Sunday, October 13, 2013

3 days in Firenze

I'm not sure which was more startling the first time I visited Florence: the massive, amazingness of the Duomo or the insane hordes of people everywhere I turned. I thought that by September the tour groups would have subsided but no, September is the new August apparently. While Florence is a beautiful, old city, the vast amounts of tourists and college students studying abroad did put a slight damper on my experience. However the city more than made up for it with the grandeur of its art and cuisine.

View of the Duomo from the top of Giotto's Campanile

Crowds of tourists in front of the Piazza del Duomo 

The Arts

  • The David: Had my dear travel companion not purchased advanced tickets to the Gallerie dell'Accademia, I probably would have passed on waiting in the insanely long line to see some sculpture. But once I laid eyes on Michelangelo's most famous work of art, I was blown away. The way that the artist manipulated marble to create an incredibly majestic and realistic sculpture of David, the biblical hero who slayed Goliath, is beyond impressive. Besides the David, there isn't much else to see at this museum, or at least that's what we wanted to believe so we could ditch the crowds.
  • Uffizi: This was another museum that my friend purchased tickets for in advance. We had to wait in a 15 minute line to get a different ticket and then another 10 minute line to get into the museum. I felt ambivalent about this one. One the one hand, it was wonderful to see the extremely gorgeous Botticelli paintings, "The Birth of Venus" and "Primavera," but shoving my way through about 20 oblivious Asian tourists to see it was almost not worth it. I would only recommend going here in the off-season and perhaps getting a guided tour that highlights the stand-outs because there is a ton to see. 

Botticelli's The Birth of Venus

  • Piazza del Duomo: Its impossible to go to Florence and not fall in love with this piazza that includes the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (that supports Brunelleschi's Duomo), Giotto's Campanile and the Baptistery of St. John. The green, pink and white marble exterior of the buildings is breath-taking and the 15 minute climb to the top of the Campanile will literally take away your breath. A 10 Euro ticket- good for 24 hours- will buy you admission to the Baptistery that boasts shinning golden mosaics, the Campanile, which offers stunning views of the Duomo and the city, as well as the Duomo museum so you can learn more about this incredible structure that was created nearly 600 years ago. 

View of the Basilica, Duomo and Campanile

View of Florence from the Campanile

The Eats
  • Zeb: I found this place based off a T&L article and it did not disappoint. Across the river from the main tourist attractions, Zeb is tucked away in a quiet part of the city. After reading us the daily specials, the chef helped select the best glass of wine to accompany our food selections, which were the ricotta stuffed ravioli with a pear compote and vegetable ravioli with a fresh tomato sauce. For dessert we shared a special cake made with grapes that is only available in the fall. It was rather unique because the grapes still had the seeds in them and that made the cake crunchy, but it was still good. Especially with an espresso. We struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to us at the bar counter and she said she eats at the restaurant almost every day. She gave us some other restaurant recommendations but sadly we didn't have time to try them out before we left. Overall the experience at Zeb was wonderful and just what we were hoping to find in Italy. 

Delicious grape "cake" at Zeb
  • 4 Leoni: Also located on the other side of the river, this bumping restaurant sits on a delightful little square that features a wine bar, gelateria and other casual restaurants. This place came recommended by one of my good friends who studied abroad in Florence and returned a few years later to run the Florence marathon. The word was definitely out about this restaurant because all tables around us were filled with other Americans but we still had an authentic Italian meal consisting of grilled veggies with burrata, bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and big, thick, juicy, barely seared piece of Florentine beef. The waiter warned me it would be very rare and it sure was! I would say it was comparable to the steak I ate in Buenos Aires, which is a huge complement to the Italians.   

    My friend enjoying a glass of wine before dinner at 4 Leoni

    Overall I had a wonderful experience in Florence and would definitely wander through the city again but only in an off-peak tourist season when all the American college students have gone home (no offense to my friends who studied abroad in the city). 

    View of Florence from Piazza San Michelangelo 

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