Ciao, Florence

I think two days in Florence is plenty of time.

I arrived Saturday evening and I’m leaving today (Tuesday), and I think that was too long. I had originally thought I might take a wine tour and see more of Tuscany, but then decided against it. I wouldn’t say I regret my decision but I think that would have been a good use of my time.

Anyway, I’m sitting in the tiny Florence airport. How tiny is it? There are more duty free shops than there are gates. There’s one runway, 10 gates. I don’t even have a gate assignment yet and I won’t until an hour before my flight. But it feels good to just be sitting and writing and off my feet. Also I’m feeling a bit sluggish so I really wanted a coke. The options were Coke Zero, Coke Light, Coke sweetened with Stevia and Coke Zero with Lemon, which is what I chose. I don’t taste the lemon but it doesn’t taste too diet-y so I’m ok with it. Also, it was more expensive than the glass of wine I had at lunch! That was only 2€. The Coke cost me 3.30!

Despite feeling that maybe I overstayed, Florence is an amazing and wonderful place. Yesterday I got a late start to the day so I headed toward the north part of the city to where there is a double-decker food market. The Mercato San Lorenzo is in the bottom level (oh shoot, as I’m writing this I realized I never too a photo of the building!) So the bottom floor is more of a marketplace. There were lots of butchers with fresh and cured meats, pasta shops selling noodles of every shape and size and also spice packets that you could use to make your favorite sauces at home. There were souvenir vendors. Bakery counters. Fruit and vegetable stalls. You could easily get everything you need for dinner right there. There were also a couple of prepared food vendors.

BUT – the real magic was happening upstairs in the Mercato Centrale, which was ALL FOOD VENDORS!!! This place was like heaven for foodies. The whole perimeter was vendors and then the whole center was tables of people eating. I made a lap before committing to anything. I started with the best crostini I’ve ever had which had burrata, tomatoes and arugula. Did I want olive oil and balsamic drizzled on? Heck yeah I did. Because the balsamic here is no joke. It’s that syrupy stuff that Italian food dreams are made of.

I found a spot to sit and tried to control myself and actually enjoy my crostini. It was so so good! Ok, what next? I found a stand selling giant arancini, which is a ball of fried rice (like good risotto rice.) They were as big as baseballs. I got one stuffed with prosciutto and a little bit of cheese. The rice was seasoned a bit with almost like a chicken bouillon flavor. It was not too salty but the flavor was amazing. And of course, how can you not love anything stuffed with prosciutto?

Well, that was all it took. I was full. I decided to make my way over to the Galileo museum, as its one of the only museums that is open on Mondays and I thought it looked cool. It wasn’t what I expected but it was super cool. There are two floors of old gadgets and instruments and an explanation of how they came to be. Sun dials, pendulums, devices that they used to test vacuums and centrifugal force. Old telescopes. Celestial and terrestrial globes. I really enjoyed it!

Afterward I was walking along and happened upon the wine bar I’d gone to on Saturday. I had time to kill and needed a little snack before dinner so I went in and sat at the bar (at first I was the only one in there). I tried my hardest to decipher the menu but I couldn’t so the guy behind the counter offered to help. I told him I just wanted some meat and cheese and he said he’d put something together for me. I told him not too much, I just needed a snack. Well, you can see below what it ended up with. It was nearly a meal! Salami, mortadella and boar salami. Two kinds of pecorino cheese (one was a little funky). And a really nice fig jam. Plus a nice red wine. I’d really been wanting some charcuterie so this was perfect.

I walked back to my hotel to freshen up for dinner. And by freshen up I mean take a nap. All the walking and the heat and sun really take a toll on a person! I was meeting the Australians for dinner again. I had found this little Osteria that had really good reviews on google, lots of variety and was reasonably priced. It’s always hard to choose a dinner spot for people you don’t know very well, but I had chosen wisely. This spot was so cute and homey! We ordered a bottle of red and a bottle of white and divided ourselves two and two for the wine. The red was 100% Montepulciano (from Tuscany) and was so amazing! I was trying to decide between two dishes, one of them being lobster gnocchi. The server said that’s what I should get, without question. I thought ok cool, I bet it’s really good gnocchi and will have a few pieces of lobster meat in it. Um no, it had a half a lobster in the bowl! It was amazing, with roasted cherry tomatoes and a brothy sauce. And the price was unbelievable. Two of the ladies ordered pizzas and one ordered seafood risotto with shrimp and calamari. Everyone loved their dinners and we had really great conversation! It was fun to make some new friends on the trip and I hope to see them again someday.

So the previous night after dinner my friends had walked me back to my hotel and we were laughing and chatting and enjoying ourselves, but as we arrived in front of my hotel we could hear this lady yelling. We thought she was yelling at someone in her apartment, but I guess after I went inside she stuck her head out the window and starting yelling at my friends! They said she was very passionate and the one word they recognized was “prostitute”. I was kind of sorry I missed it! So last night we were super quiet as we rounded the corner and said our goodbyes. Also the outside doors of my hotel get locked a night, so you have to use a tiny key in a lock on the wall, and then these 20 foot solid wood doors swing open. It’s pretty cool.

Today I wanted to explore the one neighborhood I hadn’t been to yet – Santo di Spirito. I mean, I had been there because that’s where the wine bar is, but I hadn’t had a chance to really explore. First off, I walked across one of the bridges I hadn’t taken before and omg there was a waterfall!! I was so grateful to get this view of the river before leaving.

I visited two churches which were both really amazing. One of them had frescoes on the wall and on the ceiling.

The other had paintings along all of the walls and the most beautiful marble altar I’ve ever seen! However, you’re not allowed to take photos of the inside at all. What’s unexpected is that that outside is so plain, but the inside is so elaborate.

Then I literally walked in circles trying to figure out where to eat lunch. This is one of my shortcomings – I overload myself with food options and then I can’t make a decision! I settled on this little spot that I’d read about in another travel blog and grabbed a seat outside. I made a good choice. They had a really simple menu – sandwiches, salads and some specialty plates. I chose a panzanella – because I like it and wanted to try the real thing. So, the real panzanella is not like any recipe I’ve ever made. It’s literally torn soggy bread (soaked in maybe some sort of vinaigrette) and then a few veggies mixed in (cucumber, tomato, red onion). It was really good – the flavor was great and it was nice and light – but definitely not what I expected. And it was super filling! I had a glass of wine with it, which was only 2 E (which makes me question why wine is so overpriced in the US??)

After lunch I walked around some more and added to my street art collection – I found some new wrong-way signs and another snorkeling mask poster! I also got gelato No. 4 (btw Gelato No. 3 was a total bust – it was icy and weird and I threw it out). This gelato though – I found my favorite spot. I got traditional Italian creme and lavender. OMG. Creamy and yummy and perfect.

Gelato No. 4

Then I walked over to a shoe store and got some sandals. Leather is suuuuuuper popular in Italy so I thought a nice pair of sandals would make a good souvenir. I’m very excited about my new purchase! I did a little more shopping then and headed back to my hotel to catch a cab to the airport.

So here I am, getting ready to fly back to Paris for one more night. On the agenda tomorrow? Walk the Champs Elysses. Maybe do a bit of shopping. Get some more pics of the Eiffel Tower. And then, sadly, the adventure will end. But not sadly – I got upgraded to first class for my flight home!!!