February 23, 2015

My Bucket List: Firenze

I’m very fortunate to have visited the historic city of Florence, not once but three times, and it took me this many tries to accomplish the items on my Bucket List. I saw great works of art at the renowned Uffizi Gallery; toured locations featured in Dan Brown’s novel Inferno; and sampled unique Tuscan cuisine. But no visit to Florence is ever long enough.

Skyline of Firenze, or Florence

My first visit was in the 1980s and I arrived on a Monday when most of the museums are closed. At least I was able to see the copy of Michelangelo’s David in Signoria Square. When I returned decades later, I saw the original sculpture at the Accademia Gallery but skipped the Uffizi for an excursion to Pisa. Last summer I finally saw the highlights of the gallery’s collection but wished I’d had more time to savour the contents of every room.

Madonna of the Goldfinch, Raphael
Uffizi Gallery

While my daughter and I were dashing through the halls of the Uffizi Gallery the rest of our tour group were capping off a walking tour of the city’s squares with a cold Aperol spritz. I enjoyed my first taste of this traditional aperitivo a few hours later in the hotel bar before dinner.

Aperol Spritz

The next morning we used our free time to visit locations from the novel Inferno. We arrived at the Palazzo Vecchio for the museum’s 9:00 opening. Then we scooted to the Baptistery of San Giovanni which opened at 10:00. But the long queue outside Santa Maria del Fiore meant there wasn’t enough time for a visit inside the city’s famous cathedral. We had to be at Piazza Santa Croce by 11:30 for an afternoon excursion to San Gimignano and I wanted my daughter to see the city’s oldest bridge, the Ponte Vecchio.

Dante's Death Mask, Palazzo Vecchio Museum

In the evening we headed to one of Rick Steves’ recommended restaurants, Trattoria dei 13 Gobbi, to try some local specialties. This cozy trattoria was a pleasant walk from our hotel along the banks of the Arno River and the staff greeted us like old friends. The Tuscan steak is prepared for two people and served rare to preserve the meat’s tenderness. I enjoyed the beef with a glass of Chianti wine and delicate zucchini blossoms, battered and deep fried until crispy. The flowers first caught my eye amongst the more traditional veggies at Nice’s Cours Saleya Market and since then I’ve wondered how they’d taste (a fresh, subtle zucchini flavour).

Trattoria dei 13 Gobbi, Florence

Trattoria Interior

Tuscan Steak for Two

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

Zucchini Blossoms, Cours Saleya Market

After two short days in Florence I’d managed to do most of the things on my list but I ran out of time. A fourth visit is unlikely so I’m content with my new memories. And 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the year Florence became capital of Italy so I’ll keep up with the celebrations by following the hashtag #FirenzeCapitale.

Buon Anniversario, Firenze! Happy Anniversary, Florence!

Next:  Porto Venere and the Gulf of Poets

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