Florence, Italy

Out of all of my favorite cities in the world, Firenze earned its place in my top ranking a few years ago when I visited. Although small, and not to mention incredibly crowded with tourists, the place has seems to have its own artistic sophistication unlike other cities I’ve visited. Of course, the city is home to the famous Uffizi gallery, but besides that the streets of Firenze filled with architecture from the Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance period…a walk through history.

The main church of Florence Cattedrale de Santa Maria or Il Duomo is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve visited in my entire life. The stately structure and the intricate exterior designs are pretty incredible.

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I can stare at it in awe for hours on end. Visiting it during the day is pretty nice, if you don’t mind sweaty tourists and struggling for photo ops. The optimal time I’ve discovered, after all my travels and visits to famous cathedrals, is at night. Especially those in gothic-style.

In the dark of the night, the lights really enhance the details of the structure and create amazing natural contrasts. Everything is intensified and you can admire the cathedral in silence and take as much time as you want. I actually have so many photos of this, I might have to just do a photo post haha. Btw, all three buildings of Il Duomo are part of the UNESCO Heritage.

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My other favorite place to be is Piazza della Signoria where you can see a lot of great statues.  For this, the best time to go is early in the morning, before all the tourists come swarming in and try to squeeze their way in to take the best selfie or whatever with the statutes. Let me tell you, it is annoying as hell. Even if I want to simply take a picture of just the statute, I have to wait for the line of people to finish their photos, one by one, before I can proceed to take my picture…which is always interrupted by some other tourists because they assumed the spot is free. And of course, under the Tuscan sun with all that heat, I get grumpy and annoyed, and start shooting evil glares all around…which is not good. So to enjoy the place and all its tranquility, go in the morning. I loved it. No one was there to fight with me, and the guard was so nice and explained to me the stories of the statutes. You really have to stand up close to the statues to see the details and admire the composition. The facial expressions and the physical aspects of the sculptures can be so real, it’s scary.

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One of the more famous statues is the replica of Michelangelo’s David. 

Giambologna’s The Rape of the Sabine Women is a sculpture that gets many praises.  The word “rape” is actually a direct translation of the Latin word raptio, which actually means abduction in the context of this artwork. The intertwining of three different bodies, as well as their distinct bodily movements are only a few of the things critics say about it. It’s really stunning when you can see it in person.

Then there’s Ponte Vecchio, the Old Bridge….which is also best to visit in the morning. But of course, for the sunset, you have to join the tourist crowd. The views are amazing both early in the morning and at sunset. Great way to start and end your day.

Firenze is also a great place to get your grub on! You can get anything from Italian snack foods like paninis and focaccia, to great wine and salami, and of course, my favorite…pasta! But again, in a tourist city like Florence, it is easy to fall into a tourist trap where you pay more than you need to for less than decent Italian meal. As it is my second time, and my Aunt’s third time here in Florence, we already had our list of places to go…and some new places to check out.

The food stand by the market that is famous for having a gold pig statue where everyone goes to touch the pig, serves up amazing vaschetta trippa, tripe sandwiches. (I apologize for the inconvenience if you try to find this place…because the market has no specific name. I would just look for the pig statue.)I also highly recommend getting it spicy, but maybe just a little bit if you are a rookie. Even their spiciest isn’t spicy for me, but for my Aunt on the other hand….she was in tears after eating it! You can find trippa elsewhere in the Firenze, but this is the best place to go to. We had this two days in a row…for breakfast. Probably the richest and fattiest breakfast I’ve had for a while…

I love a good gelato just as much as the next girl, but where to find a good gelateria in a city that has one literally every corner? I took to my sources online and checked out some local blogs, and found Carapina, a local favorite! I was actually unable to tell the difference between gelatos before, but after this trip in Italy, I think I’ve learned pretty well.

At Carapina at via Lambertesca 18 near Ponte Vecchio, the gelato is extremely creamy and smooth…and very flavorful. All natural. I would be cautious at gelaterias where you see vibrant colors in their gelato. We went back twice…within the same day. Yeah, we’re a little crazy.

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The waitress was extremely nice, allowing everyone to try multiple flavors before deciding. I highly recommend the pistachio, coffee, pinenuts, and peach. They also open until late at 10pm, so it’s a good place for a late night snack after watching the sunset at the Old Bridge, which is exactly what we did.

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Another great snacking place near Ponte Vecchio is Lombardi’s. It’s a shop selling local food products (wine, salami, cheese) and has an adjoining small restaurant. Naturally, the main attraction was the wine.

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I had my first glass of Brunello here….and oh my goodness, it was just perfect. We started off with one glass to share, but after one sip, I told the waiter to get us another one. We then proceeded to ask for some cheese and meat to accompany our wine haha….and this was after we had dinner…and before we had our second serving of gelato…

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For some good pasta, head to Dei Frescobaldi at Via dei Magazzini , right off the square of Piazza della Signoria. It’s in a very small street, and not extremely eye-catching, but definitely worth the visit for their pasta! The place has been listed on the Michelin Guide for several consecutive years, including this year as well.

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We ordered spaghetti with sea urchins and shrimps, which was really good and very flavorful..but by the end, a bit too salty for us. It was probably because of the seafood.

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I am obsessed with truffles…so of course, I ordered their home-made tagliatelle with Tuscan white truffles. Let me tell you….after all the truffle pasta I’ve had…this is the best. It tops whatever the last one I said was the best one. This here, is golden. The aroma of the truffle smell may not be that strong, but you can really sense it in your mouth after a couple of bites. Sublime. The homemade tagliatelle was also cooked to perfection. Compared to all the other truffle pasta I’ve had, this was the lightest one as well. Minimal cream and olive oil. How do they do such a good job with this??! I guess pasta will always remain as an Italian secret.

Depending on the season you visit Florence, you may have to endure the hustle and bustles of the big tourist crowds. But either way, the place offers an authentic Italian experience in arts, culture and gourmet. Besides Rome, which I love as well, Firenze is the place to be.

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