So I didn’t know that Florence = Italian Renaissance Art.
And after visiting the Accademia and seeing Michelangelo’s David – who knew he was 17ft tall? – we decided not to visit any other museums. Not the biggest fan of Renaissance religious art… I can only see so many Madonnas, altarpieces, and Biblical narratives before I want to jump into the Arno River. (and believe me, it looksvile).
I did, however, consent to visit another church/cathedral. We went to the Duomo, which was beautiful on the outside. Personally, I prefer exteriors of cathedrals – not the interiors, but it was free so we went in. I think the exterior is marble – or at least mostly, and it’s red, green and white. And it’s beautiful. I love it. My picture absolutely does not do it justice at all.
We visited an outdoors leather market, and an indoors food market. I bought gifts for my two best friends (shout out to emily and anna if you’re reading this) from an old Italian man – and I’d love to tell you what they are… but then it wouldn’t be a surprise for those girls. :) They had beautiful scarves – I abstained from buying any as I’ve already added 5 to my collection this semester – and really nice leather handbags and jackets. Which, if I was rich enough, I would’ve had bought for myself. ;)
In the indoor market, I tried to buy dried mango from a man in Spanish, but he just didn’t understand a word I said. Whoever told me I could get away with speaking Spanish in Italy – they LIED to me. My mom also got really yummy bruschetta and cappuccino too, which she let me taste. Markets are my favorite way to experience a city – you get to see the real residents of the cities picking out the freshest catch of fish, bartering and chatting with their butchers and farmers.
We continued to explore and went to Ponte Vecchio, which is a famous bridge over the Arno because it’s lined with gold and silver shops – it miiight be the oldest bridge in Florence, but don’t quote me on that one. The bridge used to be lined with butcher shops which would wash their refuse into the river because downstream was their rival (I forget who). Later it was replaced with these shops and they are very expensive but really cool.
After we crossed the bridge we stopped in a cafe for coffee and pastries – but mostly because we needed a quick bathroom break and there are NO restrooms to be found in Italy. And if you are lucky enough to find one – it costs 1.50 euros and is truly disgusting. Harsh, but true.
Then we continued down the Arno until we found an absolutely gorgeous rose garden near Piazza Michelangelo (i think?) that overlooked the city. Hands down my favorite part of Florence. This is what I pictured in my mind about Italy. The faded gold-colored houses with red roofs? Beautiful.
In terms of food… I didn’t take any pictures, but we went to a Rick Steves recommended small-time authentic florentine restaurant the last night we were there. It was a set menu – 3 courses with wine/water. My sister and I got spaghetti with tomatoes and basil (yum), and I tried a white wine pork dish as a second plate – sooo good. Colleen got a rosemary chicken dish (amazing!) and my mom got a tomatoes and fresh mozzarella dish – nothing beats fresh mozzarella. Every dish we got was delicious and wonderful.
I think the best part of Italy was experiencing the food – for sure. Everything is just so fresh & delicious. Plus it helps that I love tomatoes and olive oil, and everything is tomato & olive oil based. The biggest challenge, however, was avoiding dairy. Both my sister & I can’t eat very much of it, so it’s definitely been an experience asking for things without cheese… or ordering the one dish on the menu without it. We got a few looks, but it’s to be expected. :) I’m looking forward to coming back to the USA where food allergies and intolerances are (maybe) more common, but at least more accepted.