Saturday, March 15, 2008

Firenze, a.k.a., Florence - Day 1

This has nothing to do with Florence, but I have to post a picture of Christie's first pannino at Jonathan's the night before we flew out.

The entry way to the Hotel Accademia in Firenze.

Gypsy Boots is alive and well in Florence!

How big do you think Goliath was?
I know I'm not supposed to take pictures now but at the time this was my first picture in the Accademia Gallery and there were no signs posted, only a recorded message I heard about 30 seconds later...HONEST!

The Cathedral Duomo of Florence

More of the Cathedral Duomo in Florence

I love this Cathedral!


Wow, I think this Cathedral will be famous some day!

Fountain outside the Palazzo Vecchio near the Uffizi Galery

The traditional crest of Firenze done in flowers again at the Palazzo Vecchio

Who doesn't love seeing the Medusa get killed?

The Ponte Vecchio Bridge

The Arno River from the Ponte Vecchio Bridge and no I didn't.

The Ponte Vecchio Bridge
A girl and a whole bridge filled with jewelry stores, can life get any better than this?

Two the Firenze Polizia protecting the jewelry shoppers on the
Ponte Vecchio Bridge

Making Laurie happy

They say gelato was invented in Florence

A romantic dinner for two at Trattoria Za' Za'

Ad of the Day
This one was a block from our hotel in Florence.
Since it was for exercise equipment I passed somehow.

Thursday, after a quick 75 minute flight, we arrived in Florence in the morning to begin our tour of Tuscany.
We checked into the very nice Hotel Accademia after driving from the airport in our rented 4 door Smart For Four car. I fit nicely thank you! The hotel is quaint, centrally located and is a big step up from our Palermo accommodations. Our room had beautiful hardwood floors throughout with a lovely garden just outside our window.

Random Thought of the Day #1: Driving in Florence is VERY strange…people rarely honk, they follow the speed limit and drive in their lanes. Dare I say that they are even courteous? What are these people thinking?

Random Thought of the Day #2: Let me just say that Renaissance art, as near as I can tell, was basically about four things: 1. Fat Babies (usually Jesus), 2. Fatter Baby Angels (The Angelic Order of Cherubim), 3. Bare Breasted Women (still a big hit today) and 4. People in the Act of Being Martyred. As soon as you understand this, all Italian art comes clearly into focus.

After a great lunch at the Trattoria Antellus next to the hotel (the bistec alla Fiorentina was incredible), we took the short walk to the Accademia Gallery (no pictures allowed), where there was no one in line, and saw Michelangelo’s David as well as his powerful and unfinished Prisoners statues. David was much bigger than I imagined. The lack of crowds allowed us to get as close as possible to David and linger as long as we wanted!

The Accademia is a very small gallery so we made our way to the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, incredible architecture. We only saw the outside today but will enter tomorrow as soon as it opens.

Travel guru Rick Steves gave us a great tip.  We made reservations for the Uffizi Gallery through the hotel. They got us two tickets for 4:00 p.m. today. It cost an extra 3 euros per ticket but it was worth it just as he said. When we arrived at the Uffizi, it took about 1 minute to buy our reserved tickets and their were only 2 people in front of us in the reserved ticket line as compared to about 400 people in the non-reserved ticket line, I’m sure in summer you could at least triple this number. WAY TO GO RICK!!!
The Uffizi Gallery (again no pictures allowed) has arguably the greatest collection Italian Renaissance paintings in the world including their signature painting, Botticelli’s Birth of VenusWe were in no way disappointed! Again, once inside there were not many people in the gallery. We were able to stand as close to each painting as we were allowed and analyze each one for as long as we liked. If you come to Italy, come in the winter or spring and avoid the heat, humidity and the endless crowds.

Our final stop of he afternoon was the Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s most famous bridge over the Arno River. Let me first say that Florence was the leading city of the Renaissance Era. During this period there was no country named Italy, instead we had competing city-states vying for wealth and power. Florence’s wealth came from it’s cloth industry, trade and banking. One of Florence’s main rivals was another city-state, Pisa, also located on the Arno River. The rivalry was so fierce that Florentine locals during that time would actually pee into the Arno River knowing that it would flow to Pisa downstream!

Today the Ponte Vecchio is lined with shops selling gold and silver, just what Laurie needed to see! We shopped and actually bought a few nice pieces…it’s only retirement money.

For our 10:00 p.m. dinner we followed Rick Steves’ advice for a second time and dined at Trattoria Za' Za' located at Piazza del Mercato Centrale 26 red, for those of you keeping track. As always, we had great wine and food. The Ribollita, a Tuscan soup, was very good but the Eggplant Parmesan was incredible, sweet and light! Since I had three gelatos this afternoon, we decided it would be best to forego dessert tonight.

Friday we are going to drive through the countryside of Tuscany and visit the towns of Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa and the walled city of Lucca. Food and wine are a distinct possibility. 


DPLassen said...

It's amazing -- we all see pictures of the David our whole lives, we read about it, and yet, the first time we see it, it still manages to be breathtaking. I'd say that's a pretty good work of art. And yes, the duomo is amazing, too.

So which flavor of gelato did you go for, and where?

George said...

Gelato at Vivoli's was #1 out of the 4 or 5 gelaterias we tested.

A true adventure finding it for the riso (rice) gelato, sort of a horchata on steroids thing!