Thursday, May 24, 2018

Next stop: Florence. . .

“Visiting Florence was like attending a surprise party every day.”
                        -- Jennifer Coburn, We’ll Always Have Paris

I’d like to tell you that we hopped off that train from Rome that we were on when I last wrote and walked straight to our hotel in Florence, our first stop on our week-long Tuscan getaway.

But I can’t. Because sometimes even seasoned travelers like us can get themselves turned around. Or  in other words, lost.

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Sina Vill Medici Florence Italy
The Scout, had searched and selected the hotel, in part, because of it being easy walking distance from the train station. The other reason was that the Sina Villa Medici was housed in a magnificent once-upon-a-time family home in Florence; it one of those hotels that virtually ooze history as you walk their hallways.

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Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy
It IS an easy walking distance if you don’t arrive after dark and take a wrong turn exiting the station as we did. Our rather long, circuitous route added a good 20 minutes to our walk but it also took us through some interesting areas like Santa Maria Novella and its expansive piazza, pictured above.

So with suitcases rattling on the uneven cobblestones we took turns asking for directions at two other hotels along our way. We finally arrived at our hotel with a much needed paper map in hand (given to us by a kind hotel desk clerk of whom we'd asked directions). I should note our cell phones don't work in Italy making Google Maps useless.

Bags in room, glasses of Italian wine in the lobby bar and it was time for the vacation to begin:

First stop:  David

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Michelangelo's David at the Accademia, Florence, Italy

We visited Florence once – long ago – and didn’t waste precious sight-seeing time standing in the blocks-long line of people waiting to see David, Michelangelo’s marble creation carved between 1501 and 1504. By the time we made this trip we’d smartened up: from home we'd made reservations and purchased on-line tickets. We simply walked up to the door at the appointed time and entered. In fact, we arrived two hours early to pick up the tickets with a plan to return at the appointed time and instead they allowed us in early.

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Another piece that caught our eyes - Accademia, Florence, Itay
It was as amazing as everyone over the centuries has said it would be.  But then we found much of the artwork to be amazing and always ponder why one particular item like David or Mona Lisa get all the press while other amazing pieces don’t.

Aimless Ambles

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Street art near our hotel - Florence, Italy
With the one thing on our ‘to do’ list done, we ambled aimlessly through this city sometimes called the ‘Athens of the Middle Ages’, home to Dante Alighieri and the birthplace of gelato. 

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Florence street scene
We walked past the city’s popular tourist destinations, the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio among them, but found just everyday street scenes to be more interesting than those tourist attractions which had already drawn thousands of visitors and were overrun with tour groups.

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Street art Florence, Italy
Florence, while immensely interesting, isn’t what we’d call charming. We find its streets and architecture rather severe – and that isn’t a bad thing. It lacks the romance of Venice and the allure of Rome.  Serving as the capital of Tuscany, its metropolitan population back in 2013 was nearly 400,000 inhabitants. While rather stark, its many rather drab and mundane streets lead to piazzas, palazzos, and basilicas; many of which can take your breath away. Or as Jennifer Coburn says in the opening quote, a surprise party every day.

The Way to a Tourist’s Heart is via the Stomach

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Cheese stuffed ravioli with zucchini blossom sauce, left,  and wild boar ragu on the right.
So much food and so little time, we told ourselves time and time again as we walked past tempting establishments offering some of the 120 varieties of pasta that exist in this world. We found them to be reasonably priced at less than 10 euros a serving. (Of course pasta here is meant to be just one part of the culinary feast, usually eaten between the starters and the main meat or fish course. Dessert follows - oink!). We had plenty with the pasta alone.

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Free tidbits with purchase of a drink - an Italian tradition
What we’d forgotten about Italy was that bars often set out a mini-buffet of appetizers in the early evening that are served for free with the price of a drink (in our case an Aperol Spritz for 5 euro and a glass of wine for 4 euro).  This spread pictured included bruschettas, small sandwiches, pasta salad and pizza.

A Trip to the Market

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Mercato Centrale, Florence, Italy
No trip for us is complete without a trip to a municipal market; those sprawling marketplaces that sell a bit of everything from food and drink to clothing and household items.  Florence’s Mercato Centrale has gotten a bit on the upscale side since our last visit with far more wine bars and restaurants than farmers and fish mongers hawking their food items. It still can send you to sensor overload within minutes of entering it.

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Cooking school Mercato Centrale, Florence
What we hadn’t expected to find was a large, modern cooking school right in the midst of the market. Although when you think about it, it is a perfect fit.  And this school isn’t to train professional chefs, it is run by them to teach people like us how to cook Italian foods!  You can choose to take a class or watch a demonstration and then dine with the chef.  To learn more about this place check it out on their website, http://www.cucinaldm.com

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Artwork above doorways was as interesting as in galleries, Florence, Italy

Had we  more time in Florence, I just might have signed up for a class but it will have to wait until ‘next time’ as we were heading to Cortona the next day. Made famous by Frances Mayes in her “Under The Tuscan Sun”  two decades ago, it is continuing to draw visitors like us to it. We hoped it wouldn't be over-run by book or movie fans. And we were hoping to see some of that 'Tuscan Sun' as it had been rather rainy in Florence. . .

But that's a tale for next week!  Thanks for being with us on this stop on our week-long Italian getaway.  As always your time and interest is most appreciated.  Safe and happy travels to you and yours~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Best of Weekend

31 comments:

  1. Exiting out of stations can be disorienting especially at night. It's always good to see the bright side of such adventures. As you say your 20 minute walk also took you to Santa Maria Novella and its expansive piazza, which you mightn't have seen otherwise!

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    1. Well, we always know we aren't really 'lost' we just aren't where we want to be but like the old phrase, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? Thanks much for stopping by Jan!

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  2. Thank you for sharing these with us at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2018/05/check-our-catbirds.html. You got some great shots!

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    1. Always a pleasure to be part of your linkup!

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  3. Hello, I am glad you did not go too far out of your way. Beautiful tour and wonderful photos of Florence. I would love to see the statues and artwork and the piazza. Enjoy your day and week ahead!

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    1. Nice to have you back again, Eileen. Enjoy your day and week ahead as well!

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  4. I love this quote from Jennifer Coburn: “Visiting Florence was like attending a surprise party every day.” Definitely sounds like a destination I would enjoy! We only stopped briefly in Florence at the train station enroute to Rome. I wish we'd had more time to explore this great city. Next time ...

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    1. Whoops, I wrote a reply and it appeared as a general comment, Doreen. Wanted you to know this comment came through loud and clear. Blogger has been messing ('improving') comments and has a whole bunch of bloggers in a stew over said 'improvements'.

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  5. One of my most used travel phrases is 'next time' and maybe instead of having a bucket list I need to focus on my next time list! Thanks for stopping by Doreen and this time your comment came through loud and clear. Blogger has been making some changes to the comment feature and I suspect that was part of the earlier problems.

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    1. Florence in its own stark way, was lovely, that is for sure.

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  7. Thank you for showing us the other side of Florence. I will now look for those mini buffets of appetizers and the municipal market with that culinary school! And I didn't know gelato started there!

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    1. It is as the quote says at the top, like attending a surprise party! Thanks for stopping by Carol.

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  8. Florence does indeed look interesting. Wandering aimlessly and finding everyday street scenes appeals to me.

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    1. We love those everyday scenes and experiences far more than the usual 'top 10 sights you must see' anywhere. Thanks for the visit Donna!

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  9. Be still my heart - the birthplace of gelato! 😁 Your question about why some art pieces (and for that matter some places) get all the hype when compared to so many other treasures is one that's often occurred to me. So often, all the press leads to higher expectations and a real let-down. As much fun as a visit to a big market can be, I loved the idea of a cooking school for interested shoppers and tourists even more. I'd put that on my next-time list for sure!

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    1. I was pondering that while looking at David -- surprised a lightening bolt didn't strike me down but then we'd just walked through a room of Michelangelo beauties that others walked past, their eyes focused on Michelangelo.

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  10. What an exciting adventure it must have been to explore Florence. The classical artistry would be so humbling. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Almost too much artistry. We got to the point of it being, "Oh another statue or look at that, it is another. . ." but wonderful all the same. Thanks for the visit.

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  11. Florence ooh Florence..such a beautiful city indeed. I still remember my first visit there in 2004 and back in 2014! The city remains mesmerizing as always

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  12. It's been 12 years since I've been to Florence - Thanks for reminding me why I loved it! I'll be featuring your post at Best of the Weekend tomorrow night! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks much for stopping by Amy and again thanks for featuring Travelnwrite on your Best of the Weekend!

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  13. I've had that experience of going the wrong way and spending half the evening looking for my hotel! But it sounds as if the rest of your time in Florence was wonderful.

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    1. Yes, it does add a twist to travel, doesn't it? In the daylight we realized immediately where we had gone wrong the night before, but there is something about the darkness that can put a spin on directions! Thanks for the visit Karen.

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  14. I thought you were going to talk about a tragedy, and then you said you walked 20 minutes in the wrong direction. That would be pretty normal for me, nothing to report -- ha ha! Like you, I saw the David in Florence and spent a few hours wandering around, then took a night train onward. I would love to return and see more of the treasures!

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    1. Well, it certainly wasn't a tragedy, but it does add a layer to travel. Sometimes a good layer as this turned out to be and other times we've ended up snarling at each other, hot, sweaty and totally frustrated. Just one of the side 'benefits' of travel I guess!

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  15. Your photos and narrative remind me of why Florence is such a world-class city, especially when you wander away fro the crowds.

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    1. It is pretty amazing and I'd love to go back again. It just is one of those places that sneaks up on you and you realize you've been captured by its whole being.

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  16. I was in Florence back in the 90s and loved every second. "David" is amazing, but I have to agree with you that there is so much great art that isn't nearly as famous (weird!). When I go back I'll visit the market, for sure. I'd love to take a cooking class. Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

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  17. Like Nancie, I was in Florence long ago as well, but I feel like I was too young to appreciate it properly, especially the food! As for getting "lost," without fail I always choose the long way around train stations, arenas, whatever. Just dumb luck.

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  18. My hubbie enjoyed Florence and would have liked to have stayed longer - we only had 2 nights. And the bus tour kept us busy. It looks like you must have been there not long before us! So close and yet so far!

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