Trip to Italy, Part 2
After three days in Rome, we boarded a train for Florence in Tuscany. I had been looking forward to this part of the trip more than any of it, because of almost everyone I know who’s been to Italy, they nearly always say that Florence was the best part. I also enjoyed the train ride over, as we got to see some of the beautiful countryside along the way.
We arrived midday on Monday and were thankful that our hotel was literally across the street from the train station. We took off immediately in the direction of the shopping district and to see some of the sites. We both had been looking for some real Italian leather to bring home and had heard that Florence was the place to get it. And yes it was! So many beautiful items displayed along the streets. On our first afternoon there Jarrod picked up a pair of leather shoes and I found myself the most beautiful leather jacket. (I only hate that it’s now 90-degrees back home and slightly too warm to wear it.) We grabbed some lunch nearby, and I tried to lead us through some gardens as a scenic route back, but I ended up just getting us lost in some neighborhood. But on the bright side, we had some French tourists stop us and try to ask us in Italian how to get somewhere! We got mistaken for locals, score!
The next day we had advance passes for a couple of galleries. The first one was a very large gallery, with a ton of pieces of art in it. There were some very significant ones by Botticelli and Michaelangelo and even Rembrandt, however, by the time we were done, we were both a little galleried-out. But we had tickets to another museum and had to be there at a certain time and I didn’t want to not go when we’d already paid. Plus, I knew that Michaelangelo’s sculpture of David was at this one and I wanted to at least get to see it. So we finally get inside and start looking at some more art. As soon as we’d passed through the first room, we turned a corner and there was David standing at the end of the hallway. This is the only piece of art that I will go into any detail on because it was the most significant of any that we saw. I don’t even know what it was about this piece of marble, but something about it is just mesmerizing. We literally sat on a bench for about a half-hour just staring at it. The detail and perfection of the whole thing is simply incredible. It’s even more amazing to think that it was made over 500 years ago.
In Italy, every meal is a big to-do. You don’t drop in for a “quick bite” anywhere. So every night, we knew we were in for a presentation, and we decided that we wanted one night to go all out. So this night in Florence, we decided to go to a restaurant right around the corner from our hotel which I had read really good reviews about on travel blogs and review sites. We arrive at 7:30, assuming that by being early it’ll be easy to find a seat. We walk in and the entire place is empty except for one table of ladies. We ask the owner for a table for 2 and he asks if we have a reservation. We say we don’t and he shrugs and says they don’t have any availability. I forgot to mention that on the way over there, the strap on my shoe broke, so I was having a little trouble keeping it on. I knew I wouldn’t be able to trapse all over town trying to find a place like we’d done before. I asked the owner if he had another recommendation in the area and he mentioned some name and pointed in a general direction, so we thought we’d at least head that way. Thankfully, it was literally around the corner and we walk in and are again asked if we have a reservation. We say ‘no’ and the lady hesitates, but then takes us to a table that is two 4-top tables pushed together. There are already 4 people at it and I know they’re going to cram us in plus find 2 more to seat next to us. But it really wasn’t so bad and we quickly realize that everyone at the table is American, so they apparently banish all the English speakers to one table.
I ask the server for a recommendation on food and he said he’d be happy to bring us a little bit of everything and one of their famous ‘bistecca alla fiorentina,’ which we thought was a perfect idea! We also got to chatting with the others at the table who are from Kentucky and Pennsylvania and New York and Indiana. Two couples are on their honeymoons. All the while, we are eating proscuitto and liver pate and pasta with bolognese and tomatoes and then a 2.5 pound steak! They follow this up with 2 desserts, plus biscotti and 3 drinks. That’s not to mention the 2 bottles of wine we drank during this meal. But we had an awesome time hanging out with our new-found American friends in Italy. Even if we were forced to eat enough food to feed a 5-member family. I don’t know how the Italians do it all of the time!
Our final day in Florence, we actually left the city and traveled into the Tuscan countryside for a little wine tasting. We stopped at 2 wineries and sampled not only the Chiantis, but the homemade olive oil and balsamic, as well. We had to pick up a few of these things to bring home with us! The trip out there took about an hour or so, which was a great opportunity to really see what Tuscany is like. If I was going to settle down somewhere in Italy, this is where I would do it. Surrounded by the hills and good wine… you can’t go wrong!