Although my first post of our trip to Italy reflected my melancholic sentiments directed towards our travel issues, do not believe that our whole trip was dome and gloom. In fact, I believe that that was the only hiccup that we had during our whole trip, which in a two week trip is rather impressive.
With the family pack of Eurorail tickets we hopped onto the train from Milan to Florence and arrived midafternoon and checked into our Air B and B flat. For those of you who do not know Air B and B, it is a flat rental site that connects travelers with available apartments in cities all over the world (I stayed in one with my friends while in Amsterdam). One of our favorite parts about our trip to Prague was being able to spend so much time together whether we were eating breakfast leisurly or sitting on the porch after a long day of touring. With this in mind we decided to forego hotels and book two different apartments in both Florence and Venice.
Here is the view from our flat in Florence where in the far distance you can see the Duomo (in reality it was not that long of a walk). It is a refurbished 15th century convent, which of course was right up my alley.
Since it had been a long couple of days of traveling for everyone, we decided the best plan of action would be to walk around and oriente ourselves in the city heading towards the Duomo (since there was no way we could miss it) and then get an amazing first Italian dinner. The following photos are from this initial journey, I am saving the stories about each place for when we actually “visited”, meaning we went inside instead of just viewing the facade.
In Christmas spirit the streets were strung with beautiful lights that came on just as the sun was setting.
Passing by one of the cross streets was the large leather market, San Lorenzo, where we started the search for a real “Italian” leather briefcase for Dad.
Coming out of the market we ended up where we had started the day, the train station, only proving how accesible our flat was to the whole city. Next to the train station is the church Santa Maria Novella. Here is a picture of the nativity scene placed outside a small side chapel.
After a passage through the Nativity scene we continued our journey towards the Duomo. Here are our first images of this impressive cathedral complex. Since my photos tend to lack people and show beautiful buildings, or do contain people that are not related to us because they are in front of the buildings, we tried to include more touristic pictures of our family thoughout this trip. As you can see our first efforts of Andrew in front of the Duomo. It’s a rather good start and as I continue posting we will see how well we accomplished our goal.
This is the nativity scene placed to the left of the Duomo. We wanted to send all of the photos of these Nativities to our grandmother, Noanie, who has an impressive collection of Nativity Scenes that she displays each year for Christmas. This means that the posts of this trip will be sprinkled with the various nativities that we found.
We had one more major stop on our way to dinner, which was the Piaza del Signoria, the home to the Palazzo Vecchio, a copy of Michaelangelo’s David, the Fountain of Neptune y Bartolomeo Ammanati and Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Cellini. Many other fantastic scultpures can be found under the Loggia di Lanzi. Although I said no stories, maybe I will tell one. My knowledge of the Italian Rennaisance is rather limited; I only took one course that covered this time period. In this course Frank Fehrenbach discussed the necesity artists felt to enliven their art through studies into natual processes and the various ways in which this aim was manifested throughout the Italian Renaissance. One of the main things that I took away from this course was the way that the different artists interacted and competed with one another through the placement and rendering of their sculptures in this plaza. This competition began with Michaelangelo’s David and each successive artist had to find a way to produce a more faithful representation of nature. In Neptune Ammanati displays the ability to infuse his sculpture with movement through the coursing water as his stoic god looks back towards David claiming his superiority. This continued through the addition of each new scuplture creating a highly charged artistic space. Cellini attempted to answer all of these questions about superiority with his bronze statue of Persues holding Medusas head, because according to mythology all men are turned to stone by her gaze, thereby turning all of these humanistic sculptures back into pure marble. (I did not take a photo of David that night and so there are only images of Neptune, Perues and Medusa, and the rest of the sculptures in the loggi.)
Leaving our sculpted friends behind we headed to L’Osteria di Giovanni for our first Italian dinner. The restuarant was recommended by one of Dad’s friends, who has made special day trips to Florence just to eat here, so we knew we were about to get an amazing meal. We started the meal with fresh bread with garlic and fresh extra virgin olive oil. It was the season for picking olives, which meant that many places were serving their freshly bottled olive oil, an extra special treat. We also accompanied this starter with a few cold cuts, salamis and ricotta cheese that melt in your mouth. Mom, Dad and Andrew tried Ribolita a thick bread and garbanzo bean soup that is made traditionally in the winter. As for entrees, I had a local red wine braised rabbit, and for certain I know that Mom had pasta bolognese. As for Andrew and Dad, I am almost postive that Dad had the fish of the day and that Andrew had the specialty pasta. Regardless, of what the specifics of the dishes were, we loved our food so much that there was no room for dessert at the end of the meal. Instead of the usual mints, upon our conclusion we were given homemmade biscotti, which really means “cookie”.
To see a little more of the city, we walked home a different way and passed by the fashion district. Here is one of the model displays from the windows. I am quite a fan of the pairs of eyes staring out at you, and not so sure how I feel about the actual clothing being offered. The art is all around you in Florence, past and present, you just have to keep your eyes peeled, or you might miss something like this incredible wall of bicylcles.
This concludes our first day in Florence, which served as the perfect introduction to the city that would be our home for the next five days. Be on the lookout for all of our upcoming adventures!