Saturday, June 8, 2013

Florence Day 1 and 2

From Amul:

It is our last of three nights in Florence before we head off for a three-day drive through the Tuscan countryside.  Florence is so much better than Rome. Less traffic, better food, smaller city, and just as many sights (if not more).

We arrived in Florence via train from Rome around 2:30 in the afternoon; our hotel was a short walk from the train station and we were settled and ready to hit the town in no time.  Our first stop was the newly renamed “Galileo Museum of Science History.”  I was like a kid in a candy store.  The museum told the history of Italian scientific revelation through the Renaissance covering astronomy, navigation, mapping, basic physics, anatomy, and electromagnetics.   The museum was a treasure-trove of 500-year-old scientific instruments and mechanical experiments.  It also has two and a half of Galileo’s fingers on display.

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After the museum we headed to a restaurant I’ve been eyeing for about 4 months now “La Prosciuttoria.”  It is basically the best deli in the world serving sampler platters of cured meats, cheese, bread, and wine.  The ten-euro sampler platter filled us so much that we didn’t need dinner.

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On day two, we visited Florence’s central market to view, sample, and buy some of best food Tuscany has to offer.  Interestingly, tourists flocked to the outdoor part of the market which sells souvenirs and fake Prada purses but very few dared to enter the indoor food market. They were clearly missing out. We ate well including indulging in a “truffle product sampler” from one of the delis.

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That afternoon we went to the Galleria de Academy, the art museum of Italy’s most famous art school which has been teaching students since the 1500s.  The main attraction is Michelangelo's statue of David.  We were unable to pre-book tickets but after an hour of standing in line we got in and it was well worth it.  David is truly amazing and pictures (which were not allowed) do not do it justice.

We strolled around the city the rest of the day and settled on a local restaurant in the southern part of town for dinner. The restaurant came highly praised by our friends Mike and Erica who just toured through France and Italy two weeks before our own trip.  We got the gnocchi with truffle oil and rabbit “hunter’s style” with a few glasses of house wine. The food was spot on and a great way to end the day.

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Kira taking over from here to finish things off, as Amul’s gone to take a quick shower before going out to dinner:

This morning we wandered around the Boboli Gardens, which are less like the curated palatial gardens we expected and more of miles and miles of hiking trails interspersed with fountains, sculptures and mini-museums that house the some of the Bobolis’ family heirlooms.  There were some impressively-manicured areas as well, however, and we were duly impressed.

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We grabbed lunch at a little piazza café near the gardens and then headed over to the Uffizi Gallery (which Amul has dubbed “the Fuzzy”).  Spent the next several hours wandering the 80+ rooms of the gallery, which is the famous home of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.  Beautiful, but honestly, I enjoyed some of the other Botticelli pieces that were displayed more.  The colors are quite muted on Venus, and some of his other pieces are much more vibrant.

For our post-museum teatime nosh, we headed back to La Prosciuttoria, as I had promised Amul that we could visit at least twice during our stay here in Florence.  Another delicious sampler plate and a couple of glasses of house wine later, and we were feeling quite content.  Amul’s hair has been steadily thinning, and over the past year or so, I’ve encouraged him to wear a hat whenever we’re outside to prevent scalp sunburn.  Thus, I was able to talk him into buying a souvenir cap from La Proscuittoria, as a practical investment.  I think he looks quite smart in his new driving cap, which bears the vendor’s name and logo across the sides.

On our way home, we made a point to walk past the famous bronze statue of the wild boar that sits at the entrance to the Nuovo Mercado.  Legend says that if you pat the boar’s nose, you’ll return to Florence.

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We’re headed out for our final dinner in Florence in a few minutes.  Amul’s bookmarked a restaurant that’s specialty is beef strips in truffle sauce.  I like how this man thinks!