Saturday, January 5, 2013

Faraway Adventures: Florence

I know that I hate it when bloggers drag out posts about trips. I get it. You went there and did ALL the things. Hopefully my Italy series hasn't been that annoying, and hopefully you guys are still with me. I am determined to do Florence all in one post, but it is hard, I fell for that lovely city so hard. The minute we stepped out of the train station, I could feel the difference between Rome and Florence. In Rome, there is a hustle and bustle that took me a little bit it fall into, but Florence, oh Florence, it's city flow was so much easier to adapt too.  So  much easier to fall in love with. I have a friend who told me that she never really wanted to go to Florence, it just seemed so overrated. Oh no, I corrected her. It is  positivity worth the hype. It positivity worth a trip there. Good ahead and book your trip now. I'll wait.

I guess now that the trip is a little further away in the past I don't feel the urgent need to tell you about every single detail over every single day.  But here are some of my favorite moments.

Where We Stayed.
Our little apartment was perfectly situated between the main train station and the Medici Chapels. Florence is a very walkable city,  and it doesn't take long to get into the pattern of stepping out the way of the all the bicycles and scooters that buzz all the city. The building that our apartment was in  dated back to the 15th century. Our apartment, and the rest of the apartments on this floor are owned by and restored by our very charming landlords, a husband and wife team. When they were renovating the space they discovered frescos on the walls and had them dated back to the 17th century. It was like sleeping in a museum. Also, there was a small grocery store two doors down, totally convenient for late night cheese runs. This happened more than I should freely admit.  One of the few arguments my sister and I got into was when she wanted to buy Swiss cheese. Pish Posh, we are in Italy, we buy Italian cheese. 

What We Ate.
Gelato originated in Florence, so when you visit you must eat it everyday. It's a law, I am sure.  If you ever visit Florence you must, must, must, (that 3 musts, so I am serious) go to the Gelateria Santa Trinita, and get the strawberry gelato. It will change your life and give you superpowers and I am sure that if everyone would just eat it we could achieve world peace. We tried a couple other places, but always came back to this place. You could taste the quality of ingredients, and I melted into a pool of joy with each bite.

Across from our apartment was a ristorante called Circo & Sons. Our landlord recommended we go there for the pizza, and who could turn down pizza recommendations in Italy? Now, this wasn't just your ordinary pizza this was Neapolitan style pizza, as in from Naples (Napoli), where they take their pizza seriously. The family that owned the restaurant not only is from Naples, but their pizza is certified by the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana, (True Neapolitan Pizza Association) which is a non-profit association that 'defends and promotes the culture of the True Neapolitan Pizza in the world. ' Defenders of the true pizza. Truth. And just like the magical powers of the gelato, I swear that the first bite of this pizza made the world turn upside down.  I am not really a foodie, so I can't really explain why it was so good, but you could taste the ingredients, the fresh tomatoes in the sauce, the quality of cheese, even the crust was perfection.  I use to be a frequent patron of the frozen pizza aisle of the grocery store, but now I just go there to mock the frozen pies. "Italian style?" Whatever.

And can we have a moment of silence for Italian pastries? Golly, I miss them.

What We Saw.

I almost well up with tears when I think about everything we saw in Florence. The city itself is just so enchanting. We went on a guided tour of the city and heard stories of the Medici family who ruled the city for so long, all the artists who flourished there, and even an author or two (I now what to learn Italian, just to read Dante in his own tongue).

Can we go back to the art? You can't take pictures of all the famous art, so I will just have to use words. In Florence there is the Uffizi Gallery, which houses one of the greatest collection of Italian art in the world.  Completely awe inspiring. I am pretty picky when it comes to how museums/galleries are curated. You can have great pieces, but if they aren't organized and labeled well, then you really have nothing. The Uffizi is probably the best curated museum I have ever been to.  The way they have the paintings laid out, you can actually see how art progressed through the ages. There is early art, and let's be honest here, that means A LOT of Madonnas, churches were usually the only ones who could afford to commission art, and most of these early pieces are flat, two dimensional. But then as the so called Dark Ages ended and the Renaissance began, you see almost a new light in the art, new techniques are beginning to be used, dimension is starting to take shape and then everyone's favorite boy comes on stage, Michelangelo. His paintings and sculptures are unbelievable. Unbelievable. His Madonna was actually one of my favorite pieces in the gallery. For instead of showing Mary as the ideal, he showed her as she was, a young peasant, maybe on the brink on being ordinary, but called to take a place in history. His realism, had such a profound effect of me. Which takes us to one of his most famous pieces, David.

David is not at the Uffizi, but at the Accademia. We have all seen pictures of the statute, but to behold it is something else. How the artist was able to turn stone into flesh is unbelievable (have I used the word enough?). There are veins in the hands that look like they pump blood, the hair looks like it could blow in the wind.  Michelangelo had the habit of painting and sculpting people with not so much clothes on. But it never came off as awkward or obscene. It was truly a statement on the beauty of the human body.  It was a little eye opening to me. I think in American culture we are taught to hate and despise our bodies, to torture them into perfection or destruction. I loved seeing all this art, a counter argument to all that, that it is OK to celebrate the human form. Beauty comes from our creation and being, period.

Back to the pictures. We also saw all of this:
This is one of the first pictures I took in Florence. An old man with his bicycle on a bridge. So beautifully Florence.

 I really couldn't get enough of the bridges and the river and the reflections. Obviously.

 I thought this sign in the Pitti Palace was a little much. Do people really try to bring guitars and picnics inside a museum?

 The Duomo, or the The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, if you are wearing your fancy pants. It took over 140 years to build this massive church, and has the largest brick dome every constructed.

Can you see the little person in the picture below? Like I said, this place is mass-ive.

I wanted to get a picture of the reflection of the dome of Duomo, but so many tourists.

The market. I couldn't get over how beautiful these artichokes were.

For the best view of Florence you had to climb up a gallizion steps. This is about half way up. There was bench and a cat.

From the top of the world.

 There are several David copies all over the city, but this one was my favorite.
 On our last night in Florence.

Post Script: I've gone back and forth about commenting on the fact that it was in Florence that I had a little bit of a melt down. But here we are.  Traveling with family is always stressful, at least for me. And this trip was also suppose to be our first merger attempt to testify that our lives can go on without my dad. But one day it just got to be too much. And I huffed and puffed all today until finally the tears came. And then things started to tumble out of my mouth, and kept coming and I couldn't stop them. Things I had been holding inside not only for months, but for years and years. I cried, I made my mother cry, I made my sister cry. No one goes through life without scars, and maybe closure didn't completely come that night in Florence, but acknowledging leads to understanding and understanding leads to healing. And that's a start. 

Other Italy Posts: 
RomeThe Vatican, Ancient RomePompeii


  1. Could I please live off gelato and Napoli pizza? Pretty please?

    And that night picture of the bridge is completely stunning. Truly. I think you need to frame it.

    Ps. And about your PS...melt downs are totally acceptable. T-O-T-A-L-L-Y.

    1. I voted you DO live off gelato and good pizza. Everyone should.