Saturday, June 29, 2013

Florence: The Birth of the Renaissance

We arrived in Florence, Italy after 11 pm with other travelers from Paris.  We were surprised to not go through customs, and waited for a taxi.  Our driver whizzed into the heart of Florence, Piazza del Duomo, where the majestic and unreal Duomo and Baptistery still held court to swarms of people and our bed and breakfast's door was right smack in the square.  After buzzing in, we trudged up three flights of stairs to our quaint room, where we opened the shutters to what seemed like a painting view of the Duomo.

Those stairs were no match to our cravings for gelato, and we dropped our bags and went back for a few gelatos in the square for our first taste of Florence.  Bueno!

The next morning, a polite knock on the door signaled breakfast, brought to us by the lovely Mariana on a tray overflowing with cappucinnos, teas, juices, apricots, fruits, croissants, rolls, yogurts, nutellas, jams, butters, and more.  We enjoyed our Italian breakfast on our own private terrace before heading out for our reservations at the Galleria del Accademia to see Michelangelo's David.  Upon entering the gallery, we saw other statues by Michelangelo, but it was David that stopped us in our tracks.  Over 17 feet tall and carved with a chisel and hammer from one piece of marble,  this masterpiece carved by Michelangelo when he was 26 years old in 1501 is a feast for the eyes.

After our viewing, we strolled the streets of Florence, looking at all the leather bags and shoes, and found a mama and papa spot for lunch, where we dined on spaghetti.  We headed back out to find the Palazzo Riccardi, because  Moretown School has our own Riccardi, classroom teacher Patty Riccardi. This was one of the main palaces of the Medici family which ruled Florence for hundreds of years.  We noticed that in Italy, the grandeur of the palazzos, or palaces, is often hidden from view from the 1000 year old streets, but it is within the courtyards reached through strong iron gates where the magic lies.  Our walks in this labyrinth city always had us stumbling upon an ancient scene, be it a fountain, a piazza, a church, or a statue.  And in the height of the tourist season, we weren't the only ones from afar stumbling around!

Our Friday was filled with a full day tour with the Taste of Florence.  We met our Florentine guide, Tina, at a local meat shop  and spent the day sampling salamis, meats, balsamic vinegar, olive oils, cheeses, pates, local bakeries, the pasticcieria (the coccholi, one of our favorites, made with tomato and mozzarella), local wines, freshly fried fish from the Ligurian Sea  as we strolled the ancient food markets and streets in search of hand-crafted chocolates, and her secret spot for the best gelato in town.  It was an exploration of the tastes and flavors of this ancient Renaissance city, where food is prepared simply, with simply ingredients, from locally sourced farms and markets.  Delizioso!

We've only just arrived in Lucca and already are feeling a sense of serenity and calm in this medieval walled city, called "lovely" Lucca.  Ancient winding cobblestone streets led like a river to our sweet bed and breakfast, Evelina.  Sitting now with a terraced view overlooking an ancient campanile, laundry blowing in the breeze, we are looking forward to our evening out to listen to Puccini in the church where he was baptized, San Giovanni.

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