When I was here last, 8 years ago, one of my few memories, aside from the exhibitionist flashing H and I his ‘goods’ while we walked along a country road back to our hostel, was the exhaust and the noise, a nice leather bag that I bought, which was later stolen on a beach in Cadiz, Spain and…oh, I almost forgot…. David, and the Duomo..
This time, as T and I rolled into town, I remember wondering whether I would appreciate this city’s offerings more the second time around, now that I am a few years older and hopefully a little wiser. For Art History buffs, there is so much to see here..problem is, I never did A’ce those classes in college, let alone have a stellar attendance record in them. (hmm, maybe there is a possible link here?)
For some reason, The Science Museum featuring the Original Instruments of Galileo or the Cadaver Wax Museum seemed a little bit more up my alley. (We never did make it to these exhibits..) As was the case in Venice, I much preferred seeing the city from the outside with all of its grand architecture, while squeezing in a few churches and maybe an un-crowded museum or two.. I know, I know. That sounds horrible and so un-cultured of me, really, I am almost ashamed, but I think we both agreed that we wanted to try and stay a little bit off the beaten path, considering that the city was so crowded with large groups of Spring Breakers, Cars and
Good thing is, Florence may be almost as touristy as Venice, but the prices here were much more reasonable. We found much pleasure in dining at this simple deli style place, and were shocked (in a good way) at some of the prices we were paying for a full meal. 15$ for example, for a bottle of water, a toasted vegetable Panini sandwich, a good size shrimp salad with all the fixings, a side of veggies, and for dessert, a ricotta filled pastry called Sfoglitelli. We vowed to return there again for every meal for the rest of our trip.. The only trouble is, we never could find it again..
Instead, we found many piazzas, many Churches, the Duomo and the Central Market, outside of which, we screamed past stalls and stalls of leather, ‘Gucci’ bags, shoes, purses, belts, you name it..all being sold at the “Best Price, Lady!” What I really wanted to see was the food market inside, where we discovered that Tripe was more than abundant, as were hanging hunks of Salumi, bins and bins of Salted Cod and many bottles of Lemonciello and various Italian Wines. Of course, the huge wheels of Parmegiano Reggiano and the other varieties of cheeses were not hard for me to spot, and either was the Pastry counter, with its many varieties of Biscotti, including Cantucci (hard biscotti, almonds) and Brutti Ma Buoni (which means ‘ugly but good’), a type of crunchy macaroon.. along with Tuscan style(no salt) breads.
Of course, we also came across the Gelato. I refrained as best I could and only consumed it twice during our stay, one time topping a sugar cone, Torrone flavor…and the other, accompanying a lemon cake, Strawberry flavor. I am determined to get that texture down. The Strawberry was pretty memorable. It definitely wasn’t icy like a sorbet, nor was it creamy like an ice cream..it was simply something perfectly in between. I am guessing that some type of liquid sugar is added, to achieve that almost gooey look and texture. Yum.
In an effort to get above the noise, we also ventured to a garden above the city, which offered a nice escape and some nice views, if only for a little while. I also ventured out to another fortress and garden one day, solo, and on the way, I thought it best to turn down a stroll in the park with an Italian man who approached me, made friendly conversation and asked if I wanted company.
I think, aside from the bloodshot & dry eyes, itchy throats and congestion that T and I encountered upon arrival here, (we are still trying to determine whether this is mere coincidence or a result of the air pollution), we didn’t love Florence, but we didn’t hate it either. It certainly felt good to be back in a city that seems to function on more than just tourism, but it also felt like just that, a city; an exhaust ridden yet bustling, historic and quite picturesque, city.
Next, we head to the hills, for the fresh air, beautiful vistas, sunshine and good wine. It will be nice to breathe again and to put the Visine away.