With classes done for the week and free time to spare, a weekend getaway to Florence was in order! Having never been to Florence, I was super excited to visit the city, especially after having learnt so much in the past year about the architecture and art that can be found there; the city as a museum in and of itself.
Friday’s agenda called for a look inside the Duomo, the Medici Palace, and the Ponte Vecchio. All this combined into a long walk through the city streets of Florence. All the sights were beyond what I expected. Larger and more massive than any picture could let on; the colours on the Duomo, the rustication of the bricks on the Medici’s Palace, the piazzas, the gelato, and so on. The Ponte Vecchio of all places really impressed me. The shops were closed, which reduced traffic, and as the sun was setting, musicians sat out with their guitars and started singing. It could not have been a more serene evening.
But the night was only starting! Having had some friends in Florence, a friend of mine was invited to go out to dinner with a couple true Florentines. The restaurant was located in the hip neighbourhood of San Nicolo, just on the other side of the river from popular tourist destinations; it sounded go so far. Once getting there, the foodie pros ordered an entire feast for us! To start, we had a couple of dishes of cold cuts, cheese, and traditional Italian spreads to go on freshly baked pita. All this topped on a layer of lettuce to freshen up the dish. You could tell the salamis and prosciuttos were freshly carved and spreads made right in the kitchen next to us. The papa pomodoro spread was my personal fave and was traditionally what they called a “poor” Italian dish or spread, but with the right seasoning and garden-fresh tomatoes I was in heaven already! As we sipped the wine from a friend’s vineyard and finished up the appetizers, a new dish was coming our way. As a side note, I had read in anticipation of this trip that when you visit Florence, one must absolutely try a Florentine Steak. I did some research and found a couple places that had good reviews and decent prices, but our hosts beat us to it. The half-inch sliced pieces of steak came in on a juicy heap of meat, that had been cooked at a very high temperature for only a short period of time resulting in a nice grill on the outside and warm, but rare, cook on the inside. Although there were also sides brought out on massive platters, my dad would probably not have even taken notice at the sight of such a beautiful piece of meat. The steak was amazing! With light seasoning and a hint of sea salt (which I imagine was sprinkled on immediately after having been taken off the grill), the apparently solid meat tasted so smooth and juicy that it slid right down my throat; I almost couldn’t stop. For anyone visiting Florence, I highly recommend trying a Florentine steak or even paying a visit to La Beppa Fioraia. I was well worth it!
Saturday we had a schedule. We first visited the Academia to pay our good friend David by Michelangelo a visit. Again, I was beside myself. At any instance I thought David might lower his hand, shift his hips, and turn his glance forward. It was mesmerizing. Along with other sculpture by the artist, the entire museum left such a great impact. But a day can’t be complete without a decent menu. So I picked up a salami sausage sandwich for lunch on whole wheat bread and spinach from a little café at the end of the Ponte Vecchio. I had never tried such a thing before; the salami had a texture similar to that of a tartare while the cool meat inside the pressed panini gave off a refreshing taste that was necessary in such heat! At that same place we tried a few cannolis that also had a twist on traditional flavours, at least from the ones I had tried before. What is known as a Sicilian Cannoli is topped with and orange slice on each end. The tang of the orange rounded out the flavour and sweetness of the cannoli to perfection. The other flavour was topped with pistachios but my personal preference was the Sicilian!
We were also looking forward to Sunday, because as we were told by our friends in Florence that museums on the first Sunday of the month that are funded by the state have free admission. So with a very early run, we reached the Uffizi just after 8AM to line up with other keeners. Roman sculptures, renaissance religious works, Caravaggio, you name it, they had it. But once we got out, we were hungry (of course). So we headed out to the San Lorenzo market for a lunch full of fresh ingredients straight from farmers and local artisans. This did not disappoint! We grabbed a couple little items from various stations so we could get a good overview of what was offered. At the fish station we picked up a couple tartares (salmon and white fish), at the meat counter we had a selection of cold cuts, and at the fresh veggies station a nice big salad to share. I should also mention that they cut up all the carrots, cucumbers, lettuce and bread sticks right in front of us, it couldn’t get any fresher. Our filling lunch went down quickly, we were both so impressed with the quality of food and the friendliness of the shop keepers (for once) that we wished we could have picked up some more for dinner.
After lunch, we visited a couple more sites including the Palazzo Sforzi and the Palazzo Rucellai in the snazzier neighbourhoods we hadn’t yet visited. With a big thunder storm on its way in, we headed back to the apartment to pick up our things and headed to the train station. The sun has finally come out so we’ll have a dry walk home where we will probably crash from such a hectic weekend. Florence has left such a good impression on me, the food, the culture, the people; I almost didn’t want to leave. Until next time!