train, sending us off to Siena to explore more of Tuscany.