Fun in Firenze

After all the hustle and bustle of Easter week, though I took a break from blogging, my life in Italy did not! It seems like the minute I walk in the door, it’s always time to go but am loving every minute of it!

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The weekend following Easter, the girls and I took a trip to the beautiful city of Florence. After class, we jumped on a less than an hour and a half train ride to the capital and most populous city in the region of Tuscany. Side note, public transportation is not only easy, but a fast way to travel throughout Italy and Trenitalia’s high-speed Frecciarossa trains will be sure to get you to many main cities in a short amount of time. We arrived in the late afternoon just in time for a beautiful evening walk around town and a fantastic dinner at Trattoria Da Què Ganzi.

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One thing Florence is known for is their “Bistecca all Fiorentina”, a Florentine style steak bred from the regional Chianina beef that when cooked to perfection, any meat lover will feel they have died and gone to heaven. When ordering, make sure you have a friend nearby (or in my case, just have a large appetite) as the steak is most commonly shared between two or three people. From the octopus antipasto to the steak of ages, I think the whole group agreed that the price, service, food and overall experience at this lovely trattoria is definitely worth multiple repeat visits. For some night life after dinner, be sure to walk around Piazza Santa Croce and Piazza della Signoria where locals fill the many late-night bars and cafes.

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The next day, we woke up bright and early to be first in line for the Uffizi Gallery. The Uffizi Gallery is Florence’s largest and most prestigious art museum that is home to some of the world’s greatest collections from the many famous artists such as Botticelli, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Perugino, and Raphael. Thousands of paintings, sculptures and ranging from the adorn the walls of 45 rooms For many museums, the lines can be extremely long and hours limited so I highly recommend reserving tickets in far as advance as possible or if you want an all-inclusive pass of the best sights, check out the Florence pass. Reservations ahead of time are essential and the earlier they are in the day will make certain you have enough hours to tour and marvel at the thousands of masterpieces at your own leisurely pace.

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After our “artistic” morning, we stopped for lunch at a small hole in the wall called La Fettunta. A little gem hidden away from tourists, this simple and friendly restaurant provides the type of food and price that even locals can’t help but appreciate. Be sure to try the traditional ribollita for a warm and flavorful taste of Tuscany. In the afternoon, I met up with a family friend and together we walked around exploring everything else I had yet to discover in Florence.

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A popular tourist sight but must see is the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence that spans the Arno River to connect the Uffizi with the Pitti Palace. Across the Ponte Vecchio, you can follow the path from the Porta San Niccolò and hike up to the Piazzale Michelangelo that gives a magnificent view of the city.

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On Sunday, our alarms got us up early again for another inspiring. Apart from the Uffizi Gallery is the Accademia Gallery that also houses works by great Italian artists like Allorim, Ghirlandaio, Pontormo, and the most significant work, David by Michelangelo. Though smaller than the Uffizi, getting tickets ahead of time is a good idea or arriving first thing in the morning when it opens like we did is recommended. Even though we are in Italy, America will always be home and our craving for a nice American breakfast had to be fulfilled. Located behind the Palazzo Vecchio is The Diner where one can get their fill of omelettes, pancakes and 60’s theme for a fun American brunch.

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Re-energized for the day, Eve, Grace and I took on what was my favorite part of Florence, the Duomo. More properly known as the Santa Maria del Fiore, this vast Gothic structure completed in the 15th century is iconic to Florence. The Duomo was built on the remains of the cathedral of Santa Reparata, with the engineering of it’s main feature-the dome-being accredited to Filippo Brunelleschi. Once inside, to truly experience Florence at it’s best is to climb to the top of the cupola! Entrance into the Duomo is free, but you must then purchase tickets separately to climb. Only a mere 463 steps, every step is worth it as you get to admire Giorgio Vasari’s frescoes of the Last Judgment up close and once at the top, the most glorious view of the city.

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For dinner, we made reservations at Acqua al 2 and though I have not been to Martin Gonzalez’s restaurant in San Diego or D.C., his Florence restaurant takes steak to a whole new level with innovative and delicious dishes. Order the balsamic steak, which is covered with their “secret” balsamic and expect a taste so blissful that you will be dreaming about it long after the meal is over.
Before we headed out on Monday, I made sure not to leave Florence without fully appreciating my favorite form of art, the skill of perfectly hand-crafted leather. More than just a pretty bag, leather is an ancient tradition and is still a major part of Florence’s commerce today. Ask any Italian and most will say that Florence is the best place to purchase real, quality leather. As long as it is verified as vera pelle, Florence is the place to find leather at an incomparable quality, price and for a lover of fashion like me, is a dream!

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A taste of European history in every building, walkway and museum, I can see why so many are attracted to the romantic, artistic and remarkable city of Florence. Even in the short weekend, we saw a lot of sights, spent quality time with friends and experienced just another one of the many great cities Italy has to offer. So Florence, thanks for being a city of art, culture and beauty; just one more city crossed off and many more ahead!

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