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Florence Day 3: Sittin’ on Top of the World

April 6, 2012

Monday was my first day on my own in Florence and I had such a lovely day! In contrast to some people I know, when I go on vacation, I have a general idea of the things I want to do and see, but I rarely plan out my daily itinerary before my departure. I prefer to be spontaneous, to follow my nose and let my experiences fall into place organically, rather than forcing or cramming the pieces in where they may not be a perfect fit. This day (and trip) was no exception!

Matteo dropped me off at the tram stop on his way in to work, and I grabbed a window seat, watching the sights, like the Cascine park along the Arno, pass by. On a whim a hopped off a stop earlier than planned and went to Taste, an annual food festival held in Florence each year to showcase the top artisanal producers of food and drinks in Italy! I waited outside, soaking up the early(ish) sun with some like minded foodies, and what looked like quite a few journalists, until the doors opened.

Once I got past the ticket lines, I had to stop in awe… There were rows and rows of vendors, most offering samples of the finest cheese, cured meats, breads, cookies, cakes, wines, beers, jams, smoked fish and roe, preserved tomatoes, beans, honey, pastas, and even bottled water, that Italy has to offer! I gave myself full permission to wander in circles among the rows, taking little samples of whatever looked most delicious!

Which was pretty much everything, but I quickly became discerning, and started asking vendors what they liked best, in addition to their own magnificent cheese of course!

I tried some unique products (beer jam anyone?), and don’t think there was one thing I didn’t like. I was also really impressed by the design of the other interior spaces, like the bookshop, seating areas, etc…

And felt like I could have spent all day there! But it was a gorgeous day, so I finally dragged myself outside to explore (and to walk off my indulgences :))

The convention center was a bit further from the center of town and I ended up going in a roundabout way along neighborhood side streets, and up through a rose garden (snapping random pics along the way)

(I was so luck that the weather was PERFECT while I was in Florence – sunny and 70s almost every day! I caught these guys enjoying it at the boat club)

to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo. The hike up was definitely worth the view, and I think seeing everything laid out before me first gave me a very strong mental map of town, and ensured I was never lost for too long during the duration of my visit.

I took the bus down back down the hill, through a fancy residential neighborhood filled with enormous old trees, and entered the center of town from the east. I happened upon Piazza di Sant’Ambrogio, where a group of beautifully dressed men who looked like they could be photographed for the Sartorialist (and I think they were!) were gathered around a sandwich cart. Not wanting to miss anything, I ordered the same sandwich as the person in front of me in my broken Italian/English/French that served me well throughout the trip… I ended up with a lampredotto with green sauce – the genius part is that they dip the top of the bun in the pot where they cook the meat (don’t ask me what kind, I won’t tell you, even though I discovered after…). It was amazing! Absolutely on par with the delicacies from before my trek up the hill! Who knew such a top notch sandwich could be had for just 3 euro! And if I had been paying more attention, I would have gotten the 1 euro plastic cup of wine too 🙂

After I enjoyed my sandwich from the steps of the church, I continued on my way, running into the same sweet photographer on Ponte Vecchio, Piazza di Santa Croce, and again in the Gucci Museum at a tea ceremony associated with the Taste event. She ended up working there in addition to being a street photographer (she snapped my shot for a new sunglasses company). She was very sweet and encouraged me to stay for a tour, finding a guide to take me around the exhibition space. It was totally random, and I am not particularly a Gucci, or even brand name, kind of gal, but I had a nice time hearing the stories about Mr. Gucci and his top luxury goods company from my beautiful Florentine guide. I especially like the pimped out Gucci Cadillac from the 70s, the floral scarves room, the luxury housewares, including a Gucci picnic basket, and the original trunks and luggage from 20s and 30s.

After I thanked my guide, I headed over to the famous Duomo. I just have to say, I love those colors so much!

I first admired the painted dome from the interior,

and then climbed to the top with some pretty, squealing Canadian high school students! (Note to self, climb more stairs)

The shadows from the low afternoon sun were quite striking, though as you walk around the exterior, you realize you may be standing on the thing you most want to see…

Coming back in and around on the level of the frescoes was quite humbling and seeing the beauty of the angels contrasted to the peeling flesh of those relegated to the underworld started to put the fear of god in me!

I decided to make one more stop in town, sprinting up the escalator to the roof of the Rinasciente department store to grab a macchiato and the last rays of the sun,

before heading back to meet my hosts for wine on the balcony, and pizza di Napoli from the Pizza Man!

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