Looking back at Florence

Despite lots of great potential content, I didn’t write much about our fabulous trip to Europe last spring.*  Over the next couple of weeks, I  will rectify that by sharing snippets from my travel journal in the “Looking back at  . . . ” series.

Florence, March 27-29, 2011
Sunday (3/27): After a night at a smoky B&B on the outskirts of Rome (Ciao Ciao Roma), we experienced our first Italian “breakfast,” Matthew hit up an ATM, and we headed to Termini Station to find a train to Florence.  We chose the 18 euro/person 4-hour regional train over the 48 euro/person 2-hour fast train, and, with an hour-and-a-half to kill, went in search of some lunch.  Lacking time (or so we believed) to make it to the place we first planned to eat, we randomly ended up at a Chinese restaurant.  First meal in Italy = Chinese food?  Only slightly weird.

We returned to the station without much time to spare, only to discover that, surprise, Italy did the whole “spring ahead” thing last night, and the train we planned to take departed an hour ago.  Welcome to Italy!

We made friends with a sister and brother traveling together on the train to Florence, and chatting with them helped the 4+ hours pass.  We arrived to a rainy evening in Florence.  Once checked in at our B&B (Residenza Betta, not smoky), we went in search of dinner.  Being 8pm and proper Italian dinner time, our first choice restaurant was packed, with no sign of a table opening soon in the tiny space, so we headed to Trattoria Guelfa (recommended by the B&B hostess), where we ran into our train friends.  We enjoyed a nice dinner there, including a “lasagna” with wide noodles and tasty porcinis, delicious bread soup, and complementary dessert wine and biscotti.

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Monday (3/28): The next day, we climbed the Duomo and stood outside on the top in a thunderstorm, while I thought about cathedrals collapsing, a la Pillars of the Earth (if I’d only read the book, it might have been okay, but we recently watched the mini-series on Netflix, so I was a little nervous, especially after Matthew helpfully pointed out the Duomo’s infamous crack – you couldn’t have told me about that before we climbed all the way up here?).

We found a very cheap cafeteria-line place to eat lunch and dry out, and by the time we were finished, the skies were clearing.  We found the much-recommend Grom and thoroughly enjoyed our first gelato in Italy – the pear was particularly amazing.

We crossed the river to the Oltrarno area and followed the recommended walk in our guide book.  We discovered a clothing boutique with locally hand-made clothing and narrowly escaped without depleting our euros.

After lots of walking, peaking into some churches, and watching the sunset at the Piazza Michalangelo, we dined at an all-organic, vegetarian restaurant in Oltrarno (Vivanda Gastronomia).

Tuesday (3/29): We spent the morning at the Uffizi Museum, and for lunch we found the panini place (Vinaino di Parte Guelfa) recommended by our friends.  Continuing our museum blitz, we went to the Academia to see David.  That night, we arrived early and dined at the place that was full on our initial attempt on Sunday night (restaurant name???).  After dinner, we headed to the Pitti Palace, hoping to get to see the Boboli Gardens, but the gardens were not part of the special free late night.  We caught the bus up to the Piazza Michelangelo so we could look down on Florence in the dark.

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